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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Cabin Fever

Snow, below zero wind chill, drifting, freezing temps, ice, sleet, gloomy days, hats, scarves, boots just a typical January day in Indiana. And in my part of the state add in lake effect snow. Lake effect snow is very unpredictable and is caused by winds coming from the north and sweeping over Lake Michigan and dumping inches of snow in one area. All this can be enjoyable but after a few days of wintery weather and Mother Nature calling the shots cabin fever sets in!

According to dictionary.com cabin fever is “a state characterized by anxiety, restlessness, and boredom, arising from a prolonged stay in a remote or confined place.” January 2018 has certainly provided us with numerous reasons to have cabin fever! A string of sunny days above 32 degrees becomes a wish. And that groundhog had better not see his shadow in February!
bench and bushes in a park near Lake Michigan covered in ice.
Think of our students and the cabin fever they may have experienced this winter. They for sure are ready to embrace some change. They have been stuck in the house. It really has been too cold to enjoy typical winter activities such as sledding, building a snowman or having a good snowball fight.

When you bring the definition of cabin fever into the classroom one should quickly realize that the students need some change and variety to mix things up. They need to overcome that “state characterized by anxiety, restlessness, and boredom” found in the classroom. They need to have challenges within their school day to reduce those feelings. Those students need new ways to engage them in the learning process. Learning occurs when the individual is engaged in the activity.

So, take your students minds out of cabin fever mode. Change things up a bit. Provide them the opportunity to learn. Keep them engaged. And just remember each day of winter is just one day closer to Spring!

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Julie Kuhn
Good Blog, as always, Jim! Julie
Sunday, 04 February 2018 11:59
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UDL for ALL

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has become a commonplace term in the educational field and has been given a boost with the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) and the Dear Colleague Letter of November 2015. And when one thinks of UDL one thinks about student sitting in the general education class with supports. While this is an excellent image, UDL principles should also be applied to students who are typically in life skills or self-contained classrooms.

Educators have been given the challenge to hold every student to rigorous grade level standards. UDL can certainly allow students to stay engaged and show what they know. Project Success has provided educators with Content Connectors, which can guide the life skills teacher allowing their students to work on grade level standards.

Teachers working in the life skills classrooms are demonstrating UDL principles in their classrooms daily. They are constantly looking for ways to engage the students in their classrooms. While it can be a challenge, those teachers know that the reward outweighs the challenge. Life Skills teachers are always allowing their students to show what they know in multiple formats. Most often a tactile, hands on demonstration of their knowledge can easily replace a more standard assessment. They truly know that one size does not fit all.

The PATINS Project has addressed the need to include ALL students in an UDL environment with the creation of the UDL Lesson Creator. Teachers are walked through the process of creating a lesson plan that incorporates the UDL principles as well as considering the learning styles of ALL students.

Just think maybe someday students who are in today’s life skills classrooms can someday be fully included with proper UDL supports in the general education classroom with their peers!

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The Hyphen

I never quite realized why I chose a career in special education until this spring. Both of my brothers are electrical engineers and I had a math minor in college. Ending up as a special educator certainly was not my intention when I went off to college. I always would joke that I selected a profession that did not require a government clearance.

Recently, I realized that my mother influenced my career. Mom made it a priority in her life to make sure everyone was cared for, that no one was forgotten. She single handedly took care of my dad for twelve years after he had a debilitating stroke. When I would take her to doctor's appointments she would always take time and ask the doctor how they were doing almost immediately after they would ask her how she was doing. I would often just chalk up this behavior as part of her dementia.

But then it hit me. She knew exactly what she was doing by asking the doctors how they were doing. It was not related to dementia at all. At her assisted living facility I would watch her make sure that fellow residents had everything they needed at meals. She would inform nursing staff if she thought a resident needed some attention. She always had a stash of Lifesaver mints to give to residents and employees. She truly cared for everyone and in her own little way worked to make everyone's life just a little better. For 93 years she had been tossing starfish back into the ocean!

