Friday, May 25, 2012

Ron Smith Interview: Use Any Method to Reach Students

I chose to listen to Ron Smiths interview because the title struck my eye. Ron said that using digital methods of teaching is very front end loaded. I have certainly have found that out during this EMDT program. Just think what it takes to make a 2 minute video, that is informing and interesting. Ron said that teachers often feel that a "Power Point" is thinking out of the box. Power point by itself is very blah, at least now that I see it through EMDT eyes. I hope I can challenge my staff to learn more and think out of the box as they teach.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wk4 Leadership Project Blog Post: Leadership Role Model Reflection:

This weeks Leadership blog is a reflection on leadership role-models that I have had in my life that I can incorporate into my leadership role. When I was thinking about what to say for this blog assignment I had all sorts of things flash through my head. There have been many people in my life that have provided that leadership model to follow. It still came down to a fellow teacher.
Shelly Barth is a veteran teachers who has been teaching our severe population of students, who have cognitive and physical disabilities. If I can borrow a phrase from Cindi Madanski, Shelly sees the trees even while she is looking at the whole forest. She treats her students with love and respect despite what disability a student may have. She is always trying to teach them to be self-advocates for themselves, and she is passionate about that subject.  Shellie challenges herself to always think of her students as a complete tree not a partial one. A limb may have lots of knots it but it still deserves a persons full attention. If a student is non-verbal and has a very low level of IQ she still will find ways for that student to ask for what he or she needs or wants. Shelly partners with her parents, and guides them through a life in high school as a parent of a child with a severe disability.

Looking for the best in a student is a great model to follow, and I try to do that everyday. The EMDT program has given me ways to bring out those "best" qualities in different ways. Keeping them engaged and learning those functional life skills will only be a "win" for my students.

MAC Wk 4 Comments to my classmates

HI Cindi,

Great great post. I bet that this post was therapeutic even. Knowing what you have been through this year has been so hard for me to watch. I have taught in that kind of Kayos before, and I know how hurtful students can be to you and each other. Your districts dream of "fixing it" is commendable, but it seems they have not thought it through. Does that surprise me NO. Administration always have a vision, they just don't think it through.

The art of possibilities just the title itself is how your school should be viewed. Each and every one of those students has a possibility. If the school staff can commit to its vision then I am sure you will succeed. The words invest, empower and succeed offered by Alyson are awesome and apply.

I know it's hard and it has been so rough for you, but I know you can do it. Your personality will not let you throw in the towel without trying. Do you have support? At school maybe not always....but from me and others in this cohort? YOU BETCHA!


Week Four: Vision

Creating Frameworks for Possibility

While the last chapters of this month’s reading were all valuable, the one that resonated with me was the eleventh practice. The school that I teach at was completely overhauled with an entirely new staff, students, and grade levels this past school year. This whole year has been a work in progress, as the staff was hired only 2 weeks before school started (and in fact is not entirely complete now, and I came at the end of October), the administration was only assigned then as well, and our contract language is changed entirely for this building in the district alone. Teachers had never worked together before, and none had worked in this neighborhood or had any connections to the families in our school.

I say this because while we have been hired as “the best lead teachers in the city”, we have been operating without a clear vision. We have been thrown together with the task of “turning this failing school around”. A gargantuan task with no support from central administration to do so. At our last staff meeting, we discussed the need for a vision statement. I was a bit dismayed when we all contributed ideas and ended up with a vision the length of an essay with points encompassing all things we want to accomplish: lifelong learners, safe environment, parental education, engaged students, fostering curiosity, attending to health needs, community support, giving opportunities, 21st century technology, ending the cycle of poverty… the list went on and on. I felt that we were missing the mark on our vision statement. Of course we want all of these things for our students, but our vision could encompass all of these ideals without being an essay. It was simply a list of all the things that overwhelm us everyday and frankly, it was depressing to me to read it all and see all we have to accomplish.

According to The Art of Possibility, a vision articulates a possibility. It fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind. It is free-standing ~ it points to neither a rosier future, nor to a past in need of improvement. It is a long line of possibility radiating outward. I think that our vision for my school started during that staff meeting by looking at all that is wrong with our students’ lives, and what we want to do to fix it. That may be the worst way we can look at our vision. Why not the same vision as HP – “Robinson Elementary School For the World”? Not “Robinson Elementary School where we hope to erase poverty, drugs, gangs, parents who don’t know how to help their kids, kids who have no love of learning, atrocious behavior problems, pathetic attendance, government dependent citizens, violence....” Instead of looking at what we want to get rid of, we should be looking at where we strive to be.

Do we approach our vision by looking in the rear view mirror and addressing things that need to be changed? Or do we look forward at where we want to be as a school community? I will be sharing this chapter at our next staff meeting when we meet again to hammer out our vision statement.

photo from

Posted by Cynthia Madanski at 9:03 AM

HI Faith,Sometimes our circuit boards are not seated tightly in position. The thousandth of an inch it is off can lead to many things that don't work or need to be fixed. When we are not grounded we can feel that way, that lonely overwhelmed feeling. One can trust in finding the proper seating by surrounding themselves with the ones they love, and with passion I believe. Your board maybe out of sink at times, but I truly believe that your sense of passion for life will always get you through. Your circuit board is strong and seated correctly most of the time :)David

MAC: Week 4 Blog 1

MAC week 4 blog 1 reading: The Art of Possibility byBenjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander

Used with permission from:
What if wewere the circuit board of our life?

