Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008


For anyone who knows anything about special education, you may understand and appreciate how hectic certain times of the year can be. For the next three weeks I will be immersed in trainings, sub plans and annual case reviews. Therefore, I will need to take a break from blogging, so I can get my paperwork done. I'll be back at the end of March!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008


" I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. "

~ Maya Angelou

I have been pretty open in the impact that my brother has made on me and my profession. Equally important on who I have become as a human being, is that of my sister. She is truly remarkable and an important part of my life.

I am nearly a decade older than both my brother and sister, who are not even a year-and-a-half apart in age. For a long time, I resented that I was so much older and always a distance from them and their special bond. However, I think that it was a true gift to be able to really see them grow up from the time they were infants until now. It is has also been a gift to see her as an adult today and appreciate the way she continues to grow and change.

My sister is strong, intelligent, sassy, independent, vivacious and absolutely beautiful inside and out. She is inquisitive and sensitive. Charming and frugal. Bright and bold.

I love you. Thank you for always being honest, even when it's painful, and for supporting me in my goals. You have made me a better teacher, person, daughter, friend and hopefully, sister. Thank you for seeing the good in me, when I can't. Thank you for being you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Can't" Revisited...

Last May I wrote about the dangers of using the word can't to describe student actions and possibilites. I decided to repost it here. I actually was talking to the colleague who inspired the original post, when I heard it AGAIN.

"These kids are at the end of their 7th grade year. They just can't do this anymore. They have to initiate doing their homework."
Argh! Not only does this set up this colleague for frustration, but it also sets up students for failure. So once again, I'm going to repost this. See what you think by clicking below:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oh Brother

When my brother (above left, my sister, on right) was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with ADD and with learning disabilities. Although, I'm almost eight years older than he, I was too young to understand that there was something different with this boy. Apparently, my parents saw him struggle with everyday tasks and activities from an early age. School was never easy for him and although he had a ton of friends, academically, he battled on a daily basis.

When I entered college, he was in middle school. I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career, but interested with my brother's journey in school, took an introductory class about special education. It was if I was meant to be there and the rest, as they say, is history.

After I declared my major and got into the field, I found a particular interest in emotional disabilities. Almost simultaneously, my brother began having more behavior problems at home and school. There were more office visits, calls home and outbursts. As I moved closer to my graduation date, his behaviors became much more problematic and bizarre.

My first year of teaching was an adventure. I lived at home and tried to help my brother, as well as, figure out how to just keep my head above water. It was my idea to have my brother evaluated at the end of the year for an emotional disability. He met the criteria. The following school year, he was also diagnosed with a devastating mental illness. So now he was labeled ADD, LD, ED and mentally ill. That's a lot for scrawny 17-year-old shoulders to bear and, let's face it, it can be hard for a school to know how to best educate a student with all of these challenges.

Luckily, I had already done a lot of study and research about people with emotional disabilities; which includes students with mental illnesses which impact their education to a marked degree. Finding the best ways to educate, include and appreciate my brother and his struggles became my passion. While other professionals could only see his labels, I was able to see past all the labels and still see him... my brother.

I'd love to say that he made it through school without any further problems and that I was somehow able to magically find the key to make things "click" for him. I was and still not able to do that for him. I wish that I could. However, he did "graduate" and continues to work diligently on obtaining his GED. To date, he's taken it three times and is so close to passing. He plans on trying again this spring. His mental illness has taken a big piece of who he is, but not all of him and certainly not his spirit. Managing life with certain differences and disabilities is and will continue to be a life-long endeavour.

Tomorrow is his birthday and I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life. The gifts he has brought to me outweigh any negatives. For this I am truly thankful. I am a better person, friend, sister, human being and TEACHER because of him. I am passionate about the work I do because of him. I strongly believe that ALL students are entitled to a quality education, despite their disability. But, most importantly, I am able to see my brother in all of my students and remember that they are not identified by the label placed on them, but rather of the people we hope or know they will become.

I hope you will see my brother in all of your students too.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What Is Your Life's Blueprint?
Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life's blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life's blueprint. Number one in your life's blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you fell that you're nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life's blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You're going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life's work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you--doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, "If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door."

This hasn't always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

— From the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.