Is it Thursday yet?

If you have read any of my other blogs I have focused on my grandchildren, and this one is no different.

My oldest granddaughter, Mackenzie (Kenzie) now 5, has been having some sleeping issues. My daughter, Emily, had recorded her snoring in her sleep and shared it with their pediatrician. The pediatrician was very concerned as it was very well pronounced and indicated that her airway was being compromised by her tonsils and adenoids.

Kenzie was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and it was confirmed that both her tonsils and adenoids needed to be removed. Kenzie listened to the diagnosis and the recommended procedure.

Emily and the doctor discussed with Kenzie what would be best for her and what it would involve. Kenzie was on board and wanted to know when they could be removed. The procedure was scheduled two weeks out.

Now one should remember that Kenzie just turned five and is in preschool. Time concepts at her age are days of the week, months of the year and the next holiday to celebrate. So, saying two weeks was still somewhat abstract to Kenzie.

On their way home Kenzie asked if her tonsils would come out tomorrow. Emily explained that it would be on Thursday in two weeks. At that point Kenzie asked, “The next day then?” It began to sound like the proverbial, “Are we there yet?”

When they got home, Emily made a countdown calendar to help Kenzie with the timeframe, so she would have a better understanding of how many days would come and go before the procedure.

From that day on Kenzie was treating her upcoming procedure as if it was a holiday to celebrate. Her anticipation of what was going to happen was almost truly unnatural.

As adults, we know what is involved and some know firsthand what this experience is like. My youngest daughter, Sarah, had her tonsils removed at the age of twelve and post-surgery was tolerable but still somewhat uncomfortable. My personal thoughts were, “Oh child you have no idea…” but Kenzie was so excited to share that this was about to happen.

A couple days before the surgery, Emily tried some of the post-surgery foods with Kenzie. Jell-O, pudding, ice cream and popsicles and Kenzie had no issues with that. The night before everyone was given their designated duties; Mimi and Pappy Pa were instructed to take care of Ethan, our 2-year-old grandson.

Kenzie had her special pajamas and off to the hospital they went. Emily would send pictures and a timeline as to what was happening and Kenzie was still all smiles.

The procedure went well and when Emily and Jamie went back to recovery, Kenzie was sitting up as if nothing had happened, all smiles. For any parent, the last thing we want to do is see our children in discomfort, but that wasn’t the case so far.

Kenzie setting in a chair giving a thumbs up.

Fast forward 4 days and really nothing has changed except for the snoring. Kenzie has not had one complaint to speak of, which is quite a relief to all of us.

There is something to be said about the attitude one brings to the table and how we perceive what it is we expect. Kenzie’s lack of knowledge as what to expect was natural. What helped her to be prepared was the information and honesty about what to expect in real terms and that in the end, the outcome would be in her best interest.

So, what does this have to do with education or anything remote? On the verge of any testing, what can parents and teachers do to help prepare their child or student for any anxiety that might confront them?

PATINS hosts a PATINS/ICAM Twitter Chat on Tuesdays at 8:30 EST. (#PatinsIcam Chat) to tweet and chat about topics that pertain to education. It just so happens that the Tuesday of this blog the topic dealt with creating and maintaining a positive test environment.

It paralleled what we experienced with Kenzie to a degree regarding preparation and expectation.

Below were the Twitter questions for the chat. I am not going to address the questions but through Kenzie’s experience, it’s food for thought.
  1. Why is creating a positive testing environment important?
  2. What behaviors can be seen when a student struggles with test anxiety?
  3. What strategies do you use to create a calm and positive atmosphere?
  4. How can students support one another when it comes time to testing?
  5. What are your favorite apps or extensions to support students who may be feeling anxious?
  6. How can you gain parent/guardian support for creating a positive perspective of testing at home?
  7. What strategies and accommodations have you been implementing throughout the year to improve your students' confidence and access to the curriculum, thus improving test scores?
  8. How can goal setting factor in to helping a struggling child feel successful with ISTEP?
  9. Does teacher stress feed into student anxiety about a test? How do you take care of yourself?
  10. How are you going to celebrate this round of testing being over?
Kenzie would say pudding, popsicles and ice cream for this one!

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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Great blog post! My 23 year old daughter is having this done in July, I hope she does as well!
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 10:14
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A Matter of Trust


My five-year-old grandson, Rhett, was spending the night with me recently. Upon waking up the next morning in his bed, I heard his little voice say in the darkened house “Miss Kaylan?”. 

