May Marvels

It’s May, and some of my favorite days are in May. I know the voyage of summer is near when the light green mist in the woods becomes the solid green flag of all the maple leaves unfurling at once. This happens in the course of just a few May days. Did you see it?

We have a few dozen peony bushes in our yard left over from our flower farming days. I love the heavy fuchsia blooms that usually open around Memorial Day, but over the years I’ve learned to watch for the gorgeous dark red shoots that emerge through the spring grass, and I love their form and fortitude even mdark red peony shoots emerging from the groundore than the show-off flowers. I wonder at how all that silky color is packed into those shoots.

My husband and I have the same discussion on May 3 or so, give or take an unusually warm day or Indiana monsoon weekend. He, of the glass-half-empty part of our relationship, starts the conversation with, “The peonies look like they’re coming on early this year.”

Glass-half-full wife replies, “That’s unusually optimistic of you, but you say that every year. And then they bloom around Memorial Day.”

“We’ll see,” he says, and my heart surges to know that his glass can be full! It happens on a May day, and this year, I think he’s right and I’m glad to be wrong. I’ll be watching as the hard, marble-sized buds expand and soften into pink marshmallows. That’s the day in May before they open.
fuchsia peonies in full bloom at the Sharritt farm
On yet another spectacular day in May, my husband makes the announcement that it is time to switch from the flannel sheets to the summer ones. (insert birdsong and trumpet fanfare!) If you’re familiar with
his blog, then you know what an epic event this is.


May, in the world of education, can tempt us to hurry to the June finish. We’re missing a lot of great May days if we don’t keep our expectations high for ourselves and our students. I happened upon another blog by Aaron Hogan that encourages us to consider the end to be as important as the beginning and to wrap up the year with a flourish. It includes great ideas in the comments section from colleagues on how they energize their May classroom.

My May days have been filled with preparing for trainings at the Indiana Summer of e-Learning events (hope to see many of you there!) and organizing regional professional learning communities for the Teachers for the Blind/Low Vision in Indiana. Reflecting on your year’s failures and successes is another way for teachers to make May a blooming finale, rather than a fizzle. If you are a BLV teacher and haven’t signed up for one of these groups yet, please email me.

5 elementary aged students running through the grass

In the blog mentioned above, Aaron writes, “We cannot afford to do anything other than continue to pursue our students.” The students have been equipped from August through the year to learn in your classroom. They are ready to dart ahead of you. May days are great days to hand over the dry erase markers, and let those capable students lead. Great growth, in fact, blossoming happens here, too. Do you see it?


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Thanks Harry!

Thanks Harry!

Here it is, time for me to blog. It is my understanding, that as a PATINS blogger, I am to reflect on those things in my specialty area. For me as the ICAM Technical Specialist, it involves getting material from the NIMAC, Learning Ally, how to deliver digital content and what to do when it just doesn’t seem to go as planned.

Anyone who has followed my other blog postings probably didn’t absorb much of that content. I prefer to be a little more whimsical in my writing. I enjoy sharing more on a personal note just because it’s my blog!

On Easter Sunday, we had the whole family together consisting of my two daughters, their husbands and my five grandchildren.

We enjoyed the traditional stuff that we have always done like an Easter egg hunt, Easter baskets, a big dinner, etc. Everything went off without a hitch.

Jeff's 5 grandchildren on Easter
What was different about this Easter was the interaction and independence of the grandchildren. Ranging from one and a half to seven, each had a very different way of experiencing the festivities. Sure, age had something to do with it but it was how different each one got to the same or similar level of enjoyment.

What I noticed that day was even at the most earliest of ages, each child had their own way of discovering, sharing, cooperating, conveying their excitement and disappointment in ways that were not directed by adults.

What I saw was an unspoken use of Universal Design OF Learning. Each child using their own talents and not being told what to do be it right or wrong, but enjoying the moment.

This holiday experience reminded me of a Harry Chapin song Flowers Are Red. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and he started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

And the teacher said, "What you doin' young man?"
"I'm paintin' flowers" he said
She said, "It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red"

"There's a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one"

And she said, "Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen"


I am not the type to spoil the rest of the song, but I think it’s worth listening to because it sums up just how to incorporate UDL into any classroom, as well as our lives outside of the classroom.

