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Showing posts from January, 2011

I'm Going Back to School...

So here is the e-mail I got this week...
Hi Monica,

You have been accepted in the M.Ed. (Inclusive Education & Neuroscience) program.  You will be receiving official documentation in approximately 3 to 4 weeks.
Congratulations.
Please confirm receipt of this email.  Thank you. I am very much looking forward to starting this program in July.  I can't wait to go on this learning journey with everyone!

Friday Five: Five Quotes that Made Me Think

All of my quotes this week are from the books "Because We Can Change the World: A Practical Guide to Building Cooperative, Inclusive Classroom Communities" and "Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms" by Mara Sapon-Shevin.  The extra thoughts are mine.
"Learning to swim in the bathtub will not guarentee you will be able to swim in the ocean."  And in my mind I added to this one... and if you have a choice between swimming in the bathtub indpendently or swimming in an ocean with the support of a lifejacket I'm thinking most people would choose to be in the ocean!  "We need to start to think about ways of teaching and learning that recognize that we all have gifts and that the challenges of good teaching is to make gifts visiable, rather than to sort people in to successful and unsuccessful."  Not much more to say on this one except that I love it.  It fits so nicely in to the idea of assessment rather than grading."Educato…

Inclusion as Community Building

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Inclusion is about "belonging".  I feel that as long as we focus inclusion efforts on those who have traditionally been labeled as students who belong in special education we will not see the changes that need to be seen to ensure that schools are inclusive.  Because inclusion is not really about students with special needs - its about all students.  When we focus on children with special needs we refer to things like modifications, differentiated instruction, Universal Design for Learning, multiple intelligences...etc.  All good stuff and a definately a part of inclusive education but for me there always seems to be a hole when that is all we look at.  I think that hole is about focusing time and energy on building community in our classrooms and schools.  I'm currently reading two great books that have me thinking more deeply about this.
Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community (Alfie Kohn)

Being a parent of a child with a disability, I have long been opposed to …

Is it time to go back to the "regular classroom"?

I'm struggling with teaching in a self contained classroom and balancing out a belief that a "regular classroom" could work for all students if the classroom was transformed in to a real learning environment.  This year we have been "including" a couple of my students quite a bit and its working really well but its working around making modifications for that student and I think that if you started from the ground and built up it could be so much more for all students.  I think it could be what we need to zero in on balancing academics with fostering democratic community related skills. 

So I'm at the point of thinking that there are two ways to keep moving forward.  One is to continue to move my students in to regular classrooms and support as much as I can from the outside looking in.  The other is to jump in, get my own classroom (perhaps with a kid or two or three that is currently in my room in the mix) and build a classroom that works for all learner…

January 23 is "Ed Roberts Day" - Be Extraordinary

On December 15, 2010 the United States House of Representatives declared January 23, 2011 as "Ed Roberts Day". Ed Roberts was a huge force in the disabilty rights movement.What he did with his life is truly amazing! To find out more check out this great blog post at "Climbing Every Mountain.

Lacking Clarity...

I'm not sure where I heard it but I once heard someone say that premature clarity stagnates the change process.  I love it!

Our school division is really digging in around the inclusion issue.  There is work actively being done to look at how we can move our division towards being more inclusive for all students.

I believe in this.  I want it to happen.  But I have no idea how one would get from here to there.  This doesn't mean I think we can't... it means I think we have a lot of exciting questions and challenges in front of us.

Here are some of my latest thoughts (and many are raw an unformed so if you're looking for answers this isn't the place)...
We are spending a lot of time looking at and thinking about how we can get to inclusion.  Is it worth spending some time on defining what exclusionary practices we currently have in place in our school system?  Should we be trying to eliminate them at the same time as we are trying to encourage inclusion?  Or is that …

Friday Five: Five Things I Learned This Week

Do not celebrate on Monday morning because you only have one thing other than teaching scheduled for the whole week because by Monday lunchtime you will probably end up with a full agenda for the week ;).Always look for different ways when the first one doesn't work.  We were able to find an alternative funding source for something that I felt was very needed for my students but the money just wasn't there.  It dawned on me this week just why the statement "We can't do it because we don't know how.  It's just too hard." is so frustrating for me.  It's because we, as teachers, would not accept this statement from one of our students.  So why do accept it in ourselves?That I need to stop being afraid to share what I'm doing.  There will be people who criticize but I need to use their response as a way to improve what I'm doing instead of as a means to beat myself up.That I love reading on my iPad (am now using the Kindle App and its wonderful).