You see, Miss Kaylan is his Preschool Teacher. 

Preschool teacher Miss Kaylan with 5-year old grandson Rhett
As I trekked down the hallway to greet Rhett to the new day, I was touched that he chose to call out for his teacher rather than Momma, Daddy or Gigi (that’s me!). He obviously was disoriented waking up in the dark and trusted that Miss Kaylan was there to lead the way for him to a safe place, a comfortable place. 

Teachers are leaders. 

Why would anyone want to be a teacher, anyway? Some seek the position because they enjoy the control of the classroom that almost certainly accompanies. Others become teachers because the rewards seem attractive. Still others accept a role of teacher out of a sense of duty, obligation or pay it forward mindset. 

There is nothing wrong with any of these motives. After all, an effective leader quite naturally acquires power and knows how to handle it. And all leaders should be rewarded for their efforts, right? Furthermore, a strong sense of duty compels leaders to do their best. But too much emphasis on any of the three separates the leader from the people eventually…one more motive is essential, and that is service. 

A leader who has a genuine desire to touch people’s lives for the better, to serve that is – one who sees the needs and wants to be part of the solution – empowers others.

My role in PATINS is to support and serve the Staff and our Stakeholders as they lead all students to an accessible curriculum. You can trust that I am behind the scenes purchasing needed items in our Lending Library, purchasing training resources for our Specialists, planning and implementing our next Professional Development Event to enhance knowledge base and support compliance for student success. All the while, working with the PATINS Director to be fiscally responsible with our budget and funding.

May everything you do revolve around service to others. You are a leader.



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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Great blog post!
Monday, 26 February 2018 14:53
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Hands Off That Kid!

adult hand holding child's hand with text reading
“Sally can solve addition equations with 100% accuracy when the teacher tells her what the answer is.”

If you read that on your child’s progress report, you might do a spit take, right? For one, Sally didn’t “solve” squat. Why is telling her the answer a measure of Sally’s progress? It’s nonsense! Unacceptable! The lowest of lows in pedagogy!

However, plenty of progress reports have gone out this year with some variation of the following:

“Aiden can request preferred activities from a choice of three objects with maximum physical (hand over hand) assistance.”

How in the world did Aiden request something if staff were the ones grabbing Aiden’s hand and pointing? I ask teams working with students why they are using hand over hand instead of any other number of solutions, and they tend to answer with a combination of the following:

“He has such involved motor issues, he can’t touch it unless we do hand over hand.”

“She won’t pay attention unless we do.”

“He won’t do it otherwise.”

You know what is interesting about those objections? They are about us, the adult, and not about our students. Our students with complex bodies need alternative ways of pointing, not hand over hand. Our students with poor attention need engaging and motivating environments, not hand over hand. If your students won’t do without hand over hand, you doing it for them is not a data point. Our students need to learn, and we simply cannot hand over hand their brains.white text on black background

When we decide not to grab student’s hands, we are making a statement of trust and respect to our students. We model. We wait. We think about our materials, change them so they are accessible. We do any number of things because we are saying:

I will wait. I will not force you to perform at my speed.

I will watch. I will adjust and adapt to be a good teacher and communication partner for you.

I will discover with you. Everyone is engaged by something, and we can never know what you know unless you are engaged, first. We will find those things that work for you.

I will reflect. The data we take will be meaningful and help drive decision making, so you can communicate whatever you want to say, or show what you know.

What are you saying to your students today?

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Rachel Herron
I just love this blog and wish I had been of this mind set when I was working directly with students with significant communicatio... Read More
Monday, 12 February 2018 07:18
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AT Team Development- Worth the time!

We just wrapped up ATIA 2018 in Orlando. There were so many wonderful sessions and so many great folks to network with. My focus was AT Team Building this year. It strikes me that the issues are the same as always and the individuals faced with solving the issues are the same groups of people. The difference in all these years is that our general knowledge has evolved as has the mass, open accessibility to tools. Maybe it is helpful that our funding is increasingly blended, too, making it more obvious that these kids are all of ours, so more folks are naturally involved in the brainstorming.

Stakeholders are all talking classroom accessibility rather than pulling a student from natural instruction to provide access on a tool so special or expensive it has to be stored in a special "AT room" with security akin to Fort Knox. Talk about leveling the playing field! The Cloud; Access to the Same Curriculum; Getting materials in Real Time; Accountability; Showing what someone Knows; Expecting Achievement; and working with General Educators have all facilitated this growth in Access and Communication. If that is not team building, then I have missed something.  

