Tag Archives: teaching

Pre-Planning

28 Jul

Well, we are back!  And so am I.  It’s back to the same program and the same room.  If I want to do something else, I’m going to have to transfer to a different school because they are never going to replace me and there isn’t a lot of motivation for anyone to even look for a replacement as long as I’m around.  In many ways, it was stressful to think about transferring to a new position, but in other ways it was stressful thinking about NOT transferring!  My desire and commitment for change will be tested ultimately by my willingness to make it a more major move to another building with all new people and administrators and grade levels.

But in the meantime, I have students here who need me and I’m going to do my best to make it a banner year for them and for me.  I’m going to do everything possible to make it such an outstanding year that everyone else in the building will weep bitterly at my departure!  It’s about being proactive and making things happen and advancing.  That’s going to be the hardest thing, but it’s the most important thing.  I need to really reach and strain ahead.  I need condition myself into stretching.

That’s me, giving myself a pep talk!

Each year there are always changes.  This year, I get to meet the 4th principal I’ve had since starting at this school 9 years ago.  It seems like people come and go so quickly around here!  The new guy looks like he’s trying to tighten things up around here and he has a big job ahead of him.  Our school was among the 52% of Georgia high schools that failed to make AYP this past year.  We have to make it this year in order to keep off of the dreaded “Needs Improvement” list.  As a county district, we also failed for the first time ever, to make AYP.  And it’s going to be harder to do that in order to meet the federally funded mandate of 100% by 2014.  So we can expect every school in the country to be on the Needs Improvement list by 2016.  Students with disabilities continue to be the major subgroup that cause a school or district to fail.  It’s ridiculous to think that every single student is going to master rigorous curriculum standards at the same rate or with equal proficiency as everyone else.  No accommodation or modification is going to erase the reality that some students are not going to learn everything we teach them, even if they want to.  And politicians seem to ignore the reality that there is a small percentage that just doesn’t care that much about doing well in school at any given time. 

Preplanning involves lots of meetings and getting to know new teachers and staff.  It also involves training my own folks and setting the pace for the coming year.  We’ve gotten our room pretty much straightened out.  This isn’t a small task since they removed some teacher desks. And moved everything around when they redid our floor.   I’m going to do my best to have a good attitude this year and fend off the weariness that got to me last year.

D.

Up to my neck in IEPs

1 May

IEP season started ’round these parts in February, but really it has never ended. As soon as school started, addendums were being written to adjust services and schedules from those written just months earlier, while transfer students were being put through the process from scratch.

I’m visiting several middle schools this week, representing the high school for 8th graders transferring into the high school next year and without exception, I haven’t seen a familiar face yet. Every one of these teachers are new and I’m seeing brand new folks lead the IEP process. In many instances the LEA, the graduation coach and the regular ed teacher are also brand new. What this means is that a lot of parents are the most experienced people in the room when it comes not only to their child but to IEPs in general. These new teachers all use the same word to describe their experience with writing and delivering these IEPs:

Overwhelming.

In addition to attending and LEAing meetings for other teachers at this school and attending several others, I’m busy writing IEPs for my own students, which is no small job hence my lack of posting around here. It is THE most stressful and busy time of the year for special education teachers around the country. My blog gets a tidal wave of hits as my IEP series pops up on other blogs, search engines and discussion groups. I hope y’all find it helpful.

This business has put a crimp in my TeacherTube video postings but I have new footage that will be edited and posted at some point. I hope to shoot some more in a couple of weeks as the paperwork craziness slacks off a bit. I hope it slacks off a bit.

I do have some good ideas, courtesy of those new teachers that I talk to. Lesson plans, data sheets and data collection are towards the top of the list. I’m also looking forward to taking some classes this summer or maybe attending a conference or two and blogging those. I’d also like to get my online course up and running at least for our own county. I’ll be attending a class in a week that wraps up my Moodle training.

To all of you new teachers looking for resources, ideas and help; hang in there. Experience has taught me (if nothing else) is that every year it is crazy towards the end, and every year I am exhausted at the end and every year I some how make it through the experience. Just take it a day at a time, one step at a time and things will work out. Things will get crazy and sometimes very, very ugly. But you’ll make it if you’ve made it this far. Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.

D.

