Oct
15

Reading Full Circle

Reading Full Circle

My first PATINS blog was in April of 2016. The title was “Mimi, would you read me a book?” It was about my grandchildren and them asking Mimi every time they visited us to read to them. Mimi took great pride in them not just asking but sitting close to her as she read.

Mimi reading


Fast forward to this week. I received a message from my daughter that contained a video of my granddaughter Kenzie reading. She is eight and in the second grade.


Kenzie’s teacher over the past week or so has been sharing with the class stories written by James Whitcomb Riley. It has fascinated Kenzie as he lived so close to her. More intriguing was her interest in his writing. She would come home and share stories she learned with her family. 


Kenzie’s school happened to be on Fall Break this week so my daughter thought it would be interesting to go to the James Whitcomb Riley home in Greenfield, Indiana. 


They took a tour and collected some memorabilia and on the way home Kenzie recalled all that she had seen. This is how I put into perspective what she had learned in school.


Kenzie and her family came for a visit and she shared as much as she could about James Whitcomb Riley. I could not pass up the opportunity to share my connection with James Whitcomb Riley with Kenzie.


The elementary school I went to in Hammond, Indiana was James Whitcomb Riley Elementary School. I also worked for eleven years at Riley Hospital for Children named after, of course, James Whitcomb Riley.


Kenzie could hardly believe the connections after just visiting his home. Another tidbit, on James Whitcomb Riley’s birthday the Riley Cheer Guild would give out Raggedy Ann dolls to patients. I’ll let you make the connection.


I wrote about Mimi reading to the grandkids in my first blog and it has come full circle over the past four years. The love of being read to has sparked a desire in Kenzie to read and her interest in James Whitcomb Riley has provided a timely story for the season.



It has come full circle and Mimi and I could not be any prouder. Not only for Kenzie, but for all of our grandchildren who have shared in the gift of reading.

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Guest — Martha
This is one of my favorite poems from childhood. Thanks for sharing Kenzie reading! You and Mimi have blessed your grands with thi... Read More
Thursday, 15 October 2020 13:36
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Jul
16

“I just don’t like this isolation stuff”

Back in April, I wrote a blog titled, “What it means to them.” I asked my grandchildren what Continuous Learning meant to them. For the three in elementary school, I received a pretty mixed bag of responses.

Since then, summer has been upon them and school, well what it might be like, is soon to resume. I heard my three oldest grandchildren tell me last spring that the best part of the Continuous Learning was getting to meet with their classmates via Zoom.

For them, it was a sense of connection, which became even more important as the summer progressed. My oldest grandson, Dean, who is ten felt the pain of not seeing his friends because of Covid-19. As everyone was told to stay in place, Dean knew why, but that didn’t make it easier to accept saying, “I just don’t like this isolation stuff.”

Dean turned ten in April, and for his birthday he got a new bike. He and his siblings could ride them in the street in front of their house, but it wasn’t the same as riding with friends.

It was a couple of weeks ago when some of the restrictions were eased, my daughter contacted one of Dean’s friend’s mom to see if they could get the boys together for a bike ride. Both parents agreed that social distancing would be part of the deal if the boys agreed. Dean was ecstatic at the opportunity.

The boys spent most of the afternoon riding up and down the streets in the neighborhood and just catching up on all they had missed.

Logan, my eight-year-old grandson, was more comfortable spending time with Dean and Hazel and his parents who are both in education. As the restrictions eased Logan has been enjoying the small family gathering that include his cousins again. Logan has also collected a number of four-leaf clovers that he has found scouring the backyard.

Since then, the football season is about to begin, and my two oldest grandsons are itching to get started. It will be bringing some normalcy to their lives again and an opportunity to catch up with teammates.

My other daughter’s oldest child, Kenzie, dealt with her isolation a little differently. The family had an old iPhone that still worked, and her dad connected it to the home WIFI. When you give a seven-year-old a working iPhone that has FaceTime you might imagine what’s next.

I can’t tell you how many times Mimi got a FaceTime call from Kenzie as well as her Aunt Sarah, Aunt Bernie, friends… you get the picture. You noticed I was not included. Fortunately, I have an Android, but that didn’t deter her from wanting to talk to Pappy Pa if I was around Mimi at the time.

Being home for this extended amount of time seems to have been easiest for my two youngest grandchildren, who are both now four. 

A joyful learning experience they both shared was their families both planting their first vegetable garden. This seems to have been very popular with many families in the Midwest this year, myself and my wife included.  