Perhaps this book is all about being Zen.  I particularly like the portion of Zen that explores the lack of people living in a bottle.  I find that at times I am guilty of the desire to be unaffected by the outside world.  I like isolation, which is witnessed by the National Forest surroundings of my home.  I find that too many people clutter my thoughts too easily.  Yet despite this isolation we affect each other, and we are part responsible no matter which direction the outcome.  I would like to be more efficient in the game of chess, but the concept of being the board seems harder for me to grasp.  I understand that actions and reactions occur, and most of the time I do not assign blame.  There are times though, when feeling low, that I am bound by insufficient thought and overwhelmed with negativity. When those times occur action is required to re-establish a positive mode of thinking and being. 

MAC Wk 4 Reading Entry Chapters 9 - 12

This weeks reading for me centers on Chapter 12 and the prompt offered in FSO, Telling the WE story. I have been in the classroom for 23 years, and in that time I have worked with students ages 5 to 21, and they represented a huge range of disabilities cognitively and physically. My whole teaching career has been focused on paying it forward, giving as much as I can so my students can lead successful more independent lives as an adult with a disability.

The "we" comes from two opposites in the spectrum of disabilities. David a tall, thin, happy child with Autism, and Brandy a young trouble teenager who used drugs, was oppositional, and was a runner. David from the first time he joined our Life Skills program as a freshman said that he wanted to be a Car Detailer. As a freshman David had very low self-esteem, and he lived the life of a student with autism. He had to eat the same lunch every day, he had to have certain items in his backpack. He hated to be wrong, and he had no social skills. He would blurt out answers, or stand two inches from you. He would eat super fast. That meal had to have a can of Ensure, a fusion yogurt drink,  and a tuna fish sandwich. He would refuse to try any new food. Changes of schedule had to be explained to him a week a head of time if possible. Remember he wanted to be a car detailer.

Brandy was a typical teenage girl, who was cute, and had a very outgoing personality, but she was hiding! She was hiding all of the hurt that had come her way with her dysfunctional family. Like many teenagers she would challenge authority to not only get her way, but to just push anyones buttons. What was he future going to be? I had no clue, I had my hunches. Did I think she was going to screw her life up along the way? YES I did.

As David grew older and became more confident it was clear that this young man was really going to go after his dream. He was able to live through his parents divorce, and he took on living with mom, and seeing dad on weekends. He proved that he take some regular education classes as long as he had a para with him that could keep him on task and organized. David was a visual learner, and reading fluency was not his strong point. If material was read to him, and gone over slowly with a fine tooth comb, he would get it. He joined our NJROTC program, and proved that he could learn how to be disciplined in study as he learned training manuals that would bore any of us. The auto mechanics course had MATH in it, OH NO Math. His connection with his para, teacher, and his mom got him through it. Mom was a wreck, but he made it through. He also took on a training job that paid him sub minimum wage at a local car dealer. It was there he learned how the professionals detailed a car. By the time his senior year rolled around he was detailing cars on his own in his garage. He was slow at it, but he was trying. He graduated and returned to us to take more auto shop classes. Classes at the local community college.With his para in tow they both learned the art of body work on an automobile, from dents to painting. His dad stayed in the picture, and provided him with funds to start his business, tshirts, and business cards brought Dave's Detailing into reality. David reached age 21 and soon it was the day before his 22nd birthday. He was about to age out of our services provided to him as a public school. A small business license was applied for, and a local car dealer provided him with a work space and cars to detail. It was a car port attached to the used car dealership. Today it is an enclosed garage and his business is thriving! My co-teacher and I are proud that we paid it forward by sticking with him, and teaching him as many functional life skills as possible.

I met Brandy when I was teaching computers and history in a residential treatment facility for students who had severe conduct disorders, and juvenile sex offenders. She was a hurt confused young lady that at the same time was very witty, sarcastic and foul mouthed. She used drugs and running away as her form of escape. She had issues with authority, lying, being inconsiderate to herself and those around her. I taught her in class, where her general attitude was I don't care. It was a rough start for both of us. I decided to put in extra hours and work on the residential units when they were short staffed. Each teacher was part of a treatment team, because  school was considered part of their therapy. Working on the unit proved to the students that I cared, and was willing to put up with what ever they could dish out. I was called names, spit on, hit, and in the end they learned that I could physically restrain them if it was called for. It turned out that I was the only male trusted to work on the girls unit. Brandy and I slowly established a relationship. She figured out that I was a male that was going to respect her, help her and not try to be physical with her. It blossomed into a relationship built on trust. I could just look at her and she knew if I was approving of her behavior or not. Brandy left the program after working on her issues for almost 3 years. She became a leader on the residential unit and she left with her head held high. She would write to me from time to time and check in, then I lost track of her after that, until Facebook came along. She typed in my name one day and found me! We reconnected and I visited her home with her future husband and two kids. It was a tiny house, and seemed to have lots of problems, but it was a house. I asked her how she did after she left the treatment program. She said she had struggled but my letters helped keep her on track, and she admitted that the treatment program called Positive Peer Culture really did teach her a lot. YES I had paid it forward, and she was living proof.

