There seems to be a common occurrence of teachers moving into our special education classrooms throughout the US (and beyond), who are presented with little or no curriculum for their kids. I get emails almost weekly from these teachers. If you're lucky like I was with my first teaching job (a workability program), you get the opportunity to start in an already established classroom. The curriculum might not be exactly what you would choose, but at least you have something to get started with.
When I was moved to my new program, 6 years ago, I was literally given 10 kids, 3 aides, and a bucket of crayons. I was starting with nothing and completely overwhelmed. At the time, we didn't even have computers in our classrooms. We had to use one of the two secretary’s computers to work on IEP's and check our email. I would come home from work and literally spend hours searching the internet for anything I could find that my kids could learn from. A deck of UNO cards was probably one of my first purchases, and we played that often during the first couple months.
One of the first things I did was get myself some 3 ring binders. I think I started out with 6 – 8. Each binder held one subject, and every time I would find a good worksheet on-line, I would add it to the proper binder. Over time my binders started filling. I would replace old worksheets with new ones I found that were better, which were ultimately replaced with my own.
I’m not gonna lie, and say I didn’t spend some of my own money those first couple years, because I did. I almost had to. We were fortunate to have a yearly budget amount those first few years, but that money had to include everything we needed (pencils, outings, craft supplies, printer ink etc). So needless to say, it didn’t go too far. I slowly started accumulating things. I would buy games at garage sales, find activity box ideas and purchase Lego’s on Ebay. I was also able to borrow things like Bingo games and DVD's from other teachers.
It took me about 4 years to get to the point where I didn’t really “need” any new activities for my kids. Of course that didn’t stop me from continuing my obsession of activity boxes but that’s another post all together.
I still have my curriculum binders, but have narrowed them down to just three. They are pretty thick and are my life. I won't even let them leave my room, lol. Since I find it impossible to follow a strict schedule, I just pull the binder I need (depending on the day of the week) and pick a worksheet that seems fun or appropriate for that day. Then I place a small sticker on the corner of the sleeve so I know that I have already done that worksheet this year. At the end of the year, I take off all the stickers and we start over again. I tried organizing it many times but then Johnny takes Billy’s jacket and just like that, the lesson I was doing on “Planning a Party” has to be replaced by a lesson on “Respecting Others”. So, no plan. If it’s Monday, I pull from the money binder, Tuesday, social skills and so on.
I would also like to mention how much Donorschoose has helped me over the last few years. Without the kind generosity of many, I wouldn't have some of the amazing things I do. Through them I was able to receive 3 ipads, a karaoke machine, a projector, all our school balls for the last 2 years, a ton of kitchen supplies, books and much more. I highly recommend you get yourself hooked up with them asap.
So, here it is in a nut shell. YOU CAN DO IT!! It's going to take a bit, but steady and slow will give you time to find the things that work best for you and your kids.
Good luck and let me know if I can help!