Ernest Pancsofar

Associate Professor

Special Education & Interventions

Contact Information

Henry Barnard Hall 221-01

Phone: 860-832-2406

Email: PancsofarE@ccsu.edu

Office Hours

Mon: 2:00 - 4:00 PM

Tues: 1:00 - 2:00 PM

Wed: 2:00 - 4:00 PM

or by appointment

Welcome to my blog of thoughts / reflections / ideas relative to what I present to my students in my courses here at CCSU.  I hope to honor the spirit of Bob Blue, whose brief essays were a great influence on me and whose advice I would give to teacher candidates.  I will be brief and provide a visual / poems whenever possible to capture what is on my mind.  This avenue may also be a means for past students to stay current on what I am presenting to students who are currently in my courses.  Let's see how it works out.  I will post newer writing at the beginning of the blog and dated material will follow.  Send any comments you have to pancsofare@ccsu.edu.

3/30/17 [sneak preview]

Workshop Slogan:  Have you ever been to a presentation where the speaker rambles on about issues they may not know as much about?  I once heard an expression that I put on a slide that responds to such a situation. 

 

3/29/17

[from a September 25, 2003 journal entry]

Robert Russell:  I made the trek to the basement to review books that have not been removed from their resting place for several years.  One publication that especially caught my attention was Health Education by one of my professors from my master’s degree program, Robert Russell.  I will present some of the quotes of specific interest.  Bob Russell was an important person for me to meet on my career path.

Ecological thinking suggests that most health-related issues ARE NOT So Much Problems to Solve as RELATIONSHIPS TO UNDERSTAND -- some of which MIGHT BE CHANGED and others simply LIVED WITH. (p. 135)  I have tried to incorporate this into much of my work in decision-making when working with teachers and students alike.   Rene Dubos and his outlook on life influenced Russell in his teachings and learning.

Life, then, is not a string of problems, but a network of relationships.  (p. 136)

Those who flow as life flows know no wear, feel no tear, need no mending, no repair. (p. 129)

Excerpted from Mirage of Heath by Rene Dubos.

. . . a scientific study never tells you what to do; it tells you what is . . . or what was, under certain given circumstances . . . that generates some hypothesis based on other values for dealing with the finding. (p. 78)

In a response to the chairman of his department in 1973, Bob Russell wrote a lengthy explanation of why his grading system does not mirror the bell shaped curve.  It appears that there was some concern that too many students were receiving high grades in his classes. . . . students in my classes often have chances to relearn an idea or a concept and express it correctly and with excellence without penalty for not having done so the first time.  (p. 227)  I couldn’t agree with him more!

Individuals learn to adapt (or cope) by adapting to real situations, where there is some risk of failure.  To eliminate the possibility of failure is to take away the need to adapt. (p. 141)

Moderation in all things, including moderation. (p. 103)

 

3/28/17

PARENTAL ENGAGEMENT:  I summarized my notes after listening to a panel of speakers discuss different ways of enhancing parental engagement at the schools at which they worked.  I shared this feedback with the hosts of the school who invited students and faculty from CCSU to the presentation.

 

3/27/17

Courage to Teach (continued): Yesterday, I looked through some notes from a "Courage to Teach" weekend retreat I attended in the summer of 2015.  The exercise in which I participated was called "stepping stones".  It was interesting to view the progression of steps that evolved into a cover page for a document I developed later that year.  As Steve Jobs commented in his commencement speech at Standford University, you can connect the dots from one's past to discover how you arrived at the present, but you cannot, with certainty, connect the dots of what is yet to be.

 

3/26/17

Please Raise Your Hand If ... : Students often provide me with icebreaker activities that they knew when attending camp or that they use in their clubs and organizatons.  One such activity is one called - Please Raise Your Hand, If ... .  Requests, which have a common theme,  are made to others and you are asked to raise your hand if you have a connection to that request.  One week, I unexpectantly missed class.  When I returned, I presented my own version of this icebreaker at the beginning of the session.

 

3/25/17

Dylan's Back in Town:  An annual event (most years that is) is the return of Bob Dylan to a location near you.  As part of his current "Never Ending Tour", his upcoming presence in Wallingford, CT will take place on June 18th, which is Father's Day.  I have made a practice of summarizing most of my 25+ concert trips to see this master, and now Nobel Prize winner in Literature, in verse.  Here is a sampling from Concert # 20.  I may develop a link to the majority of such reviews in the very near future.

 

3/24/17

Believe in Your Work:  Yesterday, I talked to my students about believing in your worth and work and realize that not everybody will agree with what you believe to be worthy of sharing.  I provided a recent example.  I had written an essay that lay dormant in my files for many years only to be shared to a few people.  Then, I made a connection between how the essay connects with a Bob Dylan song in an interesting way.  The song is Tangled Up in Blue.  The verses are not arranged in a linear fashion but more of a kaleidascope of different experiences in the singer's mind.  I had an experience at a hospital [Bellevue] in New York City and I found a unique way to share that day's surrealistic events.  I transformed some of the experiences I had that day in the hospital into a similar verse form that Dyaln used in Tangled Up in Blue, but I titled my piece Tangled Up in Bellevue.  I thought the result was creative enough to send off to a literary journal whose editors, however, did not agree with my zeal.  Thus, I offer this work to the reader who has chosen to view this blog and can place its quality among the other products I have shared in a similar manner.

 

3/23/17

I’ll Take Reinforcement for $400:  One day, when I probably didn’t have much on my agenda to do that evening, I decided to jot down how Alex Trebek provided feedback to the contestants on Jeopardy.  That is, how much did he vary his feedback to help maintain an interest by the viewer because, if he continued to say the same comments after each correct answer, the show would be quite monotonous.  The results were interesting and his comments were quite varied.  I wonder if he has reminders among his cue cards to mix up how he provides his comments.  A teacher could take a few lessons from this game show host.  Then, I developed an acrostic organizer to discuss with students in my course some general attributes of how to use reinforcement in their future classroom.    Each statement is linked to a separate page of information from their text.

 

3/22/17

Writing on the Wall (The): I composed this verse to express some of my values about aspects of the course I was about to teach and shared this poem with my students.

 

3/21/17

Philosophy of Education:  I attended a regional conference a couple of years ago and decided to send the conference organizers my summary of significant learning and aspects of the conference that caught my attention and that I found noteworthy.  I chose a background for the visual while I took a daily walk around a local Town Green as the fall leaves were abundantly strewn about.  I like the effect.

 

3/20/17

Commitments PledgeAt the conclusion of some courses, I request that students pick from an array of 25 choices some actions that they commit themselves to do once the course is over.  They pick five activities and share their commitments pledge with two peers.  I then sign it, make a copy and return the signed copies to them as a PDF.  I do not follow up with these pledges.  I tell the students this is how personalized learning communities operate when teachers pledge to complete assignments and share their learning with their peers.