What do I do from here? I keep going, I keep teaching. People who are not Special Education teachers often say to us that you have so much patience, your a special person. I don't think about it in those terms. I think that we are passionate, and we look for those sparks to ignite, we push ourselves to think out of the box to help our students to succeed. We go for the Possibilities!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

MAC Wk 3 Leadership Project Hub

Wk 3 Leadership Project Hub

Welcome to the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children

 My plan is to present my AR project at two conferences, one on the state level and the other on the national level. I choice the Council for Exceptional Children because as a Special Education teacher this is one of the primary organizations that represent my population of students. 
My first choice is to present at the state level conference in Lisle, IL on November 1,2,3. I was able to collaborate with the chairperson in charge of presentations as I applied to present at the conference.  I have since found out that there are two possible presentation opportunities. The first would be to a Student section of Illinois Council for Exceptional Children in Lisle, Il at the state ICEC conference. I am waiting to here if I have been accepted for this one. 
The second opportunity is a the Illinois Council for Children with Behavior Disorders. I have officially been accepted to be a presenter at this conference on February 1, 2013 in Lisle, IL.  
The Third choice would be to National Council for Exceptional Children April 3-6 in San Antonio, TX
 I am not planning on doing this one alone. Faith Olarsch and I are applying as co-presenters. Our AR projects fit together well, so we are completing the application this week.

This will be a challenge for me personally because I have never presented before at a conference. It will be an adventure for sure. 

Leadership Blog Wk 1
Leadership Blog Wk 2
                                                                                 Leadership Presentation File
Leadership Project Speakers notes 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

MAC Wk 3 Comments to my classmates

HI Amanda,
The stories you tell about the teachers lounge are so so true. It is amazing that no two teachers lounges are the same, but often times the conversations are. The teachers who are negative all the time, seem to be those who are stuck and find themselves on auto-pilot. It takes an open mind and heart to find the good in any student, and it is worth searching for. I am lucky that we have no real teachers lounge any longer. The district was going to remodel it, but ran out of funds. They no longer serve teachers lunches in there any longer, so no every really uses it.
I find myself talking with other special ed teachers, and most of the talk is HOW can we do this, or change that...we want to benefit a student. I get frustrated when other staff do not treat our students like they would any one else. If our students break a rule they should have the same consequences. We have to remind staff from time to time that our students know the rules and need to be held accountable.


MAC Week Three: The Way Things Are, and don't forget Rule No. 6!

As I read the next four chapters in The Art of Possibility this week, I couldn't help but reflect upon the discussion board topic that we were also give for this week.  I'm pretty sure Dr. Joe knew what he was doing this week.  Our discussion this week had to do with the barriers to integrating technology in the classroom.  We were supposed to discuss, from our experience, what it is that keeps teachers from embracing new technology.  Our answers varied from time commitment to fear of failure, lack of PD to lack of support from Admin. Since most of us are classroom teachers, we hit probably the top ten roadblocks, easily.  But after the reading this week, my eyes are open to some new possibilities!

In the chapter, The Way Things Are, the authors discuss our tendency to see the negative in a bad situation, instead of seeing it for what it really is...just another situation.  They also discuss the tendency to express problems as a downward spiral, I hear this all the time in the Teacher's Lounge!!  The same teachers who balk at integrating new technology are typically the same people who express their frustration with "these" students, who are always the worst students ever, and Oh! Just wait! The class coming up is the worst EVER!! It's so frustrating, and disheartening, if you buy into all that talk.  Why would anyone ever want to dedicate their lives to teaching? It's much more encouraging to think of these kids as being different from previous generations, not better or worse, and to think of ways to reach them that weren't available in previous generations.

Where are you speaking from:

And finally, lest we all forget, remember Rule No. 6!!

{Not to give it away if you haven't read the book, but Rule No. 6 simply states: Don't take yourself so goddamn seriously!}
{PS: There are NO other rules!}


 Comments to Cindi Madanski 

HI Cindi,
I know how  you feel about your students. It is sad that the playing fields are never equal and our students are made to feel they don't count. Fighting the feeling of failure is hard, but you try. Your students will come around and they will see that trying is key, even if they mess up. The environment at home and with their friends you can't control, so that will make it harder. If you class can accept "trying' as a part of their classroom culture, then you will be on your way.
Teachers like you that accept challenges and see the good that could come out of it are hard to find. Your administrator should see that and I hope they will believe in what you are trying to do.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week Three Reading: TRY

