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Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students
Jun
16

Lost

Artist Name - Lost-blog.mp3

A fork on the trail leading into a wooded area.

My family and I, like many of you, travel over summer break. Exploring a new place is the highlight of any trip. Walking down mysterious streets, eating unfamiliar food, hearing the unique voices and sounds, and getting insight on the history of the region based on graffiti or architecture are a few of the reasons wanderlust is written on my heart. But pioneering a new path in an unknown place can also be terrifying. Without warning that right turn was the wrong turn, and now, everything that you know is out of sight. Loneliness and panic fill your brain and tears well up in your eyes. That feeling of being lost can seem demoralizing, making you feel helpless. Then, you turn one more strange corner and the home base comes into view. It is in that moment that you have this overwhelming rush of pride in finding a new road home. What was once obscure and complicated is now recognizable and familiar. Exploring and being lost become essential parts of the same story and are now part of all my trip agendas. 

Balancing the excitement and fear of being lost have not always been so smooth. When I was in first grade, I felt lost while the other students learned reading with ease. My classmates pronounced each of the words on the page effort-less-ly while I struggled to know the sounds and fumbled through read alouds relying heavily on images, context, and the whispers of the other students. It was scary and I felt like I was the only one who couldn’t learn to read. Those feelings of loneliness and fear impeded my reading progress and made every reading assignment feel like an overwhelming task. I had all but given up on reading until fourth grade when I turned a corner. One of my teachers, seeing my reluctance to read, suggested the short chapters of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Engulfed in the stories and all the possible outcomes, I would read the same book several times which helped build my skills. I then moved on to The Babysitter’s Club book series (the 90s equivalent to binge watching), and I devoured each one, rushing to the library for the next adventure. Being lost in the learning process of reading made me feel ashamed and excluded but exploring topics that interested me gave me a safe space to practice reading. Today, my safe space resides in historical fiction which I read either with my eyes or with my ears on a daily basis. I was lost until I found something that I loved.

This was not my sudden shift to embracing being lost. Fast forward to college decision time. As my peers began looking at career choices and college, I reflected on my understimulated time in high school. I had moved through general education classes with little connection or interest which led to an increased lack of effort on my part. I was lost in the possibilities since there was not a high expectation that I would even attend college. My grades were dismal and my confidence shot, high school did not seem like a good fit for me. Feeling pressure that I should do something with my life, I finally settled on studying business at a local community college. While I was attending this community college I turned a corner. My local church was looking for a youth group leader so I stepped into that role and found a love of project planning and working with teens. Soon I was headed off to university to study education. I thought that I had finally found my dream job until the results of my Praxis came back and I had not scored high enough to complete my course and get my teaching license. I felt I had taken another wrong turn and those feelings of being lost returned with increased hopelessness. But where Praxis said no, Spain said yes. Soon after my graduation, I took a position as an English teacher to multilingual students in Madrid, Spain. Following a month-long intensive training program, I stepped into my first classroom teaching English to adults. I followed that experience with getting my teaching license, and soon after, my master’s in education. Being lost led me to teach for over twenty years in three different countries and seven different subjects. I was lost until I found a place that was right for me.

My last experience solidified my many similar lost moments throughout adulthood. Arriving in Indianapolis after living in Mexico for 10 years, I stepped into job interview after job interview knowing that my lack of professional connections in Indianapolis overshadowed my background and education. I started in a job designed for a high schooler with low pay, long hours, and little consideration for multiple years’ experience, a master’s degree and being multilingual. Being lost and exploring work options with a small child depending on me took me to a new level of scary. I accepted those wrong turns and settled into a world of being lost. Those wrong turns seemed to be endless with each job leading only to temporary positions and little promise of a home base. The corner that seemed out-of-sight came into view when I was working as an adjunct professor at IUPUI and Jena Fahlbush and Katie Taylor came to present about UDL and PATINS. I started to see some familiarity return. Collaborating with co-workers, working with educators in Indiana, and seeing students get access to materials like those that I missed out on brought me full circle in my exploration process. I was lost until I found people who recognized that the road to success may look different for each individual.

