Friday, January 30, 2009

New Year Resolutions for Teachers

New Year Resolutions for Teachers
By: Courtney Kowalczyk, M.Ed.

It is hard to believe that 2009 is already here! The holidays came and went so quickly, and now we are on to bigger and better things in the New Year. As a teacher and consultant, I believe that starting a new year is always a great time to put into action our personal New Year’s resolutions. Now, many of us typically think about and plan our personal resolutions; but have you ever thought about making resolutions for yourself professionally as well? Making changes for the better in our professional lives is just as important as in our personal lives.

As teachers, we know there are so many things that we need to do day in and day out to keep our classrooms working efficiently and effectively. Planning lessons, managing schedules, and keeping up with grading are just a few of the daily activities that we are required to do. As you move through the rigmarole of our professional lives, do you ever stop and think about what you are learning or gaining from your professional experience? Have you learned a new strategy and implemented it in the classroom? Is teaching still fun, or have you fallen into the rut of the day in and day out routine? Here are a few simple suggestions and ideas for New Year’s resolutions for teachers that will help keep you fresh and moving forward in your professional career.

  • Read a new strategy book or article for teachers. It is important for teachers to keep up on their reading and understanding of educational practices and procedures. Every month, new strategy books and research articles that share research based best practices come out for teachers. You can find these materials online through your preferred search engine or database. It is amazing to see all of the materials that are available today!

  • Subscribe to a teacher friendly website. The internet holds thousands of teacher websites that are available to assist you with learning new methods, gaining lesson ideas, and managing your schedule and routines. It is important for you to take the time to find a site that can benefit you and use it frequently throughout the week.

  • Take a college class. Universities and local intermediate school districts frequently offer classes for teachers. Attending a class or college course is a great way to freshen up on best practices, as well as meet and socialize with fellow teachers.

  • Visit a fellow teacher’s classroom. It is really amazing to see all of the different ideas that teachers use in their classrooms. By visiting fellow teacher’s classrooms, you can gain some wonderful insight and ideas to use with your students as well.

  • Read an inspirational quote every morning. At the beginning of everyday, it can be very inspirational to read a quote to yourself or to your class as a whole. Quotes can be a great tool to keep you fresh and ready for the day ahead. You can find calendars with daily quotes on them, as well as a many quote resources online.

  • Take care of yourself. Lastly and most importantly, teachers need to take care of themselves personally and professionally. Try to leave your work at school, at least a few nights a week, so you can rest and relax once you get home. Plan a date night with your spouse or significant other, and plan not to talk about work. Find things that you enjoy, and be sure to participate in them frequently.

As teachers, it is important for us to make positive changes in ourselves personally and professionally. Our student success will depend on the best practices we are using, and our enthusiasm for teaching. Make 2009 the best year yet for yourself, your family, and your love of teaching!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Phillips hamster of dough

We made dough last week with salt, flour, oil and water. Today I made a hamster with it. First I drew the shape with a marker on paper then I filled it in with the dough. We cooked it and it got hard. I am going to paint it on Wednesday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Journey Through Infant Development: The Seventh Month

A Journey Through Infant Development: The Seventh Month
By: Michelle VanderHeide, BSW

It’s been another wonderful month with my son. Each month I see him increasing his desire for independence. There is already an instinctive attitude of “I can do it!” With this attitude comes frustration, perseverance, and ultimately a sense of growing competence. Allowing him to go through the times of frustration helps to build the perseverance, which is all worth it when I see that look of “I did it!” Many of the milestones written to him below are a direct result of allowing him to fail, persevere (with or without a little support), and succeed.

  • You are so busy discovering new things. Your old toys are no longer fun, and you find so much more enjoyment out of strings, boxes, spoons, and other non-toy items. I love sitting back and watching you find something you want and go after.

  • Because of your increased curiosity, you have found new ways to move around to get where you want to go. You started off rolling everywhere, but that wasn’t always such an effective method. At church one morning, I watched you eyeing a little girl your age as she crawled around and pulled herself up to stand. You watched intently. It wasn’t but a few days later that you began to move forward and try to pull yourself up. Although you are only making small strides, you are beginning to get where you want in a forward but awkward motion. It’s really cute. Your left arm reaches out, and then you pull yourself forward over that arm. The right arm offers little assistance. Grandma found that to be very funny, as you are taking on the same strange crawling patterns that your daddy used.

  • You know your name now. We have lots of little nicknames for you too, and you respond to all of them. I’ll be sitting on the couch watching you play, and I’ll call your name. You stop what you are doing, and turn with the most beautiful smile. It melts my heart, so I interrupt your play a lot just so I can see that precious face.

  • Patterns are becoming more and more evident to you. Playing Patty Cake is one of your favorite games. I like to be that annoying mother who wants to show off your cool tricks, so I’ll say “Patty Cake.” You look right at me with a smile, and start clapping. Your little clap is so cute. Your right hand will be wide open, but your left hand will be in a ball. As the month went on you got better and better at the motions that go with this little chant. We always end it with a “so big.” Your little arms shoot right above your head. It’s funny to see, because your hands barely reach the top of your head. One day you’ll only do the clapping, the next day you’ll only do the “so big”; but I know it won’t be long before you put it all together. It makes grandma so proud to watch you do the little game she teaches all her grandchildren.

