5 Powerful Essential Oils that Every Teacher Needs

Monday, December 17, 2018

Essential oils are all the rage these days, and teachers - more than ever before - are using them in their classrooms and in their everyday lives. What's the deal?! Since not every classroom and school has the ability to diffuse oils in their classroom environments, I compiled a list of the 5 essential oils and oil blends that are perfect for every teacher. The oils I'll be referring to are all from Young Living Essential Oils.

A Wellness Roller
I think the one commonality among teachers is...germs. Yep. They're everywhere. A roller (you can buy some great rollers off Amazon here) with essential oils that promote a healthy immune system is a tried and true way to boost your health and wellness to fight off the inevitable kid germs! 
This is the blend I like to use;
I roll this on the bottoms of my feet and on my spine every night before bed. Sickness, be gone!

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5 Perfect Gifts For Paraprofessionals Under $10

Thursday, December 13, 2018
Paraprofessionals are the MVPs of our programming, but sometimes giving them gifts can break the bank during the holiday season! Here are 5 suggestions for gifts that are under $10 so you can still show them how much they're appreciated. 


Celavi Essence Facial Face Mask Paper Sheet Korea Skin Care Moisturizing 9 Pack (Mix of 9)

What screams "self care" more than a face mask?! These face masks have great ratings on Amazon, and the set comes with 9 face masks for only $10.99! You can split them up into gift baskets for your favorite paras!
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3 Tested Time Management Hacks for Special Educators

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Our time is so precious and there's simply never enough of it! So, how do we get a hold of it?

1.) Determine where your time is being spent.
Have you ever read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? While I am personally not one to consistently dive into the "self-help" genre, this book is essential for anyone and everyone. Stephen Covey lays out some really important habits that those who are truly effective embody. One of my greatest takeaways was his Time Management Grid. 
What in your day fits into each of the 4 quadrants? Where are you spending the bulk of your time? I created a grid for special educators to show the generic overall events and expectations in our field, and where they might fit into the time management grid. 
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The Truth About the Emotional Disability Category

Monday, November 19, 2018

Disability categories ebb and flow and change regularly. At one time, we called students as Emotionally Disturbed, or having a Behavior Disorder, and nowadays we refer to this label as Emotional Disability or having an Emotional Behavior Disorder. Some people may refer to this as a student having ED or an EBD. Does it really matter what words we use? Yes, it does. Language matters. There is always a reason why language changes when referring to populations of people, and there is a specific reason why this language changed. There is no longer a defined difference in having an emotional disability or a behavior disorder, it is now considered one in the same. 

How does a student get identified as having an emotional disability?
According to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), a child must exhibit at least one of the following to a marked degree and it must adversely affect their educational performance:
  • struggles with learning and it cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors
  • struggles to build and/or maintain meaningful interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers
  • given normal or typical circumstances, the child exhibits unmatched behavior or feelings
  • a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression
  • a tendency to develop physical symptoms and/or fears associated with personal or school problems

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5 Effective Ways to Teach Size of the Problem

Friday, November 9, 2018

Making mountains out of molehills can be some of our biggest battles as teachers in behavior focused special education settings. Situations as small as a student getting the wrong pencil can start an enormous battle when we are working alongside children with limited coping and problem solving skills. Teaching students to determine and accept the size of the situations they face is a crucial step in the process of problem solving on a daily (hourly!) basis. Here are 5 steps (and a few tried-and-true support products!) to help you figure out how to best tackle this essential skill!

5.) Focused Practice
Students need ample time to practice this skill in non-crisis situations. As we know, teaching skills during the apex of crisis is essentially a lost cause, and these skills should be focused on when students are at their baseline. I love scenario based practice using frequently experienced situations as a guide. Having your students problem solve through common situations when they're ready to learn is an important way to build their skills so they can see clearer when they face those uncomfortable situations in the future. 