What if why we do it goes way past a "culture of acceptance"?

A couple of days ago I posted the Simon Sinek Ted Talk that had the message of "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."  I ended that post thinking that the why we need inclusion is so that we can create a "culture of acceptance" in our schools.

What if its more than that?

I am reading the book Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community by Alfie Kohn right now and I'm starting to think that we need more than mere acceptance.  That what we are after is to build community.

There has been a lot going on around me (and in me) in regards to redefining how we deal with (manage) students.  It appears that we are all heading in a more positive direction but there are still so many things that bother me about the whole concept of managing students, classrooms and schools.  This is a quote from the book I'm reading that might offer an alternative:
Here is a second way to help students think past the confines of discipline - and to use an early…

A Moment...

Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to get to a dream that we forget to pause and look around us.

2.5 months ago we made the decision to take one of our students who had been in our self contained setting for a few years now and rework his schedule so tha the was included in a "regular classroom" for the core academic part of his day.  It was an experiment and done in response to a whole host of issues.  This is a little boy who has a list of "challenges" a mile long.

When he first went in to the classroom my concern was not that he was accepted but that he was "too accepted".  Everyone was babying him, arguing to push his wheelchair, talking to the learning assistant that was in the room as an extra set of hands as if she was his ears.  It was frustrating and heart breaking to me as I want so much more for him than that he is just a class mascot.

And then some moments...

The first moment that another little boy in the class stated to his teacher tha…

Motivational Monday: Aimee Mullens: The Opportunity of Adversity

Positive Behaviour Supports and Inclusion

A few things happened during work last week. 
On Tuesday I had meeting with myself, our school principal and the special education facilitator around building a more inclusive plan of action for the students in my room.  One of the things we discussed was what happens to my students next year.  A couple of them have been integrated more in regular classrooms this year and its time to start thinking about what that means for next year.  It means rather than finding one classroom that works for a student we need to see if we can make the whole school work for that student.  It was a starting point.
On Wednesday we had a division wide special education meeting. We have these once a month.  Inclusion was once again an agenda item.  This makes sense as it is also currently an agenda item for the province that I work in.  The discussion on this day was around what is needed to make inclusion happen.  By the time we were done there was a list of things on the board that were needed to make in…

Friday Five: Five Things I Learned This Week

I learned that when you try something new and attend and online symposium you can find a lot of people who are as excited about education and its potential as you are.I learned that transparency truly is empowering - after being told this at the keynote session of last weekends conference I decided it was time to start talking to others at my school about my dreams of inclusion for my students.  One of them responded by throwing out a great idea that might end up getting me one step closer to my dream in the long run.  Its a plan of action that I would not have come up with on my own.  Now I need to let it take root for a few days ;).I learned that when you attend a workshop (this one in person) that is not that good you can still get something out of it becuase it makes you think about what you believe instead of what was presented.  I went to a "Supporting Positive Behaviours" workshop yesterday and wasn't overly impressed.  It did help me to better define how strongly…

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: January 5-11, 2010

Motivational Monday: Where Good Ideas Come From

My favorite quotes from this are "because they created a place where ideas could mingle and swap and create new forms" and "good idea normally become from the collision between smaller hunches so that they create something bigger than themselves."