All the tomatoes, squash, green beans, watermelons, carrots, cucumbers, and MORE are growing well. Ethan eats the pickling cucumbers right off the vine with a grin on his face, while Hazel jumps for joy showing off her zucchini that is SO BIG! Both of the little ones can’t wait to go back to pre-school to see their teachers and make new friends.

This year has been trying for all, and we are still dealing with what’s next. School for my grandchildren begins at the end of July. All the precautions are being put into place. They are fully aware of what to do with wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently, and social distancing as they have been practicing for months.

That said, the isolation will no longer be the issue. The challenge will be the major changes in the school and classroom routines, but that will be another blog.

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Apr
17

What it means to them…

In keeping with my trend, I wanted to get the perspective of my family and how “continuous learning” has impacted them.

I have three grandchildren in elementary school. Dean is in the 4th grade, Logan is in 2nd grade, and Kenzie is in 1st grade. I also have Hazel and Ethan in the same preschool class. My son-in-law, Nick, is a high school teacher, and my daughter is an elementary school media assistant working as the school librarian.

Simple answers for simple questions…

Oldest grandson, Dean, was very straight up honest, “I don’t like it.” I asked him why, and he said he “wasn’t challenged enough.” He misses his interaction with his teacher and his classmates, but an occasional Zoom meeting helps.

Logan enjoys when the small groups and class meet via Zoom. He challenges himself to get up early and get his daily assignments done. His rational is, “I can get it done early, and then I have time to play the rest of the day.”

Hazel misses her friends at preschool, including her cousin, Ethan. However, her teacher, Ms. Becky, sends her students two letters through the postal service every week just to say hello. That is a highlight that she looks forward to.

Kenzie likes that she has more time to work on her math answers and enjoys Like to Draw videos. Her class also uses Zoom with her 20 classmates and each gets to tell a joke to the class. She says, “It’s not the same as school. It’s hard to focus and pretty boring.”

Ethan reflects what his cousin Hazel says about preschool, missing friends and playtime. His highlight is also receiving Ms. Becky’s letters in the mail.

Sarah has been working with the Specials Team teachers, Art, Music, etc. Her challenge is the different ways teachers use different platforms for assignments and sorting through how grades can be quantified for each student. These teachers each connect with 700+ students.

Nick was recently interviewed by a local newspaper and was asked a few questions about continuous learning. I think he has summed up what my grandchildren are experiencing, like many others:

  • e-Learning, of course, is typically done a day here, a day there. Now it's for the next several weeks. What are going to be the biggest challenges with that and how will you overcome those challenges?
    •  "I have received several emails, especially at the beginning of our eLearning, from students. They were not about questions on quizzes or assignments, but rather about missing being at school. These emails are difficult to read, because it drives home the fact that school is much more than a place for knowledge. For many kids, it’s their social support. It is what keeps them involved and connected to the world. The biggest challenge for us, as role models in the school, is to prioritize student well-being over curriculum. Of course, we want them to learn content and increase their knowledge, but it does no good for a school or society if a student feels overwhelmed and becomes disconnected. Our school attempts to limit this by making our lessons simple and to-the-point. Also, by maintaining positive relationships with our students. A simple weekly video or meeting just touching base with kids can make a big difference in their lives. Also, people tend to want to do more when they feel connected and appreciated by their group." 

This is a challenging time that came upon all of us very suddenly. However, for many schools, the framework was in place. Educators are adapting the best ways they can.

Let’s not forget about parents who are experiencing the continuous learning as home-school support for their children. I asked my daughter, Emily, about her experience with her young two children. She had lots to say, so I will only share a few comments. She likes that it is helping keep some structure and guidance for the rest of this academic year. But she notes it is hard to keep a 1st grader’s attention on a computer for very long. She appreciates the extra time they now have for creativity and play together.

Adding to the continuous learning implemented by schools, we in the “stay at home” scenario, which further isolates us.

Most have adapted to utilize technology that has always been there, but it has become the norm in so many ways. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and even Facetime and Duo have allowed us to gather virtually. Does it take the place of face to face? Hardly, but it offers an opportunity to have a visual impact on each person on either end of the screen. A visual peace so to speak…

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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Fantastic blog! It was interesting to hear from all their perspectives.
Thursday, 23 April 2020 09:21
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Jan
10

Humbled by Technology

I have always embraced technology which is one of the many reasons I enjoy my job. I have embraced challenges when others were ready to throw in the towel.

Technology has made enormous advances, just when you think you have them understood or mastered, things change. Here is my case in point.

I have never really considered myself a gamer. Over the years, I have had an Atari, Gameboy, Nintendo, Genesis, Commodore 64, Amiga 500, etc. 

