Next Level Instruction With Captions


speech bubble with 3 dots indicating that text is about to appearA question we frequently get asked at PATINS is, “How can I provide captioned media and content for my students?” We’ve found unique situations within many of these requests. These range from wanting to add captions to the morning high school announcements to providing captioned media 
for a student with this accommodation written into his or her IEP. Often overlooked in each scenario is that captioning has been proven to improve attention and engagement, memory, language acquisition, vocabulary, and level of comprehension for many students, not only those requiring them (Evmenova, 2008).

Thankfully, we live in a quick-changing, digital world that provides us a variety of free tools to generate and curate quality captioned content in an effort to create inclusive, language-rich environments for all of our students.

Let’s start with ways to engage your students. Videos can be a great way to hook your students into a lesson. If you’re starting a unit on fables, try dressing as your favorite character and creating your own selfie video to introduce the new unit with apps like Clips or Cliptomatic, which have the option to automatically add captions as you speak.

Ready to dig further into your lesson? Search for closed captioned videos to support your objectives on YouTube by adjusting the filter after entering your topic. Khan Academy and Veritasium are two YouTube channels that offer captioned educational videos that you may find useful. What if you find the perfect video for your needs, but the captions are non-existant or terrible? Create a free account at amara.org to crowdsource or personally caption videos that belong to someone else.

Now it’s time to give your students feedback on their progress toward the objectives. Using Clips or Cliptomatic, you can record verbal feedback, add the clip to your Drive, grab the shared link, and add it as comment to their digital submission. For a paper assignment, you could shorten the link with a site like bitly.com or tinyurl.com and then write it on your student’s paper. Maybe your students would be amazed if you turned the link into a QR code that you print and include when you return the assignment. Now your students could scan the link with their iOS device camera or an app like QR Reader to find out what have to say about their work.

Do you have students that would benefit from live captions during your whole class instruction? In the latest version of Microsoft PowerPoint and Windows 10, you can activate live captions during your presentations or just simply bring up a blank slide and begin a “presentation” to project the captions onto your screen or wall.

Including captions as part of your daily instruction can greatly increase your students’ access to the content while supporting many functional and academic skills. Furthermore, it shows your students that you are considering and acting upon the multiple ways in which they learn and receive information. Captions are your opportunity to bump up the universal level of your instruction. Because we are here to support you, please let us know if you’d like more information on captioning or would like support with any of these tools or ideas.

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Summer: A Time to Create (and Eat Kohlrabi)

purple kohlrabi ready to harvest in the garden

“Beginnings. I detest them.”


This is the first line I wrote in a journal I kept for my first creative writing class in high school, circa early ‘80’s. I was sixteen, so my first inclination in reading it all these years later is to reach back in time and pat myself on my big, feathered,1981 hair and gently say, “oh honey, turn down the drama.” I was, after all, sixteen, so maybe there was only one setting.

photo of Bev's creative writing journal from 1981
In reading the whole journal entry, I sense that what I was really feeling was fear. I liked writing, and other teachers had told me that I was a good writer, but I was nervous about measuring up for Mrs. Bales, who had a powerful reputation in our school. She was known to be quirky, funny, creative, and to set the bar high. I had even heard that she arranged the desks in a circle on certain days--gasp!

She wrote back to me in the journal feedback, “beginnings can be beautiful and new!” which turned out to be true for her class, where I felt challenged and nurtured as a writer. It was also the place where the seeds were sown for my career in education. Mrs. Bales paired me with classmates who struggled with editing, and pointed out that I was good at helping them without doing it for them.

37 years later, (with much smaller hair) I’m thinking about the beginning of summer, and the beginning of my 3rd year with PATINS.

Summer starting:

  • Slicing the first kohlrabi from the garden
  • Walking through the entrance of the amusement park and deciding which roller coaster to ride first
  • Opening the first page of the book you haven’t had time to read
  • No socks for months and months ahead
  • The garage freezer is full of Klondiketwo rows of sunflower plants in the garden Bars
  • Betting with my husband on the first sunflower bloom
  • Porch swing cinematic view of an Indiana storm bowling in
Beginning a new year with PATINS:
I know in September I’ll be ready for structure again, but for now, bring on the blank pages, the possibilities, the bare feet!

outline map of Indiana with pie stickers placed where Bev has traveled for PATINS and found good pie
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Navigating around Barriers

Picture of a Road Map
Did you know that the first week of April is “Read a Road Map” week? Given that emphasis, it seems logical to me that the following week should be “How to fold a Road Map” week!
(I sense you are nodding your head in agreement)


Perhaps the advent of GPS will make road maps obsolete someday. One thing is for sure - no matter what form of navigational technology is available in the future, we’ll always need direction in our lives.

