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Showing posts from 2010

My New Year's Resolution: Today I'm Going to try to Change the World

In the last hours of this year I'm feeling I should have a lot to say in regards to beginnings and endings.  This has been my most difficult (but also most reflective) year on the professional front.  I'm excited because all the tears and frustrations have brought me to a point where I better understand what I believe and what I want for both my son and  my students.  This is both good and bad.  In the end I believe all I can do is wake up each morning and always keep what is right for my students in the forefront.  So here is my resolution without a lot of words...


From the lyrics of this song...
I'm going say hello to my neighbor. Greet him with a smile. Shake the hand of a stranger.  Sit and talk for a while. Tell someone I love them from the bottom of my heart. Know there's a right and wrong.  I wlil never turn my back on those of us who need someone. I'm going to try to see myself through another's eyes. Today I'm gong to try to change the world.  Not for me…

I'm Out of the Loop!

4.5 years ago I made the move from "the regular classroom" to "special education".  I have always enjoyed technology and when I taught regular education classes I also taught computers and felt I used a fair amount of technology.  14.5 years ago I had enrolled in a Masters program with a focus of "technology in education".  This was in the days when we were still wondering if we could use the "World Wide Web" in the classroom.  We still had card catalogues in our libraries!  When I moved to special education my experience with technology changed to adaptive technologies and augmentative communication devises.  A series of things have forced me back in to looking at more mainstream stuff (not the least of which is the iPad because so many of the technologies I had been using now have similar apps for significantly cheaper). I discovered very quickly that there was a whole world that I wasn't tapping in to.  I will not pretend to know a  lot ab…

Seriously... How do you expect me to learn when there is no Wi-Fi?

I stumbled upon this video the other day and it made me think of a conference that I attended with a handful of other educators last month.  We trudged in with our iPads, notebooks, phones and throughout the conference we used these to write notes, look things up online, send out information we were getting at the conference to people we thought would be interested...etc.  Our gadget activity was all (mostly) linked to what the conference was about.  I have to say that its the first time I was this active with my "gadget" during a conference (as in the past I used it only to take notes) and it was also the engaged I have ever felt in a conference.  It worked for me as a learner and I'm sure it would work for a lot of other learners too.  Really speaks to the need to consider teaching students educational and responsible use of these devises rather than banning them.

At least the students will do the right thing...

Check out this article: SOU Students Protest Rejection of Woman With Down Syndrome. There is hope for the future if this young ladie's peers are standing up against the injustice that is being done by not allowing this student in the class.  I have always said we can learn much from our students.  We are so quick to point out all the negatives about the students and young adults coming behind us but in reality I see more kindness and compassion than ever before.  I just wanted to send out a big thumbs up to the students who stood up for this learner :).

My List of 10 for 2010: 10 Workshops and/or Speakers

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend serveral different workshops and speakers in 2010.  Here is my rundown from most to least impact for me... Dr. Stephen Shore: Spoke to the issue of self-advocacy which is something I was just so excited to be listening to.  Got some great information and was able to find some great resources as a result of this workshop. John Antonetti: This was a day long presentation on "student engagement".  What I left with was the connection and cross over between "student engagement" and "universal design for learning".  PECs Level 1 Training: I have been using PECs for several years with both my son and some of my students but had always done it with an SLP overseeing it.  Getting the training myself really gave me a clearer understanding of approach and long term goals.  Completely worth the two days that I was out of town to get to the training :). Temple Grandin: I was able to attend a workshop where Temple Grandin was on…

Thursday Think: Connectivism

I'm an introvert who went to University to learn how to teach highschool mathematics.  A large portion of the first 14 years of my teaching career was spent doing exactly that.
I'm an idealist (or perhaps I'm a skeptic or a pesimist as the line seems to be a bit blurred).  I often look at things and see how they can be done better.  I have never been okay with keeping things status quo and I think I have to change jobs every so many years because I somehow make the current job that I'm in too big. I'm a perfectionist.  This is not a good thing for me because it is rooted in a lot of insecurities that I have about myself.  I have to constantly fight to ensure that I'm working effectively and efficiently and not getting caught up on details that have no real return.
Lately I'm discovering that above all this I'm a humanist (a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity).  This is what has driven me to be everything el…

Why Inclusion Matters (#1)

There are so many reasons why inclusion matters.  I included a (#1) in my title because I'm sure over the course of the next little while I will be reusing this title over and over again.  I'm sure this is the first in a series of posts.
This thought starts with a nagging thought and a personal story:

Back in October we decided to change up the schedule of one of the students in my classroom.  Rather than looking at including him for "specials" we decided to have him join the "regular classr for core academic time.  It was a shift and although we have not achieved perfection as far as inclusion goes I believe we are on the right path.  One of the driving forces behind wanting him to be in Language Arts class in particular was to try to expose him to not only remediated language arts instruction but also to grow literacy skills.  Although we had done some focus work on literacy in our room it had mostly been in a one-on-one type of setting and we found very quickl…