 

3/19/17

Jig-Saw Puzzle Analogy:  At the moment, one of my leisure activities is assembling a 1000-piece jig-saw puzzle.  I may have an unorthodox way of completing this puzzle.  I don’t sort by colors or shapes.  I randomly pick out one piece, look at the cover and predict where that piece should be on the table.  I find that, at times, I may need to reposition a piece.  I enjoy the moment when I can connect one piece with another or make a connection between two different segments of multiple pieces each.  I use the puzzle activity as a diversion from grading assignments and/or preparing my course materials.  It’s interesting how individual pieces eventually become part of the whole.  I think the puzzle assembly can be an analogy to the work I do in special education.  I look to make connections and help individuals feel a part of the whole.  By recommending inclusive practices, students with disabilities can thrive and function more adeptly in the general education setting.  At first, they may appear to be more isolated from there peers.  But, over time and with recommended strategies, ALL students can function as a whole to the mutual benefit of all.  As teachers, we are helping the pieces fit together!

 

3/18/17

Pancsofar Syndrome:  At times, labels attributed to others have a set of characteristics often observed in people who share that same label.   I decided that I needed a syndrome named after me.  Therefore, I took some traits that I associated with being ME and, depending on how similar your profile is to mine on the provided scale, you may – or may not – have Pancsofar syndrome

 

3/17/17

10% Solution:  Prior to a keynote speech at a regional conference, I surveyed the audience and jotted down some observations about which I would begin my talk.  I looked for 8 pairs of behaviors that I could blend into how each of the behaviors occurred in about 10% of those present or in a typical class I may teach during the semester - - - in a humorous way, of course!

 

3/16/17

The Boy in the Moon:  I enjoy reading books from parents who describe their relationships with sons and daughters who have challenging conditions.  One such book is by Ian Brown titled The Boy in the Moon

Sometimes watching Walker is like looking at the moon: you see the face of the man in the moon, yet you know there’s actually no man there.  But if Walker is so insubstantial, why does he feel so important?  What is he trying to show me?  All I really want to know is what goes on inside his off-shaped head, in his jumped-up heart.  But every time I ask, he somehow persuades me to look into my own (p. 3).

He has become the moment and it has become him, because he has nothing else to be.  Walker is an experiment in human life lived in the rare atmosphere of the continuous present.  Very few can survive there (p. 79).

… “The Buddhists say the way to enlightenment, to pure being, is by getting your mind out of the way. …”  That was the first time someone suggested Walker had a gift the rest of us didn’t (p. 68).

 

3/15/17

Creativity and Name Cards:  I wrote a brief essay once about the vagueness with which some teachers assess students along dimensions about which the student is unaware.  Like many ideas that I use when conducting in-service trainings, this activity originated on the spur of the moment when I wanted to introduce an element of the assessment process.

 

3/14/17

Random Thoughts from Dylan Lyrics: Occasionally, I record some connections with the work that I do and some of Bob Dylan’s lyrics.  Here is a sampling of this effort.

 

3/13/17

Wisdom Interspersed in My Syllabus:  In preparing my syllabus for a course I taught one summer, I wrote the following verses, which I interspersed throughout the schedule of topics.

 

3/12/17

Data Are Neutral: When discussing the power of assessment in my courses, I often distribute data that relate to SCRABBLE scores with the heading – When Harry Met Sally – Playing SCRABBLE.  One time, I was conducting an in-service with a group of agency personnel.  I divided the group of 45 participants into three groups.  For Group A, I gave the instructions, “You are Harry’s advocate.  Use this data to support the claim that Harry is the better SCRABBLE player.”  For Group B, I presented the instructions, “You are Sally’s advocate.  Use this data to support the claim that Sally is the better SCRABBLE player.”  Finally, for Group C, I stated, “You are to use this data to support the claim that Harry and Sally and equal in their SCRABBLE playing abilities.”  Later, when all participants reconvened, a spokesperson from each group quite eloquently explained how the data supported their claim given to them as group members.  I draw a parallel to high-stakes assessment data and how the values currently held by those in power influences the interpretation of data from these tests.

 

3/11/17

Personalized Sense of Satisfaction:  Years ago, I frequently travelled to out-of-state destinations to deliver presentations, consult with agency personnel and provide other forms of consultation.  While staying at hotels that sample a broad range of comfort, I found that each place had its own unique way of soliciting customer feedback about their sense of what must be satisfying to the customer; i.e., check in process.  However, I marveled that I often found many items missing that pertained to my own, personalized sense of satisfaction.  Consequently, I felt that I, as their valued customer, ought to share with them what my sense of quality meant by composing my own “customer satisfaction” feedback form.  I don’t remember sending this to any of the hotel corporate headquarters and I doubt they would know what to do with it since they already had determined, in their own minds, what quality “must” mean to the customer.  I often wonder what the equivalent form might look like in education.  Who gets to decide what the quality of education is in their local community?

 

3/10/17

Fredrik Bachman:  During the month of February, I read three books by a Swedish author, Fredrik Bachman including A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here as well as the DVD of A Man Called Ove.  His style of writing really hit the spot!  I don’t want to join a book club to discuss his books.  I don’t want to be quizzed on the plot or characters.  Like my appreciation of the work of Bob Dylan, he provided me with respite / recreation while taking brief breaks from grading assignments, preparing my courses and other activities that abound throughout my day.  A huge shout out to Fredrik Bachman and the hundreds of other authors whose works have provided me with such an outlet.

 

3/9/17

CAPABLE Process:  I am a big adherent to person-centered planning in which the individuals who are closest to the focus person meet under the guidance of a facilitator to enter into the brainstorming process.  Dan Steere and I created a diagram to represent this generic process and titled this the CAPABLE Process.  I think it still holds up to what I would recommend today even though the diagram was created in the 1990’s.

 

3/8/17

How This Course May Be Different:  Each week I added a statement to the notes I shared with the class beneath a heading:  How This Course May Be Different Than Any Other One You Are Taking.  I would strive to add a distinctive feature that would separate how I deliver the content in a more exciting and engaging manner.  One of these days, I’ll get it right!

 

3/7/17

BOSTON Marathon:  In April of 2013, Boston experienced a horrific event (bombing) during the annual Boston Marathon.  To commemorate this tragedy, I composed an acrostic poem which accentuates the word BOSTON throughout the lines.

 

3/6/17

Who Is Likely To Be Taking This Course:  In an attempt at some humor during the first day of classes, I sometimes show a survey titled: Who Is Likely To Be Taking This Course.  After I go through each statement, I then make a prediction, based on previous courses, what percent of the current students would be placed next to each statement.  Ironically, there are often students who fail to see the humor but believe the survey to be my actual accounting of each statement.

 

3/5/17

Homework:  In one course on evidence-based practices a group of six students is exploring the value of homework from a research perspective.  I am curious about the type of studies, who the studies addressed, where the studies occurred and the results of those studies.  Several years ago, when I introduced the graphic organizer of concentric circles, one very creative teacher decided to highlight the rationale behind her assignment of homework.  I really like this method of communication and with Adriana Santaniello’s permission, I share this graphic with the readers of this blog.

