If You’re Happy and You Know It…

Cinnamon Rolls.jpgFall makes me crave cinnamon — its comforting aroma wafting through my home gives me a sense that the holidays are near and Thanksgiving and Christmakkah memories are right around the corner.

A Happy Teacher is a Better Teacher

It may seem unrelated but I found myself happily unraveling a cinnamon roll while happily grading papers and planning lessons.

I wondered: Are my lessons better, filled with more fun and creativity, because I’m happier in this moment? Maybe. Just maybe.

How Can I Bottle this Feeling of Contentment?

Becoming a teacher makes me think about my teachers.

Being a person in a position of power and authority can shape a child’s memories of school and help them learn to love or loathe learning, depending on who is standing in front of them.

This is not to say that we all have an off-day or two (ummm, like last Tuesday) but I wonder if I seem more content, more self-assured standing in front of my middle-schoolers Monday-Friday from 8:00-3:08 because I am feeling more content.

Teachers: We Need to Take Better Care of Ourselves

Too often we look at educators, their arms loaded down with bags of books, papers and snacks for the staff meeting, and think of them as martyrs. I often hear, “I could never do what you do.” or “Teachers do not get paid enough, that’s for sure. I commend you.” or “I’d kill to have so much vacation. I mean you work for it, but that’s the life!”

The sentiment and encouragement are nice (and yes, the vacations are lovely), but what I really want is for teachers to take better care of themselves. We can’t pour from an empty vessel.

As summer turns into fall, projects and papers and tests (oh, my!) are coming to a head. It is the season of 12-15 hour work days, day-light savings time, IEP Meetings, and no vacation until November 11th.

It’s a time of burnout.

Instead of just trudging through, I’m going to make a promise to myself — to go to that yoga class, to watch my favorite tv show, to try to go to bed before the clock strikes midnight.

Why? Because a teacher who values self-care is a happier teacher. And learning is just more fun when the person teaching you is happier to be there.

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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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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

To the Kid who Doesn’t Want to go Back to School

I hear ya! I’m not a fan of early mornings or homework either.

But when it comes down to it, school is not about the bell schedules or even the grades.

‘Um, what!?’, you gasp.

 

School is a Microcosm of Our Society

Your school represents a small city, a way of learning how to navigate the bigger world around us. Social norms (standing in line, pleasantries, forming groups) are learned behaviors. The ability to challenge yourself and challenge others is a skill, one that school is helping you learn. This Social-Emotional Learning piece of becoming a well-rounded adult in our society is at the heart of your six-hour school day.

Think about public schools, charter schools, independent schools, home school, self-instruction, and private tutors — these all present a different way to learn the material. There are so many ways to learn and so many teaching styles to learn from. It’s why even the state allows parents to choose the way they want their children taught and who to teach them.

Going to School is Really about Self-Discovery

Going to School is more than just learning math and reading and then taking a test to see how well you understood those subjects (or, in reality, how well you take a test).

Going to School is about expression, social norms, working together, developing your EQ (Emotional Quotient), challenging yourself, challenging others to see a concept in a new way, inspiration, inspiring others, grit – seeing failure not as the end but, rather, as part of your success story, discovering new talents, fostering independence, and using education as a ticket to stability and security.

You can learn anything from any book. Heck, you can learn anything from YouTube!

But going to school allows you to learn about yourself.

So I get it. There are lots of not-so-great things about going to school. But I urge you to consider looking at school in this new way. It can be an adventure, a journey of self-discovery. And who knows what you may find during that quest.


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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

Grief & The Special Ed Parent

grief cycleI am not a parent. I am an advocate, a voice for those students and parents who need a little help along their special education journey. Together, we sort out the nitty-gritty of the IEP. But in the process of all the meetings and the goals, I sometimes forget about the most obvious: the grief of a special needs parent.

 

The Parent Hat

When I come to an IEP meeting, I am wearing my provider hat. The administrators are wearing their district hats. The teachers are wearing their special education and general education hats. The OTs, PTs, and SLPs are wearing their therapists hats. The student is wearing their most studious hat. The parent is wearing their ‘this-is-my-child-and-I-want-the-best-for-them’ hat.

An IEP is a legal document and sometimes those of us at the round-table who do not have the parent hat on, forget that this meeting of providers should be parent-driven. They can say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Somewhere over the course of our 40+ year national IEP history, these meetings became more formal and less focused on helping the parents of our kiddos navigate the educational system with ease. Yes, the law is very clear: all children are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and so “the best” cannot be legally binding. The most appropriate is what we are all seeking but, oftentimes, we forget that what is the most appropriate for the student, brings to the surface the parents feelings of guilt, denial, and anger.