Guidance systems are helpful but they don’t remove roadblocks, do they? They DO assist with navigating around obstacles so we can reach our destination.

Picture of a Brick Wall

Education is like that…there may be barriers to the process of learning but there are ways to navigate around or through those barriers so we can reach our goals. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities. If you need assistance breaking through or navigating around barriers in education for yourself or for a student in your life, contact a PATINS staff member for some ideas.

 

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Nerd

"nerd" in large font with a picture of Darth Vader riding a My Little Pony with "Happy Birthday Jessica" written in International Phonetic Alphabet and Jessica standing in front of a sign that says "Gen Con"
My father once lightheartedly referred to me as a “geek” when I was eleven. I burst out crying in shame. Through my tears, I was able to defend myself:

“I’m not a geek. I’m an imaginative nerd!”

And I am.

The Merriam-Webster still defines nerds as "an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits."

Ouch. I'd challenge anyone to see the positive and powerful side of that definition.


I’ve watched every episode of Star Trek that’s ever aired. Even the cartoon series. I attempted for a week to live and cook as if in the 1880’s (not any other decade, I researched). I love computer games, paper crafts, tabletop gaming, and the construction and design of roller coasters. I tried to code my own breed of digital dog to live on my computer before my parents relented and got us a real dog. My dad will list this as one of his proudest moments as a parent, although my digital frankendog only had a body and a strange floppy nose. There was not a single person in most of my childhood that liked anything that I liked, so I learned the life lesson of needing to a) expand my interests if I wanted to keep friends or b) be an ambassador of my favorite things. Thanks to my nerdiness, I have made a career out of it: have you and I talked about how AAC can change a child's life? Many of you have nerded with me about language and access!


I haven’t always wanted to be a nerd. Teenage years were rough, and there were some awkward moments, even as a self-assured adult, when colleagues would voice grievances such as:

“He’s fourteen years old, he needs to gain interests in age-appropriate things. No one’s going to want to talk about Disney princesses when he’s an adult!”

I was silent and embarrassed, because, well…

collage of Jessica with Sleeping Beauty, Jessica and Adam dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Jessica in Minnie Mouse costume with the Beast, Cinderella's Castle with fireworks, Jessica and Adam with Tinkerbelle





If this student lived at my house, that’s all we would talk about! My husband and I make annual pilgrimages to the Cinderella’s castle. We make costumes. We watch Disney movies at least once a week. We’ve rated our favorite princesses and villains and dare you to try to beat us at Disney Scene-It.


Why? Because we’re nerds! We love it; it’s fun. It’s also powerful.

Whenever I felt a little burnt out in my job, I just infused a little of my nerdiness into it and I felt renewed. Dressing like Batman or decorating with Star Wars or making a Pokemon literacy activity: they were talismans in my work and the source of my power to get through a tough day. If I could find the source of my student’s superpower, it was like striking oil. I still have tubs of Thomas the Tank Engine and Indianapolis Colts and country music star, Travis Tritt (that one was hard), materials. They were my magic wands of engagement.

In my old school internship journal, I have about 50 pages of me angsting over one student, “Mike.” To sum up those 50 pages: Mike hates coming to speech therapy and ignores me, head on the table. He doesn’t make any progress. I think he hates me.

One day his teacher mentioned he was making imaginary phone calls to someone named Gary, and the puzzle pieces clicked in my mind. I had found his talisman, the kryptonite to my engagement problem: SpongeBob.

Therapy took a detour to the pineapple under the sea and we were in business. Armed with his nerd power and friends, SpongeBob and Gary the Snail, we were conquering phrases with multiple words! Adjectives! Appropriate turn taking! The entire day (and my opinion about staying in the schools after graduation) had turned around.

Our superpowers come from places unseen: the love of our family, our memories of exceptional experiences or talents, a cartoon that makes us feel happy. In these last few days of school, I hope you don’t lose sight of where your superpower comes from and how you’ve used them for good for so many around you. Wave that nerd flag high.