 

3/4/17

Everyday Genius:  The following quote exemplifies the rationale for how I assign projects in one of my courses:

… the only hope for developing a meaningful relationship to information is to be free to explore it in a subjective manner.  The best course is to chart your own unique path like a frontiersman through a seemingly infinite jungle of ever-proliferating facts that no mind will ever encompass, while at the same time learning tools of communication so that a reasonable amount of wisdom can be shared (p. xii).  Peter Kline – Everyday Genius

For example, one major assignment is a “Path of Self-Discovery” using a disability as the focus of the investigation. Each student identifies a disability about which they have an interest to know/learn more about.  Each path starts with that person’s initial question and it can differ significantly from anyone else’s question.  For example, two students could choose the topic of Down syndrome.  One person might begin by asking – Is there a formal definition with which I should be familiar?  His search may take him to a web site where he will discover that this condition results from an extra 21st chromosome.  Another student may have a far different initial question:  Are there any characters on TV with Down syndrome.  This question will result in the discovery of an A & E series called Born This Way and this student may view the trailer or watch an episode of this reality show.  Students develop their path by asking 10 questions, each one naturally flowing from the information they most recently uncovered: What do I want to learn about, next?  I thoroughly enjoy reviewing this assignment and providing feedback about their line of inquiry and path of investigation.

 

3/3/17

Wrist Wrestling:  I was invited to deliver a presentation to some high school students on the topic of inclusive practices.  I had recently read about an activity that I modified slightly and present it to you here.  I asked for two of the stronger students in the class to have a wrist wrestling content in front of everybody.  Two eager volunteers [two boys] quickly raised their hands.  I told them the main rule that if one person was able to force his opponents wrist on the table, he would be the winner.  I told them I would give them 15 seconds and try to win as many games as they could because the winner would earn $1.00 per victory (hypothetically).  In the competition that ensued one boy took all of the 15 seconds to defeat his opponent and earn the $1.00.  I then asked two volunteers who did not consider themselves to be among the strongest in the class.  Two individuals raised their hands and I asked them to participate in the wrist wrestling activity.  But, instead of calling it a competition, I called it a cooperation.  I asked them how they could earn the most money for each of them.  We brainstormed for a minute or so and then it was decided that if each contestant facilitated the process they could bend their hand back when their partner applied pressure and their partner would reciprocate and do the same.  Thus, in 15 seconds, each of the students earned $12.00.  What is the objective of the game?  If it is to win, there was one winner and one loser, although the winner earned $1.00.  If the goal is to figure out how each person can receive a maximum amount of money, cooperation is needed.  There are two winners in that situation. I leave it to the reader to draw your own conclusions.

 

3/2/17

Labyrinth:  One image that I sometimes use in my courses is a labyrinth:  a path that leads a person steadily toward a central core of beliefs / values.  Each students walks a different path in my courses based on what elements they pick out as important for the interests they may have.  During one semester I highlighted, using the image of a labyrinth,  the key parts of each session from my own point of view and then displayed the values upon which I focused in the middle.

 

3/1/17

Education in the Near Future:  A student in one of my courses posed a series of questions about the current state of affairs for students who receive special education supports and services.  Of note was his concern about inclusive practices in which students of quite different abilities were in the same classroom at the detriment to both sets of students.  Here is my response.

In reviewing your questions from Chapter 1, you raise some interesting questions, many of them are of a legal nature, which I am not as equipped to answer.  Here are my general comments:  

  • I believe that we are heading for individualized, personalized education for all students and there will not be a required set of standards to be met by all.
  • Teachers will become facilitators of learning for ALL students and technology will play a much greater role in how students receive their initial instruction in a content area.  
  • Teachers will guide discussions and lead students to their next set of activities based on feedback received immediately from ongoing formative assessments.
  • Learning groups will not be set up as they are now by chronological ages but groupings of students will be based on current competencies, much as what is done with instrumental music.  
  • Mindfulness and self-reflection will be part of the internal structure that help guide students in their learning so that they have supports in place to deal with frustrations as they work within a growth mindset atmosphere.  
  • Differences and strengths will be celebrated.  

This is what I think will be happening in education in the very near future.

 

2/28/17

Rick Wormeli:  Once in a while I happen upon an author / educator who puts into words what I also believe to be true.  One such person is Rick Wormeli.  I am currently reading one of his recent books, which is a compilation of blogs and journal essays.  I recently shared one of his video clips in one of my courses and his words influenced a great discussion on retakes and redos in the general education classroom.

 

2/27/17

Changing the Face of Beauty:  A student in one of my courses shared a video clip from a senior project from her high school.  I was quite impressed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_PGKEATUj0

 

2/26/17

A Call to Wisdom: Here is a quote from Diane Ravitch that I found quite pertinent to share with students in my courses:

What matters most today is the liberation of minds to be creative, imaginative, compassionate, and collegial. The world is in a mess and we don't need more fiercely competitive, me-first people. We need thoughtful and knowledgeable people who know how to resolve conflicts. 

Above all, we need the one quality that the international tests can't measure: Wisdom.

This link to an article from the Huffington Post is now dated but still quite relevant.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-ravitch/vietnam-wallops-us-on-tes_b_7290682.html 

 

2/25/17

Teacher Accountability:  My take on the accountability of teachers that connects to an assessment of their excellence is not based on achievement by the student.  This may seem contradictory, but I have observed long enough to know that several factors are outside the control of the teacher and these variables contribute significantly to the student outcomes; i.e., side effects of medication on learning, hours of sleep each student has before entering the classroom, the enrichment that occurs in the home, support by parents/family members, older teens and the number of hours they work to help support the family, etc.  I do think that teachers should be accountable for the implementation of evidence-based practices as those practices are defined / recommended by professionals at the school and from the local community, i.e., professional associations, local universities, critical friends, etc.  There should be a focus on out-of-school environments by school personnel, but the classroom teacher should not be solely responsible for righting these potentially toxic environments to the learning process.  I know I have simplified this message to a large degree but let’s stop blaming the classroom teacher when that professional is implementing what his/her discipline defines as effective strategies.

 

2/24/17

More Years of Knowing:  I often tell my students that if either of them met a student for the first time at the same time I met that same student, we might both be baffled about what to do.  However, I should know what to do next more quickly than they would, because I have more years of experience with developing strategies for challenging students.  I want them to know that each student presents a unique set of characteristics that I have never witnessed before, regardless of that student’s diagnosis.  Each individual is his/her own unique self.  I must get to know that student better as I dig deeply through my resources  / strategies about what to do next.

 

2/23/17

Bob Perske Tribute:  As I age, the pioneers in the field of advocacy and human rights for individuals with disabilities slowly pass on.  I would place Bob Perske in the same sphere of influence as Burton Blatt and Gunnar Dybwad, two individuals whose presence significantly influenced the rights of ALL individuals, especially those with disabilities.  As a tribute to honor Bob Perske, the Communitas Newsletter, designed by one of my friends, Bev Jackson, captured his spirit in quotes, pictures and a sample of his advocacy efforts.  When I heard of Bob’s passing, I was thinking of the song Abraham, Martin and John and thought who I would put in the modified lyrics of that tune.  That day, I heard this exact song on the radio on my way to work.  While taking liberty with the tune, my lyrics would contain the following words:

Has anyone here, seen my old friend Burton?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people
From institutions they were drawn.
Promoting Personhood and Human Rights was the focus of his job
I’m thinking of Burton, Gunnar and Bob.