Why did I end up in the special education field? I was destined by my upbringing! I was taught to seek out starfish and return them to the ocean. When I was in the classroom I would somehow always get a challenging student or two because 'I could work with their uniqueness '. At the time I would wonder what I did to make my supervisor continually give me challenging caseloads. I know now that my caseload was based on my ability to see the starfish in everyone. We all need to find the starfish and return them one at a time to the ocean.

I am sure my mom taught me a lot of things. It has just taken me 64 years to realize how she modeled and shaped my life and career. Thanks Mom for your patience with your middle child. You threw me back into the ocean many times!

You always hear it is the hyphen or dash that really counts between your birth and death. It represents the accomplishments, both good and bad, in the course of one's life. Mom has quite a distinctive hyphen, oh the stories it could tell!

Rest In Peace, Mom
February 14, 1924 - June 17, 2017

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Julie Kuhn
Jim, this brought me to tears. How beautiful and thank you for sharing this amazing reflection. What a rich life.
Thursday, 13 July 2017 10:42
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Spring

I grew up in a Belgian neighborhood. Most of my adult neighbors were immigrants or first generation Americans. ‘Broken English’ was the neighborhood language, English was the second language. The Belgians take great pride in the appearance of their household and neighborhood. Lawns were perfectly manicured, weeds were pulled. Neighbors could be seen twice daily sweeping the curbs due to cars kicking stones up onto the sidewalk.

The hobby of choice was racing pigeons. Every Saturday they would take a crate of their best birds to a designated location to have them turned loose early the next morning to see whose pigeon would return back to their respective coop the fastest and give their owners bragging rights.

Annually in spring and fall were two very special events……Spring cleaning and Fall cleaning. They would wait for the perfect string of days so that windows could be opened to air out the house. Over the next few days every inch of the house got a thorough cleaning. Furniture had to be moved and every wall in the house was washed. Carpets were shampooed. Draperies were taken down and cleaned! All the closets were reorganized! Windows were washed inside and out! The neighborhood smelled like Spic n Span! Six months later a repeat performance.

Well it’s spring again. The neighborhood I grew up in is now ‘integrated’ with non-Belgians who don’t have the same work ethic as old timers once did. But something can be said about that work ethic. It sort of provided each household with a clean slate that was refreshed and renewed.

As educators, a good spring cleaning may just be in order. With ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) and the Dear Colleague Letter, we as educators are being asked to do a thorough cleaning. But instead of washing walls and shampooing carpets in our classrooms we are being asked to refine out teaching styles by insisting that all students live up to high standards and incorporating UDL principles into everything we do. It is not a simple task. Nor is it a task that can be completed in just a few days. Nevertheless, it is an important task. Generations of students will benefit.


And just like when I was growing up the deep cleaning was an annual event held twice a year, we cannot be complacent with an occasional deep cleaning of our teaching style. It, too, needs to undergo a good cleaning and rejuvenation often. So get out the proverbial ‘Spic n Span’ frequently and transform your classroom into a learning environment where everyone has an opportunity to learn. Our students will be grateful for it.


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Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus!

The turkey has been devoured! The belt has been adjusted one notch! The thought of eating leftover turkey at one more meal is nauseating! “Jingle Bells”, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, “The 12 Days of Christmas” and other Christmas music are jamming the radio stations! The annual showing of girl with SantaIt’s a Charlie Brown Christmas” will preempt a favorite show. The Christmas season is here whether we are ready for it or not!

When my children were younger they would pour through catalogs and newspaper inserts to create that perfect wish list. “Don’t worry these are just toys we are asking from Santa!” would be echoed each year. And Santa’s helpers would go from store to store looking for items on the wish list trying to get the best deal. (This was prior to the days of the internet and online shopping.) It certainly wasn’t an easy task the year they wanted Ghostbuster toys! But it was all worth it to see the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child!

