Page 2 of 3

High School Orientation Day

Well Nolan had his first day as a high school student. Now, I understand that it is just orientation but I was excited for him.  He found a familiar face and off he went with a smile on his face.  I was less excited realizing that I am the mother of a high school student.

Stay tuned for new posts during the year. I also have a new book I am reading too. The book is called Look Me in The Eye  by John Elder Robison.    It might take me a while to finish but I will share some interesting tidbits as I read.

Cooking Camp Was a Great Choice

Wow, I love what this cooking camp, Kitchen Kid, has instilled in my son.  In one weeks time, he has been inspired to hop into the kitchen to cook and bake.  Last week he made Vanilla Pudding.  It was so creamy smooth.  He did everything himself accept separate the eggs.  Separating eggs is very tricky.  Here is a picture of his pudding

Nolan’s  First Vanilla Pudding

From there, he began making his own breakfast. The breakfast mostly consisted of scrambled eggs. However, just the other night, his friends slept over and all three boys worked feverishly on dessert. It was a molten chocolate lava cake. It was delicious. Here is their photo.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

This cake took many steps. First the boys had to melt the two kinds of chocolate and butter in a water bath. Then, the boys had to crack and beat the eggs and sugar. Then the boys needed to temper the eggs before pouring all the eggs into the butter and chocolate mixture. In addition, the boys had to butter and flour all the ramekins as well as preheat the oven.

It was so much fun to watch the boys put this altogether. Once the cake finished baking we ate it immediately. It tasted amazing. The boys were so proud of themselves. Nico was so excited in the kitchen he couldn’t stop singing in his operatic voice. It was crazy fun. The most important thing is the boys had to stop using electronics for at least 45 minutes during the prep period.

So, it is okay  to gently push your child into making a choice otherwise the child won’t learn what interests him/her.  If my husband and I not made Nolan choose a camp, he would have wanted to sit in his room all day.  This would not have been acceptable to me or his dad.  Yes, summer is for relaxing but it is also for exploring new interests.

I realize now that it is ok for your child to be bored.

Last week, on 4th of July, my husband and I decided to run in the local race in our community.  After the race we showered and flopped down on the bed.  We checked in on Nicolas, he was fine playing his Gameboy 3D, so we took a nap.  Before taking this nap we explained clearly several times that we were leaving at 5:30 to head down to the football stadium for the concert and firework show.  We even explained to him that the Gameboy was going to stay home.   He seemed to understand.  Seemed is the best word to describe it!

About 30 minutes before we needed to leave, we gave our warning and reminder to Nolan that it was time to go to the field.  We told him the time we needed to leave.  He said, “okay, got it!”  Upon leaving, Nolan becomes flustered.  He said, “you never said anything about leaving and going to fireworks!”  And the drama begins.

We reminded him that we did tell him however, he probably didn’t listen carefully. After several minutes of “you didn’t tell me!”  and our response of  “yes we did, you didn’t hear us”, we finally jumped in the car and headed down.  I noticed the Gameboy in the car.  I told Nicolas this was family time and the Gameboy needs to stay in the car.  He seemed okay with the idea of leaving the Gameboy in the car.

Once at the football field, we sat down on the 30 yard line.  We had a great view of the stage for the concert.  My husband and I were so excited.  The English Beat played.  It brought us back to our high school days of social awkwardness and ska music.  Anyway, the band wasn’t going to be on for another hour.  So we sat, relaxed and waited.  However, Nolan couldn’t get his mind off that G in the car.  The tantrum had started.

He began screaming, “you call this family time? we aren’t even talking. We are just sitting here. Why can’t I have my Gameboy?  There is nothing to do.”  Our response was simple “we are spending time together.  If you want to walk around and look for friends from school, go walk around. However, the Gameboy stays in the car.”  The evening escalated to the point where he was scratching at the Astroturf trying to dig a hole.  Good luck with that!

My husband and I decided that he really wanted negative attention.  We were not going to engage.  We made a decision and we were sticking to it.  Finally the band came on and David and I hit the dance floor like it was the 1980’s.  We were not going to let Nolan’s teenage tantrum ruin our night.

This entire scenario was really our fault.  We have indulged Nolan with this Gameboy 3D since he was younger.  We knew that anytime he was bored all we had to do is whip out this contraption and presto Nolan would no longer be bored.    Hind sight being 20/20, I realize this was not the best solution.  So, what are we doing about this situation now?  Well since the teenage tantrum, we have removed all computer appliances.  They are being kept in a secret location to protect the innocent.   When Nolan earns his game time, he only gets one hour per day during the summer. He can even earn bonus time of another 30 minutes if he visits with guests or is helpful around the house.