Has anyone here, seen my old friend Gunnar?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He went round this world
From dusk till dawn
Promoting Universal Rights and Citizenship was the focus of his job
I’m thinking of Burton, Gunnar and Bob.

Has anyone here, seen my old friend Bob?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people
Who in prisons and jails were like pawns.
Promoting Advocacy and Justice was the focus of his job
I’m thinking of Burton, Gunnar and Bob.

 

2/22/17

Ernie’s Journey – Volume 1:  I compiled an initial set of poems in which I summarize content in verse.  I find this an extremely rewarding way to capture my reflections whether it be about a concept like choice or the course that just ended.  I enjoy sharing this work with the readers of this blog.

 

2/21/17

Progeria:  I first learned of this condition from Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, which he wrote following his family’s experience having a son with progeria.  Now, over 35 years later, this topic surfaces anew when I introduce my students to Sam Berns, whose TED talk has had a significant impact on their thinking toward being a classroom teacher and welcoming students with genetic conditions that affect life expectancy and current learning challenges.  Rather than provide specific information about this condition, I refer readers to Sam’s TED talk about how to live a happy life.

 

2/20/17

Carol Tomlinson:  I have been influenced by the writings of Carol Tomlinson.  Her wisdom about differentiated instruction makes a great deal of sense to me.  She is able to talk about needed change in the classroom in a very understandable manner.  Here are a few links for the interested reader that sample this educator’s offerings.  If one or more of the links are unavailable, please use her name in your search tool and begin your journey to uncovering an orientation to teaching that will fascinate you.

http://www.wholechildeducation.org/blog/carol-ann-tomlinson-on-learning-styles

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov16/vol74/num03/The-Road-Not-Yet-Taken.aspx

http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el199909_tomlinson.pdf

 

2/19/17

The Khan Academy:  I have taken another book from my shelf that I had intended to read for many months:  The One World School House:  Education Reimagined by Salman Khan.   I am intrigued by his message and the tremendous success of The Khan Academy.  There are deliverers of information for a wide range of content areas who are great at this stage of initially presenting a new concept to a student.  They present the information in such a way that the vast majority of students will pick it up and go on to a practice phase of internalizing this new knowledge into existing competencies.  The teacher’s role becomes one of facilitating the learning process rather than to always be the primary deliverer of initial instruction.  This will NOT do away with the need to have highly qualified and trained teachers in each discipline.  However, they will be the learning guides, deciders of what comes next, providers of remediation, available to answer questions, and many more roles for a more in-depth conversation / discussion about recently learned material.  Most of the teachers with whom I have contact who use The Khan Academy have extremely high praise for its quality and effectiveness.

 

2/18/17

Beyond the Miracle Worker:  All good books eventually come to an end, but I don’t think this is the end of my intent to learn more about Anne Sullivan Macy, teacher and life-long companion to Helen Keller.  Here are two quotes of significance as I reflect on this book.

I still think there is not much to life, except to learn all one can about it, and the only way to learn it is to experience much – to love, to hate, to flounder, to enjoy and to suffer (p. 238).

I wait for death – not sad, not heroically but just a bit tired. To love and succeed is a fine thing, to love and fail is the next best, and the best of all is to fail and yet keep on loving (p. 259).

 

2/17/17

Cover Songs as Teaching:  I have compared teaching to the singing / playing of cover songs from other artists.  Specifically, when James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma collaborated on the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” they were bringing their unique skills to an already existing song.  Yo-Yo Ma brings his unique work on the cello while James Taylor brings a smooth voice inflection and guitar to the song.  So too, do teachers bring each of their own skills / styles [musical instruments] with them when presenting a lesson developed by another or replicating a lesson plan from a published curriculum.  No one will present this lesson the same way because they don’t have the set of skills / attributes as any other teacher.

 

2/16/17

Collaboration:  The way in which professionals and parents interact with each other can be a collaborative experience if certain dimensions are present.  I captured several of these elements in an Acrostic organizer that I share with students when we first discuss this practice.

 

2/15/17

Lessons and Truths from Session 4:  Previously, 12/26/16, I presented a summary of a session in a Lessons and Truths format.  Here is another such summary for the fourth session in the introductory course I teach in special education.

 

2/14/17

Advice From Former Students.  One semester I asked current students who were just completing the course, to write a note of encouragement to the incoming students of the next semester.  I was pleased with the general flavor of what they wrote.

 

2/13/17

The Essentials and the Frills:  In education, it is hard, at times, to distinguish between the “package of goods” and the “key elements that work."   That is, what makes up the frills of a curriculum so that manufacturers of a product make a profit versus what are the educationally sound ingredients of the curriculum.  I think about this as I conclude my reading of the biography of Anne Sullivan, teacher to Helen Keller and life-long companion.  It appears that grit and a growth mindset [words that were not in the education vocabulary of the day] predominated over any set of strategies that were in vogue at the time.  In fact, Sullivan deviated significantly from the established groundwork of Samuel Gridley Howe.  My point in this lies in a better understanding of long-held principles of teaching and learning versus latching on to a newly minted package of glitzy strategies that, perhaps, benefit the manufacturer of that product more so than the student.

 

2/12/17

Reciprocity of Teaching – Learning Experience:  We can all be replaced!  That is an unpleasant thought to have about our current employment positions - - - but quite true.  Students will have a teacher in the current course in which I am the instructor, whether I am that teacher or not.  However, I will not have the pleasure of the teacher-learner experience without their presence.  There is a unique reciprocity that occurs as I prepare and deliver my course content.  I am refining my principles and beliefs on a topic as my students provide feedback by how they engage with the resources / information I present.  I am re-examining the "how" and "what" of those resources at regular intervals of time.  We are both learners in this exchange.

 

2/11/17

MOTHER WIT:  Sometimes, the informal way in which to interact with students has no official name or title, but is just the mother wit or father wit or uncle wit that we bring to our work based on our values and personality.

 

2/10/17

DIS-ABILITY: In one of the opening reflections from a student about labeling, she made a comment about the negative perceptions many students have about being labeled and being set off from their peers.   She went on to develop an acrostic organizer around the word DISABILITY with negative statements often associated with this stigma.  She triggered a thought about how to use the term DIS - ABILITY but to have ALL students complete the acrostic as it pertains to their own situation.  That is, each student would pick 3 challenges / weaknesses / things they are not especially good at.  Then these same students would develop 7 words to connect with positive aspects of their life and place these words with the ABILITY section.  I composed a sample as I might fill it out about me.

 

2/9/17

Truths – Then / Now: Two years ago I finalized a manuscript that I sent to a limited number of people who have influenced the path I am on.  I now share this work with the interested reader who has happened upon this blog.  I hope you benefit by this retrospective journey into the past to better understand the present work that I find satisfaction in completing.

