Mar
07

Feeling the Burnout

Feeling the Burnout Burnt toast with the words
How is it that Fall Semester has 90 school days but Spring Semester has somewhere around 1,200? It feels like it doesn't it? While some of us are anticipating a much-deserved break, you or your colleagues might be struggling with that-which-we-do-not-really-talk-about: burnout.

I cried every day of the first two weeks in my first post-graduation job. No hyperbole: I went through my entire tissue box in my car and I knew exactly what spot to park in so the cafeteria staff couldn’t see my tears. I'm grateful to report that it got better. My first experience with burnout wasn't my last, but each time has taught me to be more patient and gentle with myself and others.


Still, it sucked.

My first job out of graduate school, I was excited but pragmatic. I wasn’t planning on changing the world, I just wanted to be a good speech-language pathologist. I wanted to help my students meet their goals, I wanted to turn in all my paperwork on time, to feel good about the work I did with kids, and have a real life outside of work.

When I woke up I felt I had enough energy and resources to pick two of those things and let the other two slide. I was miserable. I privately wondered if I was burnt out already, only a few months in.

I wasn’t burnt all the way, but the edges were pretty rough, a little toasty if you will, and it was obvious in the day-to-day. I was physically sick more than I’d ever been. I was short with people that didn’t deserve it. Every little ask or additional work felt like I was being personally singled out. Didn’t anyone care?!

The truth is, in education, we care and we are surrounded by people who care. We care so much, all day long, without ceasing, and the unpaid emotional work comes at a cost. In many cases, especially for those of us who work with students who have experienced trauma, it can come on acutely with compassion fatigue or slowly with burnout.

The Life Stress Test is one tool to help gauge how susceptible you are to stress-related illness. Notice that happy things, like marriages and vacations, contribute to stress just like deaths and job changes. Just before I started my (tear soaked) first two weeks:

Got married (50 points)
Had a change in financial status (38 points)
A student loan over $30,000 (31 points)
Change to a different line of work (36 points)
Finished School (26 points)

The month before I started school racked up enough "stress points" to put me firmly into a category of moderate concern, let alone everything else weighing on me up to that point. With all the “happiest time of your life” cards I’d gotten, it seemed wrong to be feeling stressed and upset. Looking back, I wish someone had said that I could be really happy to be married and employed and really unhealthily stressed at the same time, just to relieve some of the guilt.

It's interesting to note that most of these "stress tests" are very adult-oriented. What would it look like for many of our students? I imagine:

Walked into school late (15 points)
Unexpected substitute teacher (22 points)
High-stakes test (40 points)
Surprise convocation (13 points)
Something bad happened at home but the adults won't explain it to me (20-60 points)

Life has since changed for the better because I made changes. I surrounded myself with wonderful, positive people who listened and taught me how to manage my work. I said “no” to some things so I can say “yes” to self-care. I created new schedules. I learned new paperwork management techniques. I applied UDL principles in my work for my students and for myself. I had fun! PATINS had a wonderful twitter chat about mindfulness on Tuesday, many shared tools and ideas I want to try. Take a look at this calendar from Montgomery Co Public Schools around self-care (thanks for sharing @PossBeth). Try a few in the upcoming week, see how you feel!

While most of the things on this list helped me overcome my temporary bout with high-stress and burnout, sometimes we need more assistance and help to find that help. The correlation between burnout and depression is strong and, for many, these techniques aren't enough. Before I stepped foot in a classroom I was given training on the ways my students could access more mental health services and support but it took years before I learned about help for me and my fellow educators, such as:

Seek a professional. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs or other opportunities to take advantage of free or nearly free counseling services.

Suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, with accessible services for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and in Spanish.

Consider getting trained in responding to someone who is in crisis. Many districts offer training in Question, Persuade, Respond program or other crisis response techniques to empower all people to intervene and prevent suicide.

My hope is that you know you're not alone. My deepest wish is that when you reach out for help PATINS can help you feel less "toasty-to-burned out" as you manage new expectations and challenges, you'll find an enthusiastic colleague and listening ear.

