Aug
08

Stop Teaching "Low Functioning" Students

Stop teaching the low students Magic Ball indicating High. A witch's hat with speech bubble reading,
I half-joke that I’m working my way out of education purgatory, trying to make up for my sins in years past. One particular mistake I made: I let myself believe I could help “low functioning students.” The year I refused to teach “low” kids (and “high functioning” students too!) I started to realize what my purpose was.

I worked in a school that had two self-contained special education classrooms. On paper, it was just Ms. A’s class and Ms. Z’s class, but everyone referred to it as the “high functioning room” and the “low functioning room.” Sometimes the students had instruction together or joined their peers in general education but, in general, the students of the low functioning group stayed in their room and the high functioning students had more chances to be included. The high functioning students sat with assistants and learned letters and numbers and the low functioning students watched the other students work. Maybe we’d stick a switch toy on their wheelchair tray. Yipee.

Why? Because it was The Way We Had Always Done It. You’ll be happy to hear it’s changed.

On the flip side, I had students who were “high functioning.” Teachers were very pleased to have high functioning students except when they didn’t do what the other kids were able to do, or in the same way. Every year, like an unspoken agreement, accommodations were slowly chipped away. “He’s high functioning,” we’d all say. “He doesn’t need a sensory break, or note taking support, or Augmentative Communication. He should be able to do that on his own by now, or else he’d be low functioning.”

“The difference between high-functioning autism and low-functioning is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low-functioning means your assets are ignored.” - Laura Tisoncik

Once I was asked to observe “Cory.” Cory was a youngster who enjoyed trampolines, letters, and car commercials. He needed constant supervision, plenty of breaks, and explicit directions and support for academics, leisure, and daily living skills. He frequently hit the person nearest him, although staff could not pinpoint as to why (no FBA completed). He had no way to independently communicate. It wasn’t that they hadn’t tried but what they had tried wasn’t working, so they stopped. He did have two little symbols taped to his workstation: “more” and “stop” that were used to direct his behavior.

His teacher met me at the door and gestured to where he was “working” (10+ minutes of redirection to sit in a chair with some math problems attempted in between). I asked what would be helpful to her as a result of our consultation.

“As you can see, we’ve tried everything,” she exclaimed, gesturing to her lone visual taped to the desk. “He’s just too low.”

It took me a while to pick apart why this particular visit weighed on my soul. I had been that person and I knew the ugly truth: as soon as we start saying students are “low” we’ve haven’t described the child, we’ve described our own limitations in believing in kids.

The terms “low functioning” and “high functioning” are not professional terms. They have no place in an educational report, school policy, or conversation. They are born from poor understanding, frustration, and/or a misplaced desire to categorize students by how high our expectations should be. Who gets to be high functioning? Who gets to be low? Did you mistakenly think (as I did) that researchers set an agreed-upon standard or that there was a test or some type of metric to determine what bin of functioning we all belong in? Perhaps there was a Harry Potter-esque Sorting Hat of Functioning?

"...‘high functioning autism’ is an inaccurate clinical descriptor when based solely on intelligence quotient demarcations and this term should be abandoned in research and clinical practice." (Alvares et al, 2019)

In absence of a Magic 8 Ball of Functioning, I challenge you to stop teaching “low functioning students,” erase the phrase from your vocabulary, and start wondering “what do we need to be successful?” Describe the supports your student needs, the skills they are working on, the behaviors and interests you’ve observed. What do you need to do differently? Tell me about your student, not the expectations people have formed. At PATINS we have not met, in our entire combined careers, students who were too anything to learn. There is always a way, and we can help.

What ever happened to Cory? I haven’t heard back from his team since then. It still makes me sad, because I know that as long as one of the most meaningful adults in his life thinks of him as “too low,” not much will change.

You will not regret ditching those words. Your students will remember you for it. You have nothing to lose but functioning labels.

They weren’t helping anyone, anyway.
2
2 Comments
  2 Comments
Jul
30

First day of school….wait a new job?

