May
16

Helping Students Move Forward

Grieving from the loss of someone or even a big change or transitions in your life is probably one of the hardest emotions to tackle. In grieving, so many other emotions are entwined with sorrow, pain, sadness and often misery. It’s like a tornado of memories that keep us attached to our loss or change that is constantly spinning out of control. How do we find control?

Everyone handles grieving in different ways. Some of us just shut down or we get angry. Some of us throw blame or stay so busy that we can almost pretend it didn’t happen or will not happen. Some seek supports and surround themselves with friends and family.

When we know that someone is grieving, we seem to be more lenient and understanding in how they respond to grieving and try to figure out how we can play a helpful role.

This leads me to the end of the school year approaching and how we can play that helpful role. As a teacher, besides holiday breaks, we often see many behaviors on the rise during this time. Often times, these behaviors are associated with the overwhelming joy that summer is coming and students can’t wait! While I have no doubt in most circumstances that is true; let’s not overlook those students who may be in grieving within the anticipation of no longer being at school because they may have food insecurities, violence, zero social interactions, deplorable living conditions or even perhaps no longer access to reading material.

Some students count down days to loneliness, violence and hunger.

We can predict this pattern of behavior toward the end of the school year; which means that we can also do our part in prevention. How can we help?

First, let’s not assume all students are excited about summer break and then make all of our writing and conversations about that excitement. I challenge you to ask your students what they will miss about not being in school, if they have fears, what they wish you knew about them and what they wish they had over summer break. Then, talk with your students and create solutions and goals.

Create summer calendars for your students to support the visual of each day to countdown summer days.

Share resources for local libraries, online access to reading materials, audiobooks or create a YouTube playlist of individuals reading books aloud for children. I love this story of how a principal is using Facebook to make sure her students get bedtime stories.

Make sure all of your students know how to call 911 and also have resources for local helpline numbers. This should also include information about local summer kitchens that provide meals for students at no cost.

Create a summer group backchannel to help prevent isolation and loneliness. This would be a place that students do not have to have “friend requests” but are already a part of the group. This could be a FlipGrid, Padlet, private Twitter feed with GroupTweet or even create summer pen pal kits, AKA: snail mail. (Yes, with stamps, envelopes, paper...shocking, right?)

mailboxes

I do believe some students begin to grieve the upcoming summer break. I recently watched a Ted Talk on grieving. The speaker mentions how we don’t “...move on from grief. We move forward with it.” Moving on being leaving what you know and moving forward being taking all of the skills and memories alongside you and growing with them. Also, knowing how and having supports. I found that extremely resonating and applicable for so many things on many levels. It is definitely worth the watch.

While our students head out for summer break, let’s not focus on them moving on toward the next transition...let’s help them move forward with supports, skills and tools they can use to continue to grow and self advocate for their well being.

We can make a difference. Believe in it.


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May
07

Construct Hope, Rise Above Fear, and Insist On Possibility.


There’s an amazing man by the name of 
Nicola Dutto. Nicola is an off-road motorcycle racer, and a very good one! In 2008 and 2009, he was a European Baja champion. Then in the 2010 Italy Baja race, he experienced a disastrous high-speed crash, leaving him paralyzed. 

Anyone who knows a racer, knows that racing is a powerful thing running through his or her veins…a drive and passion that cannot easily be dropped. Nicola was no different and set his sights on racing again. After 9 months of intensive therapy, he entered the 2011 Baja 1000 in a 4-wheeled vehicle. Mechanical failure kept him from completing this race, but he also learned that 4 wheels just didn’t do it for him. He greatly missed having the command of a 2-wheeled machine. The subsequent steps of this story are the pieces that really grabbed my attention.

Daniel McNulty racing a dirtbike, standing on the foot pegs.

Noteworthy, is the fact that Nicola admits to being terrified to ride again! He knew that his soul needed to ride again. Nevertheless, he wasn’t shy about the fact that it seriously frightened him! As an off-road rider myself, I know that I’m slightly terrified every time I grab the throttle. I also know that the majority of the time I'm riding off-road, I’m actually standing up on the foot pegs, not seated! A lot of steering, control, and weight distribution happens with your legs. They also act as additional shock absorbers and, of course, rear brake control and shifting all happens with the feet! To even begin to comprehend racing at the level of Nicola Dutto while remaining seated the entire time, with no use of my legs, is beyond intimidating!