As I listen, I gotta say…Thanks, Harry!


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The Party's Over

 PATINS staff photo with the words keep calm and smile with friends poster

Last week, PATINS hosted a party. Well, not really a party, but Tech Expo 2017… and it had components of a party:

· Invitation and RSVP
· Theme/decorations
· Food
· Lively conversation
· Meeting new people
· Seeing friends/colleagues
· Laughter
· Activities
· Goodie bag/gifts
· Photo opportunities

As the Event & Financial Manager, it is my responsibility to plan the event in a fiscally responsible manner as well as coordinate the efforts of the venue, staff and exhibitors to serve the attendees to the best of our ability.

Looking over feedback that has come back to us, it seems we provided a valuable day of learning and professional development for the teachers, support staff, administrators and parents that were in attendance. For those of you who joined us, thank you! For those of you who didn’t make it, we will offer Tech Expo once again in April 2018 with an Exhibit Hall full of experts in the field of technology and a day full of presentations exploring how to implement those products and services in the classroom.

Daniel has a phrase he encourages us to use as a focal point in our PATINS positions…Faces, tiny little faces. In my position, I do not get out into the classrooms to see the students’ faces, but, I do appreciate having a hand in a successful professional development event, such as Tech Expo, where I am able to see the faces of eager educators taking away new ideas and product supports to their schools where they will undoubtedly increase student achievement.

Lastly, a party is a celebration and Tech Expo felt like that at the end of the day. We can all celebrate when the students we serve succeed in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom!


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A Mighty (Laminated) Sword

A Mighty (Laminated) Sword
A preschool teacher consulted with me about a student who was struggling with behavior; one of most intense issues she’d ever seen. The little girl would bite and punch and roll on the floor, and it was a full-time job just to keep her in the classroom. She also had a severe communication impairment. She talked and you could understand the words, but there wasn’t any meaning behind them. She couldn’t tell you about her favorite movie or answer beyond a simple question. For four years, every adult and child had to guess what she wanted to say.

“We’ve got a lot of things started, a lot of plans,” she explained, rattling off all our favorite behavior acronyms: FBA, BIP, FERB, etc. The one thing she didn’t say: AAC - Alternative and Augmentative Communication. The student had a severe communication impairment; couldn’t that be a big part of why she’s having behavior issues? Did they consider AAC and giving her a voice?

“But she can talk,” the teacher said. “The issue isn’t talking, she just wants control.”

Before I could jump on my soap box, another preschooler yelled with perfect dramatic timing:

I don't wanna tootie!” edged with the desperation of a preschool boy who would probably explode if he had to eat an animal cracker cookie.

“This is what we have,” said the assistant, pointing to the snack menu visual. He screwed up his face. “Do you want anything?”

“My teez.”

“You have cheese in your lunchbox?” He nodded. “Go and get it.”

And life went on. Crisis diverted! Communication saved the day! And wouldn’t you know, he was awfully and age-appropriately controlling. It’s communication that gets us what we want: acceptance, love, and cheese. Adults are known to throw fits when they can’t communicate their order in a drive-thru. Imagine four years of being stuck in the Taco Bell drive-thru and never getting to talk to someone. You’d want to hit someone too.

In another preschool, I got to observe a program where AAC was wrapped around the entire classroom. Brightly colored AAC boards were taped to the walls and hung from the cabinets. Every kid, whether they needed to use it or not, had a core word communication board at their elbow and so did all the adults. I sat down next to one student, and the teacher smirked.

“I don’t know if you want to sit next to him.”

Oh no, I thought, panicking, Did he have pink eye? Was I going to get pink eye?!

“He’s our typical peer.”

This little guy, brand new to preschool and a little wary of everything around him, was talking with the communication board like he’d used it for a month. He didn’t have a communication impairment, and he wasn’t anyone’s idea of a typical AAC user. But we’ve all seen the new preschoolers cry and shut down at their first-ever activities, and he was using an alternative way of communicating and interacting with his brand new environment and classmates. Maybe he only needed it that day, maybe he’ll never want to use AAC again, but he’ll remember feeling safe and included in preschool from the beginning. Communication, in any form, saved the day.