We're rooting for you!
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Recent Comments
Guest — Jill Banks
Great article! Thanks for writing this!
Thursday, 07 March 2019 09:12
Guest — Katie Taylor
Thank you so much for the resources in this blog!! Its so great to not feel alone and have support! I printed the March calendar.... Read More
Thursday, 07 March 2019 09:22
Guest — Jen
Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this story, Jessica. It parallels my experiences and I know that of my friends/colleag... Read More
Thursday, 07 March 2019 10:09
  8 Comments
Feb
21

#ThrowbackThursday - Look at the Past & Future

#WayBackWednesday, #ThrowbackThursday, and the #10YearChallenge are opportunities for us to peek back into history. I love seeing these types of posts because it reminds me how small changes in the past lead to impressive results in the future.

Collage of PATINS/ICAM staff members from the past (2008).

2008 photo collage of PATINS/ICAM staff members. Left to right. (Top Row) Glenda Thompson, Lori Kane, Walt Daigle, (Middle Row) Daniel McNulty, Vicki Hershman (Bottom Row) Jeff Bond, Tina Jones, Jim Lambert, Sandy Stabenfeldt. Not pictured: Sheri Schoenbeck, Carrie Owens, Alice Buchanan

Have you read the PATINS Project’s fascinating origin story yet? I recently did. It's amazing that as I was learning my ABCs & 123s in a small, Cincinnati school, many dedicated educators were setting the foundation for the PATINS Project to bring access to all students one state away. Have a #ThrowbackThursday party of your own and take a look at Glenda’s 2016 post about the history of the PATINS Project.

After reading it, I realized that PATINS/Staff as a whole, both past & present, are forward thinkers. No idea is too simple or too outlandish. Never have I heard, “We do it that way because that’s how it’s always been done.” New ideas are met with “Tell me more!” This is a rare quality to find organization-wide and it has led to successful initiatives like the AEMing for Achievement grant.

Forward thinkers don’t rest on their laurels, so what does PATINS have in store for you in the future?

In early April, we’ll be hosting the PATINS Tech Expo 2019 in partnership with IN*SOURCE with vendors and non-profits from around the nation sharing the latest educational tools and support services. Before you talk yourself out of it due to cost or time commitment, there is no cost... and it is only one day off your calendar. Trust me, the resources you gain will help your students ten-fold.

Furthermore, we’ll be releasing videos like Success Stories featuring students and surprising dedicated educators with Starfish Awards. Maybe you’ll recognize some of these fellow Hoosiers!

Did you see we added a new Extended Chat option for #PatinsIcam Twitter Chat? If you can’t meet us at 8:30 PM EST on Tuesdays, now you have the rest of the week to join the conversation.

As always our Specialists & ICAM staff members are updating their trainings to include topics important to stakeholders and our Lending Library is consistently updated with the latest and greatest tools for you to borrow.

Signing up for our monthly eNewsletter is the easiest way to stay up to date with everything new at PATINS.

Now, I ask you to reflect. How have our services shaped your district, school, students, or even you over the years? What do you hope to see from PATINS in the future? Comment to let us know. :)

PATINS/ICAM staff picture 2018.

2018 Photo of PATINS/ICAM staff members. Left to right. (Back Row) Julie Kuhn, Kelli Suding, Rachel Herron, Jeff Bond, Sandy Stabenfeldt, Jessica Conrad, Carrie Owens, Martha Hammond, and Jena Fahlbush. (Front Row) Jen Conti, Glenda Thompson, Bev Sharritt, Daniel McNulty, Sheri Schoenbeck, Andria Mahl, Sandi Smith, and Katie Taylor


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Recent Comments
Guest — Rachel Herron
Jen, I loved this retrospective and review of what we currently offer!
Thursday, 21 February 2019 10:21
Guest — Julie Kuhn
nice Jen!
Thursday, 21 February 2019 10:46
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Ahh, I haven't changed a bit! Ha Ha. Well, my passion for this work we all do for the students of Indiana hasn't, that's for sur... Read More
Friday, 22 February 2019 10:30
  4 Comments
Feb
14

A Reading & Writing App from me to you!

Pink & read M&M candies in heart shape.This Valentine is better than candy!