It’s Not About Us

We providers have a tall order too, and I do not mean to cheapen our wanting-the-best for our kiddos either. Those of us who are in this job because we truly care, know that our hearts are in the right place.

But it is not about us.

When it comes to working with parents who have special needs kids, we must remember that those heated moments are not directed at us, those tears are not for us, those statements of disbelief are not about us.

They may be our kiddos for 30 hours a week and 184 days a year, but they are their parents’ kids forever. It’s hard for me to have to come to that conclusion because I feel so invested in my students’ achievements and challenges. I probably went through my own version of that grief when I realized no matter how much I genuinely care for my students, they are, in fact, not my children.

Coming to the Table Together

It is the job of both the parent and the provider to come to the IEP table together with a collaborative approach. To do so effectively means that we providers must meet the parents where they are in the process of their grief. We must honor those moments and take that extra minute or that extra hour to actively listen and offer guidance, if wanted. No matter what hat we are wearing, our goals are the same: to help their child, and our kiddo, get the services and supports to succeed in the classroom and beyond.


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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

Dear Little A

Little A ShoesDear Little A,

There are some students that will forever tug at my heart-strings; you are one of them.

Before we began our journey together, I felt so much uncertainty about nearly every aspect of life: career, family, friends, relationships, even my little apartment. See, I was taught that feelings sometimes get in the way of the work, and so I didn’t quite know how to express my fear and restlessness. Instead, I stifled it. Tucked it away, hoping that it would magically disappear.

But you, you are a child who wears her emotions on her sleeve. When you are happy, you show it with a grin and a knee bump or two. When you are sad, anyone within earshot will know it. We may never speak the same language, but I know when you are sleepy, angry, hurt, excited, frustrated, or joyful. I know when you want more swing, pats, music, blocks, peek-a-boo, eat, nap, walk, run, and spin. I also know when you are all done. Well, we all know that one — you are very clear.

Little A, you showed me what it looked like to live fully in the moment. You encouraged me to set high expectations for myself and my students. You reminded me that the data sheets will get done in due time. You taught me that success is not measured by whether we met or exceeded the benchmarks but, rather, by whether my dedication yielded just a small but positive difference in the lives of my students and relationships with my colleagues.

It is thanks to you that I continue to follow my passion, learning to help students blossom and become more independent, more expressive, more communicative, and more curious, just like you.

As I close the chapter on our school day adventures, I want to let you know how honored and privileged I am to have been with you for the big moments and the little ones.

You will forever be my Little A.

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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

 

Life is like a Box of…

Pralinen

Tests.

Thought I was gonna say ‘chocolate’, huh? Well, that too. But in the world of academia, life is very much dependent on testing.

We Make Our Students Take a lot of Tests

On average, US students take 113 tests from PreK-12th Grade. Add undergrad, grad school, and professional development to that number and I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be. Maybe 312? 559?

All I know, as a person who struggles with testing, is that whatever the number might calculate out to be, is one too many for me.

Test Anxiety & The Fear of the ‘What If’

Sometimes, I’m plagued with moments of self-doubt as little naysayer voices whisper in my student loan debit-ridden ear, “How did you get this far with your anxiety over tests?” In fact, that little voice reared its ugly head again just this past week, as took my final test for my credentialing.

Ahhhh, will the anxiousness ever just go away?!

What to Do about It

When my students face the same fear, I ask them to talk about it, make a contingency plan, define what they know, set realistic study goals, and change their mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’:

1. Talk About the Fear & The Reality of the Fear : I ask my students to tell me about the ‘what if’ scenarios: What if I get an F on this test? What if I have to retake the class? What if I fail 4th grade? We then go through each thought and discuss the reality of that possibility.

2. Make a Contingency Plan: The likelihood of the fear coming true is usually slim but just in case, we make a contingency plan: If I fail this test, I will have ask for a retake. If I fail this class, I will have to take a course in the summer.  Okay. So we can see that if the fear comes true, although it will delay our timeline, it’s not the end of world. There is another path.

3. Define What You Know: After there’s less emotion attached to each fear and a realistic contingency plan in place, I ask my students to tell me what they know about the test. See, often our fears stem from the unknown. If I can get my students (and myself!) to articulate the known factors about the test, then that gives us a clear starting point to begin working on confidence and trust in their own abilities.