 

2/8/17

There Are No Guarantees:  I was conducting an in-service training for a local adult service agency in CT.  I distributed different color post-it notes to participants who were equally divided into four groups.  Group #1 was charged with identifying ways to build excitement in the way in which they interacted with individuals with disabilities.  When they were through writing their words on the small post-its, I requested that they put the notes in the form of the letter “E” on the wall.  Group #2 was charged with identifying all of the opportunities that the agency provided to individuals to help them meet quality-of-life goals and objectives.  I requested that they place their notes in the form of the letter “O” in an area of the wall where I designated.  Group #3 was given the theme of hospitality and they wrote their words on post-it notes and were given the letter “H” to form on the wall with their notes in an area where I designated.  Finally, Group #4 received the theme of “process” and members of that group identified the many resources and ways of finding out how to support individuals who received services from that agency.  They arranged their post-it notes in the form of the letter “P” on the wall.  Then, I saw that they noticed the word H-O-P-E was on the wall with each letter forming a different part of the word.  I then concluded the session with the comment, “We can’t guarantee success, but we can offer hope!”  I summarized their notes with the following visual that I sent to the agency later that week.

 

2/7/17

Name Tag

Once when I was a presenter,
At a conference in Illinois, I think -
A person from the back of the room
Made a statement so bold with a wink.
“You don’t have a name tag -
But you still got a name!"
Was what I heard
From his small, slight frame.
There was wisdom there
In the words that he shared.

 

2/6/17

ATTITUDE:  Often, in my courses, the attitude that a future professional has about their work is just as important as the strategies and competencies they may take with them.  This visual organizer using a combination of an acrostic with alliterative phrasing to address the role “attitude” plays in working with individuals with a disability.

 

2/5/17

Super Bowl Perspective:  The Super Bowl for 2017 was today.  Two years ago, the New England Patriots played against the Seatle Sea Hawks.  The result of the game depended on the final minute of play.  I developed an acrostic organizer to present the two perspectives on the game: from a Patriots or Sea Hawk fan's point of view. Today, the Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in a monumental come-from-behind victory.  It may take a few days to appropriately commemerate that win.

 

2/4/17

Testing - - - Testing:  Whenever I hear the sound check of a microphone and the words – testing - - - testing -  one, two, three, I am reminded of the harmful effects of the currently in vogue, high-stakes tests endured by students in our public schools.  Assessment should be a natural part of the learning process to inform both students and teachers of the progress being made and for decisions on whether to keep, enhance or stop current strategies.

 

2/3/17

My Beliefs:  Early in my career, I identified the beliefs that formed the foundation of my work.  Looking at this same list now, I wouldn't change a word.

 

2/2/17

Periodic Table of Elements – Bob Dylan: To summarize an interest in a novel way is one hallmark of effective engagement for students in our schools.  I provide an example of such engagement connecting my interest in the work of Bob Dylan with the Periodic Table of Elements.  Specifically, I connected songs, people and places associated with Bob Dylan with the elements as they appear in the Periodic Table of Elements.  This summary is unique to my own experiences with Dylan’s work.  For example, for the element La, I inserted Larry Campbell, who played with Dylan’s band from 1997 – 2004.  Some friends and I attended a concert in late 2016 at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT where he and his wife, Teresa Williams, performed.  I have always found his guitar skills to be extraordinary and his down-to-earth exchange with his audience to be admirable.  Someone else would have a completely different reason for placing another entry in the space for element La.

 

2/1/17

State of the Art Practices:  I wrote my thoughts in verse about the changing practices in my field.  For the most part, I think we, as educators, are heading in the right direction.  The educational researchers whose work I value center more on the social and emotional well being of students and the need for more individualized / personalized education for all students. A one size mold for students is inconsistent with the availability of technology and the need for teachers to be creative solution seekers instead of blindly adapting a new product because it is presented by various publishing companies as a new state-of-the-art practice.

 

1/31/17

Opening Comments:  During the initial session of my courses, I post a brief recommendation for how to approach the content - - - with mindfulness.  We all come together for the class from different places of stress / energy / states of mind.  We need to leave them at the door and approach the content from a relaxed, focused attitude and be present in the current learning moment.

 

1/30/17

Smorgasbord:  On my walk to class one day, an image came to me of how I arrange many of the resources in my courses.  I offer a smorgasbord of resources to meet the current interests / needs of students who are entering the course with different degrees of experiences regarding the field of special education.  For example, I may have read an article about inclusion from an engineering design point of view. This article may be of more interest to the technology and engineering education students.  Or, a paraprofessional who currently works with a student on the autism spectrum may find an article more appealing on the evidence-based practices associated with the instruction for students identified on the autism spectrum.

 

1/29/17

Anne Sullivan Macy:  I am in the initial stages of reading a biography of Anne Sullivan by Kim Nielsen.  I am intrigued by Anne Sullivan’s relationship with Helen Keller and I think she has been shortchanged and mythologized by snippets of information I know about her, but I have never gone any deeper in understanding their relationship.  I think this book may do just that.  Already, I am impressed with the author’s perceptiveness as she states:  Her [Anne Sullivan] life story, particularly when placed alongside that of Keller, reminds us of the diversity of disability experiences historically and today – and of the multiple ways that we, as individuals, as institutions, and as a country, contribute to the disabled nature of physical and mental impairments. (p. xi)   I’m sure I will have more to say about this book in later blogs.

https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Miracle-Worker-Remarkable-Extraordinary/dp/0807050504

 

01/28/17

Choice of Words in an Observation:  I impress upon students in my courses that their choice of words when describing events in the classroom can set a tone for their actions.   For example, using a phrase “Bob can’t concentrate” during independent work sets a different tone than “Bob doesn’t concentrate” during independent work.  In the first instance, a suggestion may be to remove Bob from the classroom to a more isolated location to complete his work.  After all, the teacher has determined he “can’t” concentrate.  However, sound reducing earphones could also be an option to stay in the same room as his peers because the teacher takes on the challenge of figuring out what accommodations are necessary because he currently “doesn’t” concentrate well.  I illustrated this difference in feedback I provided to a student during her field experience when taking notes on what she had been observing.

 

01/27/17

PETE SEEGER:  On this date in 2014, Pete Seeger passed away.  I developed a double acrostic poem to honor his memory. 

01/26/17

Questions on My Mind:  Using the well-known tune, Blowin' in the Wind, by Bob Dylan, I composed a set of lyrics that address a different set of questions directed at the misplaced emphasis on high-stakes assessments as the main source of information regarding a student's progress.  There was an interesting interchange between Senator Al Franken and the nominee for the position of Secretary of Education.  He asked her to respond to the difference between an emphasis on proficiency versus growth in the use of high-stakes testing.  Her response left him somewhat perplexed.  Here is my own take on this issue:  It's some of both.  I believe that the assessment process in schools ought to measure what has been learned in school and not what the student already brings to that learning setting due to outside-of-school privileges / opportunities / enrichments.  The controversy is too complex to resolve in this brief entry.  At its simplest form, individual growth can be / should be measured using each student's own baseline data [where the student starts from].  Teachers should be accountable for using instructional strategies that are commonly referred to as evidence-based: sanctioned by verified entities, accepted by one's professional affiliations, to provide guidance to those teachers.  The formative data that are collected should guide teachers in determining changes that are needed on a daily/weekly basis.  Beyond that, comparing one's scores across students ignores so many variables that can account for differences in performance beyond the current learning environment we call school. 