Bridge builders working together on structure

We still need framework, structure, support, training, modeling and followup as we develop this process. We need to encourage individuals with expertise to blossom, find their niche and shore up the structure for staff and student. The knight in shining armor coming in to save the day never really did work because you are still left with the issues, once the knight leaves.  

Let's work together to Level the Playing field for staff working to find solutions and support each other as we support students. In the immortal words of my daughter, "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Let's pace ourselves and dig our heels in for a lot of fun as we lope along! It is a familiar path and now we can slow down enough to welcome friends. With the tools readily available, progress can be seen fairly immediately, so this marathon can be a satisfying journey.

The PATINS website has some suggested structure to get you started. Go to the Julie Kuhn Webpage and look for AT Team Development. Also, I periodically host webinars on this topic and you can always contact me to get started on your own problem-solving and action plan!

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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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Returning to Mindfulness and Reaping the Benefits

clementine oranges with leavesSitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the circle rug in my daughter’s kindergarten class last year, I learned something new. Maybe it wasn’t completely new, but certainly not practiced consistently in the “rush around world” I seem to be living in.

Ms. Indu, the founder of the school, passed around a little white basket of brightly colored clementines to all of the parent-night attendees. She instructed each person to select a fruit, then encouraged us to examine the smooth texture. She quietly described the hands that planted the seeds...hands that were passed down from ancestors, and ancestors, and ancestors. She characterized the process of love and nurturing that allowed it to grow into a tree. As the fruit ripened, sweet and heavy, she discussed the hands that picked it from the green leaves so high up in the tree. How many hands passed the clementine as it was washed, shined, packed and transported to the grocery store. She detailed the careful stacking of each clementine by a person who came from ancestors, who came from ancestors, who came from ancestors. She considered the inspection and selection that you, the consumer, went through to bring this delicious snack home.

As the mindful activity unfolded, I watched my husband Bill’s face out of the corner of my eye. He sat, looking at the clementine and listening intently to Ms. Indu speak. I fought back a sudden wave of the giggles as I wondered what this 45-year-old man would do when asked to eat the delicious fruit. Bill is what I would call a “reformed picky eater.” When he was young, he would reject a hamburger if the plate was sprinkled with parsley. Over the past 10 years he has developed into what I would consider a “typical eater” with occasional moments of adventure. One thing, however, that I knew for sure was that he did NOT like clementines. Clementines, oranges, grapefruit, none of them!

I closed my eyes and concentrated on putting the clementine segment in my mouth. Ms. Indu continued to guide us through the mindful activity of tasting the sweetness of the fruit, savouring the tangy yet sweet ...wait...what did I hear? Was that...chewing? Bill was chewing. Eyes closed, intently listening, and chewing. He was not just eating a piece of the clementine, he was eating the entire fruit. Mindfulness.

Mindfulness, in this case, turned my “typical eater” into a person who now purchases a bag of clementines every time he goes to the grocery store. He is now a person who carefully stacks the fruit in a blue glass bowl on our counter and enjoys the flavor and benefit of this nutritious snack. That moment of sitting on the kindergarten rug with purposeful and guided thought actually changed his pattern of thinking. I think he surprised himself that evening. He certainly never thought of himself as a citrus lover.

As I processed the mindful activity that led to a pattern change for Bill, I started to ponder school environments, students and how simple mindful activities might shape everyday activities. Research has shown that mindful behavior actually changes the neurological patterns in the brain. Mindful activities can promote goal setting and attainment, overall peacefulness throughout a school day and can be a confidence builder for a student who is struggling.

As a teacher, mindful attention to the day can increase student connectivity and might bring attention to the individual gifts students bring to the table with a reduced focus on those items that seem to be out of our control.

I was recently in a classroom in Greencastle where a teacher of students with Emotional Disabilities was detailing some of the progress the students had experienced this semester. She explained that every morning the students took a moment to reflect quietly on the upcoming day, to process through the daily hurdles and to have a moment to gather thoughts of how to navigate. She attributed much of the success of her students to that carefully planned moment in time, and stated that if something happened and that moment did not occur, the day definitely reflected it. The skill she was teaching did not cost money. A student never had to be without it because it comes from within. It was a life skill that encouraged goal setting and personal growth. What more could we possibly want for our students?

