The purpose of this blog is to keep past and current students updated on different resources I present in my courses. I hope you find the entries thought provoking. I intentionally keep my comments brief and often have a visual / graphic / poem to supplement those words.
I watched a heartwarming, uplifting segment on the CBS news tonight about Chris Rosati. I'm not sure how long this link will be active but his life's commitment to make people happy needs to be shared with as many people as possible, especially in this current age a cynicism and threats to the values of kindness and caring.
I Have a List of Things to Do
I have a list of things to do
It grows and grows to 42
And I realize it doesn't really matter
What I choose next but rather
The act of paying attention to each specific one
Whether it ever really gets done
Is not the point - I have come to realize,
But how I engage and synthesize
My attitude and demeanor through each task
And when I'm through I get to ask
How did this contribute to my over all well being?
How am I getting closer to seeing
Truths that all around me reside
In the little things that I take in stride
As part of my daily routine?
A quality of life results when I clean
My head of must do this - must do that,
So I'll write some verse to find where I'm at!
Mindfulness at Norfeldt Elementary School
Today, Jim Malley was a guest presenter in one of my courses and his topic was mindfulness as a key ingredient in the social and emotional well being of students. At the conclusion of his talk he shared a brief video clip of a school in West Hartford, CT, which practices mindfulness on a school-wide basis.
I recently completed reading the Magpie Murders, a mystery, who done it, book for pleasure. Then, I started from the beginning to read it again - - - only more slowly and to focus on the literary skill with which Anthony Horowitz constructs the unusual plots to this book. Below are my initial quotes that caught my attention without giving away anything from the story line for any reader of this blog who may want to read this excellently written book. I will continue to add additional quotes for the rest of this month in this space, as well.
There’s something quite comforting about a mess, especially when there’s no one else there to complain.
But, I’m not sure it actually matters what we read. Our lives continue along the straight lines that have been set out for us. Fiction merely allows us a glimpse of the alternative. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we enjoy it.
… plumbing in the house was at least fifty years old and complained loudly every time it was pressed into service, …
...putting a steel lid on all her emotions so that only a cold veneer of politeness showed through.
He never used the tube train, disliking the presence of so many people in close proximity; so many dreams, fears, resentments jumbled together in the darkness. He found it overpowering.
Two Insights Into the Problem Solving Process
I made an interesting observation several years ago to share with you today. I was working on an acrostic puzzle in which clues are provided that require a specific response to write in designated spaces on the puzzle. I was stumped. I decided to get some help from a website by search with a key word and seeing if I could locate some information relative to one of the clues. The clue was "60's rockers of 'You Really Got Me' (2 words" and it had to fit into eight spaces. I could hear parts of the song n my head and felt I could almost come up with the right response. As my search was kicking in, I suddenly realized the answer: "The Kinks." I verified my guess by putting in the title of the song and the first hit that came up mentioned The Kinks. Later on that evening, I was again stumped and didn't know the answers to any of the remaining clues. As I was about to look up some information my eyes scanned other clues and I saw "seed-bearing organ of a flower" for six letters. I suddenly thought of "pistil" and went to look it up in the dictionary, which verified my original guess was correct. After these two incidents, I arrived at the following conclusion: Sometimes, when I am struggling with a response to given clues, when I am closer to a solution from an authoritative sources, I sometimes figure it out myself, just before needing the authority's advice.
As part of a daylong in-service on working together as team members, I introduced a crossword puzzle type of activity during one group activity. During the time that each group worked on solving the puzzle, I recorded notes on the different strategies team members employed to try to solve some of the clues. As they used different strategies, I wrote them down on a large wall chart paper as generic statements. For example, one of the team members recited one of the clues aloud - "Robert E. Lee's horse." Just about that time, a secretary was coming into the room for a cup of coffee and said, "Traveler." I then wrote down the following statement: Sometimes, the answers to your challenges come from people you know who are not current members of your team.
The Poetry of Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson
More than 12 years ago, I had the occasion to listen to Ron Ferguson as he described the Tripod approach to the learning process for urban youth. At the end of his presentation he recited a poem, Transformation, from a group of poems he had written. I requested a copy of his poems and he sent them to me. I don't feel comfortable linking those poems to my own PDF [without his permission] so I'll link to a site online where I located his "Flock of Poems." I have gone back to his websites several times and find his work to be exactly what is needed for all of teaching. It would be well worth your while to learn about this wise researcher.
