Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy 2008!

There's only 2 more days until we begin our Winter Break and I will be without daily & easy access to my computer. So, I'll be gone for a few weeks, but certainly wish you a wonderful holiday season. I'll write again-- next year! :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quote This!

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”

~ Jim Henson ~

I'm not usually one that's into quotes, but if I had to pick one, and only one quote, this would be it. It sums up my purpose in life, better that I could ever put into words.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Somewhere in the middle...

I started, again, to write about the thick skin & soft heart issue... But somehow, the words weren't there. As I sat and reflected (and have been doing for a long, long time now), I realized that there's so much to just this issue that I have I have to get out. And now, well I guess there's been enough time... enough time in my current teaching assignment to look back at the struggles, celebrations, victories and losses that lead me to where I am now as a teacher. However, to get where I am; I have to go back in my story.
After the year with C (see two posts down), I decided that I needed a change of pace. So, I took on a big change. I moved out of state and taught for a year in an elementary school. At that time, I was sure that elementary kids were my favorite. After all, they were hilarious, cute and even liked to give you an occasional hug from time to time. Needless to say, I, once again, enjoyed the time I spent at this school and actually allowed my heart to open up to many of them. However, I was incredibly home sick and I couldn't believe it! So I made a tough decision and returned the following year back "home."
I was hired to teach for a "new" program for our special education cooperative. The program was a self-contained, therapeutic, day treatment program for students with emotional and other disabilities in grades 6-8. Currently there was another program, but it was designed primarily for elementary students and they were outgrowing their overstuffed portable building.
To be honest, I have no clue how or why I even applied or interviewed for that job. First of all... MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS.... Hello, Sarah, are you nuts? Secondly, I firmly believed in all or mostly inclusive settings and self contained was not a "philosophy" that I bought into. Lastly, this program was to be housed in a portable building (at least it had a bathroom) that was outside of and secluded from a local elementary school where the feeling was, shall we say, one of "exclusion" and "uneasiness." Despite all of these factors, I was excited to take on a new and exciting endeavour.
And, let me tell you, it was was exciting!
There's lots to tell about the time that I spent at this teaching assignment- from the learning environment, attitudes of staff, forms of discipline and student successes and failures- but that, readers, is, as they say, another story. Ones that I probably do need to write and share at some point, but not all today. The two years I spent at this program, are the two that most shaped my life, as a teacher and the person I am today. There's a lot to tell.
There are not adequate words to state here about the impact that this place had on me, my teaching and overall philosophy of education and human kind, in general. The work & relationships I built with those students and in that tiny building were never more challenging, rewarding nor life-altering.
It was my work at this place that shaped my strong preference for middle school students. I realized what a lovely metamorphosis of change and being these years can bring. After all, can one really take things personally when a person is going through adolescence? I think not! I also learned that while I still strongly believed in the necessity for inclusive settings, that there was a time and place, occasionally, for more restrictive settings. While I now teach in a mostly-inclusive environment, the work I do can not compare to that I did when I taught self-contained with the same students throughout each day. Lastly and sadly, the attitudes of others in the community and in the schools, have not greatly improved- especially towards those students with emotional disabilities. BUT, it served as a catalyst and focus on my passion as a teacher. This negative perception and reaction serves as my fuel and fire for the passion I have in advocating for and working with these students. Students I see as people first... People with hearts and dreams and hopes and wishes and families and gifts and who are so deserving of the care and respect we can give them.
This, here... this brief summary of two of the best years of my life- years where I cried harder, laughed more, screamed louder, advocated stronger- is who I am and what really shaped me as an educator, friend, mentor and human being. I hope somewhere, in the future, I can explain more of my experiences as a teacher and the stories of this place... the place that is me. Teacher.

Monday, December 3, 2007


I was going to write more about the squishy heart issue (see 2 entries down), when that got me thinking, literally, about the Grinch from Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Something about a heart that was two sizes too small perhaps?)

I must admit it. I do not enjoy the holidays. I'm not sure if I'm in fact a "Grinch", but I certainly can identify with the saying,"Bah Humbug." Sure, I like being out of school for a couple of weeks, but overall, it's a stressful and unstructured time. I wonder if any of your students could be feeling this way as the holidays draw near?