4. Set Realistic Study Goals: Studying for 12 hours a day/7 days a week is not realistic. I’ve come to realize, through my own experience, that it’s really not about studying more that gets the passing score. Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired and needs to rest too. So, let’s help the muscle by giving ourselves timely brain breaks. This means mapping out a realistic time management study schedule that allows the student to do fun things, family things, and friend things as well as study.

5. Change Your Mindset: This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’ll never get it! I try to help my students realize that every time we feed these negative messages to ourselves, we are training our brain to believe it. That’s something I recently learned when I had my very first hypnotherapy session for my own test anxiety. The more we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, the more we begin to believe that it’s true. So if we continue to tell ourselves ‘we’ll never pass this test’, then we may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we change the message, we can change our mindset. You are already good enough. Period.

Keep up with the latest 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 providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Support Terry Tutors via Amazon Smile

amazon smileEvery time you hop online to buy books, toys, diapers, pens, ink, a blender, a Keurig, or even a dining room table — they’ve literally got everything — you can now support us!

Amazon Smile accesses the same sites, links and stores that regular Amazon does, but Amazon Smile gives back a portion of profits to your designated nonprofit. A win-win!

As a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit, Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services gets back a portion of anything you buy through Amazon Smile. Every time you click “ship”, we get a little of that sale. And a little goes a long way. No donation is too small to help us continue to help struggling students.

Here’s the link: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/81-1498909

Keep on shopping. It’s for the kids 🙂

Keep up with the latest 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 providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Time Management Tools

Time Management is one of those sneaky, little skills that weaves itself into every class, homework assignment, work load and even our social lives. It’s part of the Executive Functions, which are controlled by the frontal lobe and govern things like control, attention, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing,  getting started on a task, and organization. Time Management is part of the organizational, planning and prioritizing pieces. It is a critical component to student success and one of those all-around skills that we take with us in to adulthood.

A few tools to help with Time Management:

  1. “Chunking”: A terrible name for an awesome tool. Chunking is a method by where a student can set small goals within a limited timeframe. It’s a way a student can feel a sense of completion and accomplishment in a small amount of time. It’s also a great way to gauge whether the student needs a more challenging goal or a more realistic goal.
  2. Self-Assessment: Can the student articulate her strengths and challenges? This is a way to capture the student’s ‘read’ of her self-view. It will also provide insight into confidence and self-advocacy.
  3. Color-Coded Timer: I use the Amco Houseworks Digital Color Alert Timer*. It’s actually a kitchen timer but has three color-coded, “stoplight” settings that help students identify where they are in the process of meeting their timed goal. Find it on Amazon Smiles & make sure to list Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services as the nonprofit you’re supporting.
  4. Sand Timers: For Kiddos who can’t quite tell time yet (whether analog or digital) sand timers are a useful resource for little ones to learn how to gauge their own time. A sand time from a board game works just fine. If you want something bigger and more colorful, try Teacher Created Resources* on Amazon Smile & make sure to list Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services as the nonprofit you’re supporting.
  5. Cell Phone on Airplane Mode: For my older students who may find a color-coded timer ‘too babyish’, we use their cell phone timer but on airplane mode to ensure no calls/texts/distractions throughout our session.

Check out our video for more details about Time Management Tips & Tools: https://youtu.be/4mi_ZAcE68c

*Not paid for recommendations. Just helping parents and teachers find useful resources for their kiddos.

Keep up with the latest 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 providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

 

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.

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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

Give Back on Giving Tuesday: 11.29.16

giveThe ghoulish spirits of Halloween have all gone back into hiding and we now welcome in the season of thanks and giving. It is my favorite time of year.

I love Thanksgiving and sweet potatoes and green beans and stuffing and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and Trader Joe’s turkey-less stuffed roast with gravy and, well, now I’m hungry. 🙂

Giving Back on the National Day of Giving – November 29, 2016

It is also a time to give back to our family, our friends, our community. After Thanksgiving comes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and then Giving Tuesday — a national day of giving, where we come together as a unified nation and give to our charity of choice in the spirit of the true meaning of the holiday season.

We Became a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit

This year Terry Tutors became Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. — a bona fide 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We are legit! And we are so excited to be able to serve more students in our community by receiving grants, instituting a sliding scale and taking tax-free donations.

Your tax-deductible donation goes to helping struggling students in need using our Wraparound Academic, Behavior and Special Education Advocacy support services. Our Mission is Collaboration for the Next Generation and your donation makes you part of the team. High Fives all around!  Donate here

Watch, Share, Give

With the help of a few friends, we’ve also created this awesome new video that shares more about what we do and how we are helping students and families get back on track in school and at home. Watch, Share & Give Back on Giving Tuesday.

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 Support, Behavior Management, 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.