I learn so many great things every year. I want to pass one of them on to you this time in my blog. Being the Secondary Age Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) specialist for PATINS allows me to introduce auditory reading/text to speech technology and writing supports like voice to text and word prediction to so many Indiana educators and their students. This powerful combination can be the difference between a graduation certificate and a diploma for students with learning or cognitive disabilities. They are capable of so much when they are properly supported. There are many great solutions out there. The correct one for each student depends on their environment and task

Claro SoftwareHere is a new option, ClaroSoftware. ClaroSoftware includes the following apps: ClaroRead for PC, ClaroRead for Mac, ClaroRead for Chromebook, as well as iPad, iPhone, and Android Apps. ClaroRead for Chromebook comes free with both ClaroRead for PC or Mac. This is great if a student uses different devices in different settings. ClaroRead for Chromebook can also be purchased on its own, however, it is not as powerful as ClaroRead for PC or Mac.  Here is a quick comparison of the PC and Mac versions. 

ClaroSoftware is different in another way. I know that it is all about the student and the tools, but sometimes it comes down to....Hand writing COST in blue marker across the screen.
The pricing structure includes a version where the app can be purchased for a one time cost. No subscription, just like when we downloaded software to specific computers for specific students. Now don't go thinking I've changed! I still think it should be on every computer for every student. That's best practice and also increases the likelihood of the students that have to use it, doing so. Now that I have said that, the pricing options across the board are pretty great too! 

More great reading & writing solutions:
TextHelp - Read&Write, Snapverter, Equatio, Fluency Tutor, WriQ, Browsealoud 
DonJohnston - Snap&Read, Co:Writer, and First Author

If this wasn't the valentine you wanted from me, here's another! Baby Shark Valentine
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Feb
07

Playing beneath the clovers...

“It was late in the night when she heard her mother screaming from her bedroom. Even through the headphones she wore each night to block out those sounds, she could hear.  She ran to the door and threw it open to find her mother being held beneath scalding water in the shower fully clothed. She already had bruises but immediately stopped crying and said to her daughter, “I’m fine. I am sorry, go back to bed...I am OK.”

She left like she always did, not hearing her mother make another sound. She lay on the floor beside her sister’s bed in the corner as she always did when her mother and stepfather came home late at night. She put her headphones back on and dreamt of wishing she could shrink small enough to play beneath the 4 leaf clovers in the grass where no one could see her or ask any questions about her or her family.

She woke up hungry, put on clothes that had not been washed and walked to the bus stop away from the large, beautiful home with the facade of a happy, safe place...her siblings not even waving as they drove past her to school.

The bus door opened, the driver offering her a large smile and she offered one back making a joke that she woke up late, barely caught the bus and that’s why her shirt was so wrinkled. She found her friends on the bus and headed to school.

Field of clovers with heart shaped open patch.
Her teachers adored her and appreciated that she always asked about their day. She loved to laugh, even though insecure about her own smile...laughter was the medicine that kept her afloat. Her friends commented on how well she listened and that she should think about being a psychologist one day. She did think about that; for it would keep her in a place to continue to listen but not have to share. She developed and honed in on that skill of listening...truly listening, hearing, caring and helping all those around her. 

One day while at school, she found herself in a daze in class and a tear must have escaped her eye. Her teacher approached her and asked if she was ok. She responded, “I’m fine. I’m sorry...I’ll get back to work. I’m OK.” Words she heard so often from her mother...nearly every night. Once again, she succeeded…she was able to continue to play “beneath the clovers,” then get back on the bus and start it all over again.”

This is just one story of a student. There are many left untold, unfixed, unnurtured. I once read an article about “ghosts” in the classroom. These are the untold, unseen stories of our students who come to our class each day. These are stories that get suppressed, buried deep inside because they feel like they have no outlet or a safe place to share.

There is so much trauma that comes to our classroom each day. Give students multiple outlets to share, share your own struggles, offer understanding and make it known that we all have stories. These stories need to be shared, nurtured and cared. Do not let these stories define our students; that leads to feelings of shame. Everyone has a story...make sure you are listening with ALL of your senses. Be a Ghostbuster. Ghostbuster logo.

