Expectations

“When people are placed in positions slightly above what they expect, they are apt to excel.”

~Richard Branson

I saw the following student work displayed in a 9th grade science class:

I waited for the teacher to turn around before I snapped the pic.  I didn’t want her to know that seeing this caused me have an ulcer for the day.  This is exactly what I taught my first graders when we were learning about the same topic.  Something is horribly wrong here!

Lately, a running theme in my work has been observing urban educators with low expectations of their students.  Many times, I don’t even think they realize they are doing it.  I have been a part of multiple conversations recently where people use the label “SPED kids” or Special Ed kids”.  This terminology makes my skin crawl.  We have to look at the child first.  People can say it’s all the same thing, but is it?  I would rather hear “student with special needs” or a “student with a disability”.  I heard a school administrator call a student: “the downs kid” – REALLY???  How about calling a student by name?  Or saying the child with Down’s Syndrome? We must stop using these identifiers in this manner.

How can we better model and teach the language and practice of inclusion and tolerance? How do we change the discourse?

Comments welcome

So You Want to Facilitate a Webinar

I participate in many webinars and usually I am disgruntled as I think to myself, why am I participating if the presenter is just reading the sides out loud?  This time, I was on the other side of the screen…I was the facilitator…and I bombed!  I learned how challenging it really is to facilitate online learning as there are so many moving parts.  This experience led me to a metacognitive moment…thinking about my thinking and my process.

Lessons learned:

1.  Practice, practice, practice- don’t just practice what you are going to say, practice using the “virtual classroom space”

2.  Make sure your speaker and mic are both ON

3.  Provide frequent pauses to read and respond to questions by participants so that it’s as interactive as possible, especially when your audience is only participating through a Q&A box

4.  If you are going to use the cursor – use it!  Otherwise, it’s a distraction

5.  Revisit step one

I <3 Learning

I           Learning

I love learning!  Sounds cliché at best, but I really do especially when it’s based on my interests and at my own pace.  Quite honestly, the idea of going back to school, especially in a traditional setting, makes me anxious.  However, I am obsessed with technology and finding new ways to be more organized and efficient and effective in my personal and professional life.  I often imagine what school would have been like for me if I had all the tools and technology that we have today.

My goal is to share resources that I stumble upon and actually use and then share with my fellow EDheads:

My current EDspiration: 

I was looking for a way to save bookmarks in an organized manner and one that was not limited to my laptop and stumbled upon Diigo.  I have many bookmarks that are organized, but when it comes to looking up a resource, I rarely refer to my bookmarks.  It somehow seems overwhelming to have to remember where to look for the information.  Additionally, having access to this information through the Internet, is invaluable.  I work from different sites and in some cases may not have my laptop with me; this allows me to be global and mobile. Check it out!

http://www.fractuslearning.com/2011/12/07/convince-your-school-diigo-rocks/

Catching Up with Alex

I first met Alex Pettiford when he was in Kindergarten.  I remember him running up and down the halls and having a lot of energy!  Alex is a native Washingtonian, sports fanatic and a self-proclaimed comedian.  Currently, Alex is a freshman at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and plays rugby.  I’m pleased to know the running of the halls was put to good use! 

Alex inspires me as he has worked very hard to get to where he is now and acknowledges those who supported him.  Here is a snapshot of his story:

Tell us about yourself.

My grandmother raised me until I was seven years old when I moved in with my father.  When I was younger I had anger issues and it was a huge concern for my family and my teachers.   I was never really introduced to gang violence or street life for my grandmother had sheltered me from that.  As I grew older different people dug within me and helped me find something that I didn’t know was there, morals. I was taught the importance of being honest, respectful and having integrity and as I grew they grew along with me.

Who supported you through school?  Who was pushing you to succeed?

I’ve always had my family’s support, and no matter what I did I knew I could go to them, however the foundation of support that was behind me went way beyond that. I had countless people who supported me through school. During my elementary years at SAIL Public Charter School I felt as though most of the people had my best interest in mind, such as Ms. Kim, Ms. Reem, Ms. Felicia, Ms. Lisa, Ms. Harden, and Mr. Ross. It saddened me that I had to find a new school starting in 9th grade. I was surprised that just as there were people who genuinely cared at SAIL, there were the same types of people at my new school HYDE Leadership Public Charter School.

What is the plan for post-college?

Well obviously after college I want to get a good job, however I’m not sure of the details of the plan. As of now my major is Athletic Training and it requires that I get hands-on experience. Having real life experience will make finding a job much easier.

What inspires you to persevere?

