As a teacher who has always had a very active classroom with never enough room, I gave up a teacher desk long ago. As a result, my Teacher Station (or Teacher Time on the schedule) was born. Our Teacher Station is a home-base of sorts. We as teachers can work here, take loads of great data here, build stronger relationships with our students, and even offer ourselves a bit of self care here. I find that I have some of my most joyous moments with my students at my Teacher Station and, after adding personal items, I have many unexpected smiles. The elements to my fully stocked teacher station include individual student boxes and accompanying data sheets, easy to reach readers, counters, and other leveled materials, fidgets and rewards, necessary files, reference materials, and personal items that remind my of my family, friends, and formers students. Visually, I find it much less distracting to have curtains blocking the shelves and keeping my files and notebooks a little more private.
Individualized Student Boxes
Individualized is a word that is used to describe SO MANY parts of my classroom. When my students are diverse as they are, almost everything has to be made to fit the student. I take heart that the word Individualized is literally in IEP, so my students environments, materials, and planning reflect that. Student boxes have been a permanent fixture in my room throughout my teaching, whether I was teaching alternative Kindergarten classes or alternate Senior courses. In these boxes, I have everything that I need to take discrete trials for their IEP data with and student specific data sheets. This does take some time and energy to set up, so if you are swamped (who isn’t), just take one student at a time and build their box. It doesn’t have to be perfect the very first day you work with a student. Just getting this 1:1 time on the schedule and working is a great accomplishment! A great resource that I’ve used for this is TAH’s Editable Special Education Data Sheets. They can meet just about any need you have when taking 1:1 student data. I also use the Lindamood-Bell program called Talkies in my classroom and I have those supplies at the ready as well. I take Talkies data during a secondary Teacher Time with students. I do have a smaller caseload that allows for multiple 1:1 sessions during the day. When I have had larger caseloads, Teacher Times can be shorter to fit more in, or you can alternate days if you take DTT data or a specified program that your campus/department has provided training/materials for. Another one of my essentials at my Teacher Station is fidgets! They can serve a dual purposes of keeping a student engaged if you are less than 100% ready, to keep their hands occupied during stressful work, or they can serve as a quick reward for a job well done!
Supplemental and Expansion Materials
Once a student’s individual box is stocked, it’s also quite convenient to have a number of materials on hand to do baseline data with, challenge a student with new material, or simplify if a student isn’t behaviorally/emotionally up for acquisition of new learning. These are not skills that are necessarily in their IEP, but they could be in the future or they could have been mastered goals in the past. The Autism Helper has so many great materials for this purpose. Products that I have purchased over time include: WH Question Mega Pack, Life Skills Unit Mega Bundle, and Visual Calendar Worksheets, just to name a few. Other important items that I accumulated over time include a variety of letter tiles, sight word flashcards, lost of different math counters, and magnetic sentence builders. I have downloaded and printed a lot of basic readers from www.readinga-z.com and I picked up my easy readers at Costco Last but not least, it is always essential to have a dry erase board on hand to be able to do almost any activity on the fly! #dryeraseboardssavemylifedaily Like so many of my organized teacher friends, I love containers! All of my smaller containers are from the Dollar Tree.
Teacher Reference Guides
The second shelf of my teacher station, I access a lot less during the school day. I get to school exceptionally early AND I tend to stay late after school because a true daily planning period is pretty much as common as a unicorn in a self-contained classroom. During these work times, I use these binders, files, books, and reference guides to organize data, file useful professional development materials, and generally improve the functioning of my classroom. Particularly useful TAH items that I reference for myself, for other staff, or even for parents include: Autism Strategies Packet, Behavior Plan Flow Charts, and Behavior Management Visuals. I started my career with a many shelves full of books: my college textbooks, guidebooks given to me by friends and family (I come from a family of special educators), and many outdated “curriculums” handed down from teachers long before my time. Over the years, these materials have dwindled down to a few essentials that includes Tasks Galore, my PECS training manual, and a few signed books by authors that I’ve collected along the way. Also on these shelves (not pictured for confidentiality sake), are my behavior data binders, my students scrapbooks (definitely a future blog post), and my parent meeting composition notebooks. Pro tip: take all your notes for all your meetings about a specific student in one composition notebook. This makes it so much easier to access and reference when you need to.
I’ve found over time that these personal items end up being little bits of #selfcare that are scattered throughout the day, usually at unexpected but very necessary moments. I have my Masters Degree from the University of Texas Permian Basin up high on a shelf so I can look up from time to time, when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Even after a decade in the classroom, sometimes I need to remind myself of the time, effort, and studying that earned that degree in Autism Intervention. It didn’t teach me everything I know, but it is a symbol of my commitment to this chosen path. I have old and new pictures of my two wonderful boys who adore my students and understand their momma’s love for individuals with special needs. I have pictures with my amazing husband that has been on this crazy teacher ride with me from day one. I also hilariously have a signed photo of David Boreanaz, which was a gift from a former parent who worked in the film/tv industry and knew my love for the show Bones (such a sweet and random/thoughtful gift). This reminds me of so many positive relationships that I have built with parents. I have an appreciation token from Texas Council for Exceptional Children, for which I have served on the executive board for almost 5 years. This brings smiles in reference to the numerous professional networking and development opportunities that I have had and the friendships that the larger Council for Exceptional Children has afforded me over the years. I have a few recognition items that I struggle with posting, but I try to remind myself that it is ok to be appreciated and recognized. I also have, up high on a shelf, a memory box, that I get down on the tougher days that has pictures, cards, handmade crafts, and hand written notes that mean the world to me. A principal that I had a few years ago was incredibly dedicated to writing special notes to all of her staff; I still have every one. They are uplifting, caring, and so dear to me.
Last detail that I feel like I have to include in my Teacher Station mini tour is my rolling stool! I roll around my whole little corner on this bad boy! It helps me keep my kids actively engaged with my quick grab of materials and I can back up out of reach really quickly if need be!
Thanks for taking a peek into my Teacher Station. Let me know what your must have items are in your Teacher Station or if you have a different set up entirely! Also, if you are interested in following more of my classroom’s day to day activities, follow me on Instagram @ausometeaching!