Having access to materials that students love, creating a space that feels right for them, and recognizing various ways to get to the same target can convert feelings of being lost into an adventure of exploration. Experience the joys of being lost as you search the many titles on MackinVia and Bookshare through the ICAM for students with print disabilities, including dyslexia. Additionally Vox books, C-pens, and Livescribe Pens are just some of the items available in the Lending Library that any IN educator can check out for a six-week trial period. Don’t forget the built-in text-to-speech, word prediction, and dictation features on your student’s computer. Also connect with a PATINS Specialist to explore strategies, tools, and resources to open up new routes for you and your students.

I have often been off the beaten traditional path but in the midst of a state of “being lost” I have had many opportunities to explore the multitude of ways to reach my goals. Being on the outside has its own feelings of loneliness but knowing that this path is MY path has led me to embrace and even love being lost. 

This is my story, what’s yours? Share on Twitter #PatinsIcam.

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Mar
03

You Have The Superpower!

Turtle Drawing of a turtle

Guest Blogger! I cannot thank Mark Pruett enough for sharing his personal experiences on the power of what educators can bring to the classroom that can change the trajectory of students’ lives. The recording of him reading his blog definitely makes this blog an experience through storytelling. ?

Mark resides in Nashville, TN and is a successful editor for television for over 36 years. Along the way he bought a farm in Tennessee and has fallen in love with working outdoors. These days he splits his time between the computer and the table saw…continuing to be creative.

 Mark Pruett sitting on rock with a dogMark Pruett sitting on rock with a dog             QR code to audio versionsQR code to audio versions

Artist Name - Turtles.mp3

It’s been almost fifty years, but I’ve never forgotten what it was I wanted to paint. The why of it is lost to time and the odd fixations of an eight year old, but I definitely remember wanting, more than anything, to use that particular art class to paint a turtle in the rain. To this day, I can still recall my childhood vision, a heroic turtle on a rock in the pouring rain. Why a turtle, why heroic, why for heaven’s sake in the rain? Go figure. For some kids, it’s their dog or a firetruck or a lego set. Let’s just say that at eight, my thing was turtles. It’s at this point my mother, if she were listening to me tell the story, would chime in to tell you about the time I lost a turtle on an airplane. “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, please do us a favor and check under your seats. It seems a young man has lost his turtle.” Some things you never live down. 

Of course, at eight years old I knew very little about art and what it might take to make my vision of a heroic rainy day reptile a reality. Some of my friends constantly filled margins of notebooks with doodles, but that wasn’t my thing. I’m not even sure I was what you might have described as an “artistic” child. So, I wasn’t terribly aware that the log of a paint brush, larger around than my childhood thumb, wasn’t a good instrument for fine art. Not that a better brush would have made a big difference, but equipping a kid with what was essentially a house painter’s tool certainly didn’t help. And we didn’t have a huge variety of paint colors to choose from, jars of mostly primary hues along with some eye searing tones like Pepto-Bismol pink. There were plastic jugs with blue and black on my table, other jars scattered around the classroom to experiment with, and I remember going at the project with gusto. 

I hate to say it, but childhood gusto and a paint brush better suited to whitewashing fence posts didn’t get me where I wanted to go. I ended up with a dark un-turtle like mess in the middle of the page and big blue “dots” of color blobbed all over for rain, but that’s not why I really remember that day. My teacher, Ms. Allen, asked me what I was trying to do and then she took my work and held it up for all the class to see, as a failed assignment. It seems that I was supposed to fill the page with color and not leave any white, so she showed my painting to the class and told them I couldn’t follow direction. Oh, and she said that I might not have much skill as a painter either.

It took another fifteen years and a close friend forcing me to go through “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” for me to realize that I actually could learn to draw or paint. That one experience in grade school made me believe I had no talent.

Everyday, when you walk into the classroom, you have more influence than you realize. You might call it your superpower. The things you say and the care you invest can have an impact that lasts years, perhaps a lifetime. At eight, I was a painfully shy child. My parents had split a few years earlier and I didn’t have the best sense of self esteem. Like the young person I was fifty years ago, there are children in your classrooms, at this very moment, going through life events they aren’t equipped to handle. You really can make a difference and every class is another opportunity. Your presence can be the difference that helps a young person feel better about themselves, and maybe helps a child discover something in the learning process that sparks a new sense of enthusiasm. 

Be that spark, as a teacher embrace your superpower. It doesn’t always take a lot, a supportive word at the right moment or taking some extra time for one-on-one interaction. Think back for a moment to the adults who were kind influences on you as a young person. Be that person and pay it forward, one day a young adult may look back and realize that you changed their life. You can make that memory one to treasure.

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