It is unbelievable to think that my daughter will be waking up and going to her new job on Monday. Didn’t I just send her off to Kindergarten a minute ago? It seems like it, but she has finished her Masters in Communication Disorders at Murray State University and is heading off to her new job as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) on Monday.
Courtney Graduation Picture

In talking to her over the last couple of days I can tell she is both excited and filled with a little anxiety. “Mom, they are going to send ME real kids!” she says to me recently. Don’t you worry Courtney, you have all the skills you need, you just may not know it yet.  

Courtney has so many resources to help her along the way and she has and will utilize them. She follows specialists in her field on social media and has already used many of their ideas and suggestions. She has met and worked with many great SLP’s during her college experience and they have also been great mentors giving her resources and support. She will be surrounded by other SLP’s at her new job and I do not doubt that they will help guide her when needed.

Courtney has been preparing for her new job along the way. My mom and I have had fun scanning yard sales and the thrift stores for items she will need. We have found many toys, puzzles, and games that she will use with her clients! After attending the PATINS Tech Expo in 2019 she decided she needed a Blubee Pal and a Time Timer. Her wishlist for graduation presents included the Bluebee, the Time Timer, a baby doll, and a race car set. My family found her list to be quite interesting! Come join us in 2020 to see what exciting items you can find for your classroom.

Being around the PATINS Project for almost 20 years has given her an insight into Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) and AAC devices, switch use, basic and complex Assistive Technology (AT), iPad use and Apps and many other concepts that many of her colleagues have not been exposed to. She was helping me do presentations in high school so I know that she is prepared!

Sandy, Courtney and her grandpa


She is also very lucky to have the support of the whole PATINS team behind her!  We have a fantastic staff that is ready to help not only Courtney but all Indiana Public School personnel. How can we help you?
1
0 Comments
  0 Comments
Jul
25

No Shelf Life On Learning

On the first day of school, thousands of students will arrive at schools, carrying their newly stocked backpacks, some may be wearing new clothes, and all of them will be hearing an internal dialogue that will be positive or negative, depending. Depending on many things. We all know how that works.

Of these students, approximately 1 in 5 will also show up with  a reading disability that requires expedient and effective interventions. At risk of sounding like a 1-string banjo, my reference is to dyslexia. Indiana Senate Law 217, a.k.a. “the new dyslexia law” is now officially implemented. In case you did not spend part of your summer reading Overcoming Dyslexia (Dr. Sally Shaywitz) or becoming an Orton-Gillingham-based scholar by other methods, do not feel discouraged. There is no shelf life to learning. And if you did spend time preparing for the requirements of this bill, kudos to you. As you know, there is an endless supply of knowledge on dyslexia to be gained.

Take every possible opportunity to learn something about dyslexia. Open the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, leave the website open and during the day whenever you have a moment of peace, read something. Share what you learn with your colleagues, ask questions, trade tricks and tips. As your understanding of dyslexia builds, so will your confidence and competence for guiding students’ paths to meaningful learning. 

Become familiar with the information and resources that are posted on the IDOE: Dyslexia web page. Joseph Risch is the Reading Specialist trained in Dyslexia for the state and will make sure that guidance posted there is relevant and current.

Dyslexia is a reading disability from organic dysfunction but not all students in this category will qualify for ICAM services, which requires an IEP.

If a student has already been identified to receive special education services and has a current IEP, or if this identification is made in the future, then that student may receive specialized formats of learning materials through the ICAM. Please contact the ICAM team for details and support.


This will include a free subscription to Learning Ally audiobooks. Digital formats, particularly audio formats prove over and again to be a leveling tool for struggling readers. Before changing the company name to Learning Ally, it was known by RFB&D, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Learning Ally by any name has always understood it's target, and the staff works to develop pertinent products that help students experience success. 