In this week’s reading of The Art of Possibility, there were some quotes that really stood out to me. 
When told by a violinist that a difficult passage in the violin concerto was virtually unplayable, Stravinsky is supposed to have said: “I don’t want the sound of someone playing the passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!”
That quote makes so much sense to me based on the environment where I teach and the students who are placed in front of me every day.  According to the state department of education, my students are “failures”.  Their test scores are and always have been abysmal.  Older students from this neighborhood do not graduate high school, let alone go to college.  Many of my students have police records and are involved in gangs.  My students know their school has the lowest rating possible and that they are behind grade level. 
My goal this school year has been to motivate these students in ways they have never even considered.  So many of my kids have never truly tried to accomplish anything academic, by the time they reach 8th grade they have no desire to even try.  They have failed so many times, they have a “why bother” attitude.  My first month the words I heard most often from them were  “Shut up talking to me” and “That’s doing too much.”  I had to get across to them that I was not expecting perfection in solving algebraic equations, but I was expecting effort, and interest in how they work.  I was not expecting students to recite all of the phases of the moon, but I was expecting students to be curious about these events and try to hypothesize why the moon changes.  In a sense, “I don’t want the sound of someone playing the passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!”
Now, I realize that the quote from Stravinsky is stated in a different light.  He wanted the emotion, passion, and drive to come through in the music, rather than just the notes.  I want my students to actually know it is OK to TRY even if they fail, or only achieve a small success.  I want a classroom full of students who are willing to try.  We are not completely there, but I am proud of the progress we have made in just one year.
Another concept in this week’s reading that stood out was the concept of the one-buttock player.  It goes along with the Stravinsky quote, in that passion is as important (if not more important) than just hitting the right notes. I wonder if the CEO from Ohio had success when he transformed his company into a one-buttock company.  Can I have a one-buttock classroom?  Not this year, but if progress continues at my school that could be in our future.  How exciting!


MAC Wk 3 Reading Art of Possibility Chapters 5-8

Making a difference in a persons life is a responsibility, and as an educator I take that seriously. Teaching students in special education who have cognitive disabilities makes "making a difference" in their lives the focal point of what I do. Knowing that one day these high school students will become young adults, and will be faced with a world of possibilities, but they will just have to be prepared to work harder to enjoy them.
Some parents would love for us to "fix" their child, but we know that is not possible. I try to teach basic functional life skills to my students to allow them more independence at home, and where ever they may be in their future. They can learn this skills now and practice them at home with the supervision of their parents. There are times when parents have to be persuaded to allow their student to practice these life skills at home. I have a parent that feels that there is too many dials on the washer for her child to handle. I believe there are some steps that could be taken home to make it easier for her student to set the washer.
If my students can learn these skills then I know in my heart I have made a difference in their lives. The real world will not be an easy place for them to live, so all I can do is make it easier.

Seems like life could be very short, and do I take my self seriously? I do to a point but most of the time I am the person who is laid back, and goes with the flow. Do I avoid conflict? Yes I try to at times, who doesn't. To keep myself grounded I make sure that I do some things that I enjoy and am passionate about. If you looked at the title of this blog then you would know that music is a HUGE in my life. I usually am singing in a choir at church, the 2nd City Barbershop Chorus and my quartet 2nd Opinion. that represents 3 rehearsals a week and  seven to eight hours of singing a week. What does that mean to me? It means work, it means patience, fellowship, and most of all FUN.

Barbershop music is a journey, because the music is acapella that means the learning process can be long at times. We do use the piano to learn notes, and have learning tapes with parts available, there are recordings of songs too. The bottom line is when you are singing the chorus we rely on each other to sing the notes right, so the music will sound great. In a quartet singing the right notes is magnified by 100 because there is not one to lean on for your part. You have to sing each note correctly and in tune if you want your quartet to sound good. The magic happens when you can ring a chord and hear that unique sound. The four of us in 2nd Opinion love to hear that sound and we work hard to make that happen. Is it work? Is it hard at times? YES to both, but it is our passion that carries us on.

So I try my best NOT to set my expectations low in all I do, even though I lack the confidence that I need at times. Life is not perfect, but I live mine the best way I can.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Week 2. Comments to my classmates

Comments to Cindi Madanski

MAC Week Two

Week Two Reading:  Human Potential, not Music Notes

The Ted video had me hooked from the start; I do not feel that I would have absorbed as much from the readings had I not seen, heard, and felt Zander’s energy in the video first.  The video and “The Art of Possibility” are inspiring words of wisdom for all walks of life, not just for musicians.  He talks more of human potential than musical notes.

Having a son who has now played violin for 5 years and a son who is learning to play the saxophone for the first time this year, I truly “laughed out loud” when he modeled how an early student of music plays a Chopin prelude.  It was as if he had been in my living room over the course of the last few years watching my boys learn to play!  Zander has not only an understanding of music, but of children’s growth as well. Many of the things he (and Rosamund) said in this week’s reading hold true from a teacher’s perspective.  Zander says, “My job is to awaken possibility in other people”.  I took what he was saying to mean that his goal is to take his students on a journey where they find their worth and look for the best in themselves.

I contemplated for a long time on what is meant by “The Easy A”.  At first reading, I thought that it doesn’t make sense to just pretend that all students are the same and they all get an A.  Pretending that my students will all rise to the challenge and do things they can’t do.  

After sleeping on it and being back in school with my 8th graders after thinking about it, I read that section again.  Maybe what he meant is that giving out The Easy A brings out what is unique in students, rather than how they fall when “standardizing” kids against each other.   Grades (and of course the high-stakes testing I just administered) are all about how my students measure up against all other 8th graders in Ohio.  Grades and OAA scores do not take into consideration the environment and unique talents of my kids. The Easy A however, allows students to face their own unique challenges and tell why and how they deserve their A.  This would give a teacher richer information:  not how they stack up against others, but how they stack up against their own hopes and dreams.  This concept aligns with the Social and Emotional Learning program my school has instituted, and I can see how it can have great benefits.  However, my district says I have to assign grade cards and administer OAAs.  To find how The Easy A can be used in my classroom is a challenge I will have to think more about.