Setting the Direction Framework - Inclusive Planning Tool

The government of Alberta released the Setting the Direction Framework in June 2009 after consultations across the province related to how the special education system should work in the province.  In this document, the government of Alberta set out a vision of "one inclusive education system where each student is successful." and went on to define inclusive education as "a way of thinking and acting that demonstrates universal acceptance of, and belonging for, all students. Inclusive education in Alberta means a value-based approach to accepting responsibility for all students. It also means that all students will have equitable opportunity to be included in the typical learning environment or program of choice."  Its a touching concept and a theory that everyone can buy in to but how do you get from this concept to actually having inclusive schools?
The government set out some short term priorities that would hopefully try to answer the question of getting from wo…

Yesterday's Reform Symposium Experience #rscon11

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Trying to blog about all that I learned at the the Reform Symposium yesterday might be too large a task or it might just be something that takes more time as there is much to process and talk through before it can all fit for me.  What I am learning above all else as I've tried to move from "just blogging" as I've been doing for several years now to truly becoming involved and connected in the learning experiences that are open to my online is that I need to be paying attention.  Learning has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  I'm excited at what this could mean for students.  So I will share one small bit of learning from yesterday now...
At the end of one of the sessions the host thanked the audience for being "such a great audience" as she had gotten a lot of great ideas from the chat that was going on at the side.  When you go to a conference in person being in the audience means sitting quietly and taking in the information independently (altho…

Children's Books About Sensory Regulation

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I believe strongly that we should be very transparent about sensory challenges and regulation.  We should help our student to understand and mange their own sensory challenges.  I'm sharing a few links to children's story books that I know about that can help with discussions around sensory challenges.  I think its great that we have these tools to create conversations that will ultimately allow a child to better understand and advocate for themself.
Picky Picky Pete - A Children's Book About Sensory Issues

Written by Michele Griffin, an occupational therapist, this picture book is a must for any child with sensory processing disorder. Pete finds his clothes uncomfortable and can’t stand “paint, soap, and things with lumps.” He explains this to his mother and the reader in this fun children’s book, as he and his mother navigate a difficult morning in the life of a young boy with sensory issues.




Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload

Izzy is now in first g…

Friday Five: Five Quotes The Guide Me

Each Friday I'm going to try to make a different list of five that will generally be realated to my learning on this journey.  Feel free to join in by doing the same list of five on your own blog.  If you do, I would love a link so I can go and read yours.

My first list is a simple one - its five simple quotes that are ingrained in my mind because they speak so deeply to what I believe in.  My apologies for not crediting these to the people who own them as they are just little things that have stuck in my mind without names attached.  Here they are...
It's a matter of will, not skill.Doing right is more important than being right.Be the change you want to see in the world.A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Learning is not doing - its reflecting on doing.

Thursday Think: Planning Tools/Templates and Universal Design for Learning

Just wanted to share a couple of planning tools/templates that I feel would help to insure that lessons are being planned from a universal design standpoint.  I do not pretend to know everything about these tools but they do look exciting in regards to considering all students in the planning process.
Authentic Learning Wheels: I stumbled across this while looking for something else.  I checked out the Power Point included and it seems like a great planning tool.  I really know very little about it but have seen quite a few different planning tools that haven't caught my eye the way this one did.  John Antonetti's Engagement Cube: I attended a day long workshop about student engagement by John Antonetti where he explained the use of the Engagement Cube.  He spoke to using one concept/approach from each of the three faces of the cube when designing lessons.  It may not ensure UDL but they look like a step in the right direction to me.  This is the start of a list that I'm h…

Teaching in the "Beyond the Walls" Program

I feel it important to put the timeframe in perspective and I will explain that later in my post.  It was 1995.  To me it seems like yesterday but in terms of how technology has changed it was really another life time. Note many people had cell phones and the ones that were out there were big and almost brick-like (example from Motorola). Power Point as part of the Office Suite didn't exsist.  The year before (1994) Netscape had made it easier for us to actually get around the "World Wide Web".  ICQ (1996), Hotmail (1996) and Google (1998) hadn't come around yet.  Although we had heard about these fancy things called Smart Boards, nobody in education could say they had actually seen one.  It was also the the first year for Geocities - and how exciting it was to make our very own webpage and set down roots in cyberspace.  Occassionally students would go online to find information but generally research was still done in the library with books and encylcopedias.  That …

Now tell me how they can all be taught in one class...

