Saturday, January 28, 2012

Learning Differently: Each Learner Has A Unique Value

A child may have an auditory or visual handicap. One student may not speak, a different student may not have sight. A kid might be hearing impaired, or another may have cognitive interferences. A learner may best learn through different venue, but each learner has a unique value.
Family and school supply learning opportunities for kids at all levels of ability.   I have found that no matter what the 'label' a student has, he's smart in his unique way and it is my assignment as teacher to surround him with the necessary environment and stimulation to learn. I've been privileged to teach all levels of learners, from the profoundly handicapped, to severely handicapped, to mild and moderately handicapped to everyone else, including the gifted, who are exceptional in their own way. Busy, busy, busy! But amazing.
Communication- helping the kids have a voice- is totally the most important task a teacher has. The one, single issue for students that has settled as Numero Uno in my teacher's mind involves quality of life: does the child have choices? How can a child have choices if she can't communicate?
I won't lie. Teaching the handicapped is complex, intense, plus you have to deal with all those grown-ups (Special Ed. meetings and such.) It is the Navy Seal job of teaching.
But what a profound experience to communicate with an autistic student. I always feel so privileged that he will make eye contact with me. Or teaching a severely handicapped student that couldn't see or speak to sign thirty words. Finally he could tell us he really didn't like music, but loved the mini trampoline.

We teach in a team, the team made up of family, teachers and staff at school--not to mention the student's friends, church, babysitter, cousins, even pets. The teaching staff and support staff in the district where I teach are amazing experts, and I am confident to ask for help in areas I don't think my knowledge is as advanced as it needs to be. Not one of us has all the expertise for our student. We provide the learning network supporting her throughout the day because living her life is her educational program.
Good to learn! First we sing our ABCs then we sign them.

Movie Review: Red Tails

"Red Tails," is a new release rated PG 13, for some language and war scenes. The plot of the story focuses on the first black US fighter pilots during WWII. Children from middle school through high school would have sufficient historical background to feel the reverberation of civil rights history prior to and later than this period, and appreciate the contribution these young men made. The characters present the skill and courage prerequisite for success as a fighter pilot, and keep the youth, audacity, and energy at the proper high level for the task at hand. Kids of all ethnicities should enjoy this film because it is a story of confidence and comradery.
Along with viewing the fantastic aerial scenes, it is possible to see some of the actual vintage planes in flight at air shows across the country, as well as static displays in air museums. These are amazing teachable moments for engineering, history, career opportunities. Plus, they are just so cool. The aircraft up close is like a work of art that's created to kill.
Our small SoCal airport has an airshow every fall, and I counted it a privilege to see the WWII vintage planes upclose (probably closer than the air crew on the aircraft carriers in the Pacific) because my dad flew the F4 Corsair--the dark blue plane with folded up wings--and was later instructor pilot for the other planes.

                                               F4 U Corsair, Apple Valley Air Show

Hugs: Future Investment

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tweets of the Week

Wow, offering you the articles I've read online is certainly easier than piling newspapers and magazines on your desk or coffee table (or the rack next to the commode.)
But it isn't quite as cozy as a lovely library setting with peace and quiet, and maybe a park with a rose garden outside. But we'll make due with technology.

This link attempted to measure the most quoted poems by an online use standard. Ha! we all know in spoken language its got to be Shakespeare, "To be or not to be, that is the question," but I guess people don't google Hamlet because they don't need to--they've got it already.

Article about redefining autism, that may result in redefining services.

This is a story here in SoCal about parent education. Excellent.

How to evaluate teachers? What a quandary. Some smartie pants with a Phd should surely be able to develop some equitable criteria. 

New leader for young readers chooses 'Reading Is Not Optional' as slogan. Oh yeah!

Its a mystery wrapped in an enigma: really? You can't spot a bad teacher?

Just threw this last one in because its cool and a little weird at the same time. I have always liked the ferret girl the best.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Books to Soothe Kids' Toxic Stress

A third grader, small for his age, could really run fast during practice for his elementary school's Olympic Day. It was his way to shine. His tennies were worn out, so Teacher got him a new pair at Wal-Mart. He made the school proud. This school district was low income, and located near a federal prison, therefore many families were in the area to be living nearby to visit relatives. The little boy also worked very hard at reading, writing, and math, including those impossible fractions. After the January 19th holiday, he asked Teacher, "Why don't they make Dr. Martin Luther King bedsheets? They make them for Superman." He had chosen the better hero.

This is a true story, and I hope the little guy is now a grown, happy, and functional adult, since I last had him at school in 1995.  He had the odds against him, but hopefully some encouragement from reading in school has remained with him.
This story of Dr. King and his profound words will be like miracle grow to the young soul, no matter what color his skin may be.

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, reaches kids because the main character is a fifth grader facing serious losses that many children suffer due to a divorce in his family.  Students of all enthnicities identify with him, primarily because of Beverly Cleary's poignant and skillful writing. This boy lives in the kids' minds and they worry about him until they read the sequal, Strider. There is catharsis for the young ones who feel abandoned, or are impoverished, or bullied.

Another story is enormously famous, but is new to the kids, of course. It is the incredible story of
Helen Keller, in her own words.
"My Dark Night," is Helen's eloquent relating of the struggle to introduce language into her isolated world by her teacher Annie Sullivan. And the retelling of being trapped in a tree during a thunderstorm is a masterpiece of personal narrative. Students physically handicapped or not can live Helen's experience through her marvelous talent of writing.  This is an online link to her Chapter V. Helen had a brilliant mind, and she expressed such optimism. This could seem so mysterious to kids. How could someone blind and deaf and not really able to speak be happy? That's a genuine life lesson. The film, The Miracle Worker amazes kids with its ferocity and startling clarity. I favor the 1962 version with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft. You could also read the play with older kids.
That's a link to quotes by Helen Keller.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.  That's surely a helpful one!