Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Hiatus

You're probably saying, "Duh". I really want to keep this blog going but it's really hard to do. I became really busy this fall. I decided to take on RTI for my building and become the RTI facilitator. I know, I know, you probably remember my RTI updates and rants where I adamantly opposed becoming involved with RTI. But here's why I did it: I want it to be done correctly. No one else in my building knows what to do, so I took it on. The other reason is because I have a new principal. I knew that I would be able to require teachers and specialists to follow a protocol if the principal backed me up. It was also a refreshing change to have someone else in the building that was aware of RTI. I've been fighting this battle by myself for 3 years now. So that's why I took it on. Many of my colleagues were surprised and thought that someone made me do it. No, I volunteered (after much soul-searching).

I seriously logged in to say that this would be my last post for a while. I started with the idea that I was going to blog every day, then it turned to every 2 or three days, then it was once a week, and now I haven't posted since October. I'm incredibly busy at work. I've remained anonymous so in order to maintain my anonymity I don't blog from work. By the time I get home I don't even want to look at a computer, so my blogging has suffered. I was about to pull the plug on this blog until I saw a comment. Sara C. commented on my Teach for America post. I often think that I'm just blogging for no one in particular. I know a couple of people follow my blog, but I never thought that people care enough to comment and disagree with what I have to say. That sounds like I'm adding something to the conversation on education! I can live with that.

So I guess I'm saying that I'm not gone yet. I'll be back in 2011. I hope I can keep the conversation going.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Land of the Luddites, Part 2

My new principal is tech savvy and he wants the staff to be as well. I'm all for it. It may take some of my coworkers some time to get used to it. When the principal toured our building during the interview process, he was taken aback by the number of chalkboards in the building. My building was built in 1990, so whiteboards were not prevalent at the time.

He's trying to make us as paperless as possible. I 100% agree with this. He does everything by email, which I find to be efficient. He has required staff to check their email at least 3 times a day. Some people are balking at this, they don't like being tethered to their laptops. However, if this is the only way you will learn about what is happening, you will have to adapt. The problem with my old principal was that she would communicate everything in two forms: email and a printout of the email that appeared in everyone's mailbox. It was redundant and didn't encourage people to check their email. I like this move because it's forcing me to be more efficient. I no longer create schedules in word and email them as attachments, now I just make appointments in Microsoft Outlook (what a novel concept). The funny thing is that I used to operate this way when I worked in an office years ago.

One bright note about technology: it's making printed text obsolete in the lives of our children. A fifth grade class in my building was looking at methods of reference. It was amazing watching the teacher try to explain certain types of books only to be met with blank stares and looks of bewilderment from her students. Items that elicited bewildered looks: encyclopedias, almanacs and phone books. It was especially funny to hear the students ask questions about phone books. "They print everyone's phone number in a book?" "What if your number changes?" "How do they know about your phone number?" It was also funny to hear the discussions about encyclopedias and almanacs. With the internet, how do you even describe what they are that makes them sound relevant? It made me realize how far we've come and it also made me feel old.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Issues in the Media

There have been a lot of relevant stories in the news. In today's New York Times, the chancellor of public schools in D.C. is resigning. Michelle Rhee is calling it quits. I didn't agree with her tactics, but it would have been interesting to see if they were effective. she battled the teachers' union. She abolished tenure and supported merit pay. With her absence, I'm not sure we will get a clear picture of the results of her efforts.

The recent story about the Rutgers student that committed suicide has everyone talking about digital media, social networking, and cyberbullying. My principal has been subtly pushing me to address bullying schoolwide. I think we have done a decent job of handling any bullying situations. My social worker went to a workshop that de-emphasized the use of the term "bullying". The rationale is that it can be vague and it often requires prolonged abuse. She proposed that we work on abolishing meanness. Even kids in kindergarten can identify something that's mean. They don't always understand bullying.

"Waiting for Superman" is taking the nation by storm. I haven't seen it yet, but I would like to. I'm not as defensive about the teaching profession as some of my colleagues. However, I do think that most people that bash teaching have no earthly idea what they are talking about. And they wouldn't last 5 minutes in front of a typical classroom.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Next Big Thing

As the school year started, I spent time thinking about the trends in special education. To be specific, I was thinking about how certain diagnoses become the de rigueur diagnosis; it seems like everyone is seeking the diagnosis during each evaluation. During 90's, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was diagnosis that everyone was getting, and still is. Last decade, we saw an increase in students getting a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders, and those continue to grow. Some figures estimate that 1 out of 160 children born have Autism. Now as we move into the '10s, there is a diagnosis that has gotten some press recently and I predict it will increase in prevalence. We'll be talking about over the next decade.

Drum roll....