According to their speech-language pathologist, Jenni, including robust and thoughtful AAC has been amazing:

“They know that they give them a voice… We've had so many days that we've just looked at each other and shouted, "Did you see that?", "Did that really just happen?" It's been so fun to watch these kiddos learn... I can't believe how quickly she is learning. She carries her board around with her like it's a mighty sword.”

So teachers, therapists, administrators everywhere, (I can’t believe I’m saying this): all students must have swords*, whatever sword(s) fit them best. Make sure they have their swords everywhere. Make time for sword practice. Seek sword specialists, talk to other sword users. Don't favor one type of sword over another, because it was never about the sword, but the person wielding it.

Expect swords to be mighty and all students have strength to wield them, and they will conquer dragons.

*the sword is communication, all types of communication, for those who still aren't into my ridiculous analogies


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"Crazy"


Charlie Brown and speech bubble with the words good grief
 


OK, so, I missed my blog deadline this time around and it made me think of how crazy our lives can get. I am not so sold on the benefits of multi-tasking. So here is a YouTube link to Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse) singing "Crazy". At the bottom, I included a copy of the lyrics from the St. Elsewhere Album. It’s really fitting for all of us, I believe. Parents, educators, students, administrators, support staff. Craziness is for anyone who is putting themselves out there to make our world a better place.  


Feel free to slow down and take 5 minutes to enjoy a song not usually connected to what we do, and is inspiring in its own way!

As we all strive for control over our lives, it seems many of us (attempt to) do this through schedules. In our paperless office, I find I still need the print version of a calendar to ground me on a daily basis.

Here is a little of what I have learned over the years:

Digital calendars/schedulers:
  • Great for portability
  • Great for ease of adjustability
  • Easily searchable, depending on how it was set up
  • Easy to set repeating appointment
    • And my favorite
      • Great for color coding/categorizing
  • Downside:
    • Too easy to misdate or delete something
Paper calendars/schedulers/appointment books
  • You can see what you erased!
  • Easier for me to see a week at a glance.
  • I am able to glance at weeks more quickly.
  • Easier to quickly glance on the road.
  • I can make notes right on the document.
    • including…my mileage
  • Downside:
    • If you leave it at home, you are sunk.
Conclusion:
  • There is no one system that works for me and believe me, I have been looking for a long time.
  • About the time I think I have a good system, I find it may be perfect on a desktop, but not on a mobile set up.
  • Or it was better with a previous email system, but not a new one.
  • Or a new data collection system changes my personal coding system.
And it is all good!
OK, anything useful here?
  • First of all, we all have to work with the materials at hand and the resources available.
  • Decide how to visually organize your life and go from there.
  • We also look at ourselves or who we are considering. 
  • So this is where the feature match comes in. 
    • I can be pretty flexible with some basic features and allowing myself to print out a working calendar document. 
    • Anything else is just crazy!
Choices:
  • These are more schedulers than organizers, but the list might get you thinking. These are a drop in the bucket I currently have eleven in a folder on my phone that I have explored.

Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse) singing "Crazy"

"Crazy" St. Elsewhere Album Lyrics
I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo
In so much space

And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly [radio version]
probably [album version]

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control
Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy
Probably

Uh, uh

Credit AZLyrics 

Thanks! Julie

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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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Getting Lost and Found in Translation

For several hours I was lost in Paris. I was in my early twenties and the world was just starting to expand for me. I had frequently been lost in America, lost in England and lost in my own world, but all of these places shared one commonality...they were places where English was the predominate language. However, THIS moment I was lost in France, only armed with the phrase “Le garçon stupide!” which translates roughly to “The stupid boy!” I began to panic.

That day, I found out that part of getting by in another country was being nice enough to the people there to get them to speak English. It almost seemed as though everyone knew English. Kindness elicited a heavily accented response, sometimes broken, sometimes flowing, in my own language. How lucky I was that they were willing to help an American girl with mascara tears running down her face.  

During those hours of being lost, I discovered a huge difference between this country and mine. My country is landlocked for miles with people who mostly speak the same language and have the expectation that others will learn the language as well. The concept that people living in states as close to me as Kentucky or Illinois would speak different languages is mind boggling. People growing up in France probably learned English, German and Spanish in order to communicate with the people right next door.  

