Being a Good Teacher is Really Hard

_MG_7334Law school taught me the importance of considering both sides — hearing both arguments. When I started my nonprofit, I attended several IEP Meetings as a Parent Advocate. As I sat on one side of the table, I realized that I knew the law but not the reality of the day-to-day implementation of this legal document.

How do these goals really play out in the classroom?

So I got myself a job as a 1:1 Aide in a Moderate/Severe elementary classroom. I was only going to stay one year, assuming that’s all the research I really needed. One year turned into three — you never stop caring for your students, wanting to see them exceed their goals, and learning about the realities of working within the system of public education.

As there is always more to learn, I now find myself at the helm of the classroom wheel — the teacher.

Being a good teacher is really hard. 

It’s only been three weeks and every day I find myself planning lessons, changing lessons on the fly, ensuring I meet state benchmarks, attending professional development meetings, going to extra trainings, instituting a behavior rewards system, revising that rewards system, figuring out which seat works best for which kid, looking for engagement and interaction from my students, making sure each child’s needs are met, cleaning out my inbox, learning how to teach curriculum, changing up the curriculum to better suit my students in the moment, preparing for IEPs, making sure my Word Wall is growing, and building relationships with my middle schoolers, their parents, and my colleagues.

In the last 15 days, I have gone through a Story Hill of emotions. I’ve doubted my choice to sign that contract, had to step out of the room to catch my breath, questioned my 5:30 am alarm clock, eaten the extra cookie and gone to bed thinking about what I could be doing better.

With all of those requirements, pulling at my time and attention, I’ve been thinking a lot about what really makes a good teacher good?

Although I’m brand new to this role, I get the sense that checking off all of the “to-do’s” don’t necessarily make a teacher a good one.

I realize that I’m just one part of my students’ lives, but I hope that at the end of this year, my first year of teaching, I can say with certainty that:

  •  I walked into that classroom everyday, turned on the lights, and made it a welcomed space for thinking and learning;
  • I had conversations and community circles that helped me learn how to tailor those lessons for that individual kid;
  • I advocated for their needs at the IEP table and thought about how to write those goals in a way that will challenge my students one step at a time;
  • I listened to what my students wanted and gave them the dignity of choosing how to get there;
  • I took care of myself so I could, in turn, care for them;
  • I recognized our differences and similarities, connecting and teaching in a culturally responsive way;
  • I helped them increase their lexile level and celebrated those tough and triumphant moments;
  • I taught my students something new that will stick with them throughout life’s journey; and
  • I was a person who they could count on.

Teaching is hard because relationships are hard.

That’s what I’m really building – meaningful relationship with each of my students who have various challenges, learning differences, needs, hopes, and dreams.

If I can be a person — as a teacher, an advocate, a mentor, a role model — that provides a brave and safe classroom space, a “Hi, how are you?” in the hallway, or a note of encouragement on a paper, I will have done my job well.

As for being a good teacher, I hope I will be able to work towards that challenge. Maybe that’s the true test, in and of itself.


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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

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Terry Tutors Annual Report: 2016

2016-picWe’re super, duper excited to welcome in our 5th year of Serving Struggling Students with Wraparound Support! As is our custom, we like to take a quick look back at the previous year to see where we’ve been so we can better know where we’re going.

To recap: 2016 was a year of continued learning and big changes for us here at Terry Tutors.

We’ve Got a Brand New Name

Terry Tutors became Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. But don’t worry, our online presence has stayed the same. Check us out at TerryTutors.com.

We’re Now a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

That’s right! We’re a federally recognized 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit organization. What does that mean for you? Well, by changing our tax status, we’re able to serve more students through our sliding scale, grants, and donations.

Feeling led to help us serve more struggling students? Donate today! All donations are tax-deductible and you’ll earn an A+ in our book.

We’ve Got an Amazing Board of Directors

Yep, it’s true. We’ve got five lovely ladies who have dedicated their professional lives to Speech & Language Pathology, Special Education Advocacy & Law, Marketing & Finance, Occupational Therapy and Teaching & Administration. Our Board knows the value of good, honest oversight with the end of goal of financial and student sustainability.

Take a moment to meet our Board.