I have been lured into these systems by the technology and most importantly the graphics that continued to get better and better.

I had for all intent and purposes “grown out of” chasing the latest and greatest systems so I have been out of touch for some time. Again, look at my previous systems.

I have been aware of the PlayStation and Xbox but they really didn’t interest me because of their price and their intimidating controller. However, I was always amazed by the graphics.

It wasn’t until I watched my grandsons play on their Xbox that I felt mesmerized by the details and the smoothness of the scrolling graphics that started to draw me in like a moth to the light.

I was amazed at the mastery they had at controlling the buttons and joysticks to move about with ease. It was almost effortless. It was if they became one with the system.

I mentioned that I enjoy technology sometimes as a challenge, but would I be any match for what is now at my fingertips.

I say fingertips because the opportunity became available to me when a pre-Christmas sale lured me (well not really) into buying an Xbox One S. It came with the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

My grandsons had told me how “Awesome” the game is and I had it on MY system! It felt like when I got Frogger, Tetris, Super Mario or Sonic. It was well, like Christmas.

I pulled it out of the box and started to assemble the components. It took me back to an earlier time of putting bikes and vanities together for my daughters for Christmas. It wasn’t nearly as involved until I had to download and install the game software.

I realized then that our Internet connection could probably use an upgrade, but I was already committed to waiting it out. During that time, I had the opportunity of handling the controller.

Remember that “one with the system” statement earlier? It wasn’t happening for me. There isn’t one or two buttons, but ten and two joystick controls I think in total. I can’t find my home row on the computer and it’s labeled! 

Pressing forward the game installed and it was time to meet my Jedi assignment. After what seemed to be forever to load, I was put in a futuristic repair yard to start my mission.

Me and my futuristic thing comrade were given instructions. My comrade took off leaving me to try to catch up with buttons and joysticks commands. I would have been better off watching the movie.

Let me say, however, the graphics are STUNNING! It was worth just standing in one place moving my Jedi figure around in circles and watching what was going on around me. I was content.

Let me jump ahead a couple of days to Christmas when we had the families together. I had three grandsons prepared to take turns to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Let me recall the number of buttons and joysticks and my inability to comprehend the necessary interaction of each. That was not the case with any of my grandsons. 

I watched in awe as they managed to move through the labyrinth of settings and situations as if they were there. The orchestration of their fingers was amazing to witness.

In the weeks that followed, I have made it to the other side of the garage bay. I am not sure where to go from there. 

I have since purchased a couple more games that use a minimal amount of the controls and maybe that might help me along. Fingers crossed.

My expertise in this technology has been humbled by a quad trillion while knowing it is feasible to master. 

I saw on the news that schools are offering gaming classes. I wonder if I could sneak into a few or maybe just hire my grandsons as tutors. I wonder what their hourly rate is.

But wow the graphics…
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Oct
03

Changes

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes

This fall I will experience some personal and professional changes. I am moving away for a moment from my traditional blog themes of my family.

Personally, I will be turning the golden age in a month and I have been reminded constantly with ever-persistent phone calls and mailings of my opportunity for health care.

I do look forward to reaping the rewards offered by many establishments with my new age which qualifies me for discounts. In doing some research I found that I have been eligible for some time now, so I’ll start pulling that card out ASAP.

I don’t see age as a number as much as I see it as an attitude. You know, “You are as young as you feel”. I agree until I see Facebook posts that say, “If you remember this… you’re old”. Ouch, I remember all of them too well.

Professionally, I have been with PATINS for 21 years. I have seen and been part of many changes over that time. Moving from a staff of 7 to a staff now of 17 is an indication of the project’s success and worth.

I have experienced 3 fiscal agency changes and I had made many friends within each agency. As is the case when you leave one to go to another there is always the “keep in touch” said as we move away.

Keeping in touch seems like an easy thing to do, but in reality, it is difficult. We don’t see one another on a regular basis anymore. To do that would require an effort outside of the workplace.

We move apart as time goes on and develop other relations as we have before. We are in constant change.

I am looking forward to our new fiscal agent and new people I will meet along the way, again continued changes.

I often think about change when I hear the song Changes by David Bowie. He talks about how quick and seemingly spontaneous change is. It is the lyric “Ch, ch, ch, changes” that grabs my attention.

There are thousands of philosophical and inspirational quotes and hundreds of songs about change but for me change just is.
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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Well put, Jeffrey. I enjoy when your writings tie into a song lyric.
Friday, 04 October 2019 09:27
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Jun
26

“Mimi, can I read this book to you?”

