Will the Real “I” Please Stand Up? Clarifying the “I” in the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Often times, our students have little to no knowledge of the content of their IEP, why they have an IEP, or the fact that the IEP is all about them! As educators, it is our duty to encourage students to become more involved in their programs, services, and accommodations. This in turn provides experiences that help enable them to transition into the role of the successful adult.

According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), “Self-determination skills are one of the most critical contributing factors to the successful transition of youth and young adults with disabilities. Youth need self-determination skills in order to have control over their lives and to be empowered to make informed decisions and actions in all aspects of their lives.” Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Using Two Lenses

In December, I held my final class as an instructor of AED 310 Writing in Social Studies at SUNY Cortland. I have been teaching this class for preservice teachers (and anyone else who needed a writing intensive class) for 3 years, but it was time to hang up my PowerPoint slides and concentrate on the other two jobs that I have in retirement! It was a great learning experience for me and, I hope, for the students!

Every semester, I used the idea of looking at the strategies and processes that we used during class with two lenses. Since some my students were not in the teaching program, I needed a way to make the materials as relevant as I could for everyone. How could students majoring in Athletic Training, Exercise Science and Biology see the content as applicable to them? Continue reading

Creating a Culture of Literacy

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This quotation is true for the Jr./Sr. Tully High School Literacy Team, who has embarked on a journey in creating a culture of literacy.

The Literacy Team is comprised of a group of teachers representing all content areas who meet once a month to deep dive into literacy strategies and then develop a plan to implement with their colleagues. This year they are using strategies from The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core written by Harvey F. Silver, R. Thomas Dewing, & Matthew J. Perini in a concerted effort to develop literacy skills. The school year started with the Reading for Meaning strategy, where students read for meaning about an important topic in the content area. Students had to use evidence from text to support or refute statements, as shown in this example: Continue reading

SAD in January?

It’s January, and since we’re Yankees (and especially Syracusans), we know what January is synonymous with snow and ice, challenging driving conditions, lack of sunlight, and, in some cases, affected emotional states. And, as Yankees do, we bundle up, hunker down, fill our pantries, mount our snow tires and start packing for winter break destinations as close to the equator as possible.

But, what about those who experience a lot of “down days?” That’s not as easy a fix. For some, January brings the post-holiday blues as life returns to the same old daily grind. And for others, what might initially seem like the post-holiday blues is actually a more severe form of depression. Living in the northern hemisphere, you’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? Many people think SAD is just the “winter blues” and jokingly blame their carb loading on the weather. And while there is a connection, SAD is nothing to joke about—it’s actually a subtype of major depression or bipolar disorder. In most cases, SAD symptoms start appearing in the late fall or early winter and dissipate in spring and summer when we (hopefully!) have sunnier days. But, there are others who experience the opposite pattern with symptoms beginning in the spring or summer. Regardless, while they might seem to be mild at first, symptoms can become much more severe as the season progresses. Continue reading

Working with Paraprofessionals (Part 1)

Special educators sometimes find themselves working with many different service providers.  On any given day, they can be asked to communicate with a number of general education teachers, other special educators, and various therapists.  As a special educator you may be working together with reading and math specialists and interventionists, school social workers and counselors, teacher assistants (TAs) and aides.  These people can be some of the most valuable human resource assets your school possesses. However, it can become very overwhelming to have so many people in and out of your classroom; or to make sure your student with special needs is getting everything, from everyone, that they are supposed to in order for them to meet with success.

Sometimes the people that work closest with the students with disabilities are our paraprofessionals–teacher aides or assistants.  They are often assigned to work 1:1 with a student or with very small groups of kids.  Some will work with many of the same students over the years and really come to know their strengths and needs, their character and personalities.  Utilized well, a TA or an aide can help a teacher to really address the needs of their students better and may assist with creating a more inclusive setting. Continue reading

Leading Instructional Rounds in Education

Thomas Fowler-Finn with a forward by Lee Teitel

A few years ago, I was privileged to learn about the power of Instructional Rounds to improve instructional practice. One of the books that guided this exploration was Instructional Rounds in Education, by Elizabeth City, Richard Elmore, Sarah Fiarman, and Lee Teitel. This book changed the way I think about reflection as a means for powerful professional development.

So, imagine my excitement when Leading Instructional Rounds in Education, by Thomas Fowler-Finn made its way to my bookshelf a few years later! Finally, I had a handbook to support the work around instructional rounds with teachers and administrators. The book serves to guide facilitators through the entire process, starting with defining roles and intention, to facilitator moves, to guiding educators through the next levels of work. The text includes a forward by Lee Teitel which serves to connect readers to the what and why of Instructional Rounds with the actual implementation. Continue reading