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A Regular Committee Meeting or an Example of Everyday UDL?

I just spent the evening with a group of friends focused on organizing for a project. We ate a lovely carry-in meal and got down to a business meeting and ended with a group effort on a task to start the project. It was good to catch up with people we don’t see very often, share quite a few laughs and work on a common goal. The entire process lasted about 4 hours, which was longer than absolutely required to get the job done, and to be honest, we were all glad to go home at the end, and we left with a feeling of having done a good thing. For me, it had been a long day, as I left for work at 6:00 am and got back home at 9:00 pm after this meeting. We all have those kind of days if we are involved with children or community activities. It is what makes life rich, if not overdone.

Every time I am with a group of people charged with making a plan of some sort, I am reminded that “decision by committee” can be, and often is, loud and messy. I will admit that I was pushed to my limit with 16 passionate people enthusiastically sharing ideas and thoughts, often at the same time, and there were plenty of sidebar conversations. Loud and messy are good and important in this process. It means the participants are active and engaged. Each personality and style had an opportunity to express themselves and folks who needed to keep things rolling felt comfortable to nudge the group along. Those of us who prefer less noise and more structure were empowered to move things along or refocus the group. It was easy to shift any negativity into a more positive outcome and when the group needed more gross motor activity, the meeting shifted accordingly.

As I watched this process unfold, it seemed to me that every person there felt safe and comfortable to share and interact. Respect was given to each member who contributed. Interestingly, this was a blend of two separate groups who function very differently from each other and the results were positive.  

Looking around at the tools available to make this work, I saw low tech pencil and paper, notes on a napkin, a sophisticated daily planner, an iPod. We even had a bell as a signal to bring the group back together. Empowerment was evidenced by the willingness to take responsibility for ideas and assignments. Collective wisdom was respected, and new ideas were considered.

This was a great opportunity for UDL principles to be used and, without knowing it, these adult team members took full advantage. Throughout this process, we reviewed the why, the how and the what. For the Why, I saw examples of interest, sustaining effort and persistence and self-regulation. There is no doubt about the level of engagement in this group. We had a clear purpose and goal. For the How, we demonstrated multiple means of action and expression with lots of opportunity for movement, we worked through a variety of organizational abilities as we had to problem-solve challenges and change course. We provided opportunities to work in a large group, small groups, with a partner and alone. On a practical level, we had a heavy emphasis on auditory as it was a group discussion. Some people had notes from a previous meeting, others had samples and there was a practical task that required problem-solving, manipulation and visual skills, manual coordination and teamwork. Scissors, sticky labels, signage, scheduling, lists and a schematic layout, paper, planners, iPads, smartphones, varied activities, the use of a walker, tables and chairs, and food are examples of universal design that were brought to the meeting.   

The difference in this practical application of an evening meeting and true Universal Design for Learning is that the UDL piece was not planned. Therefore no specialized needs were anticipated, planned for, nor setup with needed materials. What we saw tonight was evidence of how Expert Learners function at an integrated level. Most of us in the group have experienced enough life to know how to meet our individual needs. We were able to locate adaptation in the environment (scissors) to facilitate our work. And team decisions were able to be made with input from multiple individuals.

This was truly a fun experience for me and I had a lot of fun looking at it through the lens of Universal Design for Learning. What would I do in the future to be more intentional? Perhaps provide writing options for those who did not bring any tools/material. Knowing in advance how we can include elderly or mobility limited, or participants with other disabilities. But we also knew we could provide most of what was required because there is a ready supply of alternatives in the building for those who need it and the level of experienced learners we had assembled.

So, what started as another meeting at the end of an already long day, turned out to be a nifty example of the universality of people’s needs and abilities as we work toward a common goal. Quiet, silent classrooms with a teacher providing information via lecture is not always an indicator of an effective learning experience. In reviewing the revised UDL Guidelines 2018 Chart, these expert learners used a variety of means to access knowledge, build upon that knowledge and take these internalized skills to a functional and productive outcome.

Kudos to these participants who demonstrated expert learner skills by integrating purpose and motivation, resourcefulness and knowledge, toward attaining an end result that was strategic and goal-directed.    

Thanks for the fun evening!