Things you can do to help as holiday time approaches:

1. Keep routines as "normal" and as structured as possible, with advance notice of changes (when you can).

2. Remember that holidays are not joyful for everyone. Be aware of anxiety and stress that may be happening at home as the holidays grow near.

3. De-emphasize material items, when appropriate. Wish lists can be a great creative writing or math activity. Just realize that for some, who may not be able to afford holiday luxuries- discussing what "could" be can be difficult.

4. Be aware of cultural and religious differences. Be sensitive and share others holiday traditions and celebrations.


These ideas may be helpful to you when you come back from Winter Break too!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Free Rice!

Help end world hunger & improve your vocabulary. If for some reason the link above doesn't work, please check out .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Big 'Ol Softy...

Thick Skin vs. Sensitive Heart Part 1

A colleague approached me the other day expressing sadness over a situation which involved one of her students being placed in foster care. What surprised me was the lack of emotion I felt about the scenario. After all, this I had worked with this student many times the past school year and cared for her, but I'd heard it and experienced it before. I started rationalizing instead of becoming emotional. This startled me. As an educator, have I been hardened to the perils students face? Is it a benefit to have a super thick skin or to have a sensitive, squishy heart?


It was over nine years ago when I first started teaching. I will never forget my students that year, especially one young girl who touched my heart. C was a firecracker. She had been taken from her biological parents and placed in foster care for almost six months when I came to know her during her 3rd grade year. She had come from a background of abuse, violence and neglect I can only imagine. Of her siblings, C was the only one who was not hospitalized, but she still had her issues. She would often spend what seemed like hours throwing tantrums and would often hide under the teacher's desk. She would run into the bathroom when she didn't want to do something and there were several times where I would sit on the bathroom floor slipping her assignments under the stall and just talking to her. I will never forget the time when I caught her looking off of her spelling list during a test and when I said, "Please turn it over." she grabbed her entire tub of materials, held it above her head and turned all the contents "over" and onto the floor. She then smiled and said, "You only said to turn IT over, so I did." I loved this kid!

C also had a wonderful amount of spunk, sass and potential. She was smart! She had a gift for reading people and was extremely intuitive of others feelings. She controlled her environment like no other I've ever met. She was a survivor and it showed! C had made tons of progress academically, socially and emotionally over the year. She wasn't throwing tantrums as often and as we built a community of trust, we built a strong relationship and foundation for learning to happen. She hadn't hidden under the teacher's desk in months, and while she still had her "moments" she was really showing that she had the skills and desire to continue to improve. It was right after we returned from winter break that C ran into my room crying and hugged me saying, "I'm going to be adopted. They are going to adopt me! The chose me!" In my experience with her I never saw C cry "real" tears and C didn't like to be touched, but she initiated this and I knew it brought her true joy. I was glad that she chose to share that moment with me.

C continued to make progress as the year went on and I was pleased. Not that we didn't have our moments- C was not "cured" and she still definitely had an "emotional disability", but she was improving. The fact that she was going to be adopted and continue in this community, was just the icing on the cake for me. I became so hopeful for her future. I worked extra long hours creating plans for her, I advocated for her to be in classes that teachers were unsure she could "handle." I really catered to her learning styles and we came up with a behavior system for her that she bought into and was a part of. I saw a future for C and was glad to be a part of her success. It was with this excitement and momentum that I came to our annual case conference with. It happened to be late May, because I had wanted to see how much progress she made and give a good recommendation of what class to put her in the following school year. I was excited because we had a made a decision that I would stay on as her teacher of record because of our relationship and progress. I was thrilled. I had just gotten the signature on her IEP when her foster mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "We have decided not to adopt C. We are having a baby in the fall and are not sure it will be safe for him. It's been very hard, but C will be removed right after school gets out." She excused herself from the table and exited. I couldn't speak a word. My mouth dropped, my heart sank and I began sobbing in front of everyone at that conference as soon as she turned to leave.

My heart and part of my spirit were broken.