Nonetheless, Nicola did it. He placed 24th in Spain’s Baja Aragon race to become the world’s first paraplegic pro racer just 4 months later and then…he set his sights on becoming the first paraplegic to race the world-legendary, white knuckling, and grueling Dakar race! While I love riding and racing, what truly excites me about this is the passion, determination, skill, creativity, and support of Nicola and his team tackling this together! He needed all handlebar mounted controls, a special seat from a wheelchair cushion specialist, a roll-cage for his lower extremities, and a 3-point harness to hold his legs within the cage, and this was just the necessary hardware ingenuity!

Nicola Dutto and his team after a race, with him sitting on his motorcycle accommodated to allow him to race as a paraplegic.

Nicola also needed “ghost riders.” People to ride ahead and scan the terrain, helping him choose racing lines, since he would be unable to stop his motorcycle. He also needed two riders behind him to right his bike in case of a fall (which happens a lot to me). In short, Nicola truly relied on his team in many ways. The Dakar race would simply not be possible without his team’s collective brain power, physical dedication, and willpower. He needed them and they quickly rallied around his determination to make his dream a reality. Nicola states that it's difficult to even describe how he now has to ride and that it required a lot of practice for him to become proficient with the changes. 

While I could read and write about motorcycling for days, what I love even more about this story is the camaraderie, the support, the teamwork, the passion, and the determination of the team! The PATINS Team embodies all of this in my eyes! This PATINS team of incredible people bring their respective expertise together to accomplish seemingly impossible feats for so many Indiana students every week! This team pulls together to get students physical and cognitive access to their curriculum, to put communication systems in place for students who are non-verbal, to create emotionally secure learning environments, to support teachers who feel like they have a "Dakar" race to complete without the use of their legs, to convey information to students who cannot hear it, see it, or organize it. …and this inspiring teamwork happens every single week, all year long! 

Many of you are also likely part of a team who rallies around student’s strengths, desires, and goals. Frequently, you invite the PATINS staff into your team for further support and we are so grateful for those opportunities to help assist your kids! When we consider all of these things that our teams work to accomplish, one word presents itself prominently; accommodations!

Nicola didn’t want to compete in a different race, he wanted to face the same demanding Dakar experience as other racers who were not paraplegic and he needed some creative accommodations and hard-core resolve to make it happen! We have so many students in Indiana who are fully capable of and desiring to take part in the “Dakar” of their educational experience…to meaningfully participate in the general curriculum and obtain a high school diploma, with appropriate accommodations both in the daily classroom and on assessment! The race is the same race, the content is the same content, the diploma is the same diploma, but the ways in which it is approached, interacted with, and responded to could vary! Taking away any one of Nicola’s accommodations would almost certainly guarantee his non-participation. Similarly, taking away any one appropriate student accommodation will almost certainly exclude them from the most meaningful participation in the general curriculum, and effectively, from a diploma.

As Case Conference Committees (CCC) come together to build effective Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students, they must rally together as a focused, insistent, creative, and purposeful team! Each student’s strengths and barriers must be analyzed. Potential software, hardware, and strategy-based solutions must be trialed! Remember you can always borrow from the PATINS Lending Library and seek support, training, and development from the PATINS Team! Data from these trials must be used to determine appropriate and effective accommodations in each and every IEP! These accommodations must then be implemented with fidelity on a daily basis (the extensive practice necessary to become proficient), and on assessment (the Dakar)!

I don’t anticipate losing the use of my legs, or my arms, but if I ever do, I’d certainly be grateful for and reliant upon a team of passionate, hopeful, creative people around me, figuring out how to get me back on a motorcycle as quickly as possible! Figuratively speaking, unfortunate things happen all the time which, on the surface, appear insurmountable, and take our "legs" out from under us. The riding of the “motorcycle” seems like a lost cause many times. These are the times when we need our teams, and students need their teams, to match our/their determination, to be the most creative, and to be brave enough to believe with all their heart that the impossible only seems as such because no one else has done it yet. It’s hope that these dream teams construct! Before Nicola Dutto and his team made racing in the Dakar as a paraplegic a reality, many thousands of people likely didn’t even possess a construct for hope in this regard. 