Create more than one way to teach what you teach. Design lessons that work through multiple pathways to the brain. Teaching students with dyslexia fits perfectly in the UDL-Universal Design for Learning-- framework. Contact a PATINS Specialist for help in presenting your content through the lens of UDL.

Plan to use as much technology as is appropriate and possible—iPads, audiobooks, spell-check, text-leveling, text-to-speech, speech-to-text. Let AT and AEM help you help your students. Again, the PATINS team can offer suggestions and answer questions. All PATINS Specialist love technology and love talking about it-Just ask! Invite them to your school! 

Know that if an approach or strategy is good for teaching students with dyslexia, it is useful and appropriate for all students. They may not need that extra support but it will not impede their own learning process in any way. For them it will be another layer to learning. 

Know that there will be class periods or even days that you feel overwhelmed and impatient. Step back, take a break, use self-calming techniques. Look at the big picture, then move forward. The steps to implementation and understanding the nuances to IN SB 217 will not be easy. However this process will be rewarding to you, and life-changing for your students.

In your classroom, model acceptance, kindness and respect; require the same of everyone who enters. When students feel safe and know their input is valued, essential learning will happen. 

Thanks so much!


1
0 Comments
  0 Comments
Jul
18

The End...Or Is It?

This is a bittersweet week. I am leaving The PATINS Project on Friday to head out on a new educational adventure supporting students in a similar, yet different capacity, for multiple school districts south of Indianapolis. Leaving the team is a decision that was not made lightly. Being a Specialist for the PATINS Project has been an opportunity that has changed me professionally and personally; it allowed me to partner with some of the most innovative and knowledgeable educators I have ever known. It has exposed me to dynamic and creative professionals who have what I consider to be the key to helping students -- a mixture of extreme passion, ability to transfer information to educators and always knowing WHY they do it.

Being a part of the PATINS Project has armed me with the ability to access an entire world of no-cost resources than I never imagined existed. I have learned from the best in my field, and have also been exposed to so many ways that expand my educator world without ever going outside my school office. It is my honor to impart some of these things to all of the blog followers out there.


Twitter 

If someone tweets in cyberspace and no one hears it, did it ever happen? 

When I was hired as a PATINS Specialist, I had a Twitter account -- @RachelH872 for those of you who do not follow me but absolutely should! Truthfully, I rarely used it and quite frankly had no idea why or how it could be a networking tool. I followed the Indigo Girls, Ryan Reynolds and some of my friends who seemed to lead interesting lives, but it was just something else to check. 

What I found as I started to delve into the “Twitterverse” absolutely changed my life. My Personal Learning Network (PLN) expanded beyond my wildest dreams. I took the time to figure out who I wanted to learn from and who to follow. I joined incredible weekly Twitter chats where I could learn from the experts and threw myself into moderating and participating in the PATINS Twitter chat. If you are interested in learning in a fast-paced, information-packed way, join the team every Tuesday at 8:30 EST for a half-hour chat where you can gain a PGP point for participation. The chat can be found under #PatinsIcam and is well worth your time and I will see you there! I plan on engaging and energizing each week in this chat next year!


Trainings and Webinars

I think this is one of the most incredible services offered by the PATINS Project and I plan on not only attending webinars and sessions in the future but bringing more live sessions to my new districts. Team members host in-person and web-based trainings each week delving deeper into topics that are important to educators and provide PGP points for attendance. Webinars are given at convenient times but the staff even offers private viewings and in-person trainings if the times don’t work. 

I know from experience that this is a fantastic way to connect across the state and a platform for educators to gain and share information. It is mind-blowing to me that these services come at no cost to educators. Team members will even take topics, research cutting edge information by request and produce a fantastic and informative session. Check the PATINS Project calendar for a listing of webinars and trainings! I have my eye on learning even more about accessibility this year and cannot wait to dive in!


Lending Library

The extensive Lending Library is a lifesaver to those out there, including myself, who like to “try before you buy.” No one wants or can afford to purchase an expensive device only to discover that it is not the perfect match for a student. The library not only lets educators check out devices, software, apps and other AT beauties, but also pays for shipping back and forth to further make it an economical choice for schools. There are also two virtual librarians who are extremely knowledgeable and willing to help! 


