Neva Fenno, M.S. Ed., MLIS
Have you been in to check out your classroom (where did the summer go)? The desks are all still piled up in the corner, there’s a whiff of cleaning solution in the air—where are all my supplies? This is a scenario being played out in SPED classrooms everywhere as summer comes to a close. If you’re a first-year teacher, a tip from a veteran is, knock on doors up and down the hall to discover who your friends will be. Are there other SPED teachers in the building? Find them and invite them to your classroom, and entice them with donuts and coffee if it seems appropriate. Your goal is to learn the ropes; find out the way things work in your school. How do you buy supplies? Is your principal SPED-friendly?
Why all this lobbying activity? Because you will need people this year to help you be your best teacher-self. One lesson I learned right away when I started teaching was that teaching, which is a very social activity, can be incredibly isolating. This was an unexpected phenomenon and a disconnect, and one I knew I needed to avoid. I wanted to avoid the loneliness if at all possible. I needed to keep my door open, and garner support. I needed to be willing to share resources, supplies, lesson plans and my shoulder to cry on, and to find a way to identify other sympathetic shoulders. I knew I might need them. I wasn’t trying to be negative, just planning ahead for any eventuality.
On the supplies front, when I first started teaching in a self-contained behavior class, I had nothing. My classroom was a closet in the basement of a big old school building in an inner city. I knew I needed to lobby the administration to request that a review needed to be made to find the least restrictive environment. I needed to move the class upstairs so we could integrate with the school community. My predecessor in the job was comfortable with isolation and she actually sought it out. Her idea was that her kids were disruptive and she didn’t want a spotlight on them or her teaching. Stay in the closet in the basement, stay out of trouble and the limelight. My approach was to become integrated with the community, if only for resource-sharing. The learning depended on it.
My closet/classroom had no supplies. No paper, crayons, books or manipulatives to be used with my students who would arrive with multiple handicaps, including behavior challenges. My seating arrangement would need to be amended to address the reality that I had no furniture. I needed to know how to work with my principal to make sure I was on her radar when budget allocations were being decided. She had to prioritize; I wanted to make sure my kids were her priority.
Later, when I learned how to write grants and organize fund-raisers, I could create my own proactive agenda, develop my learning goals and make sure I had the “stuff” I needed to get the job done. The good news is (full disclosure) this blog is a resource provided by a one stop shopping site for supplies for students with special needs.
So welcome once again to a new school year. Your best resource is your smile and good nature. When you find yourself making decisions based on what’s easiest for you, step back and ask, “What’s best for the kids?” If you follow this advice, you will be well on your way to a happy year.
New Grant Opportunity
Run For Good Foundation Grants
Saucony Run for Good Foundation
The Saucony Run for Good Foundation is committed to improving the lives of children by helping to prevent and reduce childhood obesity. It acts to inform the public about its cause and prevention and provide funding to optimize the impact and success of community organizations that promote running and healthy lifestyle programs for youth.
After-School, At-Risk/Character, General Education, Health/PE.
Public School, Private School, Other.
Proposal Deadline Description
February 1 and August 1
191 Spring St. Lexington, MA 02420
Free Grant Search Database
MySchoolGrants is a complete grant search tool that is manually updated and checked for accuracy. It includes federal grants, state grants, corporate grants, and grant alerts.
Achievement Products for Special Needs
Achievement Products for Special Needs
Discount School Supply® – Save on Early Education School Supplies for Teachers and Families
Discount School Supply has the lowest prices on school supplies and equipment for early childhood educators, caregivers, and parents of young children.