 

01/25/17

Teaching and Learning:  During an appreciation ceremony for teachers a couple of years ago, my colleague - Jesse Turner - and I read this poem to an assembled group.  We wanted to emphasize the misplaced emphasis on certain words like success / learning / grades etc.

 

01/24/17

Communitas Est:  One product that is a foreshadowing of my current blog was a newsletter I contributed for Communitas, Inc., a source of supports for many citizens in CT and elsewhere who live with a wide range of disabilities.   I think the infographic style of displaying information allows for a concise format that conveys messages that are more apt to be read and remembered. 

 

01/23/17 

Dignity:  I was struck by what a guidance counselor said on TV a few days ago when commenting on a leadership program among high school students who were pairing up with younger students as mentors.  She said that these students already had many leadership skills, but they just needed a structure in which to demonstrate those leadership skills.  Quite a few years ago, I was presenting an in-service to a group of students and I asked one student to leave the room.  While he was gone, I asked the remaining students to jot down a couple of words to describe their peer when he came back in the room.  Then, outside in the hallway, I asked the student to enter the classroom, walk around and leave.  He did as instructed and the students wrote down some words to describe his brief appearance.  Then, I asked the person to go back into the room, but this time to walk with dignity.  The students, once again, recorded some words to describe the person.  During the debriefing session, I asked for a comparison in their choice of words to describe this same person for the two different appearances.   One person summarized her list of words by stating that during his first appearance, the student had his eyes focused on the ground, did not give any eye contact, seemed rushed and left the room rather quickly.  The second time through, he held his shoulders back, looked people in the eyes, smiled, and walked more slowly as he made his way around the room.  My moral to the story:  the student always had dignity.  I just had to remind him of it as he walked into the classroom for the second time.  I did not teach him about dignity nor have him practice it - - - he just walked with dignity the second time.

 

01/22/17

A student in a course that recently concluded brought my attention to a 6-minute video clip that connects well with the text for that course:  Creative Schools by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica.  One of the purposes of this blog is to share connections my students are making and how they provide me with resources I might not otherwise access.

 

01/21/17

Choice:  Several years ago, I composed this poem in West Virginia during a delay in a luncheon presentation. I went back to my hotel room and wrote a first draft and then presented it as part of my talk on the values surrounding our work with individuals with disabilities.

 

01/20/17

Asking the Right Question:  I heard the following from Burton Blatt, a pioneer in special education and humanity in general.  I was a doctoral student and found his lecture quite intriguing.   Here is a section of his talk:

There once was a town in which property was being stolen by an unknown process. Members of the town decided to post a sentry at the only road leading from the town to check all travelers in hopes of discovering the thief. On one occasion a man arrived at the checkpoint with a wheelbarrow full of hay. The sentry searched through the hay and, finding nothing, waved the man through. This same sequence of events occurred for the following four days. At the morning briefing on the following Monday the sentry viewed the list of property that had been recently stolen from the town. Heading the list were five wheelbarrows! The sentry had not asked the right question that would have resulted in confiscating the stolen property.

 

01/19/17

Grading Practices:  In one of my courses, I commented to the group that when assessing students and transposing that assessment to a letter grade, there needs to be a consensus among teachers and school administrators about what each grade represents. What is an "A"? In this course, an A = the accumulation of points from assignments that I require to provide me with evidence of your engagement and competence with selected elements from the course. An "A" does not mean mastery of x% of the course. That would be impossible! An "A" does not equal acquiring minutia of information crammed for in a multiple choice, bubble sheet exam. I, as your instructor, am in charge of how each of you can earn an "A" in this course.  My caution and advice when assigning grades in the general education classroom, in which there are students with varying intensities of disability, is to engage in this discussion. If an "A" means mastery of the content standard, are there multiple ways to acquire mastery? If a student approximates the content standard, what grade could s/he earn through active participation, alignment of IEP goals and objectives with the content standard and/or completion of activities/projects within the topic/scope of the content standard? I pose this question as a worthwhile place to begin the conversation among members of grade-level teams.

 

01/18/17

Courage to Teach:  Many years ago, I was introduced to the work of Parker Palmer and read his seminal book – The Courage to Teach.  Two summers ago, I had the good fortune to attend a three-day retreat on this topic and had time to reflect on the way Parker Palmer has influenced my values and, subsequently, my teaching.  I summarized my thoughts/feelings of this event by composing an Acrostic Visual using COURAGE TO TEACH as the central focus.

 

01/17/17

Common Sense Suggestions:  When I meet with teachers in my courses or when I have conducted in-service training, I often ask them what strategies they use that would fall under the “common sense” of maintaining a healthy classroom atmosphere.  I share the current list of these suggestions with teacher candidates and other certification seeking students when discussing how to create a positive classroom atmosphere that leads to more productive learning by all students.

 

01/16/17 

MLK Tribute:  I wanted to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. in a novel and creative way.  As I reread his famous “I Have A Dream” speech I wondered how I could use this essay as a focus of a creative product.  I noticed that when I investigated three sections of this speech, I could surround the letters of his name in an acrostic fashion.  I was proud of this observation and created this tribute.

 

01/15/17

Inner Life of a Teacher Emma L., a student in my current class, located a video clip in response to one of the chapters of our text and I just now reviewed it.  I think you will gain an insight into the life of a teacher and how knowing about one's personal life can enrich the connection between teacher and student.  

 

01/14/17

Far From the Tree:  While on the topic of good books, I must recommend one by Andrew Solomon.  Once again, I heard him interviewed on NPR and was fascinated with his journalism skills and number of interviews that went into each chapter of his book.  Basically, he took several categories / labels attached to people who share a general connection but who, most likely did not inherit that condition from parents.  He referred to these conditions as horizontal acquisitions; i.e., being on the autism spectrum, being a gay son, having Down syndrome, having committed a murder, living with schizophrenia, etc.  I would put this book on my Top 10 of all time largely because of the way in which Andrew Solomon honors the voices of those whom he has interviewed.  He makes no bold statements. Yet, he clearly articulates what life is like for a cross section of individuals who are represented by each specific label.  Here are a few quotes that stood out for me.

 

01/13/17

Life Animated:  On my drive to work one day, I was listening to NPR and the host was interviewing an author whose name I recognized:  Ron Suskind.  I was quite intrigued by the topic as Mr. Suskind related that the book was about his interactions with his son, Owen, who is on the autism spectrum and who has a fascination with Disney characters, especially sidekicks.  Each hero has a sidekick who enhances the story and typically plays a key part.  Owen was a huge fan of sidekicks.  I read this book and found it fascinating and pulled out a few quotes and wrote a poem that I sent to Ron Suskind’s website.

