Monday, 8 August 2016

What To Expect This Year?



My poor neglected blog... I promise to meet with you at least monthly this year.


So here is a start...


So much has happened in the past year for our team that is supporting students both in included classrooms and segregated sites in the district.


This past year:

1. We supported all ISP (Individual support classrooms) and CLS (Community Living Skills classrooms) with training in emergent literacy on two district PD days. Over 100 staff, including teachers and educational assistants attended each day. We listened to staff and provided some planning time so they could think about how to implement the work in their classrooms. Through this training, we established the moral imperative for a true education rather than caregiving/babysitting. We established the need to presume competence and start where kids are at. Don't wait for mastery of "this" and "that" before giving full access to the alphabet. We established that literacy and numeracy are indeed the most important functional skills for all people and even more important than "delivering flyers" or "sitting quietly" or you name it...We established that time is of the essence. We can't sit around and wait until the year before kids graduate to cram it all in and hope for the best. One teacher said, "If I only knew about this before? (A) would have gone so far..." We established that at least 10000 hours of literacy are needed for EVERY student. Have to start young!

2. We created a Community of Practice for staff from the ISP classrooms. WOW! Did that have a great impact. Their goals included creating a scope and sequence for moving to each level within these classrooms so no one or nothing gets missed. They plan on creating class year long plans in the areas of numeracy, literacy, science, social studies, physical movement and art for EVERY CLASSROOM. And they are holding each other accountable. This is amazing in itself as many classrooms were planned around activities (crafts, outside excursions, etc) and to plan on curricular goals is AWESOME!

3. Our team was accepted in a provincial COP so that we can share and learn with and from other districts in the province. We will take part in literacy and numeracy for the year. Click here for a brief overview of the project. We have planned out the year for some great meetings with staff and can't wait to share their progress as we go.

4. We created a tip sheet for district educators to get intentional planning on the table rather than leaving it to chance or the last minute. See the blog post here for more information. This was well received by some teachers who were just looking for a tool to help.

5. We sent 7 more team members, including one ISP teacher, to Karen Erickson's training in Detroit. As expected, they said the course was AWESOME and now we have 7 more people and one more classroom ready to take the challenge to educate these students!

6. We sent 2 more staff (one consultant and one ISP teacher) to Camp ALEC for further training. Camp ALEC is a unique summer camp specifically designed for children with physical disabilities whose primary communication mode is AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). This amazing experience will give these two staff members another set of tools to insure students are getting the necessary education to meet them where they are at with an actual assessment rather than a guess!  Not to mention, they get to hang out at a real camp with absolutely amazing young people who all use AAC. 

7. Our district completed a pilot to update Individual Program Plans.  We will now have an IPP based on Alberta Education's template B (please note you need to open this template in Explorer to have a look- it doesn't open in Google).  This will change the perspective to a more strength based IPP rather than focusing on percentages and deficits.  I feel this will be a very positive change for students with significant disabilities.

This year our goals include:
1.  Continue with the Community of Practices: one for ISP staff as well as CLS staff, one for Interactions staff (Classrooms for students with Autism).  I think this will have a great impact as teachers help teachers.  

2. Continue with district wide PD for staff in these segregated classrooms.

3. Continue to support individual teachers as needed, as well as offering PD for whole staff on early Thursdays.

4. Support the use of the new IPP for all included students and students in segregated classrooms. 

5. Add Professional development for staff with included students as a main focus.  We will look at using the planning tool, how to use Assistive Technology and Augmentative Alternate Communication as needed.  A real focus will be on using these tools consistently for the benefit of the student.  A big aha moment for me this year was realizing I didn't have to be the expert in the AAC device.  I could learn along with the student and that would be perfectly okay.  That will be a message we share.

6. A pilot project at one school with a WIN (Whatever is necessary, whenever it is necessary) teacher. Actually at this school, two assistant principals will have dedicated FTE to be in the classroom to support inclusion by observing, helping teachers plan curriculum, helping teachers adapt curriculum, and facilitating total inclusion for their included students.  These two staff will become the inhouse experts for a K- 9 school with many included students.  I am especially interested in the junior high piece and look forward to seeing how that goes. We will meet in late August to get started.  I can't wait to share successes in this project.  

7.  Finally, we were invited to submit a proposal to speak at ATIA about our journey to fully implementing emergent literacy for students with significant disabilities.  At this point, we are waiting to see if our proposal is accepted.  What an exciting opportunity to get to share our process, our challenges and our solutions.  

It was an amazing year and looks to be a fantastic one coming! 
 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Every Week is an Adventure

What. A. Year!

 This has been a fast paced year and so much has happened.  My focus this year has been on emergent literacy and getting the word out that EVERY SINGLE STUDENT deserves a real literacy education.  At the beginning of the year our superintendent stated that every student needed to learn how to read.  He said, "Every" so that has been our message all year.  We have continued to work in our Individual Support Classrooms and we are seeing some great stuff happening.  One class in particular has truly embraced this work and we are seeing a great deal of payoff.  One story I love is of a young lady who does not speak with her voice but she CAN read.  Her teacher asked what word she wanted at the end of  her sentence (they were playing with the sentences from a predictable chart).  When the teacher showed her a choice, she took her time, giggled at the word she was picking and added the word that made the sentence, "I want to be a princess."  She was excited to share her work and while wait time was needed (and man, don't we all need to do more wait time!), She knew what she wanted to write.  It was beautiful.

Back to the beginning:  We took a group of consultants to Camp Alec last summer to learn with Drs Karen Erickson and Dave Koppenhaver for a week.  We lived at camp with the kids and while they played and had an amazing camp experience, we learned.  We learned more about supporting students in literacy and assessing their learning.  It was a very fruitful experience and we learned a ton.  If you can get to camp for this week, DO IT!   (Just don't eat the Tater tot casserole). You will learn from Karen and Dave and you will learn from the kids. They were amazing teachers.  We brought this back to our school district and have been working tirelessly to get teachers implementing this work.


Teachers and administrators have had the opportunity to learn from our team and we even had an invite to our regular monthly principal meeting.  Teachers are using emergent literacy to work with included children also and are finding when students are really learning, much of the negative behaviors they observed prior were disappearing.  The students were engaged in the learning.

This week we are preparing to present to teacher and educational assistant teams who will come and learn and then plan on how this will take place in their classrooms.  Exciting.

Do we still have barriers.  You bet, but we know if we are persistent, all staff will see the benefit of learning for all.