Newsletter/Blog

If you are reading this, you are probably already signed up to receive the blog. In my humble opinion, it is a fantastic weekly read. I love the fact that each team member is given the opportunity to bring a different perspective on education and what might benefit our valued educators best. In addition to this, the newsletter keeps stakeholders informed of new products and trainings on the horizon while highlighting some of our exceptional educators and students across the state. 



Conferences

I believe the PATINS conferences are the best networking experiences that Indiana has to offer for classroom implementation, Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology. Long before I worked for PATINS, I valued these genuine experiences full of national and local presenters. After experiencing the inner circle of these events, I am convinced that they are worth the time and funds. The annual Access to Education (A2E) conference is the only PATINS’ event that has a registration price tag, but in exchange, educators walk away with meaningful interactions, are exposed to state of the art presenters and flavor from the country as well as local expertise.


AEM Grant

Before I was hired to work for PATINS, I was a proud member of a school district that was accepted for the AEM Grant. My husband asked me multiple times what I was talking about, believing that our team was participating in the AMY Grant...big difference!






The AEM Grant stands for Accessible Educational Materials Grant and is a great way for school districts to bring the policies and procedures up to speed while respecting individual student need for materials given to them in the form that works best. Past school districts who have participated in this grant have shifted the paradigm of learning and increased the inclusive culture of their communities! It is a great way to support students and to help teachers with such an important charge. The grant application is still open until July 29, 2019 at midnight!

I am not sure how to end this blog entry or this chapter of my educational journey. I will never be able to thank my team enough for the experiences and knowledge I have gained from them. I am absolutely grateful that as an educator in Indiana I will be able to continue to reap the benefits of their tireless work. Thank you, PATINS for helping me become the best educator I can possibly be through your collective expertise and passion. I am so excited to work with the team in the future now that I have a true understanding of the breadth of what they have to offer! You should too!
3
0 Comments
  0 Comments
Jul
11

Connect. Elevate. Celebrate.

PATINS-Project--ECET2DeafEd-Presents_ PATINS Project & ECET2DeafEd Presents: Summer Book Club Indiana Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing

Connect. Elevate. Celebrate. 

That is exactly what happened this summer when 23 Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing gathered online for this summer’s book club exclusively for Indiana educators for students who are deaf/hard of hearing. They got the chance to connect, elevate each other, and celebrate their talents and passions as educators through summer book club possible via a mini-grant awarded to PATINS Specialist, Katie Taylor (psst, that's me) with PATINS Project in Indiana from Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) Deaf Education Central. ECET2 Deaf Education Central is a 4 state-wide group working hard to elevate and celebrate educators in the deaf education field.  

PATINS Project & ECET2DeafEd Presents: Summer Book Club Indiana Teachers for students who are deaf/hard of hearing


ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. It was born out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession. ECET2 is designed, led and facilitated by teachers, to inspire each other to become effective leaders inside and outside their classrooms. ECET2 seeks to realize a teacher’s potential by ensuring each convening aligns with its six key beliefs:
  •     Nurturing trust among teachers
  •     Focusing on each teacher’s potential for growth
  •     Inspiring both the intellect and the passion that drives teachers in their work
  •     Providing time for collaboration and learning
  •     Putting teachers in the lead
  •     Recognizing teachers as talented professionals
I wanted to be a part of this on-going effort because I have been a deaf educator for the past 9 years in Indiana. Working with 100s of students, school districts and those with the endorsement across the state it is apparent that those working in deaf education are worth the celebration. In a recent address by Dr. Nancy Holsapple, Indiana’s Director of Special Education, at the Indiana Deaf Educators and Educational Interpreter’s conference at the end of June 2019 she mentioned that Indiana currently has 53 active Teachers with the deaf/hard of hearing endorsement. It is a HUGE deal to connect these educators with one another and celebrate their effort and dedication to the field and the students of Indiana. Everyone has their "why" for teaching, but how often do you remember and reflect on it? These inspiring educators have dedicated their lives to bettering the lives of students who are deaf/hard of hearing. This book club was designed to remind the educators of their "why" and inspire them to make bring it back to their teaching this upcoming school year. ​​