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The Summer Job

Spring 1972. As a freshman at Purdue I needed to find a summer job. I had done the fast food thing before college and worked in the dorm dining room all school year. I needed something different and I needed cash. I trekked across campus to the Financial Aid office to check out summer job offerings.

There was a full-time student assistant job available in South Bend about 5 miles from my house. Perfect! Before taxes I would be making $64 a week! (Minimum wage was $1.60/hour back then.) By the end of summer, I would be rolling in the dough!

So, I started working at the Northern Indiana Children’s Hospital in South Bend. The facility was originally built as a polio hospital for children but had morphed into a facility (aka Institution) for children who were developmentally disabled. A place where families had their children ‘placed’ and, in most cases, forgotten. And while it was referred to as a Children’s Hospital some of the ‘children’ had grown up and now were adults and considerably older than me.

During the summer that I arrived there was a not so quiet battle going on between the Nursing Department and the Education Department. Education believed that the residents could learn and needed to live in a more home-like setting within the hospital. Nursing believed that the patients needed to stay in metal cribs or hospital beds and continue a diet of gruel served 3 times a day. (A dollop of instant pudding on top for dinner!) Since I needed the cash, I stuck it out at the ‘war zone’ for the summer!

I learned a lot that summer about myself; realization of paths that life could have taken me; about society’s view of individuals who were disabled; and my future. I returned the next summer after turning down a job that paid significantly more an hour much to my parent’s dismay. The battles of the previous summer were now more of a cold war. The facility had a name change. It was now the Northern Indiana State Hospital and Developmental Disabilities Center. Some residents were even attending the nearby Logan Center!

And I went back for two more summers to work with the residents. I spent a lot of time teaching and reinforcing daily living skills. I attempted to give the individuals that I worked with dignity and life experiences that they deserved. I vividly remember riding a Ferris wheel with a young man who was in no way interested in the experience and wanted out. Luckily neither of us fell off the ride!

After teaching 6th grade for a year (an experience that a secondary education major/first year teacher could never be prepared for no matter how many courses one took) I returned to Purdue to get a Masters in Special Education. I would be able to bring some of the summer job experiences into the classroom. And as a part time job I worked as a teaching assistant a Wabash Center in Lafayette (a preschool center for children who were developmentally delayed). It was an interesting and exciting time for Special Education. PL94-142, now known as IDEA, had been enacted a couple years earlier. Parents were elated that their children would be educated in a school. No one cringed when the word ‘advocate’ was used!

In the fall of 1978, with my Masters in hand, I ended up accepting a teaching position with the Northwest Indiana Special Education Cooperative. My career with NISEC allowed me to work in life skills classrooms as well as in preschool. In the fall of 1999 I transferred into the field of Assistive Technology working part time as an AT Consultant for NISEC and part time Regional Coordinator for PATINS. During my career with NISEC, I advocated for teachers and children by serving as the Union President and served on the AFTIndiana Executive Board. After several years of juggling AT jobs, I became a full time PATINS employee.

Except for the one-year teaching 6th grade my career in education has been in the special education field spent working with individuals to improve their lives; to make sure they have access; to make sure they have dignity and respect; to make sure they can live and learn to the best of their abilities. And during those years I came to admire the dedication of teachers, administrators, related school personnel, and parents. That drive that everyone has to make sure every student, no matter what ability level, has a free appropriate education has been so energizing!

So what started out as a summer job in 1972 has turned into a 46-year career working with individuals with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. But all good things must come to an end. I will be retiring at the end of this school year and that career will formally come to an end. It is a career that I have honestly enjoyed every day! What started off as a summer job turned into a profession.

How I spend those retirement years is uncertain. But it will be difficult for sure to give up the passion that has ignited me for the past 46 years! Who knows I might be one of those folks who shows up as a walk-in at a PATINS event!!!!!! One thing for sure…the alarm clock will be turned off!!!!!!!!

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A Case for Meaningful Context and Unpredictable Connections


This is a story about James. Actually, it’s a story about James and Mr. Tooley; the two of them were inseparable outside of school.


James was in 5th grade when I first met him. We worked together on math concepts once a week after school. We primarily focused on fractions and decimals, which he absolutely detested.

Generally, on Tuesday afternoons, I went to James’ school, where we met in the cafeteria for an hour. A teacher friend had asked if I’d be willing to help James. She said, “He’s such a sweet boy, but struggling in school.”

