Friday, August 2, 2013

The Vision...

YIKES! It's been a long time since my last post... This is what happens when we immerse ourselves into a new position at work. Sadly, one of the best ways for me to process life in the world of EBD is one of the things that was pushed aside. Some people talk, some stuff, some are not phased by life in EBD, and I write...
                                    Sometimes... Sometimes I just take a break from it all...

Please stick with me while I formulate a  vision for the 2013-14 school year, to program for students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders - everywhere - not just in my corner of the educational world. 

We must begin with what we know to be true:

1. Students with emotional and behavioral disorders continue to be the students who miss the most instruction because their actions "prevent" them from being with their "non-disabled" peers who participate in classroom instruction at a much greater rate than those who are in Federal Setting 3 & 4 EBD classrooms.

2. Students who are not exposed to "typical" peers lose sight of what the expected behaviors are. Their perspective changes, and the behaviors they are exposed to on a daily basis become the new normal.

3. Students with emotional and behavioral disorders, though many have average ability (or better), are low performers on testing. Honestly, it is not the low test scores that bother me, it is what those scores reflect about our students. We want to send students into the world with the skills necessary to function independently. We want them to hold jobs, have houses, raise families, and live productive lives. The holes of knowledge are the holes to their success in the future. 

4. Students with emotional and behavioral disorders demonstrate more behaviors and emotional break downs as the curriculum intensifies each year. The behaviors might look different as students age up; however, they are disengaging because school becomes harder and harder.

5. Students with emotional and behavioral disorders either capture your heart, or make you angry and cause you to turn your head in frustration. I know many people who wonder why I would want to work with the population that I am so passionate about. These students can bring out the strongest of all emotions in us. We often forget, these students also feel emotions at the same level (or more intensely) than the emotions they cause us to feel. 

So... that's a few things we know to be true. There are so many more topics we could focus on but let's try to keep our vision "doable" within a 10 month period of time. 

The Vision for This School Year

We must keep student focused and remain calm in all situations. We will increase student engagement by putting time and energy into teaching lessons that relate to the students we serve. We will build on student strengths. We will model positive interactions, use respectful voice, tone and volume, and reinforce students for doing the same. We will use data on students, share data with students regarding their academics, and set realistic goals for individuals and groups of students. We will fill in some of the holes the students have in their academics and build strong foundations. We will teach kids how to "do school" socially, emotionally, academically, and physically. 

We will celebrate success. 

We will celebrate success.

We will celebrate success. 

Until next time... (hopefully in less than a month)......
                                                                               Behave yourselves!        

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Questions...

Who is this little person so mad at?
What causes the anger inside of this little person?
Why does this little person talk with such hatred? 
Where does it come from?
When did this little person become so angry with the world?
How can someone so small carry so much anger and frustration?

Who am I to help this little person with so much anger?
What can I do to develop a trusting relationship?
Why does my heart break so much for this angry little person?
Where can I get resources to help this little person outside of school?
When will I start to see results that are promising and generalized with others?
How can I help this little person become independent and have a positive existence?

Everyday I get a chance I will make a positive difference in the lives of those who are angry, frustrated and upset. Everyday I will learn to view the world from something other than the lens that I have been given. That's the gift I can give the world... every day...

How about you? What can you do? If you have ideas, please share and teach me how I can become better at what I do.

                         Until Next Time...
                                          Behave yourselves!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Education & TV

TV shows depict the education of our youth to be a difficult job but generally have endings that leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling. Back in the day, I loved Facts of Life, a sitcom about an all girls boarding school. The girls were fairly innocent and my favorite character Jo, was the roughneck of the bunch. Blair, on the other hand, was the princess of the bunch and quite frequently was the "mean girl" of the crew.

 
Fortunately, the girls had Mrs. Garrett to help them resolve their issues within the context of the 30 minutes of the show.