As part of this book club, these teachers shared their "why" through the hashtag #whyIteachDeafEd




So, 23 of the 53 currently active Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing from all over the state of Indiana participated in the summer book club. Take a look at this google map image of how far the book club reached this summer! 

google map image of where teachers are in the state of Indiana from the book club



They got to choose which book fits their interest.  6 were recommended: 
  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  • Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • The End of Average by Todd Rose
They connected virtually via a padlet wall each week of June 2019. Weekly discussion questions for each book were posted using a padlet wall and email notifications. It was a great use of this platform that allows you to post comments, pictures, and videos as well as like posts. The posts were well received and many comments back and forth and appreciated the insight into the books that were being read. It was clear that the books chosen were valued and that a lot of thought went into what they were reading and how it connected to their personal and professional lives, more so their students that they serve. 

At the end of the month of June, the book club educators got the chance to meet online via zoom meeting room. This was a great way to end the book up and introduce themselves in a more personal, interactive way. One of the best parts was making plans for potential future meetups and then that next week to meet up at the Indiana Deaf Educator and Educational Interpreters Conference as well as potential ideas to continue this collaborative nature of the book club.  

Because of the book club, many got to meet up, informally, in person with their newly found connected educators at the Indiana Deaf Educator’s and Educational Interpreter’s Conference at the end of June 2019. It was so fun to meet the participants in person and hear how their book was helping them think of innovative ideas for their students for this upcoming school year. They were meeting other teachers that they had not met before growing their personal learning network. 

Lastly, each participant received mail with a certificate for their dedication to serving Indiana’s students who are deaf/hard of hearing and recognizing their years of service.  As well as a computer decal with the wording, “deaf educator”. Participants also received professional growth points for their participation in the book club through the PATINS Project. 

I am so excited to have gotten the chance to help connect, elevate, and celebrate our precious Indiana Teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Keep doing the amazing work in supporting the best possible outcomes for our students in Indiana! 

Please comment on your summer book selections and what you will take away from your reading to inspire your next school year with our amazing students. Don’t forget to take some time to remember your “why” as you refresh and look onto the new school year. 

Make sure to like and share the PATINS blog with your colleagues. Subscribe to this blog to receive notifications each time a PATINS/ICAM specialists posts a new blog.


1
1 Comment
  1 Comment
Jul
04

Getting to the Root

Bev holding the Uprooter and a tree removed with the tool
Growing up on a farm, and working part time for over a decade as a flower farmer, I thought I had seen most garden tools available to be grasped by green thumbs of the world: every kind of spade and hoe with unique blade shapes, specialized plates for zinnia planting, and cool Japanese beetle traps that may or may not bring every beetle in a mile radius to the bullseye center of our field. 


My horticultural paradigm was knocked off center, though, when I spent a couple of afternoons working with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired horticulture program removing invasive species from their campus. I was assigned to the group removing small trees and introduced to the UPROOTER, a.k.a. tool of my dreams. 

As shown in this video, the Uprooter grasps small trees at their base, and provides a long bar/lever to wrench the tree out, providing the most gratifying sensation of feeling the many-fingered roots pull up easily from their depths. If you’ve ever tried to pull even a half inch tree out of your landscaping by hand, maybe you, like me, have resorted to just cutting it off at the ground only to have the tree grow back in a month or so. It’s either that or back surgery. With my very own Uprooter, though, I have removed even the gnarly hackberry tree that I had just been cutting to the ground for the past ten years. 