I created a set of 100 scenarios that I used every day during our morning meeting time. I projected these and together, as a group, we talked them out. This allowed students to role-play, problem solve, and think through situations that they faced all of the time! I wrote these scenarios with my students in our therapeutic behavior setting in mind. You can grab them here!
Size of the Problem - 100 Digital Scenarios
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5 Reliable Strategies for Supporting Students that Cheat

Monday, October 29, 2018

As a teacher, discovering that students have or are cheating on assignments and tests is so frustrating. How will we ever know what they actually can do if they're cheating?! Here's 5 suggestions to tackle this important and common issue in our classrooms. 

5.) Make assignments meaningful
Research, and quite honestly common sense, tells us that we are more invested in our work when it is meaningful to us and we are invested in it. Is that the case with your students? Take some time and look over the homework, assignments, and assessments you are giving to your students: are they all multiple choice, repetitive sheets that require no emotional investment? If a child who loves art is asked to draw their response to a book chapter, don't you think they're more likely to do the assignment themselves, do it well, and be proud to show it off tomorrow?
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10 Behavior Books that Every Teacher Needs

Friday, October 12, 2018

There are SO many professional development focused books out there that it can be so difficult to know which ones are worth it to find at the library or buy on Amazon. Never fear! Here are the 10 behavior focused books that I would recommend to ANY teacher looking to better understand effective strategies to support student behavior. 



10.) More Creative Coping Skills for Children by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This book has stories, craft ideas, meditations, games, and more all focused on developing healthy coping skills. It's categorized into each area (ex: anxiety, anger, depression) so it's incredibly user friendly and very easy to apply!

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The Magic of Classroom Pets in Special Education Classrooms

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

For 5 years of teaching, I had the joy of having a rabbit in my classroom! I purchased Leonard the Rabbit for the soul purpose of being a classroom pet, and through the generosity of others, was able to upkeep all of his needs throughout the years. Why classroom pets you ask?

Having Leonard was such a gift to my special education classroom! Not only were my students motivated by spending time with Leonard, they were able to learn tangible skills and practice empathy through his presence on a daily basis. How?

Every week, a student was assigned the Leonard Helper which gave them some core duties: refresh his water bottle each morning, refresh his hay, give him a scoop of pellets, bring fruits and veggies back from the cafeteria for his afternoon snack, and clean his litter box 2x/week. This was easily the most complex and needed job in our classroom, so it was such a coveted job to get! No matter the prompting needs or levels of independence of the student, every child in my class would rotate into this job throughout our job rotations, unless they personally opted out. 
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5 Meaningful Behavior Quotes for Teachers to Live By

Thursday, September 13, 2018



Working in the land of emotional behavior disorders is magical, frustrating, overwhelming, important, exhausting, tedious, and so worth it. This blog post is dedicated to 5 quotes that are hugely important in the field and will hopefully help you stay in the right mindset about our kids and what they need from us to be successful.

If you've been following me on any outlet of social media for any length of time, you not only know that I love the philosophies of Dr. Greene, but that this is my ultimate framework for working alongside our students exhibiting challenging behaviors. Kids do well IF THEY CAN, not kids do well if they want to. We must find out what our students lagging skills are, and teach our students the missing pieces to their puzzle.

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3 Simple Ways to Build Self Esteem in Struggling Students

Wednesday, September 12, 2018



In all of our special education classrooms we have some students that greatly struggle with exhibiting challenging behaviors. Over the years I realized that one of the symptoms, and sometimes even the cause of, challenging behavior can be low self-esteem. Always getting consequences for exhibiting behaviors they have a hard time controlling definitely takes its toll on a kiddo!
Self-esteem building can come in many forms, and I have found 3 easy to implement ways to help boost your kiddos self-esteem every day.

1.) Daily Affirmations

Every morning, I invited my students to use our affirmation cards to find one that they needed for the day as a healthy reminder. At first, they needed a lot of prompting to find one that they really needed. Between our morning check-ins and reflecting back on yesterday’s challenging moments, a paraprofessional or I were usually able to problem solve with the student to find an affirmation that fit, and eventually the students can choose one independently. We color a picture of our affirmations for a 5 minutes, and then during our morning meeting, we announce our daily affirmation during check-in.