I agreed to work with James and soon discovered he was absolutely amazing.

As the week of Spring Break grew near, James’ mother, Ruth, asked if I’d be available to work with him over break. So that particular week, I went to James’ home for our math session.

Ruth met me at the front door, “Hi. Before you come inside, I need to ask if you have any problem being around pets.” I said I was fine with pets and just assumed the family dog or cat would greet me when I walked through the door. 

front porch view of door slightly open
 
I wish I had a picture of my face when James came around the corner with Mr. Tooley on his shoulder. Mr. Tooley was James’ pet crow.

Prior to meeting James, my experience with crows had been minimal. I didn’t know anything about crows except how they looked and how they sounded. I didn’t care for either. Glimpses of crows picking at roadkill tended to disturb me.

What happened between James and me, once Mr. Tooley (Mr. T) entered the scene was the best tutoring I ever experienced. In the name of full disclosure, James was definitely the tutor; I was his tutee. Mr. T was teacher, friend, and comedian to everyone he encountered.

James used our weekly sessions to teach me all about Mr. T. We never met in the school cafeteria again. He and his entire family thoroughly enjoyed surprising me with Mr. T’s feats of wit or ingenuity.

A favorite family game with Mr. T was Hide and Seek. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. I was surprised how clever and engaging Mr. T was, no matter what game we played with him.

Coincidentally, with Mr. T’s assistance, James would tackle almost anything academic, mathematical or otherwise. James was completely invested in any activity that involved Mr. T because he was completely invested in that crow.

James had tremendous knowledge of crows and other birds. He also loved to draw. Although his fingers were not formed in the same way as most of his peers, he was able to use any type of drawing tool he wanted in order to accomplish any effect he desired. His artwork, as well as his imagination was remarkable. 

black and white illustration of man lying on stomach reading a book with three crows near him
Over time, James shared incredible stories with me. They all traced back to Mr. T in one way or another. We worked together to bring his stories to life. He wrote, spoke and drew them into life, then revised and retold them all over again.

There were innumerable ways to incorporate mathematics into our time together. James seemed to love them all. He wasn’t frustrated or defeated, even when we worked on fractions and decimals.

He loved to prepare fractional amounts of seeds, nuts and pieces of fruit for Mr. T’s food and then calculate the percentage of each that Mr. T ate. He was also motivated to figure out the annual cost of owning Mr. T, which then prompted him to do a price comparison of cages in order to lobby for a new one.

For James, the context was meaningful, which made the content palatable, even intriguing.

In the end, I’m sure I learned more from James than he learned from me. I’m also sure he impacted my way of thinking more than I impacted his.

My preconceived notions about crows had been based on physical attributes, limited experience and no real knowledge. My preliminary thoughts about working with James had been based on curriculum guidelines, classroom settings and personal agendas.

Sometimes it helps to have another person invite you into new ways of thinking and new possibilities. James (with the help of Mr. T and his family) did that for me.

I didn’t work with James in a classroom setting, but I still think this is a powerful testimony for employing the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in the classroom.

UDL is not about the wit of a crow or a fifth grader’s distaste for mathematics. But it is about what happens when such things collide into purposeful, accessible and motivating ways, allowing students to flourish academically.

At PATINS, we know it’s darn near impossible to stop students from making educational strides if they enjoy or believe in what they’re learning, and when they have the access and means for this learning to take place.

Give us a “caw” if we can help your UDL plans take flight.

American crow in flight with blue sky background


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Expectations

Expectations are tricky things. Sometimes they let you down, sometimes they lift you up! I had expectations for April to be a lot warmer by now, and yet I wait. The warm air may be late, but ISTEP testing, Senioritis, and transition fairs are all occurring right on schedule. This is the final stretch of the school year, expectations are being fulfilled! But the story for each student started much earlier.

ant 1       “Just what makes that little old ant                          
        Think he can move that rubber tree plant

        Anyone knows an ant, can't
        Move a rubber tree plant” *


Let’s talk about rigor in education. I have never liked that word. 
I associate it with the dictionary definition, “harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment”, but the education definition of rigor is quite differentThe Glossary of Education Reform is a great place to go when education speak gets in the way of understanding. It equates rigor with educational experiences that are, “academically, intellectually, and personally challenging”. When we challenge our students with a rigorous curriculum that is universally designed and equitably supported by accessible content and assistive technology we are showing that we have high hopes. Our expectations are that each student under our care will be challenged and supported so as to reach their full potential. 