It really is perfectly fine for children to be bored.  This is when they must learn to converse, create, and learn patients.  If they aren’t bored from time to time, than children might grow up to be adults who think there is always instant gratification and he/she must be fully entertained at all times of the day.  This is not the reality.  For our house, we have put the brakes on these electronics.  We have begun using the public libraries and neighborhood pools and beaches more.  We have required Nicolas to pick camps for the summer so he isn’t sitting at home all day.

So Are You All Wondering How The IEP Meeting Went?

Let’s just say some people need people skills. Here is a little bit of what happened.

First off, they start the meeting with “We are in a time crunch and have to finish in less than an hour due to the fact she has to teach a class.”  Boy we feel so warm and welcomed.  Let me just say, the school psych is fabulous.  She really took time to get to know Nolan.  The connection the two made is genuine.  She had really wonderful things to say about Nolan.  She shared about a recent time when he showed empathy,  as well as situations when a young man keeps pushing Nico’s buttons in group and Nolan is very calm and doesn’t explode.  However the teacher of record is a sweet lady that feels challenged when we, the parents, don’t agree with her choice.  She states that she doesn’t feel appreciated.  My response to that is “I appreciate everything you do for my child.  I may not agree with it.  These two are separate issues and one has nothing to do with the other.”

During the meeting, we came up on the part of the push-in support of the shadow.  This is where my husband and I mentioned our concerns of the current shadow who is becoming overbearing and embarrassing Nolan.  She became enraged and said, “I am not discussing that right now.”  WHAT????  I said, “Why not this is the IEP meeting, we are on the topic of the shadow.”  She just become unglued and yelled at my husband and I.  Her behavior was atrocious.

Her suggestion for high school is for my son to have a shadow “for his safety as well as the safety of others.”  Are you kidding me?  My husband and I vocalized our feelings about this situation and demonstrated how the current situation is not working.  My husband explained to the teacher of record, “We will think about your recommendation and weigh the pros and cons.  This is a delicate situation where we don’t want to stigmatize him as a trouble maker. In addition, Nolan is on his way to becoming a man.  This is a sensitive issue and not one we take lightly.  Furthermore, Nolan is who he is and he has this disability and it isn’t going to go away.  The teachers need to be more understanding when talking to Nolan.”   Right on Mr. D!!!!

It was 2:05 pm and the teacher of record closed her file and left the room.  At that point I told the Special Ed Coordinator that her behavior was extremely unprofessional.  The counselor for the AB3632 even chimed in stating that Ms. Booth needed to communicate to us, the parents, the remedies of the situation between the shadow and Nolan instead of her response of “I took care of it and I am not going to discuss this.”

The positive is that the Special Ed Coordinator is going to change the language of the IEP in the section of the IEP where it describes the duties and interaction of the shadow.  The way a shadow should work is as follows:  A shadow should work with a group of students. With in that group of students is the special ed student the shadow keeps an eye on.  This way none of the non-special ed students know who the shadow is for.  We are having that descriptive language written into the IEP.  In addition, we are asking them to have incentives if Nolan is responsible and takes care of his business, then the shadow will give him more space.

All I have to say, in my school district at my site, we would never yell at a parent during an IEP.  We would listen respectively.   Parents of children with special needs have the right and need to be heard.  The IEP is meant to be a team meeting not a dictatorship.

 

25 Ways to Improve Executive Functioning- Useful Tips for Parents and Teachers

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.” (National Center for Learning Disabilities, Dec 2010)

In a blog article written by Nicole Eredics from The Inclusive Class, there are 25 ways for parents and teachers to help improve students’ executive functioning. In italics,  I have written a response to each idea to describe what I do in the classroom. I hope it is helpful for people to see what could happen in a general education setting. Please keep in mind middle school and high school might be slightly different. I will comment on those settings at the end of the list.

The list is as follows:

1. Have students take homework and planners out of their backpack and place it ON their desks at the beginning of the day (homework should never see the inside of a desk!).
As a teacher, I agree with this. I have had more students shove homework in their desk and forget about it. Then when it comes time to dismiss it is not in their backpack. They can’t find it. They come the next day unprepared. I have a little saying in my class, “If you put it where it is supposed to be, it will always be there.” After once or twice, most of my students are able to organize themselves much better. When the homework is passed out, most of the students will place it in a folder in their backpacks.