It has been more than 3 years that I blogged, “Mimi, would you read me this book?” It was about my wife Rita and our 5 grandchildren.

Here is an excerpt:

“We have 5 ranging from 6 years of age down to 6 months. From a very early age, Mimi would “read” picture books to each one. It only has a picture and is wordless, but she would describe the picture in a way that would tell a very short story. As each one has grown older, she would ask if they would like for her to read to them. “Bring me a book,” she will say if they don’t already have on in hand. She has never been turned down.  ore often than not I hear, “Mimi, would you read me this book?” You should know by now that the answer is an overwhelming “YES”. It is a blessing to watch how she draws our grandchildren into her world, no their world. So, as I watch this miracle happen, I take pleasure in 
fact that undoubtedly my grandchildren have found the importance of reading and I have as well. What a precious gift to pass on.”

Jump ahead 3 years and the age range is now 9 to 3 and a half. It has been an amazing look back and where the 3 oldest are now after attending school.

Dean just finished third grade, Logan just finished first grade and Kenzie just finished kindergarten. What is noteworthy is that all 3 read at or beyond grade level and they love to read.

What I wrote about 3 years ago has come full circle. Their enthusiasm for reading has been expressed in a reciprocal way to Mimi. What once was “Mimi, would you read me this book?” is now “Mimi, can I read this book to you?”

She never turns them down.

Kenzi reading to Mimi on the glider outdoors.

We take great pride in listening to them read. It goes without saying that what my wife sowed for our grandchildren 3 years ago has reaped tenfold.


Mimi has not given up reading to our grandchildren. We still have Hazel and Ethan that like to be read to, and it is still enjoyable for Mimi and me when we hear, “Mimi, would you read me this book?”



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Jennifer Conti
Reading with children is such a loving act! Great blog post, Jeff. ... Read More
Friday, 28 June 2019 08:41
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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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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
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Dec
13

Building Blocks: Virtual vs Real

My oldest grandson, Dean, has taken a real interest in blocks. It’s kind of funny, because as a toddler he really didn’t show that much interest in playing with them. However, at the age of 8 and in the third grade it finally captivated him.

Don’t get me wrong, he has played with a Lego here and there, but it really took off this past Autumn. I couldn’t help but wonder what prompted the interest.

Looking back, over the past year he has been very involved with the video software Minecraft. If you’re not familiar, it is a virtual world where a player or gamer (I’m not sure of the correct term) creates a virtual world out of blocks and a variety of objects and things one can collect.

For his birthday last April, he was all about Minecraft, including a desire to own a Minecraft chest. My wife, Rita (aka Mimi) had been checking Pinterest and YouTube and came up with the idea that I should make him one.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I started the project the week before his birthday. I took ownership of the process and completed the chest.   We filled it with Minecraft little figurines.  Dean was very surprised and grateful… not so much for what was in the chest, but that Pappy Pa and Mimi created it just for him.

Dean MC Box

Shortly after his birthday, I asked Dean for a little instruction on Minecraft.   He gave me a tutorial then showed me videos on YouTube where gamers show off their abilities.

This past summer I can’t tell you how many times I observed Dean and his brother Logan watching Minecraft YouTube videos…it seemed endless.

I had mentioned Legos earlier - here at the Bond house, we had a somewhat small collection. Just the right size however for Dean to start “creating” things that resembled Minecraft components.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, Rita and I decided to bulk up our Lego collection for the holidays. You know just to give the kids something to do.

Thanksgiving Day we pulled out a box of Legos with over 1500 pieces! All the kid’s eyes lit up especially Dean’s. It was fun to watch all the grandkids AND my son-in-law build their individual creations.

After about an hour or so the interest level subsided, except for Dean’s. He continued to amass several replicas of what he had created in Minecraft. He was as consumed with building with Legos as he was building in the virtual game, and it lasted for hours.

I am not a gamer. I have a Wii but still can’t virtual bowl for squat, so I don’t go to a bowling alley for that reason. However, to watch Dean over the past months translate the virtual reality of his creation into the real world of constructing what he has imagined, has been fascinating and rewarding.