 

01/12/17

Opening New Doors:  A couple of years ago I attended a workshop about developing a narrative to a course that becomes the roadmap from which student’s experience the resources and content.  For my narrative, I chose opening new doors of understanding that evolve into an ABILITIES focus rather than one on DISabilities.  I include this visual organizer as part of the opening session to one of my courses.

 

01/11/17 

Principles to Teach/Learn ByAs part of most syllabi in my courses I insert a ½ page explanation of why I develop my assignments and assessments as presented in the current course.

 

01/10/17

Elements of a Successful Curriculum:  As I mentioned in my entry of 12/8/16, I am using a book by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica, Creative Schools – The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, in a winter session course.  In chapter 6, Robinson outlines the ingredients that contribute to a successful curriculum and I transposed the titles of these elements into an acrostic style organizer.

 

01/09/17

Transitions:  One of the themes in my courses is the process of helping students make the transition from school to post school environments.  As part of this discussion, I request each person to comment on any significant transitions they have made in their own lives from the “known” to the “unknown”.  As we share experiences, I relate an experience I had when traveling to Lexington, KY several years ago.  When I returned from this trip, I recorded statements of what I learned from this not-so-usual transition from from home to a place of employment in Kentucky.  The discussion from their own transitions leads to generic statements about transition supports in general that could also apply to students leaving school for post school options.

 

01/08/17

Educational Influences:  One time a student took a concentric circles organizer I presented in class and identified 10 influences on his current educational philosophy.  I thought what he did was amazing and I replicated his activity, but with 10 Educational Influences on my current set of values.  These are not the 10 most important influences, but 10 that I happened to put down on a particular day about five years ago.

 

01/07/17

One Month Anniversary:  So far, I like the flavor of my blog: concise, succinct commentary, usually with an attachment that contains a visual / poem that I have composed.  I appreciate those readers who have been my students in past courses and who desire to stay current with what is on my mind.  Also, I invite current students to review what is on my mind that might originate from the very course in which they are current students.  Finally, I find satisfaction going through old files, revising resources and sharing them with a new audience.

 

01/06/17

Periodic Table of Elements of an Intro Course in Special Education:  I am amazed at how many people have replicated the Periodic Table of Elements for their own content area, often times keeping the element symbols [letters] the same but changing what they represent in their specific discipline.  You can view such diverse topics as wines, music, NASCAR, etc. and find a Periodic Table of Elements for that heading.  I want to be the first instructor to complete a Periodic Table of Elements for an Introduction to Special Education Course.  Here is what I have developed so far.

 

01/05/17

Creativity is the Key:  One of the features of this blog will be the inclusion of comments / visuals from students who appreciate the orientation I take in organizing the assignments and resources for my courses.  Amanda W. expressed her appreciation for a focus on creativity in an on-line version of the Introduction to Special Education course I offered this past fall semester.

 

01/04/17

Several years ago I read and listened to a book on tape: This Much I Know Is True by Wally Lamb.  I thought the title would be a good addition to my introduction to new students during the upcoming semester. As I thought about this title, here are the statements that came to mind.  Several years ago, at a commencement address at a nearby Connecticut university Wally Lamb stated: Unqualified as I am to impart wisdom, I have only this advice to give you, graduates: immerse yourself in healthy, renewable relationships with people who love and respect you and whom you love and respect back. Know that your mission in life is the gift you give to the world and that your passion is the gift you give to yourself. Find and nurture both, and keep it all in balance.

 

01/03/17

I tend to work among an assortment of piles of “stuff.” I feel comfortable and appear to be productive amid the chaos of the piles.  Every once in a while I clean things up and uncover some interesting papers buried within a pile, but overall, I tend to know where to find resources that I need - - - amid the “stuff.”

 

01/02/17

Success – I have taken many opportunities to dwell about what success means in my life.   How does our response to this inquiry represent our life’s path in both career and personal goals?  When I share aspects of my career with students I often use the acrostic version of SUCCESS, but first I ask them to compose their own meaning of success by using these letters as a starting point.  Also, since I enjoy writing verse, I conveyed my thoughts on this subject in this manner as well.

 

01/01/17

Purpose:  This is a poem that is fitting for the New Year as a reminder of the important aspects of life on which to focus each day.  It speaks of mindfulness, perseverance & contentment.  

 

12/31/16

In my daily review of some blogs I follow, I wanted to share the following quote:

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse 

I thought of this quote in the context of working with a student with an identified disability like cerebral palsy.  You have to first forget all you know about other students with cerebral palsy to be more effective with the person with whom you are working now.  This doesn't mean that you don't learn anything about the condition called cerebral palsy.  Rather, don't anticipate that the needs and supports of the current student will echo the same needs and supports of those students in your past with this condition.

 

12/30/16

I often think about what a great job it is to work at a university and share my knowledge and skills with teacher candidates and other students preparing for their professional certificates [school counseling, marriage and family therapy, educational leadership, etc.].  Students need to know what a prividege it is to guide their learning and be the right person at the right time in the right place for each learner.  Thank you.

 

12/29/16

Those of you with difficult last names to pronounce will empathize with my response to students who want to know either how to pronounce my last name or ask what I prefer to be called.  My response to their question resulted in a poem:  What Do We Call You?

 

12/28/16

Perspective – I have to realize that each semester I am guiding the learning of the students in a course I have taught almost 100 times.  I learn something different every time I read their assignments and prepare for my different sessions.  I look at the content with a different set of eyes and have to remember that I once sat in their seat as a first time learner of this content.  I can’t share everything I know about topics it has taken me decades to fully understand.  So, I begin some semesters with a poem that expresses my thoughts about being their guide to new learning this semester.

 

12/27/16

One afternoon I happened to place two photographs side by side: one taken when I was 24 and the other quite recently.  I noticed that 40 years had elapsed between the ages of the two versions of who I am.  I wondered what each person would have to say to each other.  What advice would the older version give to his 24- year-old self?  Where would the 24-year-old think he would be at 64?  I think most people look back to explain instead of looking ahead and wonder.  Looking ahead deals in probabilities.  Looking back has the 100% guarantee – or your money back.

 

12/26/16

Each time I teach the introductory course in special education I review the truths and lessons from the previous course in a list of 10 statements.  I want students to know what I valued from the previous week and compare my notes to what they gained from the session.  We can, and should, have different statements.  My truths will not be the same as each student’s truths as we are both at different points in our paths of understanding of the content.  Here is a sample of what this review looks like:  Lessons and Truths from a Previous Session.

 

12/25/16

I have been a college instructor for over 20 years and, during that time, have developed a style and set of values that I bring to each course.  I took time a couple of years ago to investigate what makes my courses different from the way others might teach an introductory course in special education and how I view myself as a SUCCESSFUL college instructor.  Here is what I came up with:  Themes in Dr. Pancsofar’s Courses.

 

12/24/16

Carol Tomlinson and Amy Germundson wrote an article in Educational Leadership – Teaching as Jazz [May 2007, Vol. 64, Issue 8] as she compared what a teacher does in the classroom with a jazz musician.  Like jazz musicians, great teachers blend sounds from different traditions, hear and echo students’ rhythms, and improvise on a dime (p. 27). This article left an impression on me and I developed a visual I share with students called – Assessment: A Symphony in G.  Each of the terms/words on this visual become part of my opening presentation on this topic.

