Karla Teaches

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As you may or may not know, I’m nearing the end of my journey toward my degree in Special Education! If I make it through student teaching I’ll graduate in December. Yay!

If you’d like to follow my adventures, you can do so here at KarlaTeaches.com 

If you have ever been a student teacher and have tips for me, I welcome them!

I could also use your prayers for stamina. I sold my book on autism right before student teaching started and edits are due very soon. All I need is a clone, right? Anyone know where there’s a good deal on one?

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My philosophy of education

I’m at that point in my degree program where I have to submit a philosophy of education to my portfolio. I thought I’d share it with you here and I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

Karla Akins
Western Governors University
Bachelor of Arts Special Education K-12 and Elementary K-6 Licensure Track

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I come from a long line of educators. My father was a high school teacher and my ancestors built one of the first school houses in Pennsylvania, where it still stands in Halifax. My formal experience in teaching began when I was a twelve-year-old teacher’s aide in a preschool classroom. “Busy Bees” had a loving, nurturing teacher named Mrs. Reed. By watching her I learned kindness, and what it felt like to see a child go from “not knowing” to “knowing.”

busy_bee-399x411I also formed my philosophy from the good and bad teachers I had as a child. My bad teachers taught me the importance of compassion. My good teachers taught me to look for the reasons behind a child’s behavior. I was fidgety in school, and until my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Strecker, discovered that boredom was the reason for my disruptiveness, I was often in trouble. Instead of punishing or embarrassing me, she kept me meaningfully engaged.

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Because I’m the parent of three children on the autism spectrum who struggled with academics, I’m a firm believer in searching for an open window into a child’s understanding. I enjoy the challenge of discovering the key that unlocks concepts for students. I’m also drawn to children with difficult behavior. I believe that behavior is communication, and I relish in decoding what challenging students are trying to say.

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I believe that lessons in the classroom should be meaningful and engaging for all students. If they aren’t, it’s a recipe for undesirable conduct. I have a tongue-in-cheek motto: “You can’t teach a moving target.” Most young people have a fascination with something that will keep them engaged. Using that fascination, I believe, is the key to keeping their attention and motivating them to participate with success.

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Regardless of ability, all students have gifts inside them that I, as a teacher, am responsible for unwrapping. A good teacher will focus on abilities and gifts of a student to enhance and strengthen weak areas. This goes hand in hand with using a child’s fascinations and obsessions to motivate them to learn. When children experience success, they gain the courage and esteem to try new things and practice skills they are weak in.

thegiftedMy passion as a teacher is to be an enthusiastic encourager. By focusing on strengths, cheering students on through positive reinforcement, I’m able to build trusting relationships with my students, who then develop the confidence to navigate their academic careers. In this way students reach their full potential.

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While firmness is important, I also realize that a teacher’s patient attention and presence in a student’s life may be the only soft place in the world for that child to fall. Teachers now, more than ever, need to realize they are a hero in the life of their students, and may be the only hope some kids have for feeling as if they matter.

For a child who lives with hazards in their neighborhood, or perhaps, poverty, teaching a child what they can do to change their world is a powerful way for the student to accept responsibility and appreciate the power they possess as an individual. Every community has its own challenges and culture. Therefore, I believe, teaching methods should change based upon the needs of the child, their families and their culture.

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I’m a teacher who believes in teaching to the individual needs of the child. I respect my students as fellow learners and hope to motivate them to find answers for themselves. By teaching in a way that piques a child’s interest to the point they beg for answers, I have accomplished the main goal of my philosophy, which is, to guide students toward success not only in school, but in life.

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Let’s hear it for special education teachers!

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Breakfast!

I’m subbing for a special education teacher this week. She’s a first year teacher and do you know what my first clue was?

The only break she has all day is 30 minutes for lunch.

So the next time someone tells me that teachers only work 6 hours a day and that they are overpaid, I want you to walk in this woman’s shoes. She is on the run from the time that first bell rings. If she’s not teaching she’s running from one class to another all over this building.

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Special education teachers are often overworked. Their hearts are big and they put the needs of kids first. Today several children have arrived hungry. One of my students is eating crackers and milk in my room right now. It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach.

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A few of the children aren’t bathed. Their hair isn’t combed. It’s heartbreaking. There has been no nurturing for these sweet kids. They live hard lives.

I love filling in for this teacher for three days but I’m worried that she’s not getting enough time to recharge. Special Ed teachers want to fix things. But we can only do so much. That frustration alone is weighty.

Battery Recharger 1Do you think public school teachers have it too easy? Have you thanked your child’s teacher today?

If you’re a homeschool mom reading this, give yourself some encouragement and take some time to be refreshed. When I was homeschooling my kids, I took one hour each day to myself. I relished that hour. I trained my children to sit on their beds and read if they didn’t want to nap. They were not to disturb me unless it was blood or fire. I’d love to have that hour today!