My most successful consultations through PATINS generate a similar satisfying vibe. A Teacher for the Blind is preparing for a new educational need, or transition to middle school for a student and wants to explore technology options. They have a toolbox full of great devices, strategies and ideas, but want more training or to make sure they have the most up-to-date device. We spend most of our time talking about the student, and their unique needs, and then process our conversation using a great leveraging tool like Joy Zabala’s SETT framework. When a teacher knows their students well, and I am able to connect them with a new accessibility technique or gadget, we reach a moment when the barriers seem to loosen and slide out of the substratum of complexity.

Pinkish red zinnia
What are some barriers you’re facing this school year? Do you need to weed out any old practices that you’ve hoped would just disappear without addressing the root? We’d love to hear from you! Let a PATINS specialist be your Uprooter! 

2
1 Comment
  1 Comment
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?”



2
1 Comment
Recent comment in this post
Jennifer Conti
Reading with children is such a loving act! Great blog post, Jeff. ... Read More
Friday, 28 June 2019 08:41
  1 Comment
Jun
21

People First Language

While Spring cleaning this week, I came across a Syllabus from a Journalism Class I had nearly 40 years ago. It included a discussion on People First Language (PFL). This professor I had called it “A Person, not a Problem”. We were learning how to write descriptions of people without making their backgrounds or beliefs an issue. As the professor explained various phrases we shouldn’t use, there was one piece of advice that really stuck with me. It was this: “Don’t refer to people as being a certain thing.” The professor explained, “Write about them as people who have whatever IT may be.” Such as:
  • A woman who has cancer, not a cancer victim.
  • A man living in the county illegally, not an illegal alien.
  • People without homes, not the homeless.
  • A returning citizen, not an ex-con.
  • A woman with a mental health condition, not an insane woman.
Fast forward 20 years as I started working in Education. I applied this PFL mindset to persons with disabilities, with one realization. Words do Matter. I was bothered by the phrase my professor used “A Person, not a Problem”. My unscientific study of language revealed that the #1 word used about people with disabilities is “problem.” And the problem with “problem” is that it’s also the #1 word that activates exclusion.

Here are a few more respectful PFL examples:
  • People with Disabilities instead of Disabled or Handicapped People.
  • Student with Autism instead of Autistic Student.
  • Woman with a Visual Impairment instead of Blind Woman.
  • Accessible Parking instead of Handicapped Parking.
To learn more on People First Language, check out ARC of Indiana and Disability is Natural.

1
1 Comment
  1 Comment
Jun
13

I "Sparked Joy" In My Office and It Worked

I "Sparked Joy" In My Office and It Worked I
I don’t pretend to be any better than the kids who love to watch hours of people unboxing toys they’ll never play with: I love watching people buy homes I’ll never live in, make food I’ll never eat, or declutter spaces I’ll never visit.

To that end, I really adore Marie Kondo, the enthusiastic and sensitive soul who encourages you to either “spark joy” with items or don’t keep them, among other steps in her decluttering process. My husband is terrified when I turn on one of the episodes on Netflix, because he knows I'll be inspired to tackle another room. 😁

I admit to being a packrat and wishful crafter, especially in my job. When I see corrugated plastic yard signs or empty takeout I bring up the “Pinterest of my mind” and imagine what I could turn it into. Having a shoestring budget to cover 3-7 different rooms every year meant I had to be creative and I thought if I could just find more there would be… more! What if I needed it later?

A few years ago, unaware of Ms. Kondo’s methods, I inherited a workspace that resembled what an avalanche in a tiny library might look like. Materials were slowly suffocating me, and I realized The Purge must happen. I created a little test in my head: was this going to positively impact a student this month? Yes, keep and organize, if not, pitch. That's it, the only rule!