Week Two Extra Post:  A Fall From Grace

As I said before, the Ted video had my hooked on Benjamin Zander.  I wanted to learn more and see what other videos he may have out in Internet-land.  So I googled his name.  Sadly, I found he has recently had a “fall from grace” (as many sites have been quoted as saying)

Here is Zander’s own website statement:

On January 11 (2012), just over one week ago, I was told I had been dismissed from my position at the New England Conservatory (NEC) where I have worked happily for the past 45 years.

The reason was that I had over many years retained the videographer Peter Benjamin to film classes and concerts, knowing that he was a convicted sex offender who had served a term of imprisonment. I supported him in the sentencing stage of his trial and after his release on the basis of what I saw as his earnest determination to turn his life around, but I did so without inquiring into the exact nature of the charges. This was a grave oversight.

Further, I did not seek the permission of the NEC, based on disclosure of his conviction and imprisonment, to use him as a videographer in the College and the Prep school. I accept that it was not for me to make the decision that it was safe to do so.

For all the upset and anguish my actions have thereby caused in the NEC community and beyond, I profoundly apologize

I am dismayed to know that this man who has inspired so many children and adults to become the best musician possible could have had such a huge lapse of judgment.  Obviously as a mother of 3 young boys, I am disgusted.  However, I may not have had such a profound disgust prior to my course in Filmmaking Principles in Education.  I have since learned the power a videographer has behind a camera.  They must show a bond of trust to their subjects.  If trust is not there, it becomes voyeuristic and uncomfortable. 

Peter Benjamin was hired to film children at the NEC 20 years ago by Zander.  Apparently, Zander even wrote letters to the judge in Peter’s case to influence a lesser sentence.  After Peter (whose victims were children) served his sentence, Zander hired him to film children!  While most of the media I am finding online seems to show that the majority of people who have spoke about this issue seem to think that NEC overreacted by firing Zander, I believe this was an appropriate course of action, giving the information I have read.  I question his judgment to hire a sex offender to film a youth orchestra, and while Zander has published an apology on his official website, that took him several weeks.  His first reaction was that of “I did nothing wrong.”  Is his apology genuine now?  Quite possibly.  Zander could have supported Peter Benjamin in helping him find work after serving his time, but absolutely not by working with a camera and young children, the exact environment where he committed a heinous crime.  This was a huge lack of judgment, and I hope and pray that no children were violated in the 20 years Peter was employed by Zander. 

Week Two Leadership ~ Where to Publish

Mathematics Teacher Educator seems to be the most logical place for me to submit my publication.

Well, the manuscript is to be no longer than 25 pages of text of 6,250 words (exclusive of references).  I can confidently state that my paper will fit that requirement!

Another option may be Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.

In fact, this publication currently has a request for manuscripts for "articles that address how to promote communication so as to encourage students to construct their own mathematical understandings in the public forum of a classroom".  My Action Research did use technology for students to communicate what the learned in Mathematics.  

Here are my comments to Cindi:


The world we live in laws/expectations we must meet make it difficult to allow our students perform to their potential when they have to worry about grades all the time. Considering the emotional disorders of your students it would seem to me that using the easy "A" could be a great tool from time to time. It would be fun to let them be creative with sort of "No Holds Barred" expectations.


Wk. 2 Comments to Classmates

Amanda Rhymer

MAC Week Two: Blog Post "Giving an A"

In reading the first four chapter of The Art of Possibility by Roz and Ben Zander, I was struck by several interesting ideas.  First, the beginning of the book appears to be about positive thinking, and the power of positive thinking.  I recognize it immediately because that is what I was taught growing up.  All you have to do is picture yourself doing....or being...or wearing...My mom was especially good at helping you channel your wants and desires into positive thoughts.  To this day, my grown children will still call her (or me) and ask us to help "think" them into (or out of) a situation.  My mother also taught me the opposite side of this coin, be careful what you ask might get it!

The second thing that resonated with me is the idea of giving all of my students an A in the beginning, to break down the barriers to learning.  Several years ago I had a very diverse class, with every level of learner and every kind of student, it was a real challenge.  There was a lot of competition, both real and imagined, between the "A" students themselves, and between the "A" students and everyone else.  I was an "A" student myself, but as a teacher I've found that I have a real affinity for those students who work hard but don't ever seem to reach that "A" level of work.  So I gave my students the assignment of bringing in a 3-D cell model, made of any material they wanted to use, as long as they could properly interpret the required parts of the cell.  I gave the class three days to present the project to their classmates, and of course the "A" students signed up for the first slots.  All of their projects were elaborately done, made with purchased materials, some even commercial grade look-a-likes.  At the end of the second day, I held two of my basketball boys back and asked them if they had gotten some ideas for their project so they could present the last day.  They hemmed and hawed, it was too much money, too much work, too much time, etc.  You've all heard it.  I jokingly said, "Oh come on guys, I could buy a 99¢ hamburger from Wendy's and present it to this class as a cell two have to be able to come up with something!"  Well, the next day they showed up, one with a hamburger still in the wrapper (a plant cell) and one out of the wrapper (an animal cell) and they did a perfect job explaining how they'd arranged all of the add-ons, condiments, etc. to represent the cell.  They both received A's on their project.  Now, I thought it was a fair grade, but don't for a minute think that my traditional "A" students liked it.  They thought it was cheating, or that I was playing favorites.  I tried to explain to them my reasoning for the A, but in the end I decided that it didn't have to be justified.  According to the rubric, the two boys earned an A.  In my heart, they deserved an A.