C was different after that and so was I. The last couple of weeks went by in a blur. I went to see C the day she was leaving at home. I gave her the book The Pinballs by Betsy Byars and wrote a message on the inside with my address and phone number. I told her that I cared for her and gave her a hug before I left. She didn't hug me back. I never saw or heard from her again. I didn't return to teaching in that school the following school year.
I am so thankful today for the gift of being able to work with C that first year that shaped so much of the teacher I am today. My then-soft, squishy heart was what drove my passion and commitment to the students I worked with. It was the same heart that broke on the floor of that meeting room and never looked at a student through the same eyes again. It was that heart that was unable to walk the halls of that school without knowing where C was and imagining her there.

Although I still lead with care and concern and believe that is the best way to reach students, it can be a really fragile and dangerous place to teach from. But isn't that what risks are all about? Isn't that what makes both the worst and best parts of our jobs? It's a fine balance and one I continue to struggle with.
To be continued...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The gift of autism...

I just recently got back from the second day of some really informative training regarding people with autism. The autism community is one that is fast growing- not only in numbers of those with that label, but also, with those who support and encourage people, research and practices for those on the autism spectrum.

One of the most intriguing parts of this training was when a panel of four adults with Asberger's Syndrome came to talk about their lives, struggles and answer questions from the audience. There were consistent and clear messages from these individuals:

1) To be seen as people first; not first by the autism label.

2) To be treated with respect, dignity & care.

3) To be included with "typical" people and peers.

4) If people feel the need to put a label on them- to put one of "different" NOT disabled or as if something is wrong with them just because they have been diagnosed with autism.

To me, this seems unbelievably fair and reasonable. I am encouraged by the hope, research and knowledge being shared about people with autism. I hope that I will continue to see students as people first instead of looking first at their label or disability. I hope you will do the same.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I'm feeling sluggish and having a hard time finishing a post. I have lots of ideas, but don't seem able to finish anyone of them. This, for me, is a tough time of year. I don't do well with overcast skies, cool, dreary weather and less sunlight. It's just a blah-time for me.

So, I wonder... for how many of our students is this a blah-time as well? Do our students have different moments of blah? How can we turn blah into something a bit more exciting & motivating? Hmmmm....

Friday, October 12, 2007

Poetry Friday: David's Poem

What if your going always got tough?
What if your good enough, was never enough?
What if your best was less than middle of the road?
What if communicating was always a top-secret code?

Would you continue to give it all you have got?
Would you accept your abilities, depite all you are not?
Would you continue to move forward, depite the effort so great?
Or would you give up and just chalk it up to fate?

What if your best was really just good enough?
Or your improvements and efforts were seen as up to snuff?
Even when others had done better than you-
The people around you saluted all your efforts too...

Wouldn't it be great if we all felt this way?
If we were seen just as remarkeable as the kids in "up, up & away..."
I know that I do, in fact, have gifts that are true.
I hope that you will take time to see my talents and help me see them too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Very Worst Thing

This is my third year reading The Very Worst Thing by Torey Hayden to my middle school Language Arts class. I am always amazed by the connection my students feel to this book and the enthusiasm they share as they beg me to read "just one more chapter" each day. It is simply a wonderful, yet fairly unknown, read.

This book is about an 11-year-old boy, David, who is "down on his luck" in life and creates lists of the very worst things in his life which include being in foster-care throughout his childhood, stuttering, having learning differences and being retained in the 5th grade (to name a few). However, he stumbles upon a great gift in finding an owl egg on day after school. The Very Worst Thing is a book worth reading to your class, to your kids or on your own.

Torey Hayden is generally a non-fiction writer who has written many books about the students she has interacted with in her career as a teacher of students with special needs over a couple of decades ago. Probably her most well-known book is One Child. You can check out her website by clicking here. However, this book, which touches on many relevant issues- including being a person who is considered gifted and talented- is written from a student's perspective. If you are looking for a new "read aloud" or just something to read quickly over a weekend, I encourage you to be inspired by the magic of this book.


Note: I tried to link to Torey Hayden's site unsuccessfully. If you are interested in learning more about Torey or this book, please visit:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What a difference a dive makes...