Finding the perfect gift for some children can be very difficult and frustrating. Searching the internet has provided some resources to assist in that gift selection. The Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids from Toys R Us not only provwrapped Christmas Giftides toy suggestions but tips for buying toys and safe play tips. Purdue University has a 2016 Engineering Gift Guide that provides STEM related gift suggestions for children. Sensory University provides suggestions for sensory needs. A Day in Our Shoes has toy ideas for ‘kids with autism or developmental delays’. And of course, Enabling Devices has a variety of items that can be considered as potential gift items. Just remember the box the gift came in and the wrapping paper will be one of the most played with item for a few days!!!! Also, One Place for Special Needs provides some very helpful suggestions on visiting Santa, creating holiday traditions and, in general, surviving the holidays.

Naturally, my adult children’s Christmas list has evolved over the years. Items have become fewer. Some items are practical. Some items have become costlier. No longer do Santa’s helpers get newspaper ads with items circled or pictures cut and taped to paper to create a visual list. Now Santa’s helpers hear things such as ‘my list is on Amazon’ and ‘I just added a couple more things to the list’! And to my children’s dismay Santa’s helpers still seem to find ways to deviate some from their list. (And for the record this Santa’s Helper is glad he can shop online!) Enjoy the wonders of the holiday season and enjoy them through the eyes of a child! And, Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus!    


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Going For The Gold!

The 2016 Olympics are over! New records have been set! History has been made! What an amazing two weeks of individuals and teams working together. Everyone working towards a common goal. Athletes helping, and at times even consoling, other Olympians. Even though there is only one gold medal per event all the athletes who competed worked to finish, to do their best. Every athlete had high expectations, they did not give up. You must admit just being in a race with Michael Phelps had to be intimidating, yet everyone raced with a gold medal in mind.

We, as educators, hagold medalve been challenged to make sure that students with disabilities also ‘go for the gold’. On November 16, 2015, OSERS (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services) issued a Dear Colleague Letter regarding FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). In the opening paragraph of that document, it states that “children with disabilities are to be held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standards”. Certainly, it is a challenge to have ALL students working on the statewide standards, but not impossible. The document goes one step further and states that the “individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled’! The bar has been raised. All students does not just mean only those students serviced in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) settings. All students also includes those students in life skills classrooms. Every student should now be working on standards based on grade level, not functioning level.

At first, you must admit it seems ridiculous for ALL students to be working on grade level standards. Obviously, some out of touch policy maker in DC is just trying to stir up the pot! But if you think about it the thought of ALL students working on grade level standards makes a lot of sense. When we have high expectations for our students they will perform to those standards. (This brings back memories of college psych classes and the Rosenthal Effect.) So look at the Indiana standards and figure out how they can be broken down. How can technology be infused within the standard to bring student success? We have at our fingertips a variety of tools (and even tools yet to be created). There are tools that allow students to show what they know and not dependent on being able to read. We constantly, as special educators, work at scaffolding the curriculum to eliminate the barriers. We are, without actually realizing it, infusing some elements of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into the curriculum.

So I urged you to raise the bar for your students. Demand high expectations! Have your students go for the gold! Allow them to become successful individuals! And for those who can’t wait or want to get cheap airfare 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea (2/9-2/25) and 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (7/24-8/9).
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The Dog Days of Summer

June, July and August! Three reasons why many individuals became teachers in my generation (or else as a means to avoid the draft). Three months of R&R!! No worries about lesson plans, IEP’s or behavior problems. The alarm clock was turned off! Days were spent outside enjoying summer! Projects long neglected during the school year were able to get some attention. The deck could finally get stained! Landscaping projects were completed! But all good things had to come to an end. Soon days were added to the school year, summer professionalsun wearing sunglasses development activities were added and the carefree three months of R&R were history! Then balanced calendars were introduced and school began in July. Summer soon became abbreviated.