Maybe I should try giving them all an A in the beginning and see what they can create when the grade isn't the most important thing.

My Comments to Amanda:

That story was classic and I can just see you giving that assignment. Those boys did exactly what you said to do, and they deserved the "A" for sure. When you think about the readings for this week, that project fit right in. The hamburger boys just needed you to be the encouraging person that you are. They did the task and did it well. The other "A" students should realize that thinking out of the box is a good thing and even the simplest things can turn out to be the greatest thing ever. Based on how this project turned out I would be curious to see what would happen if you gave everyone an "A" to start out with. 


Wk 2 Reading - Art of Possibility Chp. 1-4

In reading the first four chapter of The Art of Possibility by Roz and Ben Zander I found myself thinking about my own life, with family, and my teaching environment. I also found the Ted video with Zander  very enlightening because I saw my life through him. 
The Piano video as I watched it made me feel that wam fuzzy feeling inside, because both of my children took piano for a number of year. The stages of development  where  right on as I reflected on my own children learning the piano. My children are grown up now, daughter who is a teacher, and son who is graduating at the end of this month. Each of them showed the "normal" stages a student goes through, and I think those growing steps took place later in their lives too. Each of my children played a second instrument, flute and french horn. The stages of learning took place again, only faster I think. It became clear to that Zander was allowing students to find their own way along the learning path. Allowing students to do this allows them to grow at their own pace and therefore feel successful. 
The Art of Possibility really made me think of my teaching environment with special needs students. Chapter one talks about it all being invented. There are many assumptions that come up when people look at a class of special needs students. One of those would be how can they succeed in life, aren't they destined not to? I always assume that my students will succeed at something, even though it may not be what society thinks that should be. There really is not a set curriculum that I use to teach LIFE SKILLS to my students. That very thing really offeres up a lot of opportunities to teach students skills they need and can do as they become an adult with a disability. I am not just talking about a physical disability, but  cognitive delays as well.  This masters program and my action research project should give my students more choices to learn these LIFE SKILLS as they spend time with me as a student. 
I have mixed feelings about measuring my students. There really is no standardized way to do that, because each individual and each disability effects them differently. I can only go by what society considers to be "normal" and give my students the tools to perform tasks as close to what "normal" is. Society will just have to accept that my students are trying their best and that is all we can ask of them.  
Giving yourself an A  - I really found this to be a great concept and I think with "regular ed" students it could be a great tool. I personally always give me students an A as they start any new task or class. I really would not like to give grades at all, and just do a pass fail grading system. If a student participates and tries, then he/she is going to get an A. There is a time when getting an "A" for participating causes problems, and that is with siblings that do not have a disability. They are held up to different standards and sometimes have difficulty accepting that their sibling was earning and "A" but under different criteria. A pass/fail system would eliminate this issue. 
I hope I contribute to the success of my students every day. If I can help them live a more independent life at home, and then as an adult then I have done my job. The LIFE SKILLS I teach are they best contribution I can make to my students. The only other thing I would say is Patience,  to wait, to change, to adapt, to modify as we move on through their school life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wk 2 Blog - Where Do I Want To Share My Project

I have been looking at the list of conference it was hard to find one that was still accepting presenter applications. Networking came into play this time for me. I was lucky enough to have a undergrad professor as a friend on my Facebook page. She is involved with the Illinois Council For Exceptional Children, a conference that I would be interested in to be a presenter. I contacted her and she sent me three possibilities.
1. Illinois Council For Exceptional Children State conference on November 1,2,3, 2012 in Lisle, IL. They have closed applications but Bev Johns, my professor is in charge of presenters and says there is always cancellations. I will have to get that application into her this week.

2. International Council For Exceptional Children will be held April 3-6, 2013 San Antonio, TX . I have to apply by May 22nd.

3. ASCD March 16-18, 2013 Chicago, IL Proposals due by May 15, 2012
The last conference would be to the ASCD Annual Conference in Chicago.

The Illinois and International conferences for Council for Exceptional Children would be the most logical place for me to present my Action Research Project. Here is the Overview taken from their website.
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides professional development, advocates for individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.

As a special educator I would be addressing my peers, and I hope the presentation would prove to be helpful to others in this field of education. I hope to present my project as a discussion, so that the listeners and I can collaborate on how to improve what I have already done. Often times when teaching special needs children you have to rely on the suggestions and ideas of others, because most of the time you are not using a set curriculum. Functional Life Skills most likely will mean different things to people. It will be interesting to come up with a list, and then compare our results. By doing an exercise like that the group will be able to discuss what can be taught as a Functional Life Skill.
Talking about some of the Web 2.0 tools I used will help others there to engage their students instead of doing worksheets or group discussions. I also want to emphasis what the research says with regards to communication between parents and school. Establishing an open line of communication will help the students learn those functional life skills as they learn them at school and practice them at home.