What inspires me is how hard my father had to work because he didn’t receive a good education. Yes, I want to be just like him but I want to do such without putting such a heavy burden on my body. Right now he is 64 (I think) and instead of enjoying himself he still talks about getting a job.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of where I am, mainly because of where I came from and what I went through.

What advice would you give to current high school students?

My advice for current high school students is simply if you work harder in high school, then college will be that much easier. Just do your best all four years and you will have so many more options in life.

School of One

EDspired is about advocacy and being inspired to make change.  EDspired had the pleasure of interviewing Dorothy Jones of Washington, DC about her experience as a parent who transitioned one of her three children from attending public schools to homeschooling.

Set the stage for us; share your journey of how you became a homeschooler?

When we left The School for Arts in Learning (SAIL PCS) a few years back we enrolled Zari in our neighborhood school.  The school worked for my two other children following the transition from SAIL, but not for Zari.  No efforts made to individualize instruction or make accommodations for her learning style.  After years of struggling and feeling ignored by the staff and the special education team, I decided not to allow Zari to lose the love of learning and curiosity about life.  We looked at other schools and weren’t impressed.  So, this fall, we started homeschooling.

What have been the greatest challenges you have faced?

So far, time management has been the biggest challenge.  They give you a rough schedule, but because I know the areas she needs more help in, we spend more time in those areas.

What are the successes thus far?

Zari loves school again!  She hasn’t had a meltdown since we started the online program.  She does still get frustrated, but she handles it better.  Math has always been a weak point for her and she is really excited about the online math course.  The online class is what I believe sold her on the program.  She is a techy and says she feels like she is in college.  Soon she will be conducting science experiments.  She didn’t have a lab at her former school.

How do you think this has impacted her school career?

She has choices on what she wants to tackle first.  Her attitude towards learning  and her confidence have improved.  In school, she didn’t actively participate and now she is comfortable talking and sharing what she thinks and what she knows.

Would you recommend homeschooling to others?  Why or why not? 

Yes.  If you have a child that is struggling socially or academically, homeschooling is a good option.  I am a believer in the public school system as I was in public schools my entire school career.  I think the social aspect of school is important, unless your child is floundering or withdrawn.

What are the top 3 things to consider before homeschooling?

  1. How would your child react to not physically being around other students?
  2. Do you have the time to dedicate to being your child’s teacher?  You have to teach a minimum of five hours a day.  It’s not something you can take lightly.
  3. Do you have patience?

How can we find out more about you and all the other projects you are working on?

Check out:

Urban Offspring on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/urbanMama74

Classroom 5612:  http://www.classroom5612.blogspot.com/ 

Heartbroken

I am heartbroken.  We are failing kids in DC and beyond, but DC really takes the cake for me today.  It’s not the city per se…it’s what has been allowed to happen over and over again.  School doesn’t meet the needs of a student.  Student has challenges inside and outside of the classroom impacting their ability to learn.  Student gets fed up, and drops out.  Another one bites the dust.

This week I have been left to Facebook stalk a former student of mine.  We met when he was five, in the Kindergarten class next door to my First grade classroom.  He spent a lot of time in my classroom that year and was enrolled in my class the following year.  We had already establish a strong rapport and I knew his aunt and father by name and had their phone numbers on speed dial.  This child had a lot of energy, was extremely creative and artistic, had a terrible time following directions, very charming and had a huge heart.  When he was in Kindergarten I remember getting down on eye level with him and saying to him, “I will be there when you graduate from high school and college, you can’t get rid of me.”.

Over the next five years I was his Principal and was able to keep a very close eye on him.  Middle school rolled around and adolescence forced him to want more autonomy and we communicated less and less over the past few years.  I knew he was in a strong middle school program and I helped him get into a high school that I knew was a small enough setting that he would be able to get the support he needed.  Fast forward, August 30, 2011, after multiple messages back and forth and me promising I would not yell at him, he tells me he has been out of school for quite some time and wants to go back.  All the details about why he has been out of school can be left up to the imagination.

Today, he is 17, has enough credits to maybe be a freshman, continues to live with a learning disability and will soon age out of the system completely.  My charge is to get him into school by Friday.  I have a few that I have selected and told him that we will go together and he needs to decide what is best for him because this is going to be tough…really tough.

My biggest fear now, is that we go, register, he attends for a short time, and becomes frustrated and drops out for good.

How many more kids do we need to see in this situation before we start making big changes?  It is not a one size fits all. If the kid doesn’t fit the school, find a school that fits the kid.

What would you do?