We put a lot of technology into the hands of children. I wonder how many can transfer their virtual experiences into real life experiences?
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Guest — Rachel
Jeff, I love this blend of VR and reality! It is so neat to be able to experience this dual world through the eyes of kids who are... Read More
Friday, 14 December 2018 10:23
Sandy Stabenfeldt
Jeff, What a great idea and what a great blog posting! Thank you for sharing!
Friday, 14 December 2018 12:22
Guest — Judy Everhart
Wonderful Blog! Our grandsons ages 9 and 6 also have a love for all things Minecraft, Spiderman, and Star Wars. A similar activi... Read More
Friday, 14 December 2018 12:30
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Sep
06

Never Too Old

I have a neighbor that lives 2 doors down from me. Nancy is 90+. I respect not asking her real age, because I know several people at 29 and holding. She is sharp as a tack. She was a U.S. Ambassador for Suriname during her career and has traveled the world. Her stories and memories about our neighborhood are exciting to hear.

Unfortunately, she is far less mobile and her sight is failing. She struggles with seeing anything in a print format, for it is too small, and uses a pair of binoculars to watch TV.

I walk our Golden Retriever, Cooper, by her house and stop when she is sitting inside her screened-in porch. She enjoys petting Cooper, and he shows her a lot of attention and affection. It also gives her the opportunity to “pick my brain” about technology.

I have spent time with Nancy making sure that her technology was accessible with minimal effort and knowledge on her part. She is very interested in current verbiage she hears from her radio or television.

Last week it was, “What is streaming about?” I explained it was a way of getting content, video and audio over the Internet. Some of it is free and some has to be purchased through subscriptions like HULU, Netflix, Sling and others.

I was asked to explain those as well, because she has an endless curiosity of how technology has evolved from just a radio or a television with a pair of rabbit ears*.

Just this week she greeted Cooper and me with much excitement. “Let me show you my new best friend,” she said. She pulled out a handheld digital magnifier. She was so thrilled.

We had talked about devices in the past, but she was reluctant. At a recent eye doctor’s appointment, it was suggested she visit a specialty store on the southside of Indianapolis. Nancy decided to give it a try and visited a vendor that has been serving PATINS Stakeholders for years.

Long story short, she can now read the newspaper and her mail and does crosswords puzzles. She’s like a kid at Christmas.

*Rabbit ears were an adjustable television antenna that could be re-positioned to get the best picture reception. Sometimes placing aluminum foil on them would “amplify” the reception.

TV with Rabbit Ears on top in the shape of a V

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Guest — david jackson
Jeff - Love the post. I remember too havinf an aerial antenna on a tower that frustrated the crap out of my dad. And, only the k... Read More
Thursday, 06 September 2018 23:11
Guest — Judy Everhart
Thoroughly enjoyed this!
Friday, 07 September 2018 17:23
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Feb
27

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
Guest — Rachel Herron
What a great parallel and lesson for us all! Thanks for sharing Jeff!
Wednesday, 07 March 2018 08:15
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Nov
20

New Heights

It’s that time again for me to blog. If you have followed any previous blogs that I have submitted, you might see a pattern. This one is no different.

I have been enthralled with what my grandchildren have shown me as they develop. It is always a surprise to see the growth every time we get together.

Let me first forewarn you that what I am about share might sound scary and, frankly, a little unnerving unless you are somewhat of a risk-taker.

My youngest daughter and son-in-law have three children, two of which I featured in my last blog, Dean and Logan are seven and five respectfully. The youngest is Hazel, a fearless child, that has made every attempt to be as much like her older brothers as possible.

My wife and I were seated in our kitchen one afternoon. Her phone dinged indicating there was a message. She picked it up, looked and shouted, “Oh my gosh, what are they thinking?” She shook her head with her mouth open.

“Look at your granddaughter,” she said as she passed me the phone. What I saw was Hazel in their backyard tree some 15 feet off the ground and my grandsons some branches below.

Dean checking on Hazel's position in the tree.
An aside here, with all the technology available to kid these days, my daughter and son-in-law have encouraged their children to spend as much time outdoors getting physically active. Both parents were raised that way.


Back to Hazel however. We called my daughter at my wife’s encouragement to make sure someone was closely watching her. Hazel seemed to be having fun, and we were reassured that they were keeping a watchful eye on her.

Hazel in the middle of a tree with Dean and Logan on each side
So, what’s that got to do with the earlier warning and my wife’s concern? Hazel just turned two years old in September.


She had no problem climbing or getting down. It was a personal accomplishment, though a little frightening for us, but not for Hazel.

What I took away from this experience was that even though Hazel is two years old, she had the confidence to climb the tree because her brothers had shown her how. She had her parents’ reassurance that they were there if she needed help. She was offered praise and encouragement for her accomplishment. Hazel is determined to not let failure get in her way.

Among other things, building personal self-esteem in students is as important in the classroom as it is outside of the classroom. They need a chance to succeed by placing focus on their strengths and not so much on their weaknesses.