This was a comment that came up yesterday night in the middle of #spedchat. Its a great question and one that I would never pretend to have the answer to because I do not know. But then if we are honest we have to admit too that we don't yet even know how all the students who are currently in the class can be taught in one classroom. This is why we are seeing "education reform" movements everywhere.
Again something that was said in #edhcat did help me towards making the answer did become a bit more clear as I'm thinking the question should actually be: How can all students learn in the same class?  When we reframe it and start to think about students learning rather than teachers teaching does it change things?  Focusing on teaching starts with the assumption that all students should be doing the same thing at the same time in the classroom.  Is this what we should be doing in any classroom in this day and age?  Is this an issue that is already there but it only becom…

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: December 29, 2010 - January 4, 2011

A Middle School That Works on the blog SpEd Change: Brought me back to my days when I taught in the "Beyond the Walls" program.  It seems so long ago now and I look back on it and realize that the whole program was based on gutt instincts in regards to what works in education. I was pretty niave and we did some great things with this program but I sure wish that I could do it again knowing what I know now.  I will need to make a point to create a post outlining what we did back than (it was 15 years ago already).

I Believe in You on the blog About a Teacher: Amazing post! This to me is the base that inclusion is built on.  It is about the message that we as teachers send to students when we act as if we believe in them and will not ever give up on them reaching their potential. When I talk of inclusion being beneficial for all students this is what I mean as it forces us all to teach in a way that our students will confident and comfortable enough to take the risk required to…

My First #edchat and #spedchat Experiences

Today was a great day for learning!  I took the plunge and joined in on #edchat this morning and #spedchat this evening.  Thank you to all the people who were there.  I learned a lot from reading and responding.

Here are some of the things that I learned today...
This morning I tried to use TweetChat to follow #edchat and it was pretty confusing.  I really should have read this blog post before I started.  I got wiser tonight and I used HootSuite and put my home feed, the #spedchat feed, my mentions feed and my inbox right beside each other and had a much easier time following (of course it helped that #spedchat was probably a bit slower in general than #edchat).  Loved to see how quickly action can happen tonight.  It was neat to watch as people talked about what could be done, came up with a plan and started tweeting people that could listen in regards to changing things immediately.  I am still putting my toe in to this big pool of "social media" so watching this was a gr…

Two Cent Tuesday: Eliminating the Box

The question of what it would take to ensure that all students could be including in a classroom is one that haunts me.  I think there are some great "movements" happening right now that will help us move towards more inclusive schooling.  In some ways its hard to narrow my blog focus down because these other things need to be a part of it.  To that end, my goal is to try to frame these concepts/movements around inclusive education in the hopes to focus things a bit more.  This is really a list of what I see this blog being about.  I have also created short information/link pages for each of these topics that are linked at the top of this blog.  On them I will put a brief outline and then post links as they come up.  If you have anything to add to it please feel free to comment on the bottom of any of the pages.  I appreaciate feedback.  Part of why I'm writing this blog is to try to become more grounded in all of these things that I "feel" right now.
Building L…

What's To Fix?

Alberta Learning recently defines an inclusive education system as "a way of thinking and acting that demonstrates universal acceptance of, and belonging for, all students. Inclusive education in Alberta means a valuebased approach to accepting responsibility for all students. It also means that all students will have equitable opportunity to be included in the typical learning environment or program of choice."  Setting the Direction Framework - June 2009

I will say that this post is a little disconnected simply because I'm hoping that writing about it will help me connect it all a bit more.  It starts with these two posts that I've read this past week:
On the Spectrum from the blog Lessons From Teachers and TwitsI'm Happy Because I'm a Quitter from the blog Spectrum MentorBoth posts are written by people on the spectrum and speak to my heart because I feel that we currently have a system that makes people feel like they are broken or need fixing.  But in a t…