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Rachel Herron
Thank you so much!!! I am in total agreement! I was so impressed that the teacher, Jessica Tomasino, was so thoughtful about thi... Read More
Thursday, 18 January 2018 21:06
Rachel Herron
Fantastic! That makes my day! I need to make sure that I am also practicing this incredible skill! Thank you for reading this G... Read More
Friday, 19 January 2018 09:06
Rachel Herron
You are the second person who has mentioned automated systems to me this week! I had not even considered it before, but it is so ... Read More
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 09:20
12 Comments

Viral UDL

From the Flu to you!

Sandi is sitting on her couch with a blanket over her and two dogs on her legs. She is typing on her computer and has her sick table materials beside her.
For the first time in a long while, I am sick. The flu epidemic did not spare me this year. As I sit here with my “sick table” fully stocked with my hot tea, Halls cough drops, Puffs Tissues Plus Lotion and Vicks, and a nasty wastebasket full of used tissues, I find myself thinking about things that are infectious and contagious.
 
Wikipedia tells me that, “In the United States, the flu season is considered October through May. It usually peaks in February.” According to the CDC, this year’s flu strain is the H3N2 virus. The estimate is that the Flu shot is only 30% effective against this flu strain, but you are still urged to get it. The Definition of contagious is to move easily from one person to another.

Influenza Activity Estimates Indiana and much of the nation have sporatic outbreak in October. In November Indiana is still sporatic but other states are showing local activity.  By December all contiguous states show widespread flu reports.
Between November and the end of December, the flu spreads rapidly because we are traveling to see out of town friends and relatives for the holidays. We are leaving our normal geographic boundaries and reaching out to others.

Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses. Great ideas can be spread that way too. I am getting ready to work with a small team of educators that wants to learn more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We are going to meet twice a month and discuss how to UDL their classrooms and lessons. We don’t know where this will go, but we are hoping it will become contagious! This is the way PATINS works. Groups of educators step out of their mental geographic boundaries, try something new and share it with their colleagues. The same principles of contagion apply to learning great educational frameworks like UDL as do the flu. The difference is great results for Indiana educators and students.  

I’d love to infect you with the UDL virus! Reach out to me and let’s get some positive educational pedagogy spreading around your school!

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The Best Things In Life Are Free

scs
I stumbled upon an old song that Sam Cooke re released in 1964 called, “The Best Things In Life Are Free.”

“Moon belongs to everyone

The best things in life, they're free
Stars belong to everyone
They glitter there for you and for me
They are yours and me

Flowers in spring
The robins that sing
Sunbeams that shine
They're yours and their mine

Love can come to everyone
Best things in life they're free
All of the good things
Every one of the better things

The best, best things in life
They're free”

While the lyrics are very simple, the reflection it gave me as I listened was rather deep. Knowing that research constantly reflects that teachers can be one of the most impactful persons in a student’s life, it made me immediately think about all of our students who may struggle daily; whether academically, socially or emotionally.

I had recently been with a passionate group of educators who were seeking ways to support their students. Together we brainstormed some considerations for appropriate accommodations. Assistive technology tools were introduced to facilitate independent learners and support students on the autism spectrum. Strategies for classroom management and behaviors were also shared. We engaged in conversations about specific learning disabilities and had discussions about accessible educational materials.

So, what does all of that have to do with a song titled, “The Best Things In Life Are Free?” Chance. It all comes down to Chance. It’s free and sometimes...it’s all a student really needs...to be given a Chance.    


Sing it Sam! 


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To Do One Thing Is Also Deciding To Not Do Something Else

Image of a fork in a road with an ominous looking sky above

Deciding to do one thing, is also deciding to not do something else. Likewise, to believe one thing, is simultaneously to not believe something else. This almost certainly seems like a simplistic statement...one that is nearly self-evident. Yet, when one begins to contemplate daily decisions, even routine or minor ones, from this virtually-transposed perspective, things can start to be inspected differently.  

I had a friend once, whom I haven't spoken to in many years. Like most people I have had any length of contact with, he said a lot of things, most of which I do not remember even the notion of. However, one particular statement he verbalized to me nearly 20 years ago, has remained with me, word for word.  

He said, "You are always going down one road or the other with every single decision you make, but never the middle." He continued, "Any time you think you're in the middle, you're actually on one path, but thinking about the other path." He concluded with, "Every decision and every action is either moving you in one direction or the other, but never both directions at the same time." 