If you do not have this commercial in your life yet...take the 3 minutes to make that happen now






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Guest — Rachel Herron
Kelli...this poignant blog took my breath away. Thank you for sharing this...if even one educator sees though what we want to see ... Read More
Friday, 08 February 2019 11:12
  1 Comment
Feb
04

What We May Not Always Perceive First…Always Matters.


sketch drawing of a child facing away with a large backpack covering his/her back.
Recently, while traveling, I found myself engaged in conversation with another traveling educator about the stresses of air travel. The recount of the travel experience that this other traveler shared, made all of mine call back to memory as if they were lazy Sunday morning cups of black coffee and required me to hold back tears for her. I listened. I confirmed, beyond doubt, that her experience was terribly frustrating, sad, hurtful and that it was exceedingly important to share it with as many people as possible. I told her I knew of a great forum for doing just this. A place where I knew that some of the most passionate educators and warriors against injustice frequented with hungry eyes and ears. After a short and gentle persuasion, this fellow traveling educator graciously agreed to contribute her painful story as my guest-blogger this week.  


I had just finished speaking to others about the importance of inclusionary practices and had even shared stories of several students I personally know, who struggle daily with being treated unfairly for a variety of reasons. I was traveling from one national educational conference to another with a colleague of mine and needed to board an airplane to my next destination. I speak to others often, about disabilities and about including all kids in all aspects of the educational experience. What I don’t always tell people, is that I have a disability myself. One cannot really see my disability by looking at me and sometimes I choose to not share. However, I sometimes struggle with numbers, letters, direction, verbal instructions, and word recall. My colleague helps out with this stuff, but this time was unfortunately, a little different. As a frequent traveler, I have documentation that allows me to skip the security lines at airports…not only a nice convenience, but truly an accommodation for me. My colleague does not have this documentation and proceeded through the typical security cattle chute, as I smiled my way toward TSA Pre-Check.

I immediately noticed two other people also preparing for Pre-Check. These travelers also had a disability; ones that were visible. I was asked by TSA workers to allow these travelers in front of me.  Of course, I immediately complied with a smile and offered well-wishes to them on their travels. A few moments after stepping aside, I apparently had ended up standing in a restricted area and was hastily noticed by TSA, who advanced toward me with great urgency! Yes, these were the same TSA staff who had just asked me to step aside. They questioned why I was there, what I was doing, who I was, if I had Pre-Check credentials, where my identification was, where was my bag, if I knew that I was standing in a restricted space, why I was still standing there, what was in my purse.

Like lightning had struck, I instantly found myself shocked and without my own speech. This frequently happens to me when I feel like things are falling apart around me. My words all fall into a downward spiraling drain like a toilet flushing and I cannot retrieve them! To the TSA agent in my face, my silence was perceived as non-compliance. I was physically pulled to the side, my purse taken from me and searched as demanding words continued to flood my brain. As I was trying to decide if I’d done something wrong or if this was the result of my different brain, my boarding pass was being commanded. It was on my phone, of course, and I couldn’t recall the numbers of my passcode in the correct order. My hands were sweating by this time, so my thumb also wouldn’t open my phone. My identification and Pre-Check documentation was in my purse, which was not in my possession. I couldn’t speak, even to get my name out and certainly not to state why I was standing where I was. There was no way I could even say, “I have a disability, I’m not being contentious.” My colleague was already through regular security and unable to help me. I was on my own, with people who didn’t know I had a disability, thought I was being oppositional, and I’d actually done nothing wrong. I was crying by this point and was actually asked by the TSA staff, “what’s your problem, lady?”

The reason I was standing in the restricted area was because the TSA agents took special care to accommodate the other travelers who had a visible disability, which I was more than agreeable to me! However, to then be treated as a potential threat when my own disability was not outwardly visible, was devastating.  


Most of us have probably heard the old adage, “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Upon hearing this story, and holding back most of my own liquid emotion, I reminded myself that many people probably carry more in the bag within the bag, than the bag we actually see. A lot of people are quite good at putting the old tattered bag inside the shiny new bag and it’s easy to see that shiny bag without another thought about what might actually be inside of it. Your students, your colleagues, your students’ families, all have two or three other bags. It may not always be easier, but it’s always worth it, kinder, more productive, more efficient long-term, and more effective to presume that there’s another bag.  “What’s your problem, lady,” “what’s your problem kid,” is rarely productive and not the question that will get to the answers we actually seek. It is of utmost importance, that we seek to accommodate both the things we can see, hear, touch AND those we might not perceive immediately.  