We’ve  Got an Awesome New Video

No, seriously. It’s totally awesome! Wraparound support can be a little tricky to explain with its multiple pieces, but we think this short marketing video does a pretty good job breaking it down. Check it out on YouTube (or below) and share it with all of your friends and family.

We’re On Our Way to Getting More Training & Education

Finally, we’re proud to announce that our Founder, Christine M. Terry, J.D., has been accepted into Teach for America –  2017 Corps, Los Angeles. She is excited to continue her journey in special education support and earn her Masters of Arts in Special Education with a Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Teaching Credential.

“When I was first tutoring, I started to notice that my students’ poor grades were often a symptom of something else: a learning difference, behavior need, or family dynamic concern. I knew there needed to be a go-between person to talk to the teachers, other support providers and the parents, to be an advocate for the kid who was really struggling in school. I couldn’t find any other service that helped parents, therapists and schools work together for the benefit of the student. Thus, Terry Tutors was born. Five years later, we are going strong. I’m so excited to get this chance to add even more experience as a credentialed special ed teacher to our nonprofit, so that we can continue to serve more and more students with our unique and comprehensive approach to student care.” ~ Christine M. Terry, J.D., Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc.

Cheers to 2017! It’s gonna be a fantastic year.

Keep up with the latest and greatest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit with a  focus on providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Summer May Be Right Around the Corner but It’s Not Too Late to Start the IEP Process

IEP

Navigating the IEP Process with TerryTutors.com

 

Alrighty, we’re headed down those sweet but chaotic last few months of the school year — 10 weeks to be exact, but who’s counting.

Although this school year is winding down, there’s still time to get an evaluation and possibly an IEP or 504 Plan in place, ready to go for the Fall.

If there’s something your child has been struggling with and it’s been a consistent issue all year long, then maybe there’s something else happening: a learning difference, behavior challenge,  social skills need.

A report card can only shed so much light on the issue. As a parent or a provider, we owe it to our kiddos to uncover the real reason they are struggling in school. This means going the extra mile and seeking out an answer through the evaluation process.

The first step is to:

1. Write your Request for an Evaluation Letter. An Initial Request for a Referral for an Evaluation letter starts the IEP process, alerting the school that you believe your child may meet the eligibility requirements to receive Special Education services and supports.

Note that if your child attends a private school, you can still ask for an IEP from either (1) the public school district where the school is located, or (2) more commonly, the school district where the child’s home resides.

Secondly,

2. Document everything. If you talk to the Principal, your child’s Teacher, or School Psychologist then followup with a Thank You email to verify your conversation and timestamp your efforts to put the wheels in motion. This is not to be litigious, but rather just good practice. The Advocacy rule of thumb: If it’s not written down, it never happened. Be understanding but be persistent.

And make sure to:

3. Educate yourself on what the law says. The district must legally comply with the federal laws of FAPE, IDEA, Child Find to name a few.

It’s a tall order. Having been on both sides of the table, I know firsthand the frustrations that come with trying to serve and meet each student’s individual needs. Don’t let the process discourage you!

Review these helpful resources to help you navigate the system:

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

 

 

The Terry Tutors Annual Report: 2015

2015As we welcome in our 4th year of Serving Struggling Students with our Wraparound Supports, let’s take a quick peek back at 2015: the year of continued growth and success in learning how best to help families navigate the school system.

It’s not been easy, but it’s a challenge we willingly accept because we are passionate about helping the student and family move forward by uncovering the root of the academic or behavioral need.

  • Continued Field Training to Assist Mild, Moderate & Severe Special Needs Students: We’ve been privileged to spend quality time training at schools to learn the ins and outs of the Special Ed Classroom after that IEP is in place.
  • Continued Collaboration with Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Providers & The Regional Center: Collaboration is the name of the game! Even just three years in as Wraparound Support Providers, we know that bringing a team mentality to the table is paramount to our students’ successes. It’s why we’ve been so successful in such a short amount of time. We’ve learned that working together is the crux of changing lives.
  • Continued Support of POP: We’ve donated nearly $7,000 to Pencils of Promise to help build a school abroad. Since our inception in 2013, Terry Tutors knows the value of giving back. That’s why a portion of our profits goes to support POP. We believe in their mission of education for all.
  • Continued Focus on The Struggling Student: We know that a Struggling Student looks different for each family. Maybe it’s a behavior challenge masking a learning difference; maybe it’s a difficult time for the student because it’s a difficult time for the parents; maybe it’s a diagnosed learning difference, maybe it’s not; maybe it’s just hard for the student to make friends at a new school and that clouds his academic performance.