Many years later in America I faced the obstacles of speaking a predominant language and teaching students who did not grow up speaking English. My first year of teaching high school in Chicago found me in a school where 87% of the 3,000 students who attended came from Spanish speaking homes. When I moved to Assistive Technology several years later, I worked with a group of children who had moved from a 16th century agrarian farm setting to the third largest city in America. How was I going to speak to the children? How would I communicate with their families? Software and translators were present, but not mainstream and very expensive. How would I meet the needs of people who could not use kindness to have someone help them in their own native tongue? No amount of “kindness’ on their part would be rewarded by my speaking a language that they understood back to them.

I would like to thank Kelli Suding, another PATINS Specialist, for showing me one of the best apps I have heard about in a long time. Google Translate. Google Translate is free, easy to use and has incredible features. The app translates 103 languages. It translates handwriting directly applied to the screen. A person can speak into a microphone and the app translates what is being said in real time. A phrasebook can be programmed to save translated words and phrases for another time. The best feature, to me, is the camera translation. If you hold the camera up to anything written, it translates the image to the desired language. Imagine holding your phone camera up to a direction sign, or document in a foreign country. Imagine changing the language of a document in real time in a case conference for a family who needs the kindness of someone speaking in their native tongue.

Over winter break I met a woman from Turkey who was visiting her son in Manhattan. As we laughed and talked, I watched her wistful smile as she was not able to join the conversation. I realized after I left that I had the key, and immediately sent them the information on the Google Translate app. A week later, I received the best text of the year. Google Translate was a game changer for the entire family. The text recounted how incredible her trip was and the enjoyment she felt as she was able communicate with everyone. She was able to read signs, converse back and forth and gain independence over her vacation. It was almost as if she was kind enough to get someone to speak to her in her native tongue.


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SETT and the Right Tool

Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 6.57.53 PM I am currently doing something I’ve always wanted to do, I’m flipping a house. I’ve been watching professionals do this for years on TV. I’ve always enjoyed doing things like that. One week I rented scaffolding, repainted a two story great room, stairs, kitchen and bedroom and tiled (for the first time) the kitchen backsplash. I have learned two good lessons through doing these things and I suspect a third.

Lesson #1 - It is all about having the right tool for the task. Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 7.34.21 AM

The available assistive technology is varied and vast. There are as many solutions as there are questions. The trick is not just to figure out the correct solution, but to realize when the question may have changed. I use the SETT Framework by Joy Zabala when trying to help educators and students find the right AT solution.

The SETT Framework works through four specific areas to facilitate choosing the correct solution to fit the problem. SETT stands for Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools. Student, Environment and Task are all considered at the same time in no particular order. These three things are closely connected. Change one of these three pieces and the entire picture changes dramatically. The Tool becomes the answer to this equation.

Student + Environment + Task = Tool

For the past three years, I have been looking at adding an AT tool to our Lending Library. It is a communication device for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It was never requested by a teacher for loan and when I discussed it with teachers and my peers, they thought it would be useful in the outside world, but not as much in school. This year, when considering this tool, we framed it in the setting of transition. In that situation a student looking at college and work interviews would benefit from being familiar with this device so that they could carry it with them to facilitate communication. That change of Environment made all the difference. Now it was a good idea to have this tool in the Lending Library

If we change the task, we are looking at an entirely different tool again. Perhaps the task is reading instead of speaking. Same student same challenges different task, different tool. It's all about having the right tool for the task.

Lesson #2 - It is ok to get some help from the professionals.

I’ve busted some pipes, gotten in over my head on electrical wiring etc. My favorite contractor pays for his golf games thanks to me! Here’s where I remind you to email or call us. You knew that. But really, it is what we do, and we all love doing it.

Unlike my contractor, PATINS provides professional help at no cost to you, but you knew that too. The thing is, the other educators, general and special educators, may not. Help them out. Introduce them to us! Bring them to the PATINS Tech Expo on April 12th!

That brings us the lesson I think I'm going to learn...
Lesson #3 - In flipping houses the person who always makes money is the contractor. I’ll let you know. The bathroom is done and the kitchen is ½ way. A contractor is there painting today. We are hoping to be done at the end of the month.


* Shaved Shih-Tzu update:

UDL (Universal Design for Learning) works in this area too!  
Our haircuts are now uniform and cute!Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 6.58.21 PM
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Happy Birthday to...Me?