And lets face it summer in Indiana is very unpredictable. Hot and humid one day and grabbing a jacket the next. Certainly not the picture perfect summer, but much better than snow! While you are enjoying the days out of the classroom think of some ways that you can bring some R & R into your classroom for the fall. Rejuvenate and Reenergize! There are a few simple things that can be done to prepare for next school year. (I would personally suggest doing these things on those rainy summer days.) Blow the dust off the powerpoint presentations that you used last year. Run the accessibility checker on those presentations. Tag the clipart and graphics. Make your presentations truly accessible! Become adventurous and create some You Tube videos to help reinforce key concepts that you teach. Just remember to caption those videos to give access to everyone! (It is a simple process.) Get a little adventurous and check out some new websites, apps, or extensions that can assist your students in becoming successful learners. You will be amazed how quick any of the above activities can be to accomplish.

The rewards for your efforts? Teacher materials that are truly accessible! Students who will become engaged in learning! Students who will be exposed to multiple means of representation! Students who will become active learners!

Just like you I am hoping for warm, sunny days and some R & R! I do know that professional development activities will be sprinkled in among neglected home projects in order to be rejuvenated and reenergized for the fall. And, like you, I will find time to enjoy the alarm turned off and all that summer has in store for me! Enjoy the warmth! Read (or finish) that book! Enjoy time with family and friends! HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!!!!!!

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A Deer in the Headlight

OK we have this new blog and I get assigned the last week in March to submit an entry. The pressure is on to think of a topic.  I labor over it trying to think of a witty, informative and relevant blog entry. And the bar has been set after the previous three entries!  So I start thinking what can I do? What can I say? Can't talk about everything I learned I learned in kindergarten.....Kelli sort of went with that theme plus kindergarten was eons ago for me! Can't talk about retail therapy....Sandi just did that!  It dawns on me to somehow tie in March Madness into the blog entry.  But after Purdue lost there was no reason to have any March Madness blog theme!

So I start thinking the only thing that has consumed my life lately has been a trip to the emergency room and eventual hospitalization of my 92-year-old mother.  Now how can anyone make this witty, informative or even relevant? I mean come on no matter what one does a hospital gown is never flattering on anyone and hospital food ranks right up there with school lunches!  Then it hits me.  While in the emergency room the staff began to speak to me in a foreign language. It began to resemble the adult in all the Charlie Brown cartoons.  You know that "wha, wha, wha" sound! We are going to do a BMP, let's keep your mom NPO. We are going to take her to IR for a procedure.  Her doctor has ordered a CXR.  That monitor helps us track her HR. I was beginning to feel so ignorant!

Now don't get me wrong I have watched my fair share of Marcus Welby MD, ER and Grey's Anatomy.   And my wife's a nurse so I have been around medical terminology for a long time.  But I am sure that I must have been getting a snack when they tossed out these acronyms on TV.....and just tuning my wife out as I have been accused of doing on occasion!  My only salvation was when the OT and PT came in to do an assessment. A sigh of relief!  I can finally talk their lingo.  I know what ROM and ADL stand for. No longer was I looking at medical staff like a deer in headlights. I felt like an equal!

Well this experience allowed me to do some pondering, plus mom was sleeping a lot in her hospital room in-between personnel coming for more blood, breathing treatments and waking her up for a vitals check.  We toss out a lot of terms every day to parents, gen Ed teachers and other school related personnel. And the list of acronyms is constantly growing!  Just when everyone was beginning to understand what FAPE is we now talk about BIP (say it fast enough and it sounds like that could possibly be Marty McFly's buddy from Back to the Future or is that a mis-spelt acronym and are we going to discuss bibs?). Then we begin to sprinkle our conversation with PLOP (are we beginning to sing the Alka Seltzer jingle?) and SLO (are we being politically correct using the term slow in front of a parent whose child falls 2 or more standard deviations  below the norm?)

Well hopefully by now you get the picture.  Explain those acronyms and abbreviations. It will make for a more pleasant conference/meeting. As for me, there is always next year for my Boilermakers and in the meantime I will be binge watching reruns of Dr. Kildaire, Medical Center and Emergency (if you don't know what I am talking about google them) so that the next time my mom decides to take a field trip to the hospital I won't be the deer in the headlight!

deer

P.S. My mom is recovering nicely!

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Jim Lambert
Thanks for the comment Colleen!
Tuesday, 12 April 2016 10:16
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