What We May Not Always Perceive First…Always Matters.
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Jan
17

Solving the puzzle!

Some of my favorite things go together so nicely.  Playing tennis on a tennis court overlooking the ocean while a dolphin plays in the background would be my idea of a perfect afternoon!  Another perfect scenario would include me sitting by the ocean reading a mystery novel while a manatee splashed around. Another of my favorite activities is putting together a puzzle with my husband and daughter on our dining room table.  I call it “family puzzling time” and it always makes me so happy to have everyone together completing a puzzle.

As I was contemplating my next blog posting I was thinking about how things fit together. Many times we have pieces of our lives or daily routines that need to fit together to help complete our puzzles.  Thinking about how pieces go together relate to the students I serve as well. Teachers have the complex task of figuring out which pieces of the puzzle fit to best serve their students.  

Each student is unique and will require a different solution.  Some students will need AEM (Accessible Educational Materials) and a technology solution to access these materials. This is where the ICAM (Indiana Center for Accessible Materials) can help. We can provide answers and solutions for your students who struggle with print materials. We can help solve your puzzling student situations.

Do your students need digital text, do they need to access it on an iPad, do they need text to speech? Or do they need audio text on a Windows computer? The different scenarios are endless and the ICAM can help you put the puzzle together.   

If you find yourself with a puzzling case, please do not hesitate to contact the ICAM! Sandy Stabenfeldt (myself), Jeff Bond and Martha Hammond are here to help you every step of the way.


Sandy StabenfeldtJeff BondMartha Hammond


The ICAM webpage is full of great information and resources for you to check out as well.  We have also made some step by step videos to assist you!
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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Glenda Thompson
I read a trend here...you like the Ocean! As well as exercise, family time and taking on challenges, like puzzles...or colleagues... Read More
Friday, 01 February 2019 15:19
  1 Comment
Jan
10

Teacher, Wash Your Face

Thanks for sharing the lies you used to believe and found a way to dismiss, Rach! Have you heard of Rachel Hollis? She published a book this year that has gone viral called, “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be.” Have you read it? If you haven’t, I recommend the great and easy read!

Katie holding Girl, Wash Your Face book.

Now, it's our turn to share and help others dismiss the voice inside their head. One lie that I used to believe for a long time is the one regarding age. Growing up we all experienced those moments when our parents told us, "You can when you're older," or "You’ll understand when you're older". Leaving you to always long for just the right moment “when you're old enough” for whatever it is.

Now that I am older, it has morphed in my professional career that has left me longing until “I have enough experience to write that book, or present on that topic, or to do exactly what I think I have always been meant to do". Always being told that you need to “put in your dues” and then it will be your turn. Suddenly, I realized that I am longing to do the things of the “experienced” and waiting for “someone” to tell me “it's time”. Do you find yourself waiting for permission or asking for someone else’s approval for that gutsy move to get ahead in your career? One of Rachel Hollis’ quotes from the book is,


“No one can tell you how big your dreams can be.”

We all seem to care a little too much about what others are going to say. The truth is if we wait for these moments, we may be waiting our whole lives. Another favorite quote:

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.”

So, what have you been waiting to do?

Maybe you have been waiting to integrate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and technology into your classroom or program? PATINS Specialists are standing by for your email or call for on-site consultation and our *no cost* PATINS Tech Expo is coming up on April 4th to help connect you with the right tools, know-how, and inspiration to make your ideas a reality! Your time is now! Don’t wait to contact us and let us know how we can support you today! {Free Registration for Tech Expo opens soon!}

Don’t forget to like, comment and share this blog and the Tech Expo with your fellow teachers!

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Jan
03

Happy New Year!

You maybe haven’t thought about it but we are 8 months away from the implementation of IN SB 217, the dyslexia law. I think of it often. I have this fear that the 2019-2020 school year will arrive and there will be those who have not prepared and are not sure where to begin. Don’t let that happen to your school. If you haven’t already, begin working toward success now as we inch towards implementation. It is not too soon, even if students with dyslexia have not been screened yet, to consider accommodations. I know, all students are different, yet there will be certain strategies you will go back to again and again.