Even Jesus took time to himself. And last time I checked, none of us are perfect like He is. If He needed it, we do, too.

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My secret life

secretI have a secret.

It’s not a very well-kept one, but I rarely talk about it because it’s a little embarrassing. Then again, it’s not.

Ready? Here it is: I’m a grandmother and a full-time college student. I’ve gone into debt to become a certified Special Education teacher in Indiana.

wgu-indiana_257x244I attend classes online at Western Governors University. I love my school. I’m proud to be a Night Owl. And I’m thrilled to live in a time that allows me to attend a college that lets me learn how I learn best: at my own pace, in my own way, during the middle of the night when I have the time to study and from the comfort of my home or wherever else I may be.

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I’m not the type of student who enjoys sitting in class listening to lectures. Let me read the material and digest it myself. I get bored listening to someone regurgitate what’s already there in black and white. Attending online classes is sheer joy.

Except for math. I definitely need hand-holding when it comes to higher math. But WGU gives students all the tools we need to succeed and I’m proud to report I’ve passed all my maths!

A personal faculty member is assigned to each student and mentors us the entire time we work toward our degrees. Additionally, each course has its own course mentor to help with the course material. Every professor is a phone call or email away.

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Why go to school so late in my life? I have seven granddaughters. I want to set an example. Plus, as a pastor’s family, we have no retirement because my husband’s churches have been small rural congregations with small budgets. Grandma’s gotta bring home the bacon for her old age! I’m going to be old whether I’m going to school or not, so why not fulfill a life-long dream?

I also want to have a more credible platform when writing books. I hope to write more books such as the one that will be released in April 2015: Autism: Practical Help and Spiritual Hope for Parents.

Right now in my classes I’m getting ready for field placement experience. I’ve already done 30 hours at community college, and I hope to negotiate a way to get credited for those. If not, it’ll still be fun to do them again. I love being with the students in the classroom.

wgu-gofurther-logo-png_1ekignctt4rrg1w9wq6ewg7l7mThis week I’m having fun substitute teaching in a special education classroom at the elementary school. The fact is, I love the classroom as much as I love writing. There’s room in my heart and life for both.

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Yes, I do have degrees from seminary (Doctorate in Christian Ed), but to be a certified teacher in Indiana, I needed to take more classes. I’m not sure when I’ll graduate, but I’m determined to finish. My ultimate dream is to get higher degrees. But as with book writing, the future and what I will accomplish is all in God’s Hands and in His Time.

Who knows? Maybe the rapture will come before finals!

Now that’s a graduation ceremony I don’t want to miss!

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The most excellent back to school giveaway — win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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I love giveaways. I’ve won lots of things online and I think it’s great fun to offer them.

In honor of back to school, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card!

All you have to do is click on the different ways to enter below, follow the directions and you’re entered!

Contest ends September 1. I’ll post the winner on September 2.

Have fun!

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Back to school

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I’m waxing nostalgic about the twins going back to school on Tuesday.

I resent that classes start so early in the summer. Seems to me they should take less days off during the year for teacher in-services. Why can’t they do those before the school year begins? Why cut a kid’s summer short?

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One of the reasons this is an “ugh” for me, is that I’ve finally gotten the twins into a good routine this summer. And now, we have to learn a new one.

It’s not that easy with kids with autism. Change in routine is very difficult for them and for their whole family. So now, instead of chores in the mornings, they’ll have chores and homework in the hours after school, and it’s super difficult getting them to cooperate because they’ve held it together all day at school. There’s just nothing left for them to give when they get home.

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But laundry still has to be done, and messes cleaned up and toilets scrubbed. Then there’s the hygiene. Basic stuff for regular folks. I know at the end of the day the idea of doing dishes is a struggle for me. And it’s so much more difficult for the boys.

technology-infused-classroom-cartoonWhile you’re reading this, we’re most likely at the local super center finishing up our school supply shopping. And getting new shoes. Tomorrow, the boys go to their first day back to school. And I’m sad. I enjoy having them here. I enjoy the lazy summer days and watching them help their Dad in the yard. It feels like school steals all that away.

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Which is why I enjoyed homeschooling my kids so much. I loved having them around. I loved the freedom of being able to jump in the van and go to a museum or library or the forest. But I know that the twins are attending classes they truly need now to be well-equipped to be more independent.

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It’s not about me. It’s about them and their future. And I’m just whining.

I’ll get over it. I always do. We’ll hit our stride somehow and find a new way to cope with new routines.

Peanuts_TeachersHow about you? Do you have circumstances in your life that force you to change up your routine? How do you deal with it? Let me know!

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