2. Teacher makes time to check-in with each child to see if homework is completed and parent signs planner.
I have a daily note, I require parents to sign each day. This is something I need to reinforce. However, it is sticky because I ask the students but it is the parents that also must remember. It is late in the year this year but I will work on this for the 2012-2013 year.

3. All homework is put into a “Hand-In” bin.
I don’t’ have a hand in bin but I do call 5 children at a time to check their homework. The homework is very easy to spot check.

4. A Daily Schedule is posted in the class and the teacher reviews the plan for the day.
I need to make room for this on my whiteboard. I think this will help many of my students who have anxiety as to what comes next.

5. Older students keep materials such as pencils, erasers and markers in a pencil box inside their desk. In younger classrooms, pencils are kept in containers, which are passed around or kept at group tables.
I have a system in my class for pencils. Each child has a pencil box. Inside the pencil box, the student has a scissors, crayons, and a pencil. If the pencil breaks, I have a trade system. The student must put the dull pencil in the dull basket and take a sharp pencil. The rule is “you must give one to get one.”

6. The tops of desks should be kept clear. If it can’t fit into the desk, find a shelf in the classroom to house large items.
I agree that the tops of the desks should be free of clutter. I used to place the alphabet strips and name plates on the desk. This just seemed to distract the student. Now, I have nothing on their desks.

7. All work is kept in a color-coded folder according to subject. The folders are kept in separate bins on a shelf in the classroom. I.e. a blue folder is for Math
I don’t have this system. I like the idea. I have binders for Language Arts. The students must keep it organized. It contains a few sections that align with our Language Arts program. I don’t have a system for Math. I love the idea of the colored folders. I think I will implement this for next year.

8. Lessons are kept in age-appropriate chunks of time and students are cued when a transition is about to take place. I.e. “You have 10 more minutes until Math begins.”
I am constantly informing students  when the next transition will be happening. This is very important for all students. I also use a timer as well. This keeps me in check too.

9. Countdown students before instruction is about to begin. For example, “You have to the count of 5 to stop, look and listen.”
I like this. I don’t do this countdown to instruction. I will add this to my bag of tricks for next year.

10. Give instructions in short, simple steps.
Short and simple steps are crucial. I write the steps on the board too. This way if the student forgets the steps, the student is able to help him or herself in order to finish the activity.

11. At the end of each lesson, have student’s hand-in unfinished work, as well as finished work. Again, paper should not go into the desk!
In my class, the finished work is placed in my finished workbasket. However, there is paper in the desk because I can’t stand the up, down and walking around. It creates too much chaos. So, I have an “Unfinished work folder” They keep this in their desk. We clean it out every so often.

12. Create a checklist of daily activities for students to keep at their desk and check off when items are completed.
I like this idea. I have a checklist. I have to make it more visible. I should move it to the front of the room. This might help many of the students who wonder, “What should I do? Oh, I’ll just sit here and wait for my teacher to tell me.”
13. Organize class into groups. Give instruction regarding movement and change according to groups. For example, “Can the Blue Group please line-up at the door?”
I do use groupings. It eliminates the students running like a herd of buffalo toward the door, paper bin, etc.…it is for safety purposes.
14. Make a seating arrangement when students are sitting at the carpet. Learning takes place here as well as at desks, so give this area just as much thought.
We only sit at the carpet when we venture out to the library. I make the students sit in a colored box. Their body must stay inside the box, and sit “Criss-cross apple sauce”.
15. Consider having the students turn the desks around (so that the opening of the desk is facing the front of the classroom) to prevent loose papers from being placed inside.
I like this idea. However, it makes it hard when you have double desks. I think it is helpful for those students who fidget inside their desk and are focused on the items in the desk instead of listening to the instruction.

16. Model the activity or behavior you expect from children and then have them practice it. Repeat if necessary.
This is crucial. If you don’t model the activity, students have a difficult time visualizing what the final product will be. The student can read the directions but demonstrating really helps cement the process of the activity in the students’ brain.

17. Create a Homework Board. At the end of the day, set aside time to review the homework for the day. Then have all students copy homework into their planners. Accommodations can be made if the student has trouble writing from the board, (ie. the student can take photo of homework board with a digital camera, a buddy can write out homework etc.).
I review the homework on Mondays. I think I need to add this for next year. I will write the homework on the board and review it before dismissing students. Even though I have the homework sheet posted on my web page, this might be more helpful to students who are more forgetful.