During the PATINS Access to Education Conference 2018 in November, I entered a session where the topic of accommodations was being discussed for students with learning differences such as dyslexia. The presenters were speaking on the importance of providing text to speech software, audiobooks, and other tools that “level the playing field” for certain students.  

Someone commented that in her classroom, she was reluctant to allow the use of tools that others do not have, because “it’s not fair.” The presenter quickly pointed out that what is unfair is to deny accommodations for a student who needs them, because they are not available to the whole class. Rick Lavoie has said, fairness means that everyone gets what they need, not that everyone gets the same thing. Or, as the presenter said, “Would you take away a student’s eyeglasses because others have perfect vision?”

Making accommodations so that all students have access to content and opportunities for growth is, in effect, changing individual learning environments. So, if you create each student’s work environment according to how each student learns, you are providing appropriate accommodations. Also, you are building universally designed instruction. This is a natural flow. To keep yourself from getting swamped, think of some accommodations you can beneficially provide to everyone.


For example, when you give an assignment, make it very explicit. Tell how many pages are required. Demonstrate how to extract the pros and cons of a viewpoint. If using specific vocabulary words is required, hand out a separate list of the words to everyone, so all students can check them off as they go. Show examples and visual aids of what you expect. Allow students to ask questions and clarify until everyone understands gets it. If a student returns to you to revisit the instructions, this is no time to say “I told you once.” Everyone should understand the assignment before they begin and as they move forward.

Which leads to the matter of drafts, or revisions of writing assignments. Thinking back to my school days, turning in a couple of drafts for teacher suggestions and re-writes was offered for “term papers” in high school. This would also be helpful on everyday assignments because it will help improve grades for strugglers, and it will help students get in a habit of checking over their own work. This is a learned skill, best taught early.

Allow extra time for in-class assignments. For everyone. Once you know your students, and know which ones do not need extra time, it might be appropriate to pair that student with one who needs more support. Even if your school does not implement a Peer-Buddy System, teachers can improvise one informally during specific classes. Until the teacher and students get the hang of this, the teacher will need to closely monitor the process. Expect such pairings to be advantageous for both students, for it can increase awareness of difference and sameness, tolerance and helpfulness, confidence and trust. Win/Win!

Everything suggested here will take time. Sometimes, if a task is not a standard, or not required, the time factor may seem unjustifiable. However, we are changing learning environments to accommodate students with dyslexia and we are long overdue.

Any of the PATINS Specialists can help you build a learning environment using Universal Design. Also, we post relevant information on the PATINS/ICAM Dyslexia Resources Page, and the IDOE continues to share guidance on their own Dyslexia Resources Page. Joe Risch, who is the new Reading Specialist with Training in Dyslexia for the state, gives some great answers to need-to-know questions. You are covered in a blanket of support. Happy New Year!




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Recent Comments
Guest — Katie
Thanks for continueing this important discussion, Martha!
Thursday, 03 January 2019 20:15
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Great post, Martha. I'm grateful you are keeping this in the forefront of our minds.
Friday, 01 February 2019 15:23
  2 Comments
Dec
27

A New Year, A New Classroom?

Traditional & UDL Classroom Comparison From a traditional classroom to one that is more universally designed.
For many people, the end of the year is laden with traditions. After all, traditions are inherently part of the many cultures that exist around the world, especially when it comes to holidays and celebrations. They are present in a variety of our routines, activities, and schedules at home, work, and school.

Some traditions evolve over the years, reflecting the change in the times, the environment, or the family, while others remain the same from one year to the next. I like to call the latter, anchor traditions. I believe that our desire to observe these traditions not only stems from the definition that they bring to us as a people, but is deeply rooted in the comfort and familiar expectations that accompany each one.

Furthermore, I believe that it’s within this comfort and familiarity that many traditions, good and bad, persist in our schools and classrooms. It’s natural to cling to what we know and what has always been done, but when does our personal comfort begin to impede the learning experience for our students?