Be a constructor of hope in your team! Be the determination who thinks and tries things for 10 minutes longer! Be the creativity that encourages possibility. Be the strength that “picks the bike up” for a teammate every time it falls!
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Daniel G. McNulty
...much thanks, Julie...much more so for being an integral part of our dream team, working daily to construct hope for so many.... Read More
Thursday, 09 May 2019 14:24
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May
02

Better Together

“I’ve got it,” my eight-year-old daughter Zoë frequently says when I offer to help her. I am completely on board with her show of independence, although sometimes I have to fight the urge to help her do “it” the same way an adult would. She actually mowed the front lawn on Friday...she was so determined and excited. Yes, the yard looked like crop circles and she had to contend with a low-flying helicopter parent, but she felt accomplished and proud.

Zoe mowing the lawn
I love that she wanted to do it on her own. However, here is the rub. How do humans balance learning and growing when one of the best ways to grow is to seek help? Especially after we discover that we are way better together when we share our gifts with one another.


Consider the gift of discovering that someone already created a form, saving you hours of time and hard work. Learning a strategy from a veteran teacher of how to streamline lesson planning and collaborating with others should be wrapped up with a bow. My favorite gift arrived from a former teacher of a student who was struggling in my class. Incredible suggestions on how to help allowed me to offer the best support possible. I know how important these gifts have been to me.


For those of you who know me, you know I have moved around a lot. I never dreamed when I started teaching the small middle school classroom designed for students with Emotional Disabilities in Indiana that my life would change so drastically and look so different from year to year and from state to state.


I taught a cross-categorical classroom in an elementary school in Gambrills, Maryland. I taught high school at a separate day school for students with significant disabilities in Edgewater, Maryland. I taught self-contained and collaborative classes on the high school and night school levels in Chicago Public Schools. All of this was before I decided to take a leap to become an Assistive Technology Specialist for the city of Chicago. Moving back to Indiana I was an AT Specialist for seven school districts as well as a behavior consultant for another district.


All of these experiences specifically taught me how to change, to learn, and to reinvent.


None of this, however, have I done alone.


When I found myself in a classroom where my principal was not a fan of encouraging words and teaching a man to fish, I learned a huge lesson on what collaboration could do. I viewed it as a punishment when she called in the “big dogs” to teach me how to do reading intervention and how to structure a classroom with so many demands. The class had 13 students and ranged from a student with limited communication who became physically aggressive toward the other students repeatedly throughout the day to students who had dyslexia and would pop in for extra help. I had one assistant and I was drowning.


When the “Big Dog” sent to save me, entered my classroom I felt defeated. I knew she had been sent there because I could not keep my nose above water. What I didn’t know is that this dynamic, brilliant and compassionate person would literally turn around every thought I ever had about education. She would work by my side, not in judgment, and forever alter my path as an educator. I could have said, “I’ve got it.” and completely dismissed her support in fear of seeming unskilled or incompetent. Look what I would have missed!


The PATINS Project also does not want anyone, not a single educator, to move through life without a collaborator. I am so proud to be on a team of specialists who are dedicated to learning everything that they can and sharing even more. My best hope is that you take advantage of the in-depth and informal training sessions, conferences and the vast Lending Library we share with you! So many educators have already taken advantage of these services that are, almost completely, no cost to educators. Just this year:

  • 1,242 educators received classroom training sessions led by PATINS/ICAM specialists on Universal Design, accessible materials and/or assistive technology.

  • 800+ attendees learned from and networked with local and national leaders in education at our Access to Education conference & Tech Expo.

  • 1,797 items borrowed from the Assistive Technology Lending Library. Trialed items support communication, vision, hearing and executive functioning in the classroom.

  • 167 in-depth trainings held for publicly funded district, school, and cooperative employees throughout Indiana.

Never do alone what you can do better together. Collaboration is what teachers were born to do! We want to be a part of that collaboration!


PATINS In-Person Educator Support July 2018 - March 2019 Infographic.
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Apr
26

Traditions

Sandy and her husband.
Easter is one of my favorite holidays. We have a tradition in my family on Easter; the family gathers together at a local park for a day of food and fun. To the best of my knowledge, this tradition was started when I was around 2 or 3, so it has been about 50 years or most of my life. There have been many changes in our family dynamics over the years, but this tradition has survived and for that, I am very grateful.
 
Sandy and her daughter and parents.

We have been very lucky over the years and the weather this year did not disappoint, it was so beautiful. This wonderful weather has been great for the many sports and activities we have participated in over the years. I can remember many years ago when they had a roller skating rink and us kids would go skating. We have played softball, tennis, horseshoes, ladder ball, washers, frisbee, hopscotch, and we added pickleball this year. We jumped rope one year and everyone was so sore the next day!