Below is my acrostic tribute to the connection between Tom Petty and Bob Dylan:
That Art and Science of Teaching
I was listening to an ex-football player who was providing a commentary on a sports show and he talked about the science and art of playing football. He said that during the week, a good player will study the science of his craft and fine-tune his skills in areas that will address the next week's opponent's strengths & weaknesses. However, on game day, he practices the art of playing football by spontaneously reacting to what the opposing player does in an improvisation manner relying on his skills and instinct. I believe much the same can be said about teaching. Searching for evidence-based practices among one's strategies for teaching is a must for effective teaching. However, the minute you are one-on-one with a student or large group, the excellent teacher adjusts his/her techniques depending on the immediate receptivity of the student(s). A teacher is never through learning how to be a more effective teacher. However, the experiences of everyday teaching require the teacher to use his/her skills in an ever changing way.
Along this same theme, I continue to believe that teachers need to be well versed in the art of improvisation. The example I often use was related to me by John McKnight in a seminar I attended over 20 years ago. He said that when you go to the orchestra and expect to hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons, you enter a world in which order and movement are arranged by a conductor and you hear what you expect based on your knowledge or previous recordings of Four Seasons. The musicians are very skilled and the conductor is bringing an enhanced quality to the arrangement. However, if you enter an after-hours jazz club in Chicago at a time when several musicians are returning from other clubs where they have recently performed, you still hear wonderful music and beautiful arrangements but in a totally different context. The musicians are all accomplished but they are feeding off one another and playing what it feels right to play at that time. Who is feeling the music more that night? Who has a need to take the lead? Who will do something they have never done before because they are in the presence of a totally new experience? This is improvisation. Teachers need to practice this art to be better able to react to unexpected and novel circumstances brought about by students with a wide range of learning needs.
Elements of Inclusion
Based on my readings and experiences, the eight key elements for successful inclusive experiences by students with disabilities with their same age peers without disabilities are contained in the diagram below. The arrows represent a spinning motion of how these elements are always in motion and interacting with each other in a synergistic manner. Lack of commitment or focus in any element can skew the probability of success in a substantial manner.
My Current Office Door
Typical Feedback Upon Reading Student Engagement
In one course in which I am the facilitator of learning, I provide feedback typical to what I wrote below to one student whose work I reviewed as he reflected on his engagement with content from a chapter and resources I provided on Blackboard, which is a course management system accessed by students enrolled in the course.
I think it's daunting when teachers think they have to be the primary providers of information for all learners. I think we are evolving into a "teacher as facilitator of learning" instead of the "teacher as primary instructor" of learning. There are people in our communities who are experts in many, many fields who can be part of the instructional process, let alone the resources on line.
I am a strong proponent that there is always too much to learn. Picking a key concept or element on which to delve more deeply is, to me, a far better way to approach learning. Learning about a topic is a life-long task that is never ending.
Composing a resume is difficult when trying to determine what a prospective employer is looking for. In teaching, I have found that "Who Knows You" is a far greater factor to employment than what one has on his/her resume. That is, volunteering at a school where you seek employment tends to bring you to the visibility of the principal. I find that many schools hire those teacher candidates who have been at that school for much of their field experiences.
I think the life story [biography] of Stephen Hawking should be on my reading queue next. I'll check that out on iBooks.
Providing the Background Support
Here is one interpretation of the visual above. Our students all have gifts and talents that are often not known or acknowledged by others due to that student's disability getting in the way. One of our roles in a student's life is to provide supports so that their strengths / gifts / competencies are more readily evident to others. We provide the background for others to recognize our students' gifts. I used "VERSE" in the visual above, since this blog is one way of bringing my interest and talent in writing verse to the attention of my students and others interested in my work.
An Individualized Ernie Plan
All students you see
Should have their very own IEP!
My own Individualized Ernie Plan
Could lay out my dream and goals that I can
Be supported to achieve and grow
As only I can know.
School is not about memorizing facts.
School is a place to have fun and relax
And learn to find what we need to share
With others - our gifts - so that we dare
To expand ourselves in a separate, unique way;
No two students have the same needs each day.