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: December 22-28, 2010

Excellence and Integrity - The Truth About Making a Difference on 21st Century Collaborative: As I dig further in to this whole "inclusion thing" I'm finding more and more that its about educational reform as much (or more) as it is about inclusion and so I've started to read more on 21st century teaching. This was a much needed reminder as it seems it is time for action rather than just researching and making baby steps.
8 Real Ways Facebook Enriched Ms. Schoening's First Grade Class on The Innovative Educator: An older post (as I just found this blog and was digging through it backwards) but one worth commenting on.  Nice to see a proactive approach to teaching responsible social media use.

My List of 10 for 2010: 10 Books I've Read This Year

This has been a year where I've been working hard to figure out exactly what it is I believe in as a teacher.  In doing this I've done a lot of exploring and I wanted to share some of that exploring in a few posts related to what I've read and done this past year as far as "professional development" goes.  My first list is a list of the books that I read this year that helped me to better define what I believe in.  Dymystifying the Autism Experience: A Humanistic Approach for Parents, Caregivers and Educators by William Stillman: Early this year my 11 year old son who has Down syndrome was given a second diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  When I came in to my room 4.5 years ago I had one student with Autism who had a pretty established protocol that worked.  When you teach one student with ASD... you teach one student with ASD.  In September 2009 we added student number 2 with ASD, in November 2009 we added student number 3 with ASD, in February 2010 my son w…

Two Cent Tuesday: Reflecting on Lessons Learned in 2010

Here we are at the end of 2010.  Beyond a doubt, this has been my most challenging year as a teacher. It has also been my the year that I feel the most alive as a teacher.  We have gone through a lot of changes and I feel we are sitting on the edge of many more.  I am at a place where I can pull back in to my classroom, not create any waves and keep doing what I'm doing or I can take all the discomfort that has come with this past year and move forward (probably through even more discomfort).  Its exhuasting and hard but also incredibly exciting.  I think I am finally getting back to why I made the move from regular education to special education 4.5 years ago - to make the changes that are so needed in special education.  But now its bigger because I'm coming to see that the changes needed in special education are really just a reflection of the changes needed in regular education.  I do not know where this is all going to go but over the weeks I've gotten closer to a pla…

Monday's Motivation: A Vision for 21st Century Teachers

The flip side of today's earlier post.  I have thoughts on everything that I've been sharing for "Monday's Motivation" and it is my intention to begin using this blog in 2011 as a place of reflection related to the tie between educational reform and special education.  For now I'm just gathering my information :).



Monday's Motivation: A Vision for k-12 Students Today

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: December 15-21, 2010

Passing the Test on Spencer's Scratchpad: Loving this blog.  Need to get his book!

Monday's Motivation: Do Schools Kill Creativy?

Monday's Motivation: Joe's Non-Netbook

Two Cent Tuesday: You have to crawl before you walk... Or do you?

This weekend my cousin, who also has a son with Down syndrome, posted a celebration of his first independent steps as her facebook status.  And what a celebration that is!  I remember vividly celebrating each of those great milestones in the first years of Mikey's life.  They were each so definitive and wonderful. Looking back this weekend I was also struck with the order of Mikey's development.  Mikey crawled when he was 9 months old but did not sit up independently until he was 11 months old.  This is not "typical development" but it really didn't much matter to me as he was accomplishing things and we just celebrated whatever he accomplished.  I had to work with him on both crawling and sitting unassisted.  With crawling we would put a towel under his tummy and just pull him a bit up so he could start to get his tummy off the floor.  With sitting we padded around him and slowly pulled the padding off from different sides until he was able to sit without it.  Wi…

Monday's Motivation: Famous Failures

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: December 1-7, 2010

Eligibility Categories vs Educational Needs on KPS 4 Parents:  This year I have taken two of my students who would have traditionally been in my room and placed them in regular classrooms for core academic times.  I hope to do this with more of my students.  I have been really struggling with how students get placed in specialized classrooms and if these truly are the best placements for them this year.  Reading posts like this one help me to better define where my struggles are.

What I Learned from Swimming Class on The Spicy Learning Blog:  I always have felt blessed that I was able to teach swimming lessons before I taught in a classroom as I feel it helped to shape what I believe about education today.

Personal Learning Network and Personal Learning on Spencer's Scratchpad:  What a great post.  So many parts of it that I connected with!  I have always felt that I learn as much (well actually more) from my personal learning time as I do during our PLC time.