We have an Easter egg hunt every year, and the kids always enjoy hunting eggs. We have had years where we only had one or two kids and we have had years where there were many! This year we had 15!

Group of kids at Easter.

Traditions are important to me and I do my best to make sure our family traditions continue for our future generations! What traditions are important to you? Do you have traditions that you use in the classroom?

Here are some classroom traditions that I found through a Google Search:
  • Making hot chocolate after lunch on the first really cold day
  • Decorating sugar cookies and watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the original) the last day before Christmas break
  • Doing an "awards" presentation for all of my grade 8 students on the last day of school
  • Birthday snacks
  • Flipping on the monkey bars at the end of each day of state testing
  • Making time capsules on the first day of school and opening them on the last day
  • Any students that have not had a discipline referral all year get to bust a piñata on the second to last day of school
  • Pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving
There are many other great ideas available through a search on the Internet!


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Apr
18

Accessible Media Producers and Specialized Formats: A Primer

This information is available online and the ICAM staff talks about these issues often. There is always confusion, understandably, so let’s give it another run through.
  1. NIMAC - National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center:
  • Created by IDEA 2004, NIMAC is a federally funded, online file repository of source files in the NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) format. Here, authorized users (the ICAM is an authorized user) can access more than 52,000 K-12 NIMAS files for use in the production of accessible formats for students with disabilities. Digital Rights Managers are trained on the process of ordering materials, many of which we obtain from the NIMAC. A digital file received from a publisher does not automatically mean that the file is accessible. All files that are sent by the ICAM to the end user are accessible. The NIMAC tweaks the digital file to create an accessible NIMAS file and they are used to make the specialized formats such as braille, large print, ePubs, accessible PDFs, etc. When searching for an ISBN title, choose Search ICAM/IERC.
  1.  APH - American Printing House for the Blind:
  • Dispenses materials and products designed primarily for people who are blind or visually impaired, including accessible aids and equipment for age 3 through grade 12. Individuals must be approved and registered through the Federal Quota Program. You will hear us refer to that as the APH Census. Aids and equipment refer to items ranging from low-tech to higher-tech items such as raised line writing paper, talking calculators, video magnifiers, math manipulatives.
  • The Louis Database is the APH File Repository. They use NIMAS source files to produce learning materials in digital and hard-copy braille and large print and digital text files for e-readers. Materials are ordered through the IERC (Indiana Education Resource Center) via the ICAM online ordering interface. Search ICAM/IERC.
  1.  MAMP - Miami Accessible Media Project:
  • MAMP was established in May of 2008 through the collaborative efforts of the Indiana Department of Corrections, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired/IERC and the IDOE (Indiana Department of Education). They provide quality braille, large print and other accessible educational materials transcribed from NIMAS files, whenever possible, for qualified students in Indiana’s local schools, in a timely and efficient manner, while providing a skill to the offenders that will increase employment opportunities thus reducing recidivism. Materials from the APH and MAMP are ordered through the IERC via the ICAM ordering interface: Search ICAM/IERC.
  1. Learning Ally:
  • Provides the largest available library of human-read textbooks, popular fiction, and literary classics. These are human-voice recordings and, therefore, are not available upon demand. Volunteer readers must audition and be trained. For textbooks, readers are matched with the subject content, for a more relatable, natural listening experience.
  • Learning Ally audiobooks are not made from NIMAS files. However, since the ICAM was created to help Indiana LEAs (Local Educational Agencies) adhere to the federal mandate of the NIMAS regulations, and because of a long-standing partnership between the ICAM and Learning Ally, we include these audio files in our on-line integrated ordering interface.
  • Learning Ally, as its own entity, can provide audiobooks to students who have a 504 plan; the ICAM cannot, because of our inherent link to the IDEA.
  • Individual memberships currently cost $135 per year, per student. If you become a member of Learning Ally by private purchase, you still must provide evidence of the print disability, documented by a Competent Authority. In this case of a reading disability such as dyslexia, this may be specific school personnel.
  • Due to the Learning Ally/ ICAM partnership, we provide this membership for free for students who have an IEP and documentation of a print disability. For a student presenting a reading disability such as dyslexia, this documentation must be provided by a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy, as per the NIMAS regulations of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 2004. Materials are ordered through the ICAM interface using the eBook search.
  1.  Bookshare:
  • Has over 700,000 titles of textbooks, popular fiction, children’s books, vocational resources, as audio files, audio with highlighted text, digital braille and large font. Free for students with qualifying print disabilities including dyslexia; requires confirmation by a Competent Authority which may be school personnel-special education teacher, school psychologist, and others.
  • When the ICAM cannot find a book for a student from the NIMAC or Learning Ally, we search the Bookshare library and let you know if your book is available there. It is important to consider that Bookshare files only come in a digital voice and many students might benefit from a human voice option, particularly in the lower grades.
Further considerations:
  • PATINS/ICAM is a grant-funded service designed specifically for the state of Indiana public schools. Our grant is made available to us largely because of data we provide, the statistics of how many students and schools we serve, how we serve them, then the results of that service. Our trainings: Free. The use of the lending library: Free. Learning materials obtained through the ICAM: Free. Hardware obtained from our Refurbished Technology Program: Free. The advantage of the areas of expertise by staff Specialists: Free.
  • When materials are ordered through the ICAM, we provide ongoing support that is personalized to your needs. If the individual you contact feels someone else can better assist, we connect you. We work closely with the MAMP and the IERC staff in this way as well, to be sure that concerns for students with print disabilities of any nature are not overlooked. This type of attention is largely missing in an organization that is the size of Bookshare, and even Learning Ally, except because of our partnership with the latter, ICAM Specialists can fill in service gaps there as well.
  • When determining the best-specialized format for a student, the consideration should never be based on what is most expedient for the adults in the room. The goal of the Case Conference should always be to provide the best possible learning solutions for our students.
Thanks so much!