He wasn't a really great friend, but I've always remembered these particular words from him. I try to meaningfully and regularly ruminate on the deep implications of their meaning. I was also recently prompted to think of this ever-protruding philosophy in my life in a slightly different way, which I anticipated to be worth discussing here.  

There's a question that tends to get posed consistently, whether I'm providing a training, sitting with my office computer, checking emails from my phone on-the-go, or participating in a meeting. That question has to do with two separate, but very related concepts: ALL students' ability to work toward grade-level standards and which accommodations are/are not permitted on high stakes testing. Conclusively, questions that indicate one belief...one path, which is simultaneously not believing something else, according to this philosophy at hand. 

I pose that these questions represent beliefs, rather than simple factual inquiries. Asking me which shoes I put on this morning, could be a simple factual inquiry. In contrast, asking about allowable accommodations on a high stakes test or how it could be possible for ALL students to work toward grade-level standards, proposes that the inquiry comes from someone who is traveling down the path to the left, while thinking about the path to the right. 

While I cannot fault this, and much could be said at this juncture about the value of reflection while on one path or the other, the actuality of the path that is underway (decisions and beliefs), is that the student who is figuratively walking with the facilitator, is actively traveling on ONE path, but not both at the same time and not the middle. When accounting for the relatively limited time our students have with us, each step taken in one direction, potentially sacrifices steps that could be taken in the other direction.  

By deciding that what ultimately matters, is the allowable accommodations on a high stakes test, one is also deciding that the tools that could engage a student meaningfully for "the other 175 days" of school are of secondary importance. Traveling down this particular path seems to be rather common and also understandable given the gravity of these tests! Yet, allowing this anticipation of the end of the year to decide the path to get there, seems quite counter-intuitive to our ultimate goal.  

We know that the more actively engaged our students are in a curriculum that is accessible to them, the more accurately we can predict their success on that high stakes test (with or without the tools) and more importantly, their success toward independence as uniquely awesome and creative humans in society.  

When we slow down to think before we take that next step or make that next decision, it is of significant consequence to ponder what we are also deciding not to do... not to believe... not to expect.  

Decide to expect greatness from ALL of your students in ways that you can't even envision yet. Take steps that demonstrate your travel down this path decisively. Seek support, training, and trials of tools, from PATINS. Be aware of what your steps, your decisions, your beliefs also mean that you are not choosing, not traveling toward, not believing in. Deciding to do one thing, is also deciding to not do something else. To believe one thing, is simultaneously to not believe something else.

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New Device?

Recently, I had the pleasure of keeping my cousin for the night, while her mom got a much deserved night off. My cousin is 5 years old and in kindergarten and came armed with her iPad. I kept her busy most of the time, but as we were winding down she decided to play on her iPad. I was curious and watched her interacting with the device.

I noticed right away that although she had many apps on the iPad, there were not many fun, learning type apps. I had recently purchased many puzzles for her and I knew she loved puzzles, so I installed some puzzle apps for her. She was also just beginning to write, so I found some fun tracing/writing apps for her as well.

I mentioned to her mom the next day that I had added some apps and she was very grateful. She said she had meant to take a look at them. Parents have so many responsibilities, so I was glad I was able to provide some assistance. If you have questions or need recommendations for educational/learning-centered apps or software, please contact a member of the PATINS staff. We also have many apps and software titles available to borrow in the PATINS Lending Library.

If your child received a new device for Christmas, please remember there are a number of factors to consider. One consideration I would make would be to be aware and to be involved. Please consider what apps and software are being used on the device. There are many apps and software programs that are both fun and educational.

Another consideration I would make is to have parental involvement with the device. Consider how long your child spends on their device and spend time interacting with them as they play. If they are particularly interested in a certain subject or area, find an app or software program that would interest them. If you have the ability, stream their device to the family television, and “play” together or read a story.

A third consideration I would make is to have clear guidelines for device usage. Will you allow the device to be used during meals, at bedtime, in a room without a parent? Do you have the password for your child’s device? Will they be allowed to use social media? Can they access or purchase apps? Will parental controls be set on the device? Consider a Family Media Contract, there are many available through a Google search.

Lastly, keep in mind that there are many accessibility features available for devices. Apple has many features built-in; you can find these features under Settings, General, Accessibility. You can find accessibility features in Windows and Apple computers as well. If you have any questions about any of these features, our PATINS staff would be glad to assist you!

I hope you have a Happy New Year! 


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