 "But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes"                 Ant looking left


So as this year’s finish line approaches, keep pushing, and search for why they are pushing back. 
Equip them with all they need to access the curriculum for the 175 days they aren’t testing so that on the 5 they are, they know and show their potential. Give them all the skills and knowledge they need to earn the transition of all our dreams!
ant with hands on hips                                               “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.”*

*Writer(s): Cahn/Van Heusen
Frank Sinatra High Hopes on YouTube

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The Ugly Cry Is Beautiful

You know you are a special education teacher if “it takes years for your student to reach a goal and when they do...you just want to cry.”

Oh yes...celebrations of students’ success…big or small. Those are moments when you feel the rush from the pit of your stomach and then it slowly starts flowing through your veins….then explodes like a can of pop that was shook and quickly opened...which leaves your eyes dripping with salty excitement...and the next thing you know...you are doing your interpretation of the happy dance. If you are a teacher or anyone who has celebrated a child, you know exactly what I am describing. No, it’s not always pretty...but I can guarantee that it is always beautiful to the student to which brought about this emotion.

Happy Dance

I will never forget the first time I experienced this organic feeling. I was sitting on the floor in the hallway with a 5th grade student who independently decoded an entire paragraph for the very first time of a book we were reading together. He paused at the end of the paragraph and was nearly shocked by his own reading. The moment he turned his head, smiled and looked at me...the unexpected floodgate began. It was lovely chaos...I was celebrating him and he was consoling me! Ha ha It’s like sitting in a baseball stadium and your team hits a home run...the next thing you know...you are on your feet cheering and clapping! It’s uncontrollable excitement.

I have to admit, celebrating myself is a personal struggle. However, doing whatever it takes to facilitate a student in success of emotional, social, behavioral and/or academic skills...I am all in. While I am not in the classroom any longer...I get the privilege to have shared classrooms and students across the state. With that said, I am still “all in” for you as educators and your students. In fact, my whole team is all in for you.

The year is coming to an end. Find time for pause and instead of just looking directly at a student’s struggles as we support them, also look around them...see and feel the moments to celebrate.  I have great adoration for this quote from the book Wonder, “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life.” Go ahead, it’s ok to get ugly; because it’s beautiful.


Fun ways to celebrate your students while also motivating them:
  • Send an email or note to parent/ guardian or school administrator
  • Praise verbally
  • Throw graffiti parties
  • Ring a bell
  • Expression by using GIFs
  • Allow students to write down what THEY feel they did best, crumble paper and have them shoot into a “shining moments” basket at the end of the day.  
Wonder Book
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The 5 Things That Went Right Today: Perspective and Levers

Terrifically passionate people make wonderfully significant and impactful decisions, all the time, every single day. These people are usually deeply emotionally invested in all that they choose to do. Some might consider them “all or nothing” kinds of people. This is exhausting, but it's essential to the learning process! These people are probably the greatest educators you’ve known throughout your life, whether they are “teachers” or not. Ponder upon those particular reverberations in your past for a moment before reading further. Make note of a few of those people. Write them down or sketch their presence on a mental note card. Perhaps, consider sending them a real note of gratitude. Maintaining this level of passion for the learning of others isn’t easy and requires exceptionally purposeful labor.    

Great things…amazing accomplishments, etc., most often happen when phenomena are not typical. Have you ever given someone a compliment in the form of, “Wow, you were so very normal today?”  …probably not. 

I struggle with the K-12 education world at times when it seems to be seeking to normalize students and teachers. Placing educators and students into nicely packaged, designated, little boxes with a label on top, and a set of strict policies, can make some things easier at times, for sure. However, it also asphyxiates creativity and disregards the potential impact of outliers. This leads to frustration and burnout of passionate people.  

In the United States, 8% of teachers leave every single year and less than a third of those are retiring. That works out to about 200,000 teachers leaving the field. The greatest areas of shortage include math, science, bilingual education and special education. The percentage of special educators leaving the field is over 50% within the first 3-5 years of teaching. Additionally, enrollment in teacher preparation programs is down about 35% over the past 5-6 years. If we could reduce that overall attrition percentage of 8 to 4%, our problem of teacher shortage could be nearly eliminated. 