Monday's Motivation: An Open Letter to Educators

Monday's Motivation: Changing Education Paradigms

Paradigm Shift

I'm still here... still plugging away.  This year has gotten off to a great start.  I have a great group of students and staff and everything is settling in nicely.  I should feel relief because things are now pretty close to how I dreamed them.

Instead I'm finding myself a lot thinking about the great inclusion debate and wondering if our self contained setting is the right approach with the students in my room.  I'm sure this is going to become the focus of my blog for a while so just wanted to make a quick post stating where I'm at and what I'm thinking about.
Are there any readers out there that do inclusion with this level of student?  I would love to connect with you :).

Monday's Motivation: The Case Against Assistive Technology

Summer is Winding Down...

I can't believe that in two weeks I will have finished our staff days and will be doing last minute preparation for Monday morning back to school faces.  Where has the summer gone?

I still have much to do but am also feeling good about what I've accomplished the summer.  This past week I spent two days in my room doing a major clean-out/reorganization.  I went through every little thing that is out and decided if it was something we were going to use this year or not.  If it was something we wouldn't use I organized it in to "get rid of" or "store away".  I then cleared out a couple of cabinets and shelves that we have a hard time getting to and put all the "store away" things there.

Then it was on to organizing the things that were left.  I sorted and shelved everything by skill.  To make room on the shelves and to make things flow easier during the year I took severl of our "programs" and moved them from binders and bins to file fo…

Loving Unique's Transition Band!

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Back in June I decided to purchase Unique's Transition Band for this year with the hopes of perhaps learning how to ensure my older students are getting the program that they need to transition out of our classroom.  I was hoping to find a few things that would be helpful and figured I would call it good if I did.

It has been so much more than what I expected.  The program has "CORE TASKS" that you do all the time that is basically a lay out of how to set up your day.  The great thing about it is that setting up the day this way (with a few modifications) can work for all the different ages in my class (which is saying a lot given my span this fall will be grade 1 through beyond 12 as I have one student is staying an extra year beyond graduation).
Each month you get a set of "Instructional Tasks" in a few different categories.  They include "Lifetime Skills" (Communication, Money Management, Social Skills...etc.), "Job Club" and "Daily…

Primary Phonics Workbook Interactive Activities

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This year I have a couple of students who are ready for phonetic reading.  For the most part we have worked with students on sight word reading.  We do some letter and sound recognition stuff but haven't gone very far in to phonics.  Things are changing so I had to dig up some extra ideas to approach phonics but they had to be ways that allowed for some physical challenges in regards to writing.  So I stumbled across a post where someone was using this set of books as a starting point to create activities for their son.  I was so excited and I ordered the first book in the series to see if I could make it work for what I was trying to do.  And it does. Here is what I have done so far with this book as a guide: Primary Phonics Book 1 Tracking Form: I wanted to create a tracking form that could be used generically for all sections of the book.  I generally go with a mastery approach to academics.  When a student achieves a specified standard and can demonstrate that standard three ti…

Wednesdays Weekly Comments: July 28 to August 3, 2010

New Position posted at Special Classroom: Very excited to follow this new journey on the blog :).

News from news-2-you posted at Excepational Students in the Classroom: I'm looking forward to seeing what changes are being made over at the news-2-you and Unique Learning pages.  We should be able to see it soon :).

Storing Homemade Materials Idea

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A question someone asked me in response to one of my posts made me think to write a quick post about this.  I make a lot of my own materials with Boardmaker - things like matching cards and sorting activities.  I wanted a way to store them that allows me to label what they are so that we can get them quickly.
What I did in the end was going to Staples and buy some "mailer boxes" in different sizes so that I can store the items.  Since then I have found them for a significantly lower price online.  I'm including the link but realize its a Canadian Supplier.  I'm sure there is something similar in the states.  I'm also putting a couple of pictures of how I use these types of boxes in this post.

Hope this is useful to someone :).

The place I have found to order these boxes is called Uline.  This is a link to the page that has the box sizes and the prices.

Examples of how I use the boxes:


 Here are some boxes that I used to make "Alphabet Boxes".

Here is an e…

Color Coding Student Materials and Spaces

So I needed a break from "thinking" work and decided to spend a couple of days doing some decorating type of work.  With the evolution of my classroom and the number of students who are now ambultory and have functional use of their hands I have revamped things quite a bit in that they need to be able to take care of their own materials.  So I'm doing things like changing to individual pencil boxes rather than using communal supplies.  One of the other things I decided to do is color code each student's materials so that students are easily able to find their own.  So I tackled their binders first and just kept going.  In the end here is everything that I color coded for each student.  I didn't realize that there was so much stuff for each individual :).
Home-School Communication Binder: I'm using a binder rather than a duotang for written notes between parents and myself.  The idea is loosely built around "M.O.O.S.E. Binders".  I have broken the sec…