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How a Calm Corner Can Transform Your Classroom

Monday, August 13, 2018


Teaching in a therapeutic day school for children with a primary disability of EBD, a calm corner was an essential part of my classroom - BUT - I would dare to say that its an essential part of any classroom (general education self contained, PE class, every single classroom!). Why? Creating a space that is dedicated for children to sort out big, often uncomfortable emotions is essential in building their social emotional knowledge and their self determination skills. 

Here is a picture of the calm corner in my most recent classroom:

What is a calm corner for?
A calm corner is a self-referred calm down area in the classroom where students can relax and sort out big emotions (anger, jealousy, frustration, sadness...). The calm corner has calming tools in it, like a bean bag chair, a few stuffed animals, hand fidgets, visuals for breathing exercises, calm down jarscalming books, or any other items that would assist your student population in calming down. This has always been a self-referred spot in my classroom because I like that it allows student feelings to be validated. Occasionally I will prompt a student with, "Have you tried using the calm corner?", but this isn't an area that I would send children to. It can also be a great spot for a trusted adult or peer buddy to co-regulate with the escalated student

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3 Back to School Considerations Before the First Day

Friday, August 10, 2018



Back to school season has arrived! Are you ready to meet your kiddos and for your name to be called/shirt to be tugged 8 million times per day? Back to school might be chaotic, but it's also so magical. Here's 3 tips to prepare yourself, your students, and their families for Day 1!

1.) Mail a Letter

Once you have your class list, mail your students a letter! Everyone on Earth loves to get snail mail, especially a child. Addressing a handwritten note (or postcard!) to their name is such a great, simple way to begin relationship building (or reconnect if you have students for multiple years!). I always add a photo of myself either using a photo postcard, or just slipping a selfie into the envelope. For our students who struggle with transition or who need repeated practice to remember names and faces, this can ease anxiety and build familiarity before day 1.

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How to Run a Spectacular Morning Meeting in a Special Education Classroom

Saturday, July 7, 2018
Morning meeting has evolved over the years in my classrooms, but I have always found it to be the most important part of our day!

Morning meeting is NOT the same as morning circle, where you might check the weather and do a calendar based routine. Morning meeting focuses on centering the day and community building! There are many routines that teachers use for morning meeting based on specific formats, and all of them I'm sure have a very specific place and work for many teacher styles and classroom populations. Across my 9 years in the classroom, I have found a recipe of 5 steps that works for me
1.) Classroom Song
2.) Check-in
3.) Morning Message
4.) Greeting
5.) Share
6.) Read Aloud
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10 Unconventional Musts for the Special Education Classroom

Monday, July 2, 2018


Hey teachers! There are posts everywhere that share the "must-haves" for our classrooms, but I have a few "musts" that are more unconventional! Without these items, I simply could not survive day-to-day in my classroom. Shopping for your classroom is often the unfortunate reality for teachers. While these items have been hugely helpful in my classrooms over the years, never feel pressured that you MUST have these items to provide the best instruction to your students - all you need for that is YOU!

Essential Oils & Diffuser




Essential oils are said to promote productivity, boosted immune systems, relaxation, focus, and more. Why not try it out in the classroom? My students LOVE our diffuser, and I truly believe the benefits as I've watched oils transform my classroom before my very eyes!

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Top 10 YouTube Channels for Special Education Classrooms

Monday, June 11, 2018




YouTube is one of my most favorite interactive resources to enhance my classroom instruction! Here are my Top 10 YouTube Channels for Special Education Classrooms (in no particular order!). I have also linked some of my favorite videos from each channel.

10. National Geographic Kids
I love this channel for learning about animals AND cultures. They have playlists of videos about animal types (wild cats, birds, etc.), longer documentary-style videos about specific animals, and really a amazing video series called "Are We There Yet?" that feature kids visiting different countries around the world.
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So You Want to Start a Successful Classroom Coffee Cart Business?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

We LOVE our classroom coffee cart. This year, we started doing it on Fridays. As a classroom that follows CCSS and uses an adapted, but still gen-ed, curriculum, doing a coffee cart daily during the school year would have been tricky. We have a lot to cover academically, but we justified using Friday mornings as a great time to generalize social skills. During ESY, we will do our coffee cart daily!

