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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leaving Trails and Markers

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

        Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the New Year has gotten past the first fifteen days I feel some days are blazing new paths. There was regression after the long winter break and it has nearly taken seven school days to get us back to the level we were before the break. It would have been frustrating had I not seen some parts of what had been learned laying along the student's "neuro path."

While there were weeds of television, over growth from video games, and clutter from lack of structure and routine, we were able to see the seeds or sprouts from lessons prior to the break. Once we saw that they were there it wasn't a matter of re-teaching, but promoting growth. Some needing more nourishing and tenderness than others, but the challenge was to help the student to see that they could remember. They did understand the concepts and ideas we had learned and discussed in September, October, November and December. They did know, they just needed to de-clutter all that had happened during the break and pull just a little harder from the brain. The excitement when they realized they hadn't really forgotten was worth all  of the effort.

We could have just done some re-teaching of the goals and objectives and considered it done. But having discovered that deep down they really did remember, they really did grasp the concepts and we just needed to help them pull the weeds and clean up the garden to get it back to full function generated that "success" emotion we all needed to have during this cold, wintry, time in January.

Now we are on track and we are leaving markers along the way in preparation for the upcoming two-week Spring Break. These markers are songs, limericks, or other ways of allowing the students to recall the lessons quickly and by just starting the marker.. they will finish it. I have even employed a picture of my basset hound, "Agent Gibbs" with a call-out giving a rhyme of the day about our lesson. (They have been quoting him at lunch, so I know it's working.)

I am encouraged as move from now to Spring Break that we will not have the same level of regression that from the cold dark winter. Spring shall break forth and we will leave a trail from which we can all recall that which we've learned along the way!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Communicating differently...Listen Carefully.

I will return to the classroom filled with my students on January 7th. Yes, I'm lucky to have such a long break. But the truth is I miss them. I miss each of them for different reasons. I miss their smiles, their excitement when they are engaged in learning, their frowns (and some screams) when their choice boards show that "work" is involved before they get their preferred activity. Yes, I miss all of that.

As I reflect on these things I also remember the comments in the halls from other teachers: "Oh, I couldn't do what you do all day long." or "How do you deal with the yelling and screaming?" I just look at them and I smile. Truth is, I don't hear the yelling or screaming or whining or any other of the protests as they are presented. I hear each of my students on the autism spectrum when they do "yell" to really be saying, "I'm overwhelmed, "I need you to help me" or "I don't know what to do, please help!"

My students don't articulate these words exactly, but they do communicate, they can tell me with their body language, their eyes, and the looks on their cherub faces. Their verbal abilities may manifest in what others would call "yelling" or "screaming". I call it communicating and when we as teachers learn their "language" we can engage their minds and they learn.

Yes, learning is sometimes messy and almost always loud in my classroom. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

Sometimes classroom management (or lack thereof) can stress teachers. Sometimes teachers get overwhelmed, tired and cranky, too. The website by Michael Lisin is a great resource for help when we need it. A recent posting of the "5 Ways to Be A Calmer, More Effective Teacher" can help us all with tips and techniques to remain focused and calm all day.


CEC Tools of the Week Site

The Council for Exceptional Children has a great additional website titled "Tools Of The Week.Org"  

It consists of several tools (pdf files) which any Exceptional Educator can use for lesson planning, idea generating, or reviewing for assessment on lessons already used.

The tool of the week can also be emailed to you if you subscribe (which I do) and will arrive in your in-box for your review. They are also easily saved in Google Docs, in case you don't have time to review them for your immediate usability.