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Apr
11

ISO: Someone Like Me

We all want a sense of belonging to a community, a family, a social group that we can feel a sense of identity. These social groups are where we base our identity. 

One aspect that educational practices may be overlooking is our students who may identify with being Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired. As a Teacher of students who are deaf/hard of hearing, it is part of our Expanded Core Curriculum to ensure our students meet and socialize with other students who are Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired. 


Students who are deaf and hard of hearing need to be around peers with hearing loss. They need to have positive deaf/hard of hearing role models who share the same and different modes of communication than themselves. If they do not have these positive experiences while growing up it may be hard of them to not have a sense of where they belong in the world, which social group they identify with and/or perhaps have a sense of social isolation at some point in their educational career.

In fact, did you know that some students growing up with hearing loss that has never met an adult with hearing loss think there is no future for them? How will they know that they can achieve anything that their minds allow them to dream up if we don’t show them how great others are. We have to provide an “end result” picture so they know they are fully capable to do the same or better.


My mother, Beth Fritter, grew up experiencing hearing loss as a hard of hearing student in the 1960s. She attended a private Catholic school in northern Indiana until 6th grade and then attended the public school 6th grade through 12th grade. I was fortunate enough to visit with her for a few days in her northern Indiana home during this year’s spring break. As I was asking her what it was like to grow up in the 60s in the private and public schools with hearing loss, she described what the learning environment was like for her. She talked about large class sizes of about 50 students in one room per grade, desks in rows, and strict rules regarding no speaking, eyes forward, and material will be taught one time with little to no interventions to help students keep up or catch up. She also never received services for specialized instruction or technology for her hearing loss. She recalled having a few good friends that would repeat conversations for her or try to include her. She still hasn’t met anyone else that grew up like her with hearing loss and she just turned 60 this year.


Katie and her mother, Beth Fritter


Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you’re missing?" My mom just recently received her first set of hearing aids a few years ago. She recalled after getting her hearing aids fitted and taking them home that one morning she woke up and looked out the window she said she SAW that it was raining outside. She then put her hearing aids in and she could HEAR that it was raining. Without her hearing aids, she would have missed that everyone else could hear that was raining without looking out the window. Can you imagine what else she could be missing out on just simply because she wasn’t aware without her hearing aids? Think about our students in the classroom. When we simply ask if they heard us and they say, “yes.” They may not know that they, in fact, did miss something because we really “don’t know what we are missing.” It is best to instead ask, “What did you hear?” or “What will you do next?” to see if our students missed something and need something restated or clarified.


Can you imagine the impact on my mother’s life if she would have gone to a program with other students experiencing the same thing as her or even just got to meet one other student like her? The picture below is from a new popular book, El Deafo by CeCe Bell. The book is a personal account of what her childhood was like with her hearing loss. The picture below is a representation of what a class looked like for the author, CeCe. You may also notice what the hearing devices looked like back in the day! What a difference compared to today, huh? 


picture of six classmates with hearing aids sitting in a circle on the floor. text on picture:                                                                                                     
It should also be noted that it is best practice to be around typically developing peers in a language-rich environment for the best possible outcomes in language development regardless of the mode of communication.

pictures of classmates taped to the wall with names written by them. text on picture,                                                                                               

Give our students who are deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired a sense of belonging with providing times to interact and engage with peers just like them.

