Johnny Is Running His IEP Meeting?

COD Newsroom via Creative Commons

IEP meetings in my school looked like this….the Principal, the CSE secretary, the guidance counselor, the school psychologist, me – the special education teacher, sometimes Mom and/or Dad and on occasion the student. A room full of adults who made decisions on what the student needed to do for the coming year. Sometimes the parent would ask a question but rarely did a student speak. The information was laid out, decisions made and we were on our way. It was a very efficient and productive meeting; but often in the long run, not a successful one. Why were they not successful? They were not successful because they were meetings “about the student” not meetings “focused on the student”. There was little to no student participation, no student voice and the end product had little relevance to the student. Continue reading

School Counseling Days

I remember bus arguments, sticky fingers plastered on my door knob, tears flowing as stories of fear and failure tumbled out. I remember defiant teenagers refusing to cooperate with “the plan.” I also remember smiling with students as they told their stories of accomplishments, “high fiving” elementary students when they earned their good behavior award and laughing when the student told a funny story.

What a privilege to have these memories. As school counselors, we get to see the highs and lows in students’ lives. We are honored with their trust and do all we can to keep our schedules free from the minutia that can so overwhelm us. Continue reading

Starting the Year with a Growth Mindset

Do we truly believe that ALL of our students can learn at the highest levels? ALL students? Not just the students who already do okay-not just the students who get extra services-not just the students from affluent neighborhoods or families. ALL MEANS ALL! Having a growth mindset and helping our students develop a growth mindset is a foundational piece for pushing students to high levels of achievement.

Learners (adults and children) with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be changed and grown – with practice and effort! Stanford University professor of psychology, Dr. Carol Dweck, wrote about the concepts of “growth mindsets” and “fixed mindsets” in her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Learners with a growth mindset believe they can learn anything – they might struggle and even experience some failure – but in the end, with perseverance and effort, they can succeed. Learners with a growth mindset do NOT focus on looking smart, they focus on learning. Educators with a growth mindset provide challenging opportunities for their students because they believe that with effort and hard work all students can show significant growth. Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Being (and Creating) Critical Consumers

One of my goals this year has been to finish reading some of the books that I started over the past couple of years. As I organized field trips and events for the Teaching American History grant, there were often wonderful books that I would start to read, but would not have the time to finish because I would have to move on to the next task/event/workshop/topic. In addition to my pile of gotta-gitr’-done books, I read several others, just because I could (one of the perks of being retired – well, semi-retired, at least.) Although most of the books have something to do with history, there is a memoir on the list, and a more “sciency” book about redwood trees (Thank you Jay!) Here’s the list so far: Continue reading

What is Understanding?

There’s a story I share when I talk to teachers about assessment, authentic, performance-based assessment to be exact. A few years ago, my husband and I were on our way out to a parent-teacher conference, and our 15 -year old son Jared, who has Down Syndrome was going to be staying home alone. This was not the first time he had stayed and, as we had done previously, we started asking those “safety” questions, queries that serve as reminders, like, “What do you do if the phone rings?” or “What if someone comes to the door?” The final question I asked was, “What do you do if the smoke detector goes off?” Jared very confidently walked over to the couch, picked up a throw pillow, and started waving it under the smoke detector, saying, “You just wave it like this until the beeping stops.” Continue reading

Let’s Get a Few Things Straight

Common Core ArtThe Common Core State Learning Standards are standards. Not curriculum. Not tests. Not evaluation. Standards.

Standards are the “to do” list for learning. They are a list of the things we want students to know, understand, be able to do, and be like. In 1996, New York State issued a complete set of standards for all subject areas and grade levels. There were twenty-three sets of standards that were organized into seven bundles. For example, math, science, and technology were grouped together in a bundle of seven standards (and the accompanying detail). Continue reading

Quotes to Ponder Further

Last month was one of the highlights of the year: PBLNY-15. The speakers were enthusiastic and provided us with information, theories, research, and experiences to stimulate our thinking- as well as providing inspiration!  Throughout the three days I collected quotes to think further about or to share. Here is a sampling.

Sam Seidel

  • “How can we keep all students alive, engaged and empower them as change makers?”
  • “What is your driving question?” (as an educator)
  • “PBL=Practice Before Life”
  • “PBL=Platform to Build Legacy”
  • “PBL=Prevent Boring Lessons”
  • “PBL=Prepare Bold Leaders”

Continue reading