27 January 2010

"He Just Responds to You"

"He just responds to you." This statement is a cop-out to me. For some reason, I get a different response/reaction from the students I work with than anyone else does. Is it simply because some students respond differently to women and men? No, I don't believe that. Is it that men relate differently to children than men? No, because I've seen exceptions on both sides. What I DO think is that I do not take anyone's student evaluation as completely true. The Scientific Method teaches us that any phenomenon can be repeated. If it cannot be repeated, however, it is not true; not to me anyway.

One example is from a student I worked with at a junior high school acouple years ago. He was diagnosed with Angelman's Syndrome and was new to that junior high. We were told by his previous school that when another student in the area has a meltdown, this particular student (we'll call him Trevor) would get upset. In this classroom, we had several students who would have meltdowns, and Trevor would run to a corner and either cross his arms with a pouting face or he would have a small tantrum where he would need to be consoled. Even though this behavior was observable, why did I have a hard time believing that it was true? Here's why: When staff would eat lunches with the students, if anyone did anything funny, or to get a reaction, Trevor would try to mimic their behavior in order to get some attention as well. Back in the classroom situation, when another student was having a meltdown, Trevor tried again to steal some of that attention when I was sitting and working with him. I firmly told him to sit back down, which he did laughingly. He was attention-seeking, and it was a disruption in a classroom when others NEEDED added attention.

A more current example is a student I work with now who has Cerebral Palsy coupled with Mental Retardation. I was told that he has a short attention span. I was told this because he would not sit and listen to someone read him a story; one of his learning objectives is to perform a task for 5 minutes. The students I've experienced with attention issues have trouble even focusing on anything, even activities that they want to do, or enjoy doing. I do not believe that this student has an attention-span issue. Instead, I think he has learned ways of getting out of what he doesn't want to do, and that he has a restless body. This student (Let's call him Jon) will sit and listen to me read him books for the entire Sustained Silent Reading period (30 minutes). Other teachers have trouble getting past 3 pages with him. Why is this? Is my voice just that soothing? Does he just respond to me? No. If you believe a student has attention issues, why would you try to get him to focus with extra stimulation? I watch the other teacher try to read to him, and they do it with other books all around him on the table, and after a coulple pages, he either grabs a new book, or starts turning the pages in the one being read to him. This is why I was told he has a short attention span.

I worked with a student once who had to make a strong conscious effort to be still for 5 seconds. When I read to Jon, his table is clear of distractions, and I do not let him grab the books from me. This is who he will sit and listen to me read for as long as I am willing to read to him. My approach to students can be different; does that make others wrong, or me wrong? Of course not! There is nothing special about me or my methods. I just want to make sure what I was told about a student is true. Telling me that a student "just responds" to me is a cop-out for an inability to being a creative educator; at least it is in my book.

13 January 2010

Classroom Focus: Mr. B's Room is a Room for Improvement

One of the things that continually crosses my mind is how I will want to eventually run my own classroom. When I do get my own classroom; whether a self-contined oneor a resource classroom; I will want to focus to be on Continually Raising the Bar. This can be simply interpretted to mean that the expectations will constantly be raised, or one can categorize me as one who is succes-driven. At it's most basic, this mindset is meant to stave off stagnation and monotony; stagnation in student growth and development, and monotony in the tasks and excercises done every day.

The need for this to be a focus became apparent to me when I was a substitute paraeducation teacher in the Lake Washington School District. I worked in many different classrooms, and had the same scenario happen time and time again. The teacher tells me to have the student perform a task, or set of tasks, and without knowing the process or the presentl levels of the student, i ask them to show me what they can do. The student either performs the task independently, or they complete more of the task than they normally do on a regular basis. I would then witness the teacher's surprise and celebration as she watched the bar of expectation for this student being raised.

How does this happen? How do SpEd teachers not see the growth of their students? How do many SpEd students get coddled through a school, then have a jump in their ability when they go to the higher levels or change schools? Much like the students we work with, we come to rely on our routines and patterns. However, when we get caught in a rut of routine, it is the students that plateau.

There is something to be said of the business world, in that there is an insatiable thirst to achieve more, and do more, and to get more. I have often been told that I work myself out of a job. I take that comment as a compliment, because it means that I am helping my students gain independence and adaptive skills. It is the goal of educators to not be needed. We should move from being hands-on, to hands-off, to merely present.

one of the positive things i took away from my step-dad was that after every fooball game; win or lose; he would ask me, "what's the biggest room in the world," and the answer is The Room for Improvement.

11 January 2010

Loopholes and Technicalities

I've been waiting since August of 2009 to find out where I am going to be able to do my student teaching at this Spring. I sent in my request to do it in the Lake Washington School District (where I worked for 3 years), and in the Tahoma School District (where I grew up, and am currently working). I received a call before the CHristmas break where my University of Phoenix advisor told me that the LWSD rejected my request to do my internship there. The reason I was given whas that I am technically considered an out-of-state student since I am attending the UoPhoenix; this district is already having trouble placing it's in-state student teachers. It's upsetting, because I already created a placement for myself before going throught he university and the district.

Now, this is a large district in Western Washington with two 3A and two 4A high school. I think that my name simply came through the system as a number, and I was passed over like anyone else. I do not mean this in an arrogant way; I worked hard when I was there, worked with very difficult students; the teachers, admin, and district knows who I am. However que sera sera. As much as I did like working in that district, when it's as big as it is, it can make you feel like a cog in a machine. In this instance, that's how I felt.