For some students, what they risk in the classroom is not the same risk that Hazel took, but it is just as powerful on another level. Student confidence is extremely important as it encourages them to move to the next goal. Maybe they are somewhat reluctant but knowing what they have accomplished before can carry them on.

Of course, there will be circumstances that will demand courage to meet the challenges with determination but with the proper support, encouragement and enthusiasm, anyone can reach for that higher branch.

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Guest — Sandy Stabenfeldt
Great post!
Monday, 20 November 2017 19:51
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Aug
07

The Reward

Summer has come and gone for many students around the state, and it’s back to school. New experiences, new friends, and new teachers. One must think of what each one of those students brings to the classroom.

That thought struck me this summer when we were on our family vacation. As with one of my blogs last year, I got to thinking about interactions with my grandkids as inspiration. This summer was no different.

My wife and I, joined by my two daughters and their families, have made it a tradition of going to the Outer Bank of North Carolina. It’s warm, relaxing and a nice way to finish the past school year and begin the summer.

Each morning we like to pack up the kids and head to the beach for the day to play in the sand and surf. We encourage all five of the grandkids to play hard but take time out to rest when they get hot, tired or hungry.

This year, my oldest grandson, Dean, who is 7, took time to sit and rest next to his mom and chat. The sun came and went from behind the clouds and Dean started watching them. “Look, Mom, that one looks like a dog,” I heard him say. Back and forth they went trying to figure out every cloud that passed by.

It wasn’t long before Logan, my 5-year-old grandson, joined them. Logan listened to them describing what they were seeing. He would glance at the sky and squint searching for what they were observing.

After a couple of minutes, Logan whined, “I don’t see it.”

“Right there. It looks like a Pokémon,” Dean said.

“Where? I don’t see it,” Logan replied.

Fluffy white clouds with a blue sky background.
After listening to a couple more descriptions by Dean and his mom, Logan was on the verge of tears. “I don’t see it,” he said.

Dean tried to help and came closer to Logan and pointed to the cloud he had described. “See that cloud right there?” pointing to a large billowing one, “Doesn’t that look like a dragon?”

Logan looked hard and said, “In the clouds? I see it now, I thought you were looking at the blue part.”

It wasn’t communicated to Logan that they were looking at the clouds. Logan had missed critical information as to how to play the game.

We have all experienced that situation at one time or another when that one key tidbit of information was missing and those around us just assumed we understood.

When we get that missing piece, it’s been called that “Aha!” or lightbulb moment. Whatever you call it, it’s that realization of understanding what was missing. For Logan, it was simply the clouds.

I have to wonder how many students come to school with just a few missing pieces here or there. It’s our place to help them find them through listening, encouraging questions and watching facial expressions.

The reward is the smile one sees when that missing piece is found, and we’ve made a difference. I enjoyed watching my grandsons, Logan and Dean, that day as they sat for a while longer both having fun comparing clouds.

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Guest — Sherry
Thanks Jeff! There is always that insight that is needed, sadly, we dont see it or forget to see it because we are so busy with th... Read More
Wednesday, 09 August 2017 10:51
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Apr
25

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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Guest — David J
Jeff - Thanks for sharing. Great example. I listened on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y5t-dAa6UA [NSFW]. He wrote t... Read More
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 12:24
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Jan
13

Can you hear the Echo?

Last summer on our family vacation my daughter brought along her Amazon Echo. She set it up in the main living area and said, “Dad you need to get one of these."

Between my daughter, my son-in-law and my grandkids, it was a fight to demonstrate just what the Echo could do. “Alexa, play Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles." Sure enough the Echo played it and before the song was half over, another request, “Alexa, what’s the temperature?” “Alexa, tell me a joke.”

This went on for about an hour. It was impressive even when Alexa didn’t know the answer or request the Echo said so with, “Hmm, I don’t know the answer to that question." Not many people will fess up to that.

Alexa was busy all week playing music, responding to joke requests now and then and miscellaneous questions to stump the Echo.

When I got home I didn’t rush out to get an Echo although it was tempting. You see I like technology and most of all gadgets, but I looked at the price and thought I’ll give it some time.

Sure enough a few months later my daughter texted me to let me know the Echo was on sale. Temptation took over and I ordered one. It was delivered and I set it up, got it connected to the Internet and started asking requests like I had no idea of facts or music. My wife and I rambled on until we looked at each other and decided we were done…for the moment.

One little caveat about the Echo is depending on what name you give it, Alexa, Echo or Amazon you should be aware that if you are within an ear shout of the device and inadvertently say the name, it will try to answer you. Most of the time it replies, “Hmm, I don’t know the answer to that question”.