 

12/23/16

Students hear the word "engagement" used often in my courses.  Without engagement, many students tune out whatever lesson is scheduled for their participation.  These students then get farther and farther behind and seemingly give up.  One video clip was brought to my attention during an in-service training by the CT State Department of Education.  It has left a huge impact on me with respect to the engagement of students in our classrooms. I hope you enjoy viewing this clip as much as I did.  It has been one of the favorite resources in some of my courses.

 

12/22/16

Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue is known for the kaleidoscopic manner in which the verses are presented – not in chronological time, but in a non-linear set of phases of a time period juxtaposed against another.  I thought about this and developed a collage of pictures that originate from different phases of my life and sequenced them, intentionally, out of order with my initials of ELP.  I like the effect and combined this visual with a verse that I have used on several occasions, most recently at the Teacher Education Division of CEC during a Pecha Kucha presentation.  [More slides from that presentation will be forthcoming with lengthier explanations than I was able to present within the 20 seconds allotted per slide.]

 

12/21/16

Jimmy Carter is a person for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration.  His esteem originates not as much from his former role as president as his moral commitments and high visibility of works that enhance the quality of the human race.  I thought of him as I composed some comments to my students about the importance of the process of what we do rather than the products of one’s achievements.

 

12/20/16

I am beginning a winter session course soon whose main theme is the integration of creativity in both the resources and style of instruction for diverse learners. I want students to practice “little acts of creativity” to know that they can do it. For example, there was a stain on one of my office ceiling tiles, which caused me to ponder about what I could/should do. Then, I knew what this image could be. I am quite proud of this discovery!

 

12/19/16

Jesse Turner is a colleague who encouraged me to maintain a blog of insights / advice / comments about my work in teacher education.  This means a lot to me since Jesse is a peer whose opinions I highly value and who has to be the most caring, compassionate person I know.  He has walked to Washington DC from Connecticut on two occasions to protest the highly questionable and offensively harmful effects that high stakes assessments have on students in our schools.  As a tribute to his dedication to social justice I used Bob Dylan’s song – A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall – added different lyrics, which resulted in the – The High Stakes Tests Are Gonna Fall.  Incidentally, the song – A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall – was the choice by Dylan to be sung by Patti Smith at the ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, nine days ago when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  

 

12/18/16

We live in a world of contradictions with various interests pulling at us from opposite poles of influence.  Teachers must learn to exist and thrive in such a world.  Decisions are often made not on what is best for learners, but on the below-the surface interests of others.  There will never be a perfect work environment.  There will be aspects of the job that are not as pleasant as why we chose this career path. However, when we know we are adhering to those values that brought us to where we are right now, some of the other “stuff” is more tolerable.  When I have led a discussion among teachers and teacher candidates, here are some of the Contradictions that were presented.  Note that one side of the paired set of words is not always the preferred or recommended.  Some of these contradictions will not be part of everyone’s experience.  But - - - be prepared to encounter some perplexing decisions by others that may differ from your own point of view.

 

 

12/17/16

I like to draw analogies between my work as an educator and the world around me.  Several years ago [decades ago] my friend and colleague, Dan Steere and I would go fishing.  It was fun and we got the chance to commune with nature and swear a little bit in the great outdoors or at least in a small pond in eastern Connecticut.  Dan introduced me to the book Home Water – Near and Far: Fly Fisherman’s Explorations by William Tapply.  I am not the fly fisherman of the duo.  Dan has that role and he has a book to prove it.  I am struck by the similarities in the quotes I extracted from this book and my role in education as I help mold the future of the teacher candidates who have the occasion to cross my path in a course or two.  Enjoy.  

 

12/16/16

Taking Notes or Taking Note Of:  I have a bias about note taking in my class – and in most classes in elementary thru college level learning.  To me, taking notes should not be writing down what a teacher is saying.  That information can be readily available in written form via technology either before, during or after a presentation.  To me, it is “taking note of” what the teacher is saying by responding with thoughts, ideas, reactions, connections, questions, etc.  We are beyond the need to copy down what is being said.  In my opinion, this is an academic waste of time!

 

12/15/16

This week is finals week at CCSU.  As I looked back over previous semesters, I found a source of feedback I provided students at this time of the semester, but in another year. I share this feedback with you as a token of what Satisfaction means to me as an instructor.

 

12/14/16

I am not a big fan of disability awareness simulations; i.e., walking around blindfolded to think you know what it’s like to be blind or spending an hour or two in a wheelchair to better understand what it must be like to use a wheelchair for many hours of each day.  I think that these simulations do a disservice to individuals with a disability, thinking we now know what it’s like!  I have come to this conclusion after reading multiple articles by self-advocates who caution that the emotions we may have following a simulation may, in fact, evoke more pity and a more patronizing approach than empathy.  That being said, I share with my students that if they are on a school climate committee and the majority of peers are planning for a disability awareness set of activities, please insist that the following guidelines be followed.   

 

12/13/16

There are the official objectives for a course and there are the unofficial, but equally important, objectives/outcomes for each course that I teach.  I insert the following page in each of the courses I teach.  Universal Outcomes

 

 

12/12/16

About a year ago, I presented at a TEDx CCSU event on the topic of Creativity and Me.  I share this brief clip with students in specific courses to let them know how important I think this trait is to be a successful teacher.  I hope you take a few minutes to review this video and you will learn a little bit more about the person behind the blog.

 

 

12/11/16

One of my favorite ways to summarize an event / class / situation is to use an acrostic organizer - as you will see in several blog entries that will follow throughout the upcoming weeks.  One such summary about which I am quite proud originated at the conclusion of a course a few years ago, yet I continue to post this summary at the end of my courses since that time.

 

12/10/16

Several semesters ago, I responded to some feedback from an anonymous student who said s/he expected to learn more about specific disabilities and not, necessarily, what I had presented as resources and content.  I thought about what this student said and composed a brief essay that I now include during the first class of each semester when I teach the Introduction to Special Education course.

 

12/9/16

As I see it, the aims of education are to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens. [p. xxii]

This quote originated from the book:  Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica.  I am using this book as a resource in an upcoming course I will be teaching during our winter session.

In addition, I was particularly impressed by the following quote as well:

In 2008, IBM published a survey of what organization leaders need most in their staff.  They spoke with fifteen hundred leaders in eighty countries.  The two priorities were adaptability to change and creativity in generating new ideas. [pp. 18-19]

 

12/8/16

The semester is drawing to a close.  Each semester I am fortunate to guide the learning of exceptional students.  As part of the agenda for a final session, I shared this poem with my students. 

 

12/7/16

When developing part of my profile, I used an activity in which I introduce myself to my students by exploring who I am using metaphors - what represents me well, not what things do I like.  Then, I composed a brief set of verses connected to each element in my visual of concentric circles:  Profile in Metaphors  

I am composing a series of professional development activities and this is #23 in a series that I am refining.