Let's also keep in mind... my original classroom coffee cart took place in a therapeutic day school servicing only students with IEPs. Sadly, they had no inclusion opportunities. Are you considering creating a coffee cart business in a general education school? A caring and thoughtful follower on Facebook pointed me towards a great video from Dr. Paula Kluth on this very topic. She disrupts the standard coffee cart system by sharing that a coffee cart run by children with disabilities in a general education building is NOT inclusion (...because it's not!), and how to make that experience, if you choose to create it, more inclusive. Check it out here!

How did we get started?

Our coffee cart "business" consists of a Keurig, K-Cups, creamer, sugar packets, Styrofoam cups and a utility cart. These materials are not cheap, and we had to get creative on how we were going to obtain them all. I created a DonorsChoose project  which funded the biggest items on our list. We were able to get sugar packets and stirrers donated from a local coffee shop! Then, our mission was ready to go!

My students created fliers that we emailed around the school letting them know about our venture. Since we got our materials donated, we decided we would offer our coffee for free. We take donations which we will donate to a local charity at the end of ESY. 
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The Best Books to Teach Social Skills

Monday, May 21, 2018




Teaching expected behavior through read alouds is one of my favorite ways to target specific skills. Here are some of my favorites, broken down into categories of behaviors. Enjoy, and happy reading!


Classroom Behaviors and Skills



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The Keys to Building Genuine Relationships with Tough Kids

Sunday, April 29, 2018
I am asked constantly what the best "trick" or "hack" is in working with children with significant behaviors. And what I really hear, and know, when someone says this, is: kids that are HARD to like. It can be difficult to admit as a teacher, but there are always going to be kids that are harder to like. Often times they have found it easier to get their needs met if they push and push. But quite honestly, sometimes us teachers have that mentality, too!

Have you ever learned how, back in the day, people in South India trapped monkeys? (Ok, bear with me, this WILL have something to do with relationship building.) The trap includes a hollowed-out coconut that is chained to a tree. The coconut also has sweet rice inside, to entice the monkey to the trap. The hole is the perfect size for the monkey to fit its opened hand inside, but when the monkey clenches its fist around the sweet rice, it cannot remove its fist from the coconut. The monkey is trapped - but not really! Its trapped by the idea of the rice, that it wants really badly, and cannot seem to wrap its mind around letting the rice go, so he can be free. And now, because of an expectation or idea, the monkey is literally trapped. (Ok, so this is probably a fable, but a good one, nonetheless!)
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Effectively Using News 2 You in a High Incidence Special Education Classroom

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Do you use News2You in your special education classroom? News2You is an adapted digital newspaper that allows students to make connections to current events each week. I have used it for years, and I love it! When I switched to teaching in a high-incidence classroom, I quickly learned that this would STILL be a super effective resource in this type of classroom environment. 

Also - I was able to secure News 2 You in my classroom from a DonorsChoose.org request! Check out my funded project here

Typically, this resource is used in classrooms of students with disabilities like autism and intellectual disabilities. While my students have behavior disorders, many of them also have autism (on the higher end of the spectrum), learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, speech/language impairments, and delays from interruptions in service due to their often occurring challenging behaviors. I have found News 2 You to be incredibly motivating - my students love the weekly repeated routine, they tend to like being "in the know" of current events, and I'm able to tie in TONS of related resources with the content that's given. I'll show you my 2 favorite features of News 2 You that helps make it extra successful in my classroom. 
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How to Use the Power of Community to Help Shape Behavior

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

If you've been reading my blog or following my social media accounts for any length of time, you know that behavior plans are my jam! There is really nothing that is more powerful than a well done Functional Behavior Assessment/Analysis that transforms into a meaningful Behavior Intervention Plan! Giving our kiddos personalized plans to help shape their behavior IS EVERYTHING! They can REALLY help create positive experiences for our students to succeed individually, but what happens when your class is falling apart as a whole group?! Enter... whole group contingencies!