I was so surprised to see the PE teacher coming into my room with a stern look on his face this morning. He marched in and stated firmly, "I need to talk with you- privately- about one of the students."

Immediately my heart sank. One of my students with an emotional disability, J, is in his class and has had a couple of incidents this year. I let my mind race to what could have possibly occurred in PE class that would warrant the teacher coming to my class directly.

I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good. J had come to us last year petrified of the water- any water- and it caused him some anxiety. While he did conquer his overall fear of water and swimming in 6th grade, there were some definite areas that caused him angst. Two of these being the deep end and, especially, the diving board. He made it clear that even though he was a 7th grader that the diving board was not going to happen. The idea of jumping off into the unknown and relying only on yourself to fight your way to the surface was not something J was willing to try. I wondered if weeks of swimming had pushed J over the edge. I took a deep breath.

Immediately, the teacher broke into a smile. "J dove off of the diving board twice today! I haven't been able to get him to try that since we started swimming at the beginning of the year. The kids were so proud of him. It was great! I could barely get him to go into the locker room to change for class and when he finally did his head was down. When I asked him what was wrong he replied, 'I just wish I would have gone off the diving board earlier since this is the last day of swimming and it was so much fun!' "

I thanked the teacher for sharing with me and gave J lots of praise and celebration when he came into my class. He was exuberant and so proud of himself. It was wonderful to see such pride and excitement from this student who doesn't think he can do much well. We celebrated for a good 5 minutes and let all the members of the class ask him questions and give him words of encouragement. It was a wonderful moment for all of us, but especially one for J. J realized that he could do something he never thought possible, succeed at it and rely on himself. What a great lesson and one I couldn't teach him.

Way to go J- you did it!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Less is More!

This week we've been engaged in ISTEP testing in our school. One of the positive things that has come out of this process is that I've been given a reminder about the power and benefit of using non-verbal communication with my students. Too often I want to verbally tell them or engage in a conversation about they should be or should not be doing. I tend to get wordy, repeat myself and even go on for a bit (at times- imagine!). Because of the nature of ISTEP, I have been limited in my ability to direct with the spoken word. This week I've noticed how the negative verbal behaviors of some of my students- like arguing, having the last word or whining- have reduced by me substituting non-verbal dialogue or less wordage of my own. Enough said. :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ella's Enthusiasm...

This is Ella on her first day of preschool. Her mom sent me this picture to show me how excited she was! If you take a good look, Ella's face shows us her excitement and enthusiasm. It looks as if she's about to burst with glee at arriving in this new place. This is priceless and I hope she continues to wear this emotion each and every first day of school.

So it got me thinking... what makes Ella so excited about her first day of school? I didn't have the opportunity to ask her, but I'm guessing that the idea of a community of peers, with opportunities to play, interact and learn seems pretty appealing. I can imagine the smile on her face as her teacher and classmates sit in a circle learning about new things, each other and the world around them. I can imagine that she will make life-long friends and establish a foundation for what school will be like for her in the years to come. I did ask her mom if she still likes school and her response was, "Ella LOVES school!"

So now I ask two other questions.
~How can we keep kids like Ella this enthusiastic about school?

~Or better yet, how can we turn students who aren't this positive about school around so that they really want to be with us in the classroom?

I don't have all of the answers, but as I think about Ella's enthusiasm, a few things come to mind.

1. Build Community- Establish a sense of community and belonging in each and every classroom and in all teaching opportunities. Not only will students feel safe to learn, but also, safe to make mistakes. Community seems to be well-established in younger grades. I believe it is as equally important in all grade levels and something that is pushed aside to easily. Building rapport with students has been my greatest tool in helping to foster student success.

2. Play- I believe that there is a correlation about students attitudes towards school and the reduction of recces! By the time students get to middle school, they are not allowed to play or be kids. Some of my most memorable moments with my students have been in times of play. Now, that doesn't mean that having fun can't be educational! But, I try to play learning games each week and encourage students to develop social and academic skills. They need to know that not all learning comes in only pencil and paper format.