What can we do as parents and educators if our student is the only student with hearing loss in the area?  

Here are a few ideas:
Camps in Indiana for students who are deaf/hard of hearing:
Other ways to connect:
  • Zoom DHH Buddies program connecting students with hearing loss across the state through technology
  • Indiana Hands & Voices Parent Guides Events around the state
  • DHH Students Facebook group
  • Introduce books with Characters/Authors who are D/deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired - Check out my list and add your favorites!
Please comment below if you have more resources and/or suggestions to connect our students who are deaf/hard of hearing in Indiana. We would love to hear from you! Make sure to “like” and share this blog with your educational teams!
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Jessica Conrad
Great blog! I love all the resources, which made me thumb through the Expanded Core and I love how the expectations of self-advoca... Read More
Thursday, 11 April 2019 09:50
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Apr
04

Finding Your Flock

Finding Your Flock with birds on power lines. Finding your flock with birds on power lines.

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Jessica Conrad, authored a 
blog focused on the burnout that we, too often, feel as educators. So much of what she said rang true for me personally, and it really got me thinking about the reasons behind the burnout I felt at different stages in my teaching career. 


Out of college, I hit the ground running looking for my first teaching job. Mailing or handing out resume after resume, filling out online application after online application was quite a time-consuming and daunting task, but I held onto my optimism. Trying to land my first job in a college town during a time in which the teacher market was saturated equaled taking a job as a Title I aide in an elementary school. 

After the fall semester as an aide, I got my chance to teach my first class as a long-term substitute in a Kindergarten classroom. Yet, as the spring semester concluded so did my first job; there was no going back to my aide position because it had been filled. 

Spring forward a handful of years, through new positions and new schools almost every year, to my first full-time classroom teaching position in third grade. Four school years post-graduation, I had finally achieved my goal. With a variety of teaching experiences under my belt, I was ready to teach my students all they needed to know as third graders. 

It didn’t take long for the honeymoon phase to end and reality to set in. Teaching is hard. I knew it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t truly know how much it would take out of me physically, emotionally, and mentally from year to year. Neither did I understand how disconnected I could feel in a building full of other passionate educators and energetic students. 

Looking back, I can now see that what I needed to avoid the burnout and the tunnel vision was a flock. Sure I had friends in my building and colleagues that cared, but we all had our own set of responsibilities, goals, and classroom and personal challenges. It really didn’t dawn upon me until leaving the classroom that not only could my students and I have immensely benefited from intentional collaboration with the speech and language pathologist, special educators, occupational therapist, etc in my building, but that there are ways to connect with educators just like me or to those who support educators just like me beyond the walls of the school.

Did you know that there are over 15 projects supporting educators, schools, and parents that are part of the Indiana Resource Network? I didn’t until I left the classroom. Many of them provide their services at no cost to you.

Did you know that you can connect with all of us at PATINS in a variety of ways without much more than signing into your computer? I didn’t even know what a PATINS was, let alone that our mission is to support all educators, including those in general education, when it comes to making sure that every student has access to your curriculum. So, please spread the word and let us be part of your flock. No one; I repeat no one should go it alone. Plus, we can come to you in more ways than you may be imagining!
  • Join our crew of 3,975 PATINS Pages eNewsletter subscribers to hear real-life stories from the classroom, learn about the newest assistive tech in our Assistive Technology Lending Library (it's open to all public educators), find the latest in education news, sign up or request training, and so much more.
  • Subscribe to our weekly blog, PATINS Ponders, which has a total: 5,900+ total views to get PATINS/ICAM reflections and info on current education topics sent right to your inbox. You never know when the right blog will show up on the day you need it the most.
  • Like us on Facebook and join a flock of 1200+ followers! We love supporting our followers by highlighting innovative educators and sharing relevant news and information.
  • Grab a snack & your computer to hang out with us on Twitter on Tuesdays at 8:30pm EST. You’ll find us chatting about all kinds of topics at #PatinsIcam. This year alone you could have picked up 26 hours of professional growth points (PGPs) for participating or even lurking in a chat!
  • Check out PATINS on YouTubeA total of 17 new videos have been released so far this school year! The quick clips on tech, tools, & resources from vendors and PATINS Specialists, student success stories, & starfish award winners will leave you excited to try something new with your students.
  • Register and attend one of our no-cost webinars or request a repeat of a webinar you missed! A fellow PATINS flock member, Drew Slentz, commented that a great benefit to attending is the ability to download and explore apps that are shared during the presentation. We’ve hosted 77 webinars on ways to increase access to the curriculum since August with more to come. PGPs are available to all attendees.
  • Come interact with us virtually in Second Life during our office hours. We are there monthly and have hosted 54 meetings in the last eight months. Plus, our first ever PATINS Project Second Life Conference on accessibility is slated for May 14! Be on the lookout for more info coming soon!
It’s weird how lonely it can get in a classroom of 20 or 30+ students, so find your flock in your building, district, or beyond. And don’t be afraid to add PATINS or any other resource networks to your flock, knowing that it is no one’s job to judge you or the work you do with your students. We’re here to offer you a fresh set of eyes and perspectives while wrapping you in support as you chart the path to equitable access for each and every one of your students. Please remember, we’re truly just a phone call or email away