Happiness to me is to find that path
That speaks to each of us - it could even be Math.
But, it could also be reading about history
Or painting, or music or exploring a mystery.
Individualize the way each person can learn.
Be creative and help each student yearn
For what no one else may want to seek.
Each student is a wonder - each student is unique.
How do we get there? When can we see
That learning should be joyful for you and for me?
A Singer Extraordinaire
Sometimes a song will get stuck in my head
From a singer who only recently is dead.
He died on October second
I've been listening to his tunes that beckon
To me on my daily treadmill walk.
His death, said Dylan, was quite a shock.
Many musicians are honoring him this week
With cover songs that do speak
To them as they sing with a frown
Refugee - Free Falling - and I Won't Back Down.
I had not listened to his lesser known songs
But I have this week and know that he belongs
Among the best that there has ever been
No one will ever come our way again
With his exact talent and fame
A Singer Extraordinaire - Tom Petty is his name.
Each Student Is One of a Kind
What's the important stuff on which to dwell?
What wisdom for my students can I tell
What's important to impart today?
What will my students take from what I have to say?
What difference does it make?
What worth will they take
From all that I know
And sift that down to show
Them to be guides for learning how
To be respectful, kind, honest and true?
That's what's important to know and do.
Help each student find and share
Their gifts for all so that their teacher can care
Enough for each person to shine
And discover how each one can be a one of a kind.
A Pause in Time
When is the time to do what's right?
How do I know what's in my sight
Is worth my effort, my direction and focus?
Who lets me know? Where is my locus
of control - influence - guidance and pull
To let me know when my dream is full
Of wonder, at any age, for me to see
What's looming right straight in front of me?
Usually, our paths take us from there to here
And all that we need is standing quite near
For what to do next - what plan does exist
For our energies to flow and even persist
In what we next need to do and say.
This pause was a welcome one as I continue my day.
I watched the premiere of "Good Doctor" tonight and wondered about the receptivity of this portrayal of a professional on the autism spectrum by individuals who live with autism. One source I reviewed had some interesting comments and may be worth viewing [http://www.680news.com/2017/10/05/autistic-characters-lead-tvs-good-doctor-and-atypical-but-are-they-realistic/]. I thought this show was a better introduction to the world of autism than Rain Man from many years ago. It must be extremely difficult to entertain yet be educational at the same time. Born This Way [A & E] has managed to provide viewers with glimpses into the world of individuals with Down syndrome. This format seems to work and documents the day-to-day experiences that mirror those of individuals without disabilities in a thoughtful, respectful manner.
Tom Petty Died Today
“It’s shocking, crushing news,” legendary songwriter Bob Dylan, a close Petty friend and colleague, told Rolling Stone magazine. “I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”
The Traveling Wilburys are down to Two.
"I Won't Back Down" is the first single from Tom Petty's first solo album, Full Moon Fever released in 1989. The song was written by Petty and Jeff Lynne, his writing partner for the album. [Wikipedia entry] I'm going to play this song prior to my next class in tribute to Tom Petty. [ELP]
“I learned so much from Bob Dylan,” says Tom Petty. The Heartbreakers toured as Dylan’s backing band from 1986 to 87. “He gave us a kind of courage that we never had, to learn something quickly and go out on stage and play it. You had to be pretty versatile because arrangements could change, keys might change, there’s just no way of knowing exactly what he wants to do each night. You really learnt the value of spontaneity, of how a moment that is real in a concert is worth so much more than one you plan out.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/9334082/Tom-Pettys-debt-to-Bob-Dylan.html
Emmy Lou Harris, Dave Matthews, Patty Griffin and Steve Earle paid tribute to Tom Petty with an acoustic version of Refugee in Seattle on October 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6G7smsItQg&t=2s
The Collected Writings (so far) of Rick Wormeli
I would like to put a plug in for a book that is on my iPad to which I refer frequently as I teach my courses. Rick Wormeli puts into words what I believe to be true and does so in an eloquent manner. I also use some of his YouTube video clips to influence the formation of values in teacher candidates about their role in supporting students under their guidance. Here is a sampling of what I share with my students:
Formative and Summative Assessment
Redos, Retakes and Do Overs