3. Celebrate the Small Stuff- Show genuine excitement when acknowledging student gains or successes of any kind. Too often, students are celebrated for the little things and don't feel good enough. Celebrating can mean anything from a writer's celebration that shares all student work to a private, 1-minute conversation with a student praising them for a job well done. Too often we don't stop to appreciate what a student CAN do. It's grabbing these opportunities that helps students continue to move forward. It's PMA at it's best!

Can anyone think of any other ideas that might help to encourage enthusiasm in students in all grade levels? What else can Ella teach us about what makes kids love about school? :)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Positive Mental Attitude (PMA): The philosophy of having a positive mental attitude is the belief that one can increase achievement through optimistic thought processes. Having a vision of good natured change in the mind. -Wikipedia
So, what do you think about PMA? Does it work for you? How does it impact your teaching and/or classroom?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Summer at the Concession Stand

I never thought it would have happened, but I spent my summer running the concession stand and Lakeside Park in Syracuse. The first obstacle was finding an appropriate name. I am a fan of many things, two of them being my dog and alliteration. So, "Sadie's Snack Shack" was born.

Life at The Shack has been interesting & eye-opening. I really did miss the students over the summer and was excited to see familiar faces of past, present and future students while at the park. The more I worked there, the more I learned from it and what makes being at a park so pleasant. Here's a list of observations, ideas and other things I want to take from my experience at the park and somehow recreate or place at school:

1. Everyone who is at the park wants to be at the park. ~ I want to help foster a strong desire for students to want to learn and be excited about being at school.
2. People, kids especially, appear to be happy. ~ What's better than enjoying your time in school?
3. All people have choices. ~ When people get hungry, they eat. Thirsty, they drink. Hot, they go for a swim. So, I'm trying to think, how can I incorporate controlled choices into my classroom more effectively?
4. Environment is key. ~ Kids don't sit still at a park very often. They are running around, rolling, skipping, jumping up & down and in & out of the water. I don't think that this is a mistake. I'm looking for a way to incorporate more movement into my learning environment and being more aware of it. We may even go outside more! I really should remember to look at my environment first before looking to other interventions.
5. Diversity & inclusion are great things. ~ I love that at the park there is such a mix of people. People's age, ethnicity, gender, culture, ability, religion or language is not a barrier to the environment in which they are placed. Everyone is simply together- working, learning, collaborating, celebrating and existing together. I love that and truly believe that inclusive settings are most beneficial to the whole. I am wondering how to celebrate diversity and incorporate even more inclusive practices, when appropriate, into my school.

I really think that working at The Shack this summer will help me to be a better teacher. I think it's important to take little nuggets of information & inspiration from where you are and incorporate them into what you do. I encourage you to do the same.


Side Note: I'm back! My goal is to post at least once weekly. I am holding myself accountable by writing it down here! :)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Summertime Blues...

Why does summer come with such mixed emotions?

I will readily admit, I'm ready for a break. However, I will miss these kids tremendously & am always glad to see them once school starts. But then wasn't it I who was counting the days until summer?

It's a weird feeling. It's like I don't know what to do with myself. Although, my summer job will help- it's not the same.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

8 Things Meme

First, here's what a meme is (I had no clue- thank goodness for

American Heritage Dictionary -
meme (mēm) n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

I've been tagged for a meme! This one is the 8 Things Meme and it comes to me from Ruth at Inspiring Readers & Writers (for some reason I can't figure out how to link this. I know, I'm so savvy!)

Here are the rules: Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves.
The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I am a TV junkie. I love my TiVo & couldn't live without it.
2. My favorite, all time movie is Grease. Followed perhaps by Little Miss Sunshine. I've never laughed so hard in all of my life!
3. I love wearing flip flops!
4. My favorite color is blue.
5. I have a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper at least once a day (you have to get your caffeine in somehow.)
6. I love the smell of freshly sliced cucumber.
7. I failed miserably at beginning tennis & piano lessons as a kid.
8. Laughter is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer.