Teaching is hard! Teaching students who learn differently than we do is even harder! If you’ve ever heard me speak, you’ve likely heard me talk at some length about “creativity, skill, and determination” all being fluid notions of great importance to successful facilitation of the learning brain. It is my experience that when learning isn’t happening or isn’t occurring at the desired rate, one or more of those three concepts requires some adjusting. I realize this is somewhat of an over-simplification. However, by simplifying a complex equation, we begin to make it understandable and approachable. When we couple this simplified equation of “creativity, skill, and determination” with our belief that all students are capable of learning, we can begin to feel empowered to design a plan of action. We avoid stagnating, which leads to abandonment.  

Creativity, skill and determination are very much interrelated and dependent on one another. In other words, all three usually have to simultaneously exist within a reasonable median on its respective spectrum of potential. Stifled creativity can quickly degrade determination, for example. Lack of skill can make creativity feel impossible. Fading determination can render both lofty creativity and prominent skill ineffective. 

So, how can we begin to be of service to the educators who are working with the learners who often need them the most in order to maintain creativity, skill, and determination? Further, what can we learn from the highly passionate educators who do not become part of the 8% attrition rate in the US? 

How can a student pass an end of course assessment or state assessment, but fail class after class? Is it possible that a teacher can fail a student in a class while that same student actually knows the content material well enough to pass the high stakes assessment? It happens! It’s likely that this same teacher has had a plethora of difficulties to absorb in any given day. Focusing on the perceived misfortunes of the day is easy to do and most certainly punches determination right in the guts, but deliberately turning one’s attention to five specific things that went right that day can happen quickly and most certainly can fortify determination! 

Celebrate the outliers. Administrators can encourage and prop-up educators who substantiate creativity! Administrators have incredible power to do this right in their hands every day! Calculated risks could be weighted with value on teacher observations and evaluations. Teachers can try to avoid making assumptions about expectations for their students until they've tried at least five ways to present the materials to them, to allow them to interact and respond and to engage them. The PATINS UDL Lesson Plan Creator could be a notable place to start!  

Sleeping Cat on a computer keyboard
Research has shown that something as simple as watching kitten videos can cause a rush of dopamine to the brain! Peek-A-Boo Cat is another quick place to start!

 

Similarly, deep interest or passion in other areas can bring about similar reactions in humans. Personally, it’s art, music and motorcycles, in addition to kitties, of course! This biological reaction motivates creativity and can allow the body and mind to refocus on the five things that went right that day, and fuels passion! 

diagram of wheels on a beam mounted with a fulcrum, but at tilt
I used to believe that this allowed me to maintain balance. However, a highly respected colleague of mine has recently lead me to believe something a bit different. When balanced, you are essentially standing at the fulcrum and moving nothing, changing nothing! I much prefer the ideology of continual movement back and forth on the levers in one's world, creating movement, as opposed to finding balance at the fulcrum and sitting there dormant. Distinctly passionate and effective people exemplify this sort of continual movement on their levers! 

Gaining skill can promptly fuel both creativity and determination! Did you know that the remarkable PATINS staff are recurrently hosting trainings that cost you nothing? Check out our training calendar and if you don't see exactly what you're looking for with regard to content, date, or time, simply lets us know! We'll get it scheduled for you! The PATINS Lending Library also offers educators a means of implementing creative ideas when funding may not allow it locally. Borrowing from us costs you nothing. We even cover shipping in both directions! 

Determination can wane quickly when an educator feels isolated. I believe strongly in the power of personal learning networks. These can be local or global or ideally, both! Consider joining the PATINS staff along with educators from around the globe on Tuesday evenings at 8:30pm EST for our weekly Twitter Chat! Just search Twitter for the hashtag #PatinsIcam! Your own network could build quickly by simply committing to 30 minutes once a week on Tuesday evenings! Correspondingly, the PATINS Specialists are always eager to support determination by joining you right within your classrooms and school buildings! Let us fuel one another's determination! 

Don't allow yourself to be alone if you sense your determination or creativity diminishing! Likewise, if you are feeling creative and determined, but not sure of the skills, resources, strategies, or tools needed to make it happen, remember that the PATINS staff is just a click away! At the very least, make precise note of the five things that went right in your day, every day!  


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