18. Guide students as they gather their homework, planner and materials to take home.
I need to work on this too. At the end of the day, I am always running late. I need to take five minutes and make sure children have their reader, homework, and parent notes.

19. Have students place their homework and materials immediately into their backpacks.
Even though this year most I my students place their homework in the backpack, I will begin my class next year training the students how to be organized about placing the homework in the backpack.

20. Some students may benefit from having an extra copy of textbooks to keep home.
My students don’t need an extra copy of the textbook. The only time a student is able to have an extra copy of the text is if the parents of the student have this written into an IEP. The general education class has the students bring the textbooks to the home and back to school the following day.
As for my son, who is in middle school, we have this extra copy of textbook written into the IEP. The reason for this is the heaviness of the books, and the anxiety of remembering to bring them home each day and then return the book the following day is stressful for my son.

21. Use the school website to post assignments, announcements and communicate with parents, as well as paper documents.
I think this is crucial. I have my homework posted each week. It is easy to keep up. In addition, I have links to great websites that might help my students.

22. When the child arrives home, unpack the backpack right away!
Parents need to do this more often. They need to go through their child’s backpack. They need to look at their child’s work and look for any school information. More often than not, parents don’t take the time to unpack the backpack.
As for my son, even though he is in middle school, we still take the time to go through the backpack. I am able to see where he still needs help placing papers in a folder or binder. This allows my son and I to have a conversation about papers floating in the backpack.

23. Help the child lay out homework and materials in a quiet workspace, where an adult can check-in and oversee progress.
I think this is important for parents to remember. The television and radio must be off. If you really want to listen to music, have the music be classical and on a soft volume. Many times, I hear too many stories from my students about the television being too loud and the student had a difficult time focusing. Parents need to be mindful of this situation.

24. Check to see if all homework is completed and then sign the homework planner to indicate that the homework is done.
Most parents in Elementary check their child’s homework. However, I do have some parents who don’t check the homework and the homework comes back to class incorrect because the student needed some clarification of directions.
I did check my son’s homework in elementary school and for the first two years in middle school. Now, I don’t need to check as much. I spot check for neatness and grammar issues. In addition, he has a tutor due to the fact that he is in honors classes and most of the concepts he is learning is over my head.

25. Have child pack all homework and materials into his/her backpack as soon as everything has been completed and leave it by the door for the next day!
I think this is very important to teach organization skills. It is important because the child is able to fully rest knowing that in the morning everything is all ready to go. The student doesn’t need to run around looking for all their homework or books because they took care of everything the night before.
We do this with Nolan. He has improved tremendously in his organization because of having his backpack ready the night before. He wakes up rested and relaxed. He has breakfast, gets ready for school, and is out the door. He is not frantic or having a panic attack. Every now and then, he forgets something, but it is not such an ordeal anymore.

Here is the link to the full article.
http://www.theinclusiveclass.com/2012/05/25-easy-ways-to-improve-executive.html

So, How Does the 25 items play out in Middle and High School?

How should these 25 tips play out in Middle School and High School?

Some could work better than others. The most important ones are as follows:

1) Create a Homework Board

2) Use the school website to post assignments, announcements and communicate with parents, as well as paper documents.

I think not only should the teacher have a homework board, the teacher MUST post the homework on a webpage.

3) Give instructions in short, simple steps. –

More often than not, teachers assign projects with unclear instructions. The instructions should be clear. The teacher should provide a rubric or checklist for the requirements of the assignment. If possible scan and link an example of the assignment on the webpage.

4) Some students may benefit from having an extra copy of textbooks to keep home.

In middle school and high school the textbooks are heavy and thick. If the student is to carry all those textbooks each day in a backpack, it is too heavy. It may cause back injuries from being hunched over, as well. We have tried the rolling backpacks. Most seem to fall apart, just like the backpacks, from the heavy load. I know this year alone we purchased three backpacks.

5) Guide students as they gather their homework, planner and materials to take home.
Most of the time, the teacher is rushed at the end of the period. Their should be a warning bell before the dismissal bell, to help teachers stop and help guide students to gather homework planner and materials to take home.

6) This is not mentioned in the list.  The school needs to have each teacher post the assignment on an e-grade book system.

Many schools have this.  Unfortunately many do not.  This is useful for the parent and child to see what assignments the student is missing.