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This will impact schools in the coming years, especially as parents and physicians become more aware of the symptoms and implications of having the disability. The media and sports have become more aware of it. Concussions are now a major concern for the NFL and the NCAA. This will trickle down to high schools, junior high schools, and Pop Warner football in the coming years, if not sooner. Also, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to more soldiers returning with TBI and doctors are now correctly diagnosing it. Before, it was thought to be PTSD, but doctors are starting to see the subtle differences. One distinction is the cognitive impairment that results from TBI. This will be a big diagnosis, and I expect school psychologists will be dealing with it more in the coming years.


Thursday, September 02, 2010


The new school year started off with some new changes. A new principal is roaming the halls. The first day of school was interesting because it was the beginning of a new era. My former principal had been in my building for 15 years. She witnessed a lot, and put a lot of systems into place. The beginning of the day started with students arriving to school. Some were confused and were found roaming the hallways before the morning bell rang (a no-no in my building). Arrival was chaotic because buses arrived late and parents were meeting teachers outside and people had new responsibilities and duties. The day started a little later than usual, but it went as smoothly as possible.

I was stuck in my office all day, playing detective, trying to find records on new students. That's how I usually spend my first few days. It's really funny when I get to know a student through his/her paperwork, yet I never lay eyes on him/her until a few days later. We have 2 new sixth graders that require one-on-one aides. This is quite a switch for us, because one-on-one aides are not that common in our building. I will try to learn what I can about these new students. I'm already scheduling meetings for them so that we can meet the families and revise their IEPs as needed.

My new principal is moving us towards the technological age. I promise this will be its own posting. Look for Land of the Luddites, Part 2.

At the end of the day, we had a major problem. None of the teachers had bus lists. Usually the teachers would have these lists so that they could verify them before the end of the day. Our school dismisses at 3 PM. At about 2:58, teachers received bus lists so that they knew which buses their children ride. You would think that most of the children know which bus they ride, but maybe you haven't met the average kindergartner. The end of the day was very hectic and nerve-wracking and we only had one child get on the wrong bus. Not bad for the first day.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Last Day

My principal retired on Friday. It was a weird day because everyone wanted it to be over, yet at the same time didn't want it to end. My principal helped transform my school into a school that has a successful positive behavior support system, great teachers, awesome students, and a warm and supportive climate. She will be missed. I realize how fortunate I was to have a positive relationship with an administrator. It seems that for most people in my profession this is not the norm. I think that part of the reason we had such a great relationship was the fact that she didn't supervise or evaluate me. We also had great conversations that expanded beyond the day-to-day building business. I will miss working with her.

The new principal starts July 1st and plans on meeting with staff individually during the summer. It should be interesting to see how things will be different.

I'm off for the summer. I plan on taking full advantage this year. Last summer flew by and I was really disgruntled by the time the new school year began. I'm going to enjoy this summer to the fullest.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

It's Been A Long Time...

Sorry folks,

I can't believe I let almost 2 months pass between posts. I guess that's what happens when you are in the thick of annual review season. Let's recap the last 2 months.

-I finished reading the entire Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series (all 5 books) by Rick Riordan. I highly recommend them. I think they are at a 4th grade reading level, but I know plenty of kids that enjoyed those books. My favorites were Book 1, The Lightning Thief; Book 3, The Titan's Curse; and Book 5, The Last Olympian. Rick Riordan just started a new series of books based on Egyptian mythology. Those should be good as well.

-The search for a new principal is ongoing. There were several rounds of interviews and they may have narrowed it down to a handful of candidates. The process is so secretive that only those on the interview committee know anything, and they aren't saying a word.

-For the first time ever my teacher's union gave concessions for the upcoming school year. We took a contract extension with a limited raise, in the hopes that the economy will turn around and we will get a bigger raise the year after. This will prevent any layoffs and program cuts. This was threatened to happen last year with every new teacher in each building getting a pink slip. In the end, only 4 teachers were laid off, and I believe most of them retired anyway.

-Year one of RTI is coming to a close and there have been mixed results. Our initial evaluations have gone down a lot. My team is afraid that we will be swamped next year. We will wait and see. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds with a new principal since my current one is in charge of RTI.

-I have a student that likes to sleep. He has a gastro-intestinal issue, and his parents are not reliable. He has missed a lot of school. He absolutely hates his teacher and does whatever he can to get out of her class. We are starting to realize that he can be manipulative and we need to come up with a survival plan for him and us until the end of the year.

-I was recently trained on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). I'm excited about adding a new weapon to my testing arsenal. I already have 2 students to use it on next year.

-For some reason, parents think that they can just send in a letter saying that they want their child tested and then "poof" it magically happens. They are all astonished by the 60 calendar day evaluation timeline. I have either received or heard about 3 such requests in the last 2 days. That's all for now. I'll try to keep this updated more frequently.


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