PATINS Project.org logo Virtual Educator Support July 2018 to February 2019

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  4 Comments
Mar
29

Behind the Scenes of April Testing

Behind the Scenes of April Testing Chalkboard with math equations.
I’ve spent a lot of my time in the past month or so interacting with teachers for the blind and low vision who are preparing for the new ILEARN test that will be given starting in April. I love being called to drive to Valparaiso or Connersville for these visits. Connecting with these teachers is the musical equivalent to attending an amazing jazz performance with masterful improvisations.

Fingers on the keys of a saxophone
The new test is built to test students online so that we can level or adapt the test to the user, giving us a more accurate picture of proficiency. Leveling also lowers the stress on students as they are quickly sent to questions at their level or ones that are slightly harder or easier.


The state has provided an item repository for all subjects and grades to try out in advance, so that students and teachers can know how to tweak the many accommodations offered to match the features they use in their daily work. Accommodations include things like using a Braille display, enlarged display, different types of contrast, or text to speech for students with BLV. Many other accommodations are available to students with other disabilities, such as closed captions for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Technology moves quickly and teachers for the blind have to keep up with both Braille and low vision devices while often working in multiple districts with multiple platforms for students of multiple ages. If this were the subject of an ILEARN test question, the answer would look like:

complex learner X many devices X all the subjects
= explosion of detail management!

chalkboard with math equations and symbols

The folks I’ve visited with are courageously forging ahead into new territory with technology, and working overtime (read on their spring break), to figure out what will be best for each of their students. They are choosing to engage with technology outside of their comfort zone, becoming vulnerable to ask for help from a team member or from PATINS. At each visit, they are teaching me new things and engaging me in new questions about giving students the right setting, environment, and device.

More than focusing on technology for the test, they want materials and devices that support real learning. They don’t need the fanciest tool, but the one that really works for their students. They want to set each student up to become the best versions of who they are and engage with the world independently. Most folks who interact with students with blindness first instinct is to assume dependence, so these BLV teachers are constantly whispering (or shouting), “let them do it!” They wear the “mean teacher for the blind” badge with pride.

They are learning subject content with their students like AP chemistry or braille music notation, even if they don’t read music in the first place, because some of their students dream of becoming scientists and Broadway stars.

These teachers wouldn’t ask for it, but I’m shining the spotlight on their hard, unglamorous, day to day work. I see you, and I’m grateful that you keep showing up for your students.



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Jessica Conrad
Love it, I see you too, Bev! And the “mean teacher for the blind” badge, is that available for purchase? ... Read More
Monday, 01 April 2019 16:10
  1 Comment
Mar
25

Now and Then

If you have read any of my previous blogs, I lean toward bringing in a personal touch to my writing through the eyes of my family. I often look for and find something that relates, however vague, to education.

This past St. Patrick’s Day our family decided to have an all-out Paddy Day. There was the wearing of the green, shamrock tattoos, green sodas, St. Patrick’s Day decorations, and of course, Irish food.

What would a St. Patrick’s Day party be without Irish music? My wife called on Alexa to play some Irish tunes to set the party mood. Song after song had that Irish sound but one popped out for the kids. It was called The Unicorn Song by the Irish Rovers.