I’d argue that more often than not holding onto what we know to be true in a zone of comfort, holds us back from doing the job we truly want to do as educators. That it keeps us in the mindset of teaching the way we were taught, of putting our academic to-do lists before our students more immediate needs, of being resistant to new ideas, of overlooking the value that each student brings to the classroom, of forgetting why we became teachers in the first place.

In fact, as I reflect upon my own teaching and experience, I can admit that I allowed myself to retreat to my personal comfort zone, teaching the way I was taught and projecting onto my students what I wanted for them without asking them what they wanted for themselves.

Had I known then what I know now, there are steps that I would have taken to shift the focus from my traditional, teacher-centered methods solely created to manage my classroom to a student-centered classroom driven by my students’ individual wants and needs.

But how?

I would have started with relationship building. Not the type of relationship building that happens those first few days of school (and includes the obligatory beginning of the year “get-to-know me” poster activity), but real relationship building. The type that takes time, energy, and sometimes a lot of effort and persistence. The type that begins with allowing every student to enter the classroom with a clean slate and without preconceived notions.

I would have asked my students to share how they prefer to learn, what they believed their strengths and weaknesses to be, what their fears were and always given them multiple ways to respond - verbally, in writing, with pictures, etc.

I would have asked my students to tell me what they wanted to learn that year and worked to incorporate their interests into the daily lessons and activities.

I would have asked my students how they were doing and truly listened without judgement.

I would have worked hard to make sure my students knew that I sincerely cared about them regardless of their behavior and even in the worst of times.

Relationship building can be a game changer and is key when it comes to creating a student-centered environment. And though it may be difficult to foster new relationships and leave behind those all too comfortable traditional methods, all it really takes to head in a new direction focused on students is to take the first step. The upcoming new year and semester offers the perfect opportunity to take this step, so will you?

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Dec
20

The Gift of Growth

We welcome a guest blogger this holiday week, Julie Bryant, who is a teacher for the blind and low vision serving in Dubois, Spencer, Perry and Pike Counties. I love Julie’s style: she’s direct, funny and a fierce advocate for her students. I turned her loose to choose a topic, and I’m not surprised that she’s chosen to share stories of her students and their achievements:

Julie Bryant and her husband Bill.
When Bev asked me to participate in the PATINS weekly blog I decided with Thanksgiving just behind us and Christmas quickly approaching I felt that it was important to talk about the blessings that being a BLV teacher has afforded me. I am blessed to meet my students when they first enter preschool and remain with them until they graduate high school and if I’m lucky, beyond. I have students that still call me when they have a question, concern, or just need some advice after moving on to college or the workforce. Watching these students grow and blossom is the greatest gift. 


As BLV teachers when our students succeed or fail we feel those joys and sorrows right along with our students and their parents. The technology that we now have for our students has come a long way over the last 10 years that I have been in this position. 

Technology has helped my blind and low vision students feel more like their peers and given them access to more information, books, and careers. My blind students have BrailleTouch devices, MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones that have allowed them to be more independent. 

One of my students in high school wants to be a lawyer and if his ability to argue his case with me daily about anything and everything is any indication of his abilities, I know he will be amazing. He gives Sunday sermons at a small country church once a month (I’ve said for years he should be a preacher!), as he seems to inspire others. He would eventually like to get into politics (ugh), but at least I know he will be an honest and upstanding politician! He is an inspiration not because he is blind, but because he doesn’t see himself as different and gets upset when people treat him with disrespect because he is blind. 

I have a student with low vision who is attending IU. She is part of the IU singing Hoosiers and has an amazing voice. She is also studying to be a psychologist. Being part of this exclusive group was a goal she worked hard to attain and she has a work ethic second to none.

I have tried to impress upon my students that they can do or be anything they want, but they have to put in the work to achieve those goals. Some think I am pretty tough, but if being tough helps my students succeed then I will continue to push my students.
 


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Recent Comments
Sandy Stabenfeldt
Thank you Julie for sharing! We are very proud of the work you are doing!
Thursday, 20 December 2018 15:27
Guest — Mary P
Wonderful, Julie!!!
Thursday, 20 December 2018 17:23
Guest — Deb Moon
I am proud to call Julie my “Best Friend!” Her compassion and dedication is honest and sincere! She loves her students and familie... Read More
Thursday, 20 December 2018 20:46
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