There are many reasons for calling on our Services but one constant remains the same: Your child needs help.

If you find yourself in need of Academic, Behavior and Advocacy support, Terry Tutors is here to guide you through the process of uncovering the root of the issue and moving forward to the next chapter with the tools your family and child needs to be a success in their own right.

Here’s to 2016 and collaborating with more students, parents, siblings, teachers, administrators, case workers, social workers, speech pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, CASAs, child life specialists, social workers, doctors and lawyers along the way!

We love what we do and we’re excited to work with you! Learn more at www.TerryTutors.com

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

Is it Okay to Question the School?

question marks

“Do I have the right to question the school’s authority?, asked one of the parents I recently counseled through the IEP process. “Absolutely“, I replied, “Not only do you have the right, as the parent you have an affirmative duty to question any person who holds themselves out to be an authority on your child’s education.

When I work with a new family seeking answers about their child’s grades, behavior, or social-emotional needs at school, more often than not, there comes a moment during our session where the parents sit across the table from me and sheepishly ask the inevitable: Do I even have the right to question the school on this matter?

YES, You Have the Right to Ask

Yes, yes, and yes.

You have the right to question the teachers, the administrators, the principal, the vice principal, the aides, the school psychologist, the administrative assistants, the bus driver, the OT, the PT, the SLP, and the list goes on.

You have the right to seek answers about why your child is not doing well in school. You have the right to seek answers as to why your child is not making friends or why his math test score was a 48% versus an 82% at the beginning of the year. You have the right to seek answers regarding her inability to comprehend the reading homework or why there is so much homework in the first place.

You have the right to know.

How Did We End Up Being Scared to Ask the Tough Questions?

After so many years of walking parents through the Special Education system, helping them navigate the ins and outs of legal code, jargon, and school politics, it dawned on me: I don’t know how we, as a community, became so afraid to ask the school “Why?”.

My theory stems from the “Seen But Not Heard” Generation.

Our grandparents were from the Depression era, where basic survival was the primary concern. Children were better seen and not heard, as the saying goes. Our parents are a product of this generational influence. This is also where our parents (The Baby Boomers) got their panache for stocking up on 2 for 1 can good sales, just in case. The Baby Boomer generation was raised to follow in their parents footsteps of compliance but eventually evolved into a cohort who began to question their government, their parents’ choices, and authoritative power in general. Then Generation X came along and in recent years began having children of their own.

We are still comfortable questioning our government, the media spin cycle, and the private financial sector (especially post 2008) but when it comes to education, we collectively seem to think that our job is to find the right school for our children, and once that job is done we let the school lead the way.

As parents, it is your job to find the right school fit for your child’s needs. However, the right school may not be the best school.

Parents are Afraid to Upset the Balance of Power

I find that parents have expended so much time, money and energy into finding what they deem the right private school or public district, that when there is a problem it often goes on longer than it should because the parent defers to the school’s perceived authority. It hurts to admit that we’re wrong sometimes.

There’s also the issue of facing teachers and other parents day in and day out while the issue is being resolved. How can I maintain effective working relationships with my child’s teachers if I’m doubting their expertise? Will the other parents still want to schedule play dates with my child?

At the root, our questions are based on the fear of not being liked or accepted into the group. But the true answer lies in how we approach the conflict.

The answer is simply to be nice.

There’s no reason be combative or litigious when advocating for your child’s best interest. Ensuring your child has the best (or, rather, appropriate, as the law says) education does not beget rudeness or inflammatory remarks, which can turn personal fast.

You are there to help the school help your child.

To do so effectively, requires active listening, open communication and collaboration. As an Advocate who firmly believes in Wraparound Support and collaboration instead of litigation, I know I get further with honey than with vinegar.

Take my advice: See the school and its players as real people who sincerely want to help your child; they just need you to show them how best to do so.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”