Now to tag 8 people (I'll have to think on this one... or go searching)...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Can't think "can't"

We are all familiar with the notion to instill an absence of the word "can't" in our students' vocabulary. We know it limits them and the possibilities they may see in his or her own potential. We know and believe (for the most part) that people can, in fact, do almost everything that they set his or her mind to do.

The trouble seems to be that we can't see how damaging using can't in our own vocabulary and interpretation of student success can be.

So often I feel myself grimace as I hear professionals make comments like:
~"He just can't write legibly."
~"She can't talk to me that way."
~"He can't read and comprehend this book."
~"He can't respond in that manner."
~"I can't do anything about it."

Here's the trouble with it:
  • Can't is like using a stop sign. It creates no further thinking or problem solving. It's like just stating a fact (which isn't one).
  • Using can't indicates that things labeled as two things- can & can not. There is no room for improvement, possibility or change. This is "all or none" thinking.
  • Can't is a strong word with a heavy meaning. Does the phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" sound familiar?
  • Can't is the line in the sand. If you step on the wrong side of the line what happens? If you step on the right side- then what?
  • Can't is a very good indicator of our own, personal "buttons." When the person above mentions that a student "can't talk to me that way", the most probable translation could really be, "I dislike it when this student talks to me this way. I feel disrespected and that I could lose control of the situation if I allow this to happen."

So, the truth of the matter is that students (and the rest of us) can & will do whatever it is they choose to, are lead to or are taught. They can write, they can talk to you in a positive manner, they can improve reading and, yes, you can do something about it.

Start here. Just rephrase the statements above by a word or two. It can be amazing to see what thoughts & ideas will follow after removing that one simple word.

~"He is having a difficult time writing as legibly as I would like him to." So, what can you do to help him faciliate success?

~"I wish she wouldn't talk to me that way." I wonder what I could do to encourage her to speak to me more positively?

~"He is struggling to comprehend this book." I wonder if I should try to use a different method to help him?

~"I'd prefer if he wouldn't talk to me in that manner." Is there a way I could reinforce him when he communicates with me in a way that I prefer?

~"I can do something about this." You bet you can!

The beauty of eliminating word is that you have eliminated excuses and stop signs towards success. Eliminating this word from your own vocabulary can empower you to question further and dig deeper so you can get to the bottom of that reading problem, behavior concern and put forth a plan of action. It also sparks creativity, makes you look for solutions and gives hope.

It's amazing how just altering one little word can really make quite an impact on you, your teaching and relationships with others. What a difference a word makes. Don't worry, I know you can do it!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Here's to the Crazy Ones...

Ruth Ayres posted this on her blog. She inspired me to do the same.

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

~ Jack Kerouac

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Resilience- Part 3 (finale)

As you shift to looking at students through the lens of resilience, you may notice that your attitude, enthusiasm and idealism towards teaching & working with youth begins to increase. You may notice that student behaviors effect you in a less personal way. Also, it may seem as though you have more energy and ideas to use with some of the "difficult" students you have in your classroom.

It can be an enlightening view. It isn't that you're not being realistic, but rather, looking at the student inside out. You may be amazed at what a gentle shift in thinking may create for you & students.

It is hoped, that the world will look different to you. You will begin to see adults and other students in your classroom, who you realize have had someone to help them in their resilient journey. Your resilience-based outlook will include:

~ A realization & belief that people who endure have had a key & crucial adult in their life that is / was:
* Supportive
* Lead in a positive directions
* Tell truth in a proactive & meaningful way

~ Focuses on student strengths, not pathology.

~ Has an appreciation of the student’s struggles.

~ Has implemented and retried a series of interventions and solutions generated from what the student thinks will solve their problems based on their past experience and hopes for the future.

~ Possesses a hopeful & energizing approach with youth.

I think that one of the greatest gifts we can offer to our students is one of hope. Recognizing resilience as a means to survival and endurance gives me hope that I can assist youth in utilizing their strengths in various ways. I also hope that it will do the same for you & your students.

*Thank you to Michael Kelly, LCSW for allowing me to share some of his information in this series. Mr. Kelly is a speaker and works for the Chicago Center for Family Health.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Resilience Part 2

If you are one who looks at students with behavior problems through the lens of resilience (instead of the lens of annoyance), this is what you will see:

1. Even the most difficult student has the ability to endure and even learn from crisis & trauma.

2. The goal is to assist the student in creating a strong internal sense of being a “functional” person despite outside pressures.