Cheap Interactive Whiteboard: Adaptive Technology

23 Apr

Our media specialist sent us teachers some nifty links, one to a group of presentations/speakers.  At first this link didn’t look too interesting or useful, although the talk by Jeff Bezos was entertaining.  But I drilled a little deeper and stumbled into this video by Johnny Lee that really took my breath away.

Using a Wii remote game controller, he creates an interactive white board sometimes called a Smartboard.  these things typically run around $3000,  but the total cost of the Wii setup is  less than  $75!  I would think a lot of schools would be interested in this.  you can find video demos on Teachertube here and here.  There are probably dozens more on YouTube and any teacher into technology should be getting excited about this.  Using open source software and the Wii, every teacher can have this useful technology at their fingertips.

It’s a bit late in the year for me to be diving into another technology project, but if I end up coteaching, I’ll definitely be there.

But the head array that he demonstrates is really something exciting for students that need an alternative way to access the computer and content.  He basically mounted a couple of infrared dots on some sunglasses and he had something that typically costs thousands of dollars to parents that use this technology for their kids with severe orthopedic impairments.  That is kind of exciting on a lot of levels and means I might be getting a Wiimote no matter where I end up next year.  The biggest issue, is of course, time.  I have a mountain of paperwork that I’m procrastinating from at the moment with all of my IEPs!  In fact, Johnny Lee himself developed this stuff while procrastinating from doing actual projects he was supposed to be working on.

While I know a lot about severe disabilities and a lot about technology, i still have a lot to learn about adaptive technology.  I know of a lot that exists, but I have never gotten my hands on a head array or other alternative switching devices besides the standard switches we use.  So while I’m up on a lot of things, I still feel behind on adaptive technology.  The sad thing is, is that I’m still way ahead of most teachers serving this population.  In the span of 8 years I’ve learned a lot, but most teachers don’t last more than 2 years.

Technology can change the way students access material but learning is still a function of a series of antecedent – response – consequence chains.  I’m excited about the potential, but it won’t be realized until more of us teachers get it into our hands and have a chance to really fiddle around with it.

D.

Videos on TeacherTube

15 Apr

I have a few videos on TeacherTube with many more to come. My first attempt was demonstrating the Qchord, which is a sort of musical instrument that I sometimes use in the classroom. A more practical video is one I made on the use of switches for students with severe disabilities to use for communication. There’s also an activity attached to that lesson, about 101 uses for using switches in the classroom. Then I did a couple of videos on positioning for students with orthopedic impairments that some might find interesting. And my most recent effort was a screencast about using the Boardmaker software program that special ed teachers frequently use for communication and language instruction. I have some more videos demonstrating that software that I’ll be uploading once I get the narration audio track finished. The problem is that I’m very seldom in a space or environment where it is quiet enough to do narration! There seems to always be noise somewhere around that can be picked up by the mic! Plus we are in full-IEP mode right now so I’m squeezed for time. A ton of folks are hitting my IEP series right now, so I know a lot of people are using that resource.

After talking with one of the new SID teachers in the county, I got a lot of new ideas for resources to add. One of the most common questions I get asked is about my lesson plans. They are not very good or satisfactory enough for my taste and certainly not for addressing state standards. However I do have a data sheet that sort of functions as a lesson plan that I’ll be attaching to a future video on discrete trials. Future features will involve:

-Discrete trial teaching (DTT)

– More Boardmaker overlays

– Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

– Para training

– Schedule/lessonplanning/curriculum

I’m presently looking to get permission from parents to include actual students in future videos, so that should be pretty exciting. Even if I only get one permission form, I can demonstrate quite a lot of what I actually do. So far, I don’t know of anyone else doing anything like this, but if there is I’d like to know about it!

I use TeacherTube because YouTube is blocked by our school and TeacherTube does allow unlimited uploads. You can also attach lesson plans and activities to the video which can really increase its usefulness to other teachers. The downside is that viewers don’t often leave very many comments or give very much feedback compared to what I see on YouTube. The most discussed video is entitled “Pay Attention” which has over half a million views but only 83 comments and the next most discussed has less than 50 comments. It’s not a very interactive community, which is why I see having a blog to support my efforts as being a useful thing.

That’s my weekly wrap up. We’ve only got about 6 weeks left of school! Where has all the time gone?!?

D.