Sunday, March 30, 2014

Transforming Information to Complete SPED Paperwork Professional Learning Session

       Developing deeper learning outcomes and creating learning environments for special needs students, who are taught in an inclusion or resource learning settings, are new concepts for special education teachers. With Common Core Standards, it is requiring the special education genre teachers to reinvent how they teach their lessons, how they become master teachers in specific content areas, and how they demand more authentic work samples from their students. In the professional learning session, I conducted Tuesday, March 25, 2014, participants discussed and learned how transforming information can assist special education teachers to complete their paperwork, determine the special needs student's present level of performance and how their disabilities actually impact their learning. Each teacher began with the question, “What does Common Core look like in Special Education inclusion, resource, and self-contained classroom?”

     The major questions from the resource teachers were: “Is their classroom a regular classroom where they teach the subject area curriculum or a location for remediation to occur only?” During this share-out period, teachers addressed the issues of maintaining data on their students throughout the school year while constantly, making realistic data-driven decisions and goals, and identifying student's learning patterns. These group of teachers realized that these new demands of higher expectations will send most of their students into a whirl wind of confusion. They described their students as students who believe everything is given to them, that no teacher will fail them because they are special needs students, and that I will be taken care of because I receive a social security check for my disability. 

     One teacher’s question was “How do we change the learning environment to encompass these students’ reality?” or “What makes them motivate to work hard when they know that there is a hand-out waiting for them?” This is where I began explaining to the teachers the different components of demographic data. The definition of data that I used for this professional learning session was “data is any information that is gathered, reviewed, and analyzed in order to produce useful knowledge.” Therefore, demographic data is any information presented by the parents, guardian, or students, students’ mobility patterns in/out of schools, transportation needs, neighborhood characteristics/values, and students’ social and behavior issues. A teacher asked the question “How is the neighborhood characteristics/values apart of a student’s demographic data?” It provides information about student’s mindset, beliefs, and values of their surroundings or expectations. 

      At the end of this professional learning session, teachers began analyzing their teaching style, software to assist them in remediation, data to support their students’ current level of performance, and how they can describe their students’ disability impact on their learning. This was a very productive session. Special Education teachers began reviewing themselves as real teachers and realize that they have issues like general education teachers. The scenarios in a special education vary from day to day or issue to issue

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Focusing on Teaching

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”  -  Robert Frost

            When researching education and its approaches or strategies, one might be overwhelmed.  What do best-practices actually mean?  Although researchers strive to remove ambiguity from their research, data, for the most part, reinforces the researcher’s theory or approach.  As an educator, how does this affect your teaching and classroom’s environment?  In this endeavor to propel to integrate technology into K-12 curricula and classrooms, how do educators focus their teaching?

            At the end of the 2012 – 2013 school year (the 4th 9 weeks), my students started using their learning disability as their excuse for not learning the material and meeting expectations.  My students began quoting their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) modifications and accommodations.  Instead, they wanted to complete simple worksheets and stop implementing their reading, research, and writing skills.   They believed that because they received various levels of special education services, each one of them was entitled to pass Resource English due to their disabilities and because it was a special education class.  In my search for redirecting my students, I asked myself, “Is it wrong for a special education student to fail a Resource class?  And, when does his or her disability provide a student free passage?”  James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”  As an educator, what behaviors were my students imitating?

            In refocusing my teaching, there were some key elements that I must not overlook in my journey to becoming a top notch master educator.  The key elements are reflection of students’ performance, reflection of my performance, identify specifically what the I need students to learn from each lesson, and the students’ product to demonstrate higher Bloom’s Taxonomy.

            My students and I had a “Real Talk” discussion about their purpose for coming to school, the lack of or benefits for coming to my classroom, and the level of expectations.  We discussed the differences of being lazy verses their learning disabilities and why their accommodations, disabilities, and modifications are not excuses for them to use to get over in life.

            In my final reflection of focusing my teaching, I wonder if the special education services hinder students.  I concur with anyone who states that students who are multi-disabled, moderately to severely intellectually disabled, will benefit from special education services.  But, I am speaking of the students who are developmentally delayed and have difficulty catching up with their peers academically.  And, is the current implementation of Resource classrooms and Inclusion benefiting those students or embarrassing them and causing them to be bullied?  These are few questions that districts, administrators, and educators need to answer when designing the structure of the classrooms or implementing Common Core Standards.  The bottom line is that Special Education should never be an afterthought when educating any generations.