I LOVE using these behavior contingencies SO much that I literally always, always, always have something brewing! Once one contingency is met, we start a new one right up!

There are SO many ways to try this out! How to start?
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How to Equip Your School to Support Students Who Have Experienced Trauma

Friday, February 23, 2018
Let's get down to the real stuff from the beginning, teachers: According to the ACES Studya child with four or more “adverse childhood experiences” was 32 times more likely to be labeled with a learning or behavior disorder than a child with no adverse childhood experiences. And plain and simple, an adverse childhood experience means a child who has experienced trauma.

Our students have often faced situations that feel insurmountable and virtually impossible to tackle. But - with the right support and resources, a school team can become trauma informed - able to recognize signs of trauma, and respond to the effects of trauma, in a way that is empirically validated and backed by behavior science.

Often as special educators, we are on the front lines of assisting children with challenging behaviors.  When trauma is the culprit, what do we do? 

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How to Use Valentine's Day to Celebrate Self Love

Saturday, February 3, 2018
Last year, I had enough. Not only were my 2-3 grade students obsessed with dating one another and getting themselves into awkward love triangles, but their lack of self-esteem was exhausting to witness. I decided to take a non-traditional spin on Valentine's Day to distract from the romance and focus on a much needed concept - and I'll never go back!

Read alouds

I like to set up the day with a clear focus on how we are celebrating the holiday - all the amazing strengths we have, and reasons why we love ourselves. Here are three books I read last year, and will be staples on Valentine's Day in our classroom this year, too. 


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Winter Olympics Fun in the Special Education Setting

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

So, admittedly, I can't miss teaching my class about the Winter Olympics because I am obsessed with watching them. I figure skated for 10 years and I watch competitive skating like other people watch football (yes, complete with yelling at the TV!). But selfishness aside, the Olympics is a seriously awesome event to teach during! It's a world-wide event that our students should know a little something about. Plus, you can add in so many academic skills to make it such a fun unit of mini-lessons!

Read Alouds
Some Olympic sports are a little more common than others... (think skiing vs. luge!), so creating exposure and background knowledge is hugely important!

I love to read one per morning, discussing the sport, any questions, and during an afternoon transition time, watch a few videos of the sport in action. If you're doing this unit during the actual Olympics, you can time each book to be when these athletes are competing, and show gold-medal performances on the Olympics YouTube channel!

Here are some of my favorite books - including a new one that is just about the 2018 Winter Olympics!
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4 Tech Tips and Accessibility Tricks for Learners with Disabilities

Thursday, January 18, 2018
Hey! I'm here with 4 tech tips to help engage your students and keep technology accessible for all of your learners.

1.) Guided Access

Here's the scenario... you finally get iPads in your classroom. You put your students on selected apps and start doing direct instruction with a student at the back table. 10 minutes later, you have 3000 selfies and two kids trying to buy animal crackers on Amazon. UGH! So much for the iPads? Not exactly. If you don't know about the Guided Access feature, consider your teacher life changed.

Guided Access essentially locks your students into an app. They would need to be able to triple click the home button AND enter a 4 digit passcode to exit the app. Even our sneakiest kiddos would struggle with that! Here's the steps:
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How to Use Read Alouds to Support Student Behavior

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Bibliotherapy, or the use of books as therapy, can be such a great addition to our special education classrooms! Where to begin? Here's a few of my favorites.

Julia Cook
I've mentioned her before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again... best author everrrrr! Her books are specific, engaging, and so effective for students with lagging social skills. Check out her website here, where you can search for books by topic. She gets as specific as books on stealing, handling feedback, digital footprints, and how to handle farting (seriously!!!!). 

I have a set of about 20 of her books and book companions, thanks to super generous donors. Check out my Donors Choose project if you want some inspiration on creating your own project to gain some of her amazing books!
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