Fast forward to before Christmas.

There were a lot of sale opportunities for the Echo models, one of which was the Echo Dot 2. It is about the size of a hockey puck with a small speaker but the price was about a third of the larger Echo. For as much as everyone seemed to enjoy the Echo, I thought I’d get everyone a Dot. It was a stellar idea because everyone liked them, which brings me to the point of this blog.

My son-in-law has a cousin with Cerebral Palsy. She is wheelchair bound and uses a DynaVox device for communication. My daughter asked me if the Echo would work with the DynaVox. If you know me, you know where I went from there.

I don’t have a DynaVox, but I did have an iPad. I pulled it out and installed a simple Text to Speech app and started playing. The first thing that you must do is address the device by name and for me that was ”Alexa." When it lights up it is ready for your request. I typed Alexa and my request, tell me a joke. I took my iPad close to the Echo and tapped Speak and sure enough I got a joke.

I played around many times with different requests and noticed that sometimes the initial “Alexa” command needed a bit more time before the request could be processed, so I added either a comma or two or a Return entry which put a little pause before the request was spoken.

The request should be made with a 5 to 6 second window for the Echo to respond to the request. I have Proloque2Go on another iPad and added an Alexa joke request button to the default  "Joke" folder and it worked as well. Here is a short video of what I did with my iPad and Proloquo2Go sample.

In theory, any device that lets the user create phrases like I had done on the iPad and Proloque2Go should have access to the Echo’s ability to respond. Every device is different and there might be some tweaking to do. However, the independent interaction of accessing endless amounts of information and entertainment at the request of the user is worth the effort.

The Echo can also be linked to control environmental devices like lights, switches, thermostat and the list is growing. I am sure this was not my sole discovery, but if it gets the interest of someone else, it has served its purpose. I will work to get this in the hands of my son-in-law’s cousin. Stay tuned.

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Sep
23

Simplicity

For Grandparent’s Day a couple of weeks ago, I spent the morning with my grandson, Dean. His first grade class had prepared a song to sing for us. After the musical presentation, they proudly lead all their respective grandparents to prepared artwork and individual lockers. A sense of enthusiasm was evident as the students pulled out their iPads to show the elders all they could do. It was at that point I noticed slight bobbing and cocking of heads accompanied by many uh hums. The first graders were flipping through icons and pausing to stop at one and then another, swiping to the left and to the right. The grandparent’s heads kept bobbing and sounds of the uh hums became more obvious. 

Being one of the senior PATINS staff members, I’ve been around to see technology metamorphoses into a variety of different forms. It started with a handful of cause and effect programs, switch access here and rudimentary AAC devices there. There were big CCTVs and various keyboards. It didn’t seem to change very much over time. However, technology today is expediential in how quickly it is surpassing itself. To me that is mind blowing! 

Perhaps out of comfort or habit, this senior staff member tends to think “old school”. This old dog sometimes doesn’t mind following through with the same old tricks. It might be as simple as needing a piece of paper to physically hold onto...to connect my mind to something tangible. I’ve realized that many things that have become habit for one may not be an easy habit for others. 

I have five young grandchildren and every day they are acquiring knowledge that is new and is truly in its simplest form. I have been fortunate to have acquired a good technology skill set over time and I feel confident in sharing that knowledge with them and with others. In my position with PATINS/ICAM, I receive calls, emails and in person requests for the most simplest things. Often, I remind myself that even what one person sees as simple is another’s struggle to understand or grasp. My takeaway is to never underestimate the simple; it might just be the roadblock that might keep a person from moving forward. 

We live in an age where we experience so much in the digital context. Cell phones, the Internet, news and social media, etc. offers immediate access to content that is at our fingertips. Is that tangible enough for us to absorb in a way that we can fully process all of the content? For some, perhaps not. 


I’ve bounced around some senior insight, but in that moment of watching the head bobbing and uh humming at my grandson’s celebration of Grandparents, a thought crossed my mind. I don’t think it was the confusion of what the grandparents were seeing and hearing with the iPads. I think it was the amazement of what our grandchildren are experiencing. These first graders made their experiences seem so simple…at least to this grandparent!  
Jeff and his grandson
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Jun
29

My Quest for Gold

It’s time for another blog entry and after posting my previous one it got me thinking about what I do.  I moved from the PATINS Central Site Coordinator position that I held for 17 years to become the ICAM (Indiana Center for Accessible Materials) Technology Coordinator just less than a year ago.  It has been a year of learning the details of what happens when a student qualifies for digital print materials and how we get it to them.  As a site coordinator I would troubleshoot with the Digital Rights Managers as how to use the technology they needed to open files like NIMAS, ePubs, PDF, etc. for use with their students.  My current position offers me the opportunity to get the digital content from the publishers, the NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center), Learning Ally among other sources.  I also process orders and still offer technical assistance when needed, which is often, but hey that’s the job and I like a good challenge now and then.