If you haven’t heard of The Unicorn Song, it is worth a listen. Primarily it’s about the unicorn missing Noah’s ark. The kids found it to be a whimsical song of silliness which led to what happened next.

I have been out of mainstream children’s music for a while but I was about to be brought up to speed. The music turned from the Irish folklore and ballads to nonsensical melodies.

The fact that my grandkids are preschoolers through 3rd grade and Mimi works with kindergarteners only added to the selections.

Here are just a sample:

It’s Raining Tacos

Baby Shark

The Hampsterdance Song

Pop See Ko

The Dinosaur Stomp

All I Eat Is Pizza

Some of these are not just songs by themselves but dance tunes as well. Five grandkids gyrating around the kitchen, not playing each song once, but a constant medley and throwing the Irish Rovers under the proverbial bus.

I thought back to when my girls were young and they sang and danced to Raffi’s Baby Beluga and Down by the Bay or Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink.

I started to think about my exposure to rhymes in my childhood. As I recall, there were many nursery rhymes that involved hand gestures and movement. Their lyrics were simple and rhyming but had an odd theme. However, at that time is wasn’t about the theme but to just memorize and perform the activity.

Many of the rhymes may have had political meaning or flavors of satire. I am certainly not a scholar of nursery rhymes, but a little search into some of the potential underlying messages can be disturbing. I’ll leave that for you to explore. For me, I am not any worse off by not questioning the message. It was what is was.

It seems that what my girls, and now my grandchildren, listen to have a place in what motivates them to participate with one another or peers at school. Today’s songs don’t carry an underlying meaning per se, unless you like tacos, pizza, and movements to Baby Shark and Pop See Ko. So much for the unicorn.

 


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Recent Comments
Sandi Smith
I love children's songs! The Unicorn Song goes back to my childhood. For an update on those unicorns, according to the Irish Rover... Read More
Monday, 25 March 2019 09:45
Jeff Bond
Thanks Sandi. I haven't heard that one, but I was aware of this version: The Continuing Story of The Unicorn, The Irish Rovers and... Read More
Monday, 25 March 2019 10:35
Sandy Stabenfeldt
Great post Jeff, I can imagine how much fun you were having singing and dancing!
Monday, 25 March 2019 12:21
  4 Comments
Mar
21

Socks

This may seem like an odd topic to come from a professional staff member of a Project that helps students and teachers learn and teach in a fun, accessible way, right!?… not really. Here’s what I have noticed.

Socks can be fun. I have always enjoyed expressing myself through my sock selection. I’ve even noticed our Director, Daniel, enjoys wearing creative, colorful socks. We’ve had a few enlightening conversations over socks. In fact, I decided pink flamingo socks would be the perfect birthday gift for him last year and he concurred with his reaction once received.

My Kindergarten grandson just experienced Silly Sock Day at school. Ok, I get it…people young and old(er) get a kick out of showing off their personalities through their chosen socks.

Socks can be accessible. What? 

Let me explain. This year, I came across John’s Crazy Socks. I read and felt inspired by John, a young man with Down Syndrome. I read his story and mission which screams accessibility. The key statement John makes regarding accessibility is: We want to show the world what is possible. We want to show the world what people with differing abilities can do when given a chance. We know that people with differing abilities are ready, willing and able to work. We make this happen in ways large and small.

My interest was piqued when I learned of the late President George H. W. Bush’ involvement with John’s Crazy Socks. President Bush has longed championed the rights of people with disabilities. John’s desire to connect with people through socks led John and President Bush to form a bond over their love of crazy socks and their commitment to the possibilities in all of us.

Come to the PATINS/IN*SOURCE Tech Expo on April 4th for a chance to win a pair of John’s Crazy Socks. It’s not too late to register. Four pairs of John’s Crazy Socks will be part of the lineup of many Door Prizes available to our attendees. 2 pairs of Autism Awareness Socks and 2 pairs of Down Syndrome Awareness Socks. 

We will also have Exhibitors available to you for those specific disabilities and many more. Please join us for a day of professional learning and fun.

Today is a meaningful day to post my blog…March 21, 3:21 World Down Syndrome Day. This is a day we celebrate all who have Down Syndrome. We celebrate their accomplishments and the joy they bring to the world. World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated on March 21st for 3 copies of the 21st chromosome (which is what causes Down Syndrome)

Happy 3:21!

   



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Recent Comments
Sandy Stabenfeldt
Good job Glenda! Who doesn't love socks!
Monday, 25 March 2019 12:42
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