Please wait, I'm thinking
I recently attended a training and the presenter asked us all to introduce ourselves and then share one thing about us that would not be on our résumé. I instantly went into panic mode and could not think of one thing about myself to contribute. Luckily, my colleagues came to the rescue and offered this unique information about me when I was failing. My response was, “One thing that is not on my résumé is that when I am put on the spot to answer a question about myself, I totally forget who I am and what I like.”

For instance, I’ll never forget the time I was in gym class when I was in second grade. It was January 12. To make teams, the PE teacher had us line up and tell him the date of our birthdays. I was third in line, and he wanted this to happen very quickly. When he pointed at me, I said: “January 15.” (My birthday is September 23.)

I was horrified when he responded, “Oh! Your birthday is only a few days away!” He then proceeded to let me pick whatever team I wanted, and I was first in line for everything. Then the worst (but kind) thing happened on January 15...he had the whole class sing “Happy Birthday” to me.

Birthday Balloons


I mention this story as a reminder to give students multiple ways to respond to your requests, alleviating many of the barriers to expression. This will allow students to access themselves. Even if we feel our requested tasks are simple things to ask of our students, we must also make it simple for them to respond.

Being cognizant that some students may struggle with verbal responses for various reasons can be a game changer in getting to know our students and allowing them to open up to their peers. It may not even be a struggle to express; but a matter of their own processing time as we hurriedly skip them or show frustration, translating their actions into defiance.

This coincides with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principle of offering multiple means of action and expression. Having a universally designed environment in all areas, all locations, all subjects, all the time within the walls of your schools is essential for equitable education.

Just a few examples to start or continue;

  • Get to know your students. Ask them how they like to respond.

  • Have visuals available for responses.

  • Allow students to write or use speech-to-text (STT) responses.

  • Using backchannels in your classroom are not only a beneficial way to remove the barriers of anxiety of having to verbally respond on the spot; but they are also a good way to expand the classroom outside of school hours. There are many free tools to make that happen.

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Dignity of Risk

Likely, you've heard me assert the term, "dignity of risk," if we've ever had any discourse about life-long learning in any respect whatsoever. It's a term that stockpiles deep significance in all aspects of my professional and personal life. Its significance appears repeatedly and in many forms. It's also been spoken about by a select few people in much more eloquent phrasing than I typically am able to utter.

In recent months, while auditorily reading a book in my car, I stopped to bookmark and highlight a section of notes (ask PATINS staff how easy this is to do). This particular section of text was describing a trip on a motorcycle through some especially harsh weather and trying conditions. One person was anticipating his partner needing to take a flight back, while another character argued strongly that, "physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong." That when the mood is wrong, one fastens tightly to the discomfort and calls that the cause. When the mood is "right," the physical discomfort carries far different meaning.  The author goes on to say that arriving at the Rocky Mountains by plane is certainly one context, in which they are seen as pretty scenery, but to "arrive after days of hard travel would be to experience them in another way, as a goal, a promised land." Further, that you're "in the scene," rather than simply watching it. I liked this smooth and expressive alternative form of describing what I hold so earnestly as "dignity of risk." 

Two years ago, at the PATINS State Conference, I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time with Daniel Kish, one of our keynote speakers. Daniel is brilliant, inspirational and he is blind. He navigates his physical environment partially by clicking with his tongue and then making determinations about his surroundings based on the reflections of sound off objects around him. Daniel hikes national parks, negotiates busy cities, and rides a bicycle. When talking about receiving the bike from his dad at a relatively young age, Daniel talks of the many risks involved in riding it and his thankfulness that his parents were able to grasp far more positives than negatives in this regard. He finishes with a line that I'll never forget, and that sums up "dignity of risk" in yet another marvelous fashion. Daniel says, "running into a light pole or mailbox is a real drag, but being denied the opportunity to run into a pole is an absolute disaster." 