If you read my first post, “Mimi, would you read this to me?” you know my confession, but more importantly it was about how crucial it is for children especially young children to be read to.

Sometimes things come full circle and I’ll explain.  We had a family vacation not long ago to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We have been there 4 times before and last year my wife thought it would be worth trying an audiobook for the drive so she downloaded the first chapter of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I’ll be honest again, but driving through the mountains of Virginia at night and trying to concentrate on the road was much more than I had in mind.  Needless to say it was over before chapter two.  She wanted to try it again this year, but had planned to do a couple of chapters when the stress of driving was minimal.  Together we worked at logging on to our local library, downloading the Overdrive app on her iPhone and selecting an audiobook.  The process was relatively easy.  The audiobook that we chose was The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  Once on our way and traffic tolerable, we popped the auxiliary jack into her phone and started with the Preface.  I have always enjoyed sports through participation or observing, but never thought of just listening to what was being described.  For the first time in a long time it was enjoyable.  The anticipation of the next chapter was figuratively and literally just around the corner.  We listened to half of book on the way there and the other half on the way back.  I know what you’re thinking, why did you wait a whole week to finish the book?  Again, it was anticipation for me.  It was something to look forward to during the boring part of the drive.

I opened this blog with what my job description is in a nutshell, but this experience was one that the students with a print disability and even those that don’t experience every day.  It was a glimpse for me to walk in their shoes if only through one book and to really feel what I have been a part of over so many years had come to fruition. 

There are many “tools” for supporting access to digital content and selecting one or two might seem like a daunting task, but the PATINS Project and ICAM staff can help with making that easier with the right background information.  It’s not your quest for gold, but it is for your students.

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Apr
18

“Mimi, would you read me this book?”

Reading…not one of my favorite pastimes.  A difficult confession and one I am embarrassed to admit.  It is something I have struggled with all through school and beyond.  Call it a lack of interest, being uncomfortably forced to read out loud, a missed diagnosis, etc. I don’t know for sure.  Don’t get me wrong I can read, but more out of necessity than pleasure.
I know the importance of reading for a variety of reasons and in my current role it is even more imperative that gaining access to materials in a variety of formats is important.  With all of its importance that’s what led me to do this blog about Mimi.  Mimi is the name my grandchildren call my wife.  I know her as Rita, but not when the grandkids are around.  Being a teacher for more than 30+ years (sorry Mimi) she has always taken great pleasure each semester to take the time to read a story out loud to her class.  Sometime funny and sometime serious topics, but stories that held the class riveted to her every word.  It’s one of the things that alumni students remember vividly about her class.  I can’t say that happened when I was in school, besides that was too long age. Mimi reading to three of her Grandkids.Which brings me to Mimi and my grandkids. We have 5 ranging from 6 years of age down to 6 months.  From a very early age, Mimi would “read” picture books to each one.  It only has a picture and is wordless, but she would describe the picture in a way that would tell a very short story.  As each one has grown older, she would ask if they would like for her to read to them.  “Bring me a book”, she will say if they don’t already have one in hand.  She has never been turned down.  More often than not I hear “Mimi, would you read me this book?”  You should know by now that the answer is an overwhelming “YES”.  It is a blessing to watch how she draws our grandchildren into her world, no their world.  So as I watch this miracle happen, I take pleasure in fact that undoubtedly my grandchildren have found the importance of reading and I have as well.  What a precious gift to pass on.
 
In the big picture, the interest and encouragement we offer to students can go a long way.  It may be a hardback book, digital file, braille, audio format, or just plain reading to them and conveying enthusiasm is key to inspiration.  Just like Mimi.
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Daniel G. McNulty
Most important and excellent observations, Jeff! Thanks for writing this up for the inspiration of others. Of course, we know th... Read More
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 11:21
Kelli Suding
Well said, Jeff. Thanks for sharing. Admitting that you aren’t the biggest fan of reading isn’t the easiest statement to make; b... Read More
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 12:36
Guest — Cheryl Clemens
I am a Mimi, too, who loves reading to my two grands. Each one was read to long before they knew how to sit up and now still love... Read More
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 13:12
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