What was donated?
  • 60% of the games and books
  • Outdated testing materials
  • Old triplicate IEP forms from 1997
  • 99% of my college books and projects
  • 90% of the worksheets
  • Treasure box toys (and any references to treasure box/incentives)Neatly organized office supplies and a cup of coffee
  • Assistive Technology that has really truly bit the dust or past its useful life (check with your schools on how to dispose of it properly)
What stayed?
  • Solidly constructed organization tools like shelves and file drawers
  • Perennial office supplies, although not so many
  • A set of what I still consider my “speech therapy on a deserted island” emergency kit: mirror, dry erase board, post its, pens, crayons, tongue depressors
I can report I’ve never missed anything that was donated, not once.

It was better than a facelift: I felt like I had energy! The room wasn’t so busy, I could put things away quickly and my students could get things out. We were moving and grooving to a new rhythm.

At this stage in my career, the 5-7 speech rooms have condensed into the trunk of my car. It’s still a battle of making sure what’s in there really sparks joy and moves the needle. I’m moving offices again, wish me luck in making sure what stays in my new workspace provides me purpose and energy for another year!



2
2 Comments
  2 Comments
Jun
06

UDL is Natural

This has been a lively few months at the lake. I have seen wildlife for the first time and welcomed back regulars. What a year! Our new visitors include unusual ducks- the Bufflehead and Redhead, a red fox trotting in our yard before going over the frozen lake; a deer in the yard (and in the past, deer swimming across the lake). A turkey flying from a tree over the marsh behind our house, an orchard oriole. Some old friends include the Bald Eagles fishing over open water at the edge of the frozen lake, wood ducks, 2 Loons, Baltimore orioles and the noisy spring peepers/bullfrogs.

Reflecting on these friends from the animal kingdom, I realize I look forward to their seasonal visits and delight in their individuality, listening and looking for their sights and sounds. In the same spirit of appreciation, I am glad to see regular visitors including robins, hummingbirds, cardinals. In the summer, the purple martins fly low over the lake at dusk to catch mosquitos and other tiny airborne critters and the occasional kingfisher will find a tasty fish. A regular year round visitor is the great blue heron. I call our home “Heron House”. So yeah, cool stuff in my mind. 

Common Loon     Bufflehead Duck
 Redhead Duck     Wood Duck 

Orchard Oriole     Baltimore Oriole     Spring Peeper
       
Bull Frog    Bald Eagle     Wild Turkey in Tree
Red Fox    White Tail Deer in yard

I cannot help but draw a comparison to my work. There are seasons to working with schools and school systems. Each year, in the spring, I reflect on that school year as my thoughts move to the next school year. This happens with a comfortable regularity. I think back on individuality even within a system, district, school and classroom. I look for trends for what worked and what did not work and how drawing general conclusions may lead me to miss the mark on some things. For example, back to the birds. Orioles like oranges and jelly. They do not like orange marmalade. Thinking that I could combine two features into one solution proved to be an epic failure. I had not truly individualized what the orioles needed.

I am also struck by Universal Design in Nature. Everyday there are many options available to the animal kingdom for food, housing, and development. Those options are always available, not pulled out occasionally. Sometimes, new ones are provided (i.e. jelly, nectar, birdseed, corn). The key is that not each animal needs all that is available, but all animals need something from what is available.

So, taking a cue from my friends in nature, let’s make materials available in the classroom so that what is needed for each unique learner will be at the ready when our students make their seasonal return. What I wish for is the same delight I have in watching life being nurtured outside my windows, be the same delight in having student and staff nurtured, inside the classrooms, with what they need to thrive. After all, a bird is a bird, but a heron does not need what the oriole needs.

Have a fantastic summer! Rejuvenate, Revive and Return! Contact PATINS to help you achieve some classroom Universal Design. Here is a good source for learning more about Universal Design for Learning  (UDL).

Photo credit: Common LoonBufflehead Ducks,Redhead Duck,  Wood DuckOrioles, Spring PeeperBull FrogBald Eagle Wild Turkey,Red Fox,White Tail Deer, and Alamy Stock Photos -Wild Turkey Roost.

1
1 Comment
  1 Comment

Copyright 2015- PATINS Project