Thirdly, as a young teacher, I had the great fortune of knowing a miraculous little girl whom I'll refer to as Strawberry Shortcake. I have confidence she'd smile approvingly at this name since she referred to me as "Blueberry Muffins" on more than one occasion. Ms. Shortcake faced several challenges, but her olfactory sense was keen and she always seemed to know exactly what I had for breakfast. I also have her to thank for keeping a toothbrush in every desk I've ever kept since! Ms. Shortcake carried an outlook on life that inspired many and stuck with me. While many factors caused her to fall often, bump into things and people, and show up seemingly every few minutes with new bruises, she wore protective headwear and never slowed down. Adults would ask her things like, "What happens if you fall and scrape your knees again?" "That's a long way to fall, are you sure?" I would often just observe and smile as her response was always, "I'll just get back up and keep going." Fortunately, Ms. Shortcake had parents who also adored this life lesson she so often taught through the way she truly lived. She never let the negative what-if's slow her down or keep her from doing the things that made her happy and successful. She just, "got back up and kept running." In 2005, our little Shortcake with big inspiration passed away rather suddenly and unexpectedly from an unforeseen disease. This broke my heart and soul and nearly ended my career in education, until I genuinely internalized what she'd been teaching me and followed her lead. I was so very thankful that she'd fully lived every moment she had and that she never allowed others' fears to contain her love for experiencing life. ...I "just got back up and kept running," and at that time my realization of the deep importance of "dignity of risk" had an unshakable foundation. 

Having now provided three brief synopses of just a few of the examples I treasure, my hope is that I've started to offer a more rounded view on what it means when I refer to "dignity of risk." When a person only has one choice, there's really never any pride in making that choice. When mistakes are not permitted (and encouraged) creativity is non-existent and true learning doesn't occur. I realize that may be a controversial and bold statement, but it's one I believe in strongly. It's also one that I feel applies unconditionally to education from a professional development perspective both in regard to student achievement and teaching strategy. That is to say, students AND teachers must be encouraged and supported to take risks for the purpose of achieving both academic results and dignity. 

Consider two people, if you will; a scientist who has his own TV show on a set filled with a million dollars worth of equipment. He puts on a fascinating scientific demonstration of massively impressive proportions. Is what he's doing a scientific experiment, however? I'd argue that it most certainly is not, if he already knows what the results will be. The other person is a garage mechanic working on his motorcycle. This individual might turn on the headlight or honk the horn to see if the battery is working. This is, essentially, a more true and creative experiment. If the horn honks, the battery has been proven good. If trying to determine why the bike won't start, the TV scientist might call this experiment a failure because the bike still doesn't start even though the battery has been proven good. The garage mechanic realizes that an experiment is only a failure if it also fails to adequately address the single hypothesis being questioned AND/OR if experimentation stops at that point. The skilled individual moves on to the next single hypothesis and tests that, etc., eventually arriving at complete success. This notion of experimentation involves many "failures" along the route to complete success. It takes time, it may be frustrating, but success is nearly inevitable and it is definite once it's reached. 

Teachers have to be willing, permitted, and able to teach differently, not just with different tools. They must feel supported by administration to be creative, try things differently, and scientifically test one hypothesis at a time, with understanding that there will be necessary "failures" along the route to eventual definite success. Teachers must be allowed and encouraged to experience dignity through risk. Students must be permitted and encouraged in much the same way by their instructors. Barring physical safety and destruction of property, of course, students have to feel supported to take risks in thinking about academic problem solving, about the tools that might allow them to circumvent their own barriers to learning, and about creative ways to arrive at a solution. The certain minor failures along this road ARE where great teaching happens. Superb instructors guide, shape, prompt hierarchically, and reach out their hand after every small set-back. This is where deep learning occurs. While I think that many would probably agree with this, I wonder if they truly offer the necessary support to those they are guiding that allows them the "dignity of risk" that is essential in this process.

My purpose at this point is to encourage administrators and instructors to utilize the PATINS staff, resources, and Lending Library, as your supports. We will be there with our hands held out after every step in your journey toward the "promised land." Try a new strategy or tool, take data, draw conclusions and then form an adjusted hypothesis and borrow something else from us. We are full of, "maybe you could try this next, here's how you could try it..." and we have so many items in our Lending Library for you to "honk" to "test the battery," before you move on to the next hypothesis. Embrace the "physical discomfort" from the perspective of knowing that those mountains will feel far different than if you'd simply flown to them. Remember that bruises will happen, but that "never having the opportunity to crash is a total disaster." Finally, know that "next year" might just be too late for some students. Start now with the notion that while creativity stifled by fear may feel safe, true greatness happens in "just getting back up to keep running," even with scraped knees.  



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