The kids from Boy Meets World loved their school and instructors so much they never left. When the kids went to college, Mr. Feeny, the ever meddling, problem solving teacher, went to college with them. Shawn, the kid from the trailer park and non-nulcear family, has the most challenges and, Mr. Feeny was always there to lend a hand and he ended up living with Mr. Turner, an unconventional English teacher.. They grow Shawn to become a responsible young adult despite the challenges he  faced since birth. I'm not sure I would encourage my teachers to take students in as Foster children, but most of the teachers I work with would do so if they had the space and financial means.

I was a huge fan of Boston Public. Its slogan was "Every day is a fight. For respect. For dignity. For sanity."I was devastated when it ended. When I look at video clips of it now, it was just a soap opera about adults. I'm so disappointed in my lack of taste in how I chose to waste my TV watching time. Now I choose to waste my time watching Glee, which has had some episodes that have solid lessons. 

 
The jobs we hold as educators, whether working with the upper class  "Haves," or the less likely to succeed "Have Nots," are challenging and far more complex than what is depicted in weekly sitcoms and dramas. I've yet to solve a major life problem for an individual or family in 30 or 60 minutes (leas when you consider commercials).

Not sure what my point was today, but as I reread my thoughts this morning, I think I may have been recognizing the hard work that educators do every day - without commercial breaks. Prep time for EBD teachers is something that happens occasionally, comes so unexpected that determining how to use the time takes thought and planning - regardless of the guarantees of the teacher contract.

For those of you who work in the field of special education, know that you rock the world of so many families. You are the out side of the box thinkers who are able to see beyond behaviors to teach students far more than you bargained for when you signed the contract. You are their future... someday they will be watching some cheesy sitcom, nudge their own child and say, "That makes me think of Mr./Mrs. EBD Teacher... who changed my life. 

Rock on people...

Until Next Time...                     
            Behave Yourselves!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Teaching Students the Academics

Keeping students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders on track for graduation is challenging, to say the least. Some EBD programs do well in teaching students how to complete packets of work, that are below the instructional level, but disregard the fact that these students are the ones who receive the very least amount of "teaching" at their instructional level. If a student can complete a packet without instruction, I would ask, "What did he learn?"

Educational progress is made when educators continually raise the bar for students. Finding the balance for students is difficult, but I know many students who have become excited about learning new skills that their same age peers are doing. The goal is always for students to participate in educational programs with nondisabled peers, and the more time spent in the mainstream, the more we close the achievement gap.

I came across this document that has quite a few strategies, checklists for teachers, and helpful hints:
http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/CAREguide2011.pdf
The document is inclusive of culture, language, and socioeconomic differences as well as an array of helpful tools for all teachers.

Hope you take some time to check it out. Let me know what works and what doesn't. If you have other ideas and suggestions, please share them with our readers!

                                         Until Next Time....
Behave Yourselves...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Week of School

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! Getting settled in a new job is always a bit of a flurry of trainings, getting to know you's, and spending extra hours at school trying to establish new systems of organization. I am very happy to say that I am in a beautiful new office building where all of our education departments are housed together. My cubicle is gorgeous (I'll send pics later).


A few words of advice as other folks get started in their new school year:

1. Not only is this a new grade and opportunity for students, but it is also a new opportunity for you to better your teaching skills, build new relationships with students, and give students you've been with a new chance. The slate is clean! Fill it up with positive experiences for everyone.

2. Focus on quality instruction of academics and you will find that negative behaviors decrease. Learning things at one's instructional level builds interest, promotes improved skills, and helps students get closer to closing the learning gap. EBD students need to have high quality academic instruction.

3. Focus on student strengths and positive behaviors. If you look for negative behaviors, you will find them. Take the focus off of behavior sheets and marking kids down. Build them up with praise and teach expectations to students who aren't complying by complimenting the students who are complying.

4. Practice established routines and procedures. Clearly state and post expectations. Do this daily at first then weekly. These expectations need to be continued to be covered again and again. Practice makes perfect.

5. Reach out to families by sharing good news. A phone call, an email, or greeting parents when they pick students up with a bit of good news will make every one's day get a little bit brighter.

6. Shine on!

Until Next Time...                     
                                                    Behave Yourselves!