The ASCD Conference would be my fall back conference.  Here is what the mission of ASCD is, taken directly from their website:

ASCD is a membership organization that develops programs, products, and services essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.

They are concerned with Best practice and offer conferences, online courses, printed books, and other educational materials. I really see this as a last resort. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MAC WK1 Leadership post: To Publish or To Present

It is so hard to believe that we have reached month 11 and there is a lot riding on what happens this month so we can get to month 12. One of the requirements is to decide if I want to publish or present my Action Research Project. I have never been a very good writer, but I am a good talker. I think I would feel more comfortable presenting the project, as long as the Prezi portion of the presentation turns out to be awesome. I know it will take a lot of work, but I would feel better if I were to present it. I am comfortable with my teaching environment and have been teaching in Life Skills for the last 9 years.
Now the task is to find the perfect conference to present the project.

MAC Wk 1. Comments to Classmates

Wk 1 Comments to Classmates: Copyright Laws Here is my second comment post to a classmate:

Katherine Olivar Wk 1 Reading:

We Can Copy, Right? I graduated High School in 1999 and was starting my freshmen year of college when the mp3 boom began. I had just moved out of my parents house and moved into my first apartment with my friend Mike. We were the type of guys who loved to be on the forefront of everything especially the internet. My buddy Mike got a Job working for the cable company, who at the time were rolling out lightning fast (slow by today's comparison) cable modems. These modems were to replace the old dial-up connection that many of us first encountered in the old AOL days of the internet. Little did we know that this modem would open up a whole new world to us and put us on a path to total local celebrity status. We first entered a chat room in using a little known program called My Internet Relay Chat or Mirc for short. Here we found a whole community of collectors of a small music file known as an mp3. The first songs that we downloaded were the classics like The Beastie Boys Fight for your right (to party), or Ozzy Osborn's Crazy Train. Soon we discovered a new program making its way around the channels known as Napster. This was a revolution in the Person to Person, or P2P file transfer protocol that we were using in Mirc. The only difference was that you did not need to ask people if they had the file, here all you had to do was type in the name in their search engine and you were shown multiple hits of the file, and which location had the fastest connection to retrieve it. It was an amazing concept that me and my friend Mike wished we had come up with. Soon we were having people come over challenging them to find the most rare songs they could think of, like Bob Marley's Guava Jelly or Slick Rick's original Ladi Dodi. With all these fiends coming over to complete their searches we amassed a large library of songs, and soon became the go to apartment for parties and music lounging sessions. Many people would ask where the music was coming from and I would reply "From my computer." No one believed me so I would always give them a tour and show them my setup and my playlist on the original mp3 computer program WinAmp. They were amazed, but many of my friends believed this was a fad and would soon go away like 8-tracks. I was so sure this was not a fad that I used the topic of mp3s and the future of music as my final persuasive argument in my public speaking class.It was a great time of my life broadening my love for music and making my first few year of college completely worth while. Why did I start this blog off with this story? Because even though I believe an artist has the right to protect his work, I also believe that the trading of mp3's is not the nail in the coffin that record industry makes it out to be. I remember when I was about 4 or 5 years old hearing how the VCR was going to kill movies and ruin the art of cinema being seen on the big screen. The industry soon found out that the proliferation of home media not only helped the industry, but added on a whole new consumer base that they had never thought possible. I believe the same can be said for the mp3's. The proliferation of the mp3 only adds to the appreciation of music thus raising music to a new and higher standard than ever before. Before mp3's I lead a sheltered life, only buying the occasional CD for bands that the radio told me were popular. After I started downloading mp3's my musical education grew, exposing me to the rich sounds of reggae, the unique rhymes of rappers like Biggie and Tupac, and the eclectic sounds like radiohead. Mp3's forced me to broaden my horizons, listen to new bands on a whim, and go to more live shows and concerts than ever before. The mp3 was a game changer for many young people back in the early 2000's and I believe it still is for many youths today. The fact is, I spent more money on music after the mp3 age than I did before. Sure there are those that abuse the system and take take take, but don't forget about those how give back. Today we see a plethora of musicians trying to make a mark in today's industry who may not have ever had a chance before. Take Justin Bieber (no really take him, haha), he got his start by posting videos of his talents on YouTube, a video site with its roots stemming from the mp3 sub-culture of the early 2000's. With this new medium many more artist can fill the world with their talents, or lack there of, allowing the American culture to determine who is worthy of praise and who is not. This I believe is what the recording industry is afraid of, we the people now have the power to determine who is popular, not the gigantic spin machine that we call the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA now in today's world seems insignificant, the power is now placed into the peoples internet. Artists now see that they can produce and market their art on their own with only a simple $1000 computer and an internet connection. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame found this out when he released his own album off the internet all on his own and asked for donations instead of a set price. It are these situations that the big corporate giants hate because there is no need for a middle man any more. The creation of the Creative Commons is the next evolutionary step of the P2P transfer protocol, that was so famously smashed with the demise of napster, bearshare, and limewire. This new P2P system places artist right directly on the property the individuals wish to use or listen to from their own computer. By placing the option of fair use back into the hands of the creator we limit the corporate stranglehold our ideas and though have been suffocating from for so long. Creative commons is a breath of fresh air for the little man who normal stands beneath the shadows of the corporate giants.  