3. There is a great need for supportive people who tell students the truth in a proactive (not punitive, assaultive or abrasive) manner.

4. The believe that it’s never too late for anyone to heal & grow.

Once you view students through this lens, you will have eliminated all excuses. No longer will your effort and attention not be enough. You have now empowered yourself to be an advocate and teacher for all students, of all backgrounds, ability levels, cultures and ages. Now you can teach & reach them all.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Resilience Part 1

I have been asked often, "Why do these kids act this way?" The answer is never simple and it often has several variables. It is easy to take misbehavior personally; especially when a student may be so good at pushing your buttons. However, the action is most likely not as personal as you may think. The truth most likely lies in that the student has learned these negative behaviors as survival skills to the trauma that he or she has been through and uses it as a protection.

Instead of looking at students with emotional disabilities or behavior concerns in a negative light, try looking at them through the lens of resilience.

Resilience (n): 1. The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy.

In my experience, the majority of students with emotional disabilities have been through horrific experiences that we can only imagine. They have been resilient to the misfortune in their lives. Many have suffered or have been witness to repeated abuse or tragedy. It is this experience that often shapes their behavior. They use these skills (arguing, refusal, aggression) to control what they can and maintain some sense of order. In other words, these kids are survivors. These students had to be resilient in order to survive.

Here's another take on resilience:

“The ability to rebound from adversity strengthened and more
resourceful. It is an active process of endurance, self-righting and growth in response to crisis and challenge.”
- Dr. Froma Walsh

I believe that this is where we, as educators, can have the most impact on our students. We can help them to utilize their power in a different way. We can help them to focus their negative energy into something positive. However, it is almost impossible to think that these students can do this on their own. They need to be lead in a positive direction and shown why using more positive actions can be just as positive and commanding as negative ones. These students have remarkable strength.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Is there anything in this world like the sense of belonging? Think about it for a moment.

Naomi Leon, a character from Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan, talks and creates lists about many things, but one strikes me today~

The Good and the Bad All Rolled Into One

That's what I think belonging is. Belonging is a cozy, warm place where one can nestle and be appreciated. However, belonging can also lead to stagnation and narrow-mindedness. Belonging can be the line between self-esteem and peer pressure. It can be the line between colleague and friend.

What has me thinking this?

I've been blessed to feel a sense of belonging here in my comfy-cozy Special Needs department- even in times of shuffle. And now, some more change is on the horizon... so I wonder:

Will I still belong? Do I need to? Does 'belonging" stop? Most importantly...

How many of our students face this struggle
everyday and wrestle with a sense of belonging?

I guess what I've come to think is this. One can still belong to something or someone- even in a different way. Change is needed to make the belonging all the better or to remind us what groups or ideals we want to belong to. So although I miss my old, snugly sense of belonging- I can also look forward to belonging to something new too. I can look forward to new nuggets of belonging, look back and appreciate the feelings I've had and still hold on to the best of them all.


Be Inspired! Read Becoming Naomi Leon today!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sticks & Stones...

I was emailed this speech by a colleague and friend of mine. It definitely warrants reading. It made me take a look at my view of "acceptable" words. I wonder which words you may tolerate or use without even realizing the harm in it?

It makes you think, doesn't it?

Click or copy & paste link below to read:

Friday, April 13, 2007

Teacher Sarah...

I am a teacher. My official title is "Teacher of Students with Exceptional Needs" or "Exceptional Educator." I like that.

I am fortunate that I love what I do. Now, I don't love EVERYTHING about my job, but who does anyway? I absolutely love working with kids. They are funny, enlightening and maliable. What a wonderful combination!

While enjoy working with all students, my passion and expertise lies within working with, advocating for and teaching students labeled as having emotional disabilities and / or behavior concerns.

I believe it is so important in teaching to have a passion and rely on that. I am really fortunate to have several unruly students to keep me charged at all times! :)

How's that for a first post?