School’s Started, Time to Focus on What’s Important

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

girl classroom

You were probably in your classroom a few times this summer. You wanted to assess things like seating plan, ready to use supplies, classroom library, and to let the custodian know if there were any maintenance issues. There is nothing worse than starting up in the fall with chewing gum blobs under the desks. Ick!

You will be working with the minds of students with learning disabilities and with challenging behaviors. Having the right tools is important. A concept that might take days for a student to grasp can sometimes be understood in minutes if you’re using the right materials. There is also no escaping the fact that technology is rapidly revolutionizing the way we assess and work with our kids. You want to make sure your professional development calendar has technology seminars included. You want to know what’s new, affordable and available to bring you up to speed.

Let’s say you’re teaching an LD reading class with 12 students. Only 5 of those students are on the same level.  You may need books and materials on 7 different levels.  Some students may require large-print books. One needs an audio book. Will there be a PC for every student? Or a tablet or other mobile device? Check in with your building or district IT person to make sure your network connection is the best it can be, he or she may be able to upgrade your wireless connection. Sometimes special education classrooms are left out of technology upgrades in schools. It’s not deliberate, it’s possible the technology folks think you don’t need the hardware. Be proactive and make sure you’re on the updater list.

Check with your Library Media Specialist to see if she has leveled libraries set up for guided reading. If not, work with her to create reading lists using existing collections so you can save time when you stop in to pick up baskets of books for your students. I just have to share this website with you, a teacher has created the ultimate guided reading library right in her own classroom. Wow is it ever great! Be sure your LMS bookmarks it on her teacher terminals. Keep track of what’s new in professional development for  teachers for RTI.  Response to Intervention is becoming the accepted protocol for schools throughout the country. If it is properly implemented it will benefit you immensely. At the very least it should cut down on unnecessary SPED referrals.

You may be teaching one 4th grade LD reading class, but essentially you need the right tools for seven different grades. Do you have the tools you need to teach your students the skills they need? A resource for purchasing the best of the things you need can be found at

I’ve spent some time studying the various types of materials and tools available to special education teachers. Proper tools are available to teach almost any skill at any level. Your most important resource, your own experience, needs to be upgraded along with your supplies and technologies.

Does your budget allow you to purchase all the tools you need for your classroom? I  include a grant opportunity each time I write this blog. Some will apply to your school and your situation. Others will not.  You should always take a look at the grant, however, to see if your situation is a fit. You can also find a free grants database to help you in your search for just the right funding opportunity for your needs.

Let a smile be your best tool for behavior management this year, it’s amazing how many unpleasant situations it can disarm. Good luck in 2013-14. Stay tuned to this blog for more great ideas and pep talks.


Grant Name:  Serves Grants

Funded By:  United States Tennis Association (USTA)

Description:  Grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations that support efforts in tennis and education to help disadvantaged, at-risk youth and people with disabilities. To qualify for a USTA Serves Grant, your organization must: Provide tennis programs for underserved youth, ages 5-18, with an educational component OR Provide tennis programs for people with disabilities (all ages) with a life skills component for Adaptive Tennis programs.

Program Area:   Disabilities, Health/PE

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  10/18/2013

Annual Total Amount:  $800,000.00

Telephone:  914-696-7175



Availability:  All States

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