My Comments back to her: Katherine, Great Great Post! Ok, now I really feel old because I had no clue that a lot of this was going on in the music industry. Limewire, well yes I did use that for a time but not very long. I remember those AOL days and MIRC, in fact met some great people there. I am one who listens to the radio and base what I listen to from that. The invention of the MP3 for me just meant that I could pick and choose what I wanted, and even not the whole album! My barbershop hobby has also kept me in a box so to speak, because I tend to listen to that genre of music a lot! Did we share music?,Yes we did. We shared arrangements, not to steal them, but to experience them. We tried to perform them well, and make them better. I guess you can say a form of remixing! There I said it LOL. I really do fall on the side of Creative Commons, it just makes sense to me. Creative Commons just allows for expression of an artist, and the license for the artist to say hey you can do this and this with it. So In that case every one wins. Thanks for the education MP3 and the remixing culture. David

MAC Wk 1 Comments to Classmates Blogs - Copyright laws

Here is Katie Ross original post and my comment:

I feel like at this point we should all be well aware of what is copyright and what is fair use. I know my industry (education) and my company takes both of these subjects very serious and frowns upon anyone who violates the policy. As an educator if we don’t uphold the rules regarding copyright and fair use why would our students want to uphold the same policies? I love that my place of work takes these 2 things very serious and even holds continuing education classes about these 2 topics to keep all of the staff and faculty up to date on the rules. So this in not a topic that just gets swept under the rug in my environment, and no one turns their head and looks the other way if they see another teacher breaking the policy. What is it like in your environment? Photo from opensourceway's photostream via flickr. Another reason why I think the company I work for takes these policies so seriously is because we have a lot of material that is copyrighted and we don’t want anyone else to try and steal our copyrighted material, such as our school logo, which is very unique to us. We always say in my office “ we have to protect the brand” whenever we our designing something that would require us to use the school logo. One thing that I think is a growing concern is the ReMix culture. Don’t get me wrong I love some of those videos on YouTube that are remixed. I get a kick out of them, I post them on Facebook for other people to view, maybe I shouldn't be doing that. I also think, as the presidential election gets closer we will see more and more of those types of videos being created. At some point we will have to decided how far is to far, what is the time limit one can use a video clip to remix something. Very interesting food for thoughts! Katie Ross  

My Comment: Hi Katie, Full Sail is a great place and I am glad they protect themselves with the copyright laws. I agree as educators we should know about that, but I do have to say personally I learned some new information this month. Your working environment keep you up to date and provides training for you, that is awesome. I have been at my high school now for 9 years and have only had one in-service training on this issue. Is that right? Of course not. I don't think I have violated any of the copyright laws so far. My students having special needs so far have not been in situations where this issue readily comes up. I will "train" for sure when it does. The issue of remixing, I am so new to that whole thing it is hard to give an opinion on it. I watched that video twice, I was in awe. I had no clue! Right now I fall on the side of creativity, so remixing is that for sure,as long as the original artist is good with it. If not then the laws need to be tweak to address the whole remix scene. David

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MAC Week 1 Blog Reading: Copyright Issues, parts 1-3, information overload

EDM Week1 Blog

The copyright laws have been an issue that I must say I don’t always understand. The EMDT program has made this issue a lot clearer in my mind. The first section of this weeks “reading/Videos” made it clear of what the basic concepts of the present copyright laws are. I always knew that if it was a fixed work, such as a book, play, or music then you could not use it with out permission. Now having said that, did I always live by that rule. Some of you know that I am a barbershopper and I have been singing that genre for 31 years. Barbershop music is one of the four original art forms, so its roots come from as far back as African slave music. As the genre came into full swing, the music was about songs that were simple and were known to everyone. The harmonies are based on 7 chords, so were arrangements always written down? NO they were not, and those that were, many were passed around. I started in 1979 and that was still going on, not because we did not respect the arranger and composer, it was the urge to make it better. Now all of that has changed, and arrangers/composers are there to help you. They arrange for you, and give you permission to sing their songs. The whole music scene in Brazil!! I had no clue that was going on, I had to watch it twice so I could fully understand what was going on. Perhaps it is my age, but I did not know anything about the remixing of songs. It makes sense after watching the video twice, and with laptops like a Mac Pro it is clear how it is done.
The concept of Fair Use really seems to be something that I am not sure that I want to cross that line. The opening is very small. I love how the video said that if you can teach the lesson with out the copyrighted material then don’t use it. I can see using small clips here and there, but in the end I would be more comfortable having permission. The eye opening moment for me was seeing historical videos that are not available any more because of the copyright laws. Part of our history is lost, and I think that is a shame. Where should we go with all of this copyright talk? The section on Creative Commons makes perfect sense to me. It gives the creator the flexibility to share the work on his/her terms. Sharing allows for more to be created from anyone, and the original can get better and better. It is a win, win situation if you ask me.