  • You are beginning to initiate play a lot more now. Sometimes when nobody is paying attention to you, you’ll throw your sweet little arms straight up in the air until one of us looks at you. All we have to say is “so big,” and you start giggling. Once you have our attention, you’ll stop playing the game. You think it’s funny to tease us by getting it started and then refusing to do it again. I love your little sense of humor already!

  • Solid foods are becoming more common for you. Cheerios are the best thing ever; and if half of them make it in your mouth, you are doing pretty well. I usually find most of them in your bib, on the high chair, or on the ground. You’re getting the hang of it though, and each week it becomes easier and easier. I can’t believe you are just around the corner from feeding yourself. You don’t even need me to hold your bottle all the time anymore, but we both prefer it when I do. This is the only cuddle time we get.

  • Getting kisses from you is a new favorite for me. I’ll pick you up and say “kisses,” and you’ll lean in with your mouth wide open. I can’t ever get enough kisses; although with your little teeth coming in, I’m beginning to get bitten instead of kissed. I guess we’ll have to work on hugs.

It can be very difficult to watch a child struggle with something, and not just step in and do it for him/her. I often watch my son try to eat a Cheerio, and I just want to grab it and put it in his mouth for him. I watch him scooting, and I can tell where he is trying to go – I want to pick him up and move him there, but I resist. I let him try, I let him fail, but I’m always ready to support him to ensure that he’ll be successful. It’s from very early on that infants learn to persevere through their failures to come out ahead. There is a tough balance, though, between overcompensating and under-compensating – especially if you have a child with special needs. If you do too much for your child (overcompensating), perseverance will not be established, and a desire to try new things will seldom occur. If you don’t offer enough support (under-compensating), a constant feeling of incompetence will be built, ending with the same result. The RDI program helps to find that right balance, giving your child the necessary amount of support to become confident with an increased desire to try new things. Through RDI, we can help you help your child fail successfully!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Reading Game

Today, Miss Courtney and I played a fun reading game. It had a train and I had to sound out words. It was a lot of fun.

From Phillip

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slowing Down to Speed Up

Slowing Down to Speed Up
By: Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP

Why does it seem that everything has to be done at warp speed these days? Everyone is in a rush to get where they are going and to do what needs to be done. It seems the older a person gets, the faster the years fly by. Is it because we get so busy and are in such a hurry that we miss whole periods of time, caught up in meaningless tasks? Why, when we were children, did it seem like there was so much time and it went so slowly? Think back to when you were a child, and summer vacation seemed to stretch on forever. Was that because our lives weren’t packed with things to do from the time we got up until the time we went to bed? Was it because we had the whole day just to play, have fun, and be creative? No schedules, no responsibilities, no worries all seem to have played a part in the “time” we then had.

In a previous article I wrote about slowing down to assist in processing communication; but in this article I want to talk about the broader concept of slowing down our lives in general. I will admit right from the start I am guilty of being one of those fast paced people that needs to take some of my own advice, and slow down. I have been working on this very hard over the past few months, and feel like I have made some progress; but it has been difficult. When you find yourself thinking, “I can’t even sit and watch a 30 minute TV show without doing something else at the same time,” you need to stop and assess the pace of your life.

I know we are all busy, and there is so much to be done every day; but sometimes the key to speeding up and getting things done is to slow down. So many parents tell me that they find themselves running here, there, and everywhere transporting their children to any number of sporting events, therapies, hobbies and other outings that they feel like they live in their car. How can this be a healthy way to function; and what kind of relationships are we establishing by rushing around all the time?

In thinking about this e-zine article, I decided I would just take a minute and Google the concept of slowing down. Wow, was I amazed at all the things that I found! So if there is a movement out there to slow our lives down, why have I not heard of it? I actually found two websites where I spent a period of time looking at and reading the content. All of what was said made a lot of sense to me. One of the best things I found there was the idea that by slowing down we can actually improve our communication and relationships with other people. By taking the time to stop and actually listen, we can have such a deeper level of understanding with the other person, and possibly establish a great bond with that person. I know that when I am in a hurry or have many things on my mind, I don’t do a very good job of communicating with others or giving my all to the relationship. Usually what happens in these instances is that I listen just enough to answer when it is my turn; and when the conversation is over it is out of my head. I have noticed that when I slow down and give my full attention to the conversation, I have a much easier time recalling what was discussed and leave the interaction feeling like a true connection was made.

Many children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with communication, social exchanges, and building relationships with others. They also struggle with the ability to appraise situations, and be flexible. When we think about this in relation to our fast paced world, is it any wonder people with autism spectrum disorders struggle with those areas? It’s like they were wired for optimal performance at a slower pace, but find themselves in the whirlwind that is our current society.

So, what if we tried slowing down to speed up? What if when we were engaging, or guiding our children with autism spectrum disorders, for example we slowed down and allowed for thinking time? Amazing things start to happen when the pace slows. I have had this experience time and again. The child who was disregulated and not connected suddenly begins to regulate and connect with you just by virtue of the fact that you slowed things down enough so that s/he could process what was happening. So if this can happen during planned activities, what would happen if we made a concerted effort to slow down the pace of our entire life?

I can tell you what I have seen happen with the families I work with who do make an effort to slow down their lives. Their children begin to establish meaningful bonded relationships with their parents and significant others in their world. They begin communicating to share experiences and make new discoveries. They discover new ways to see the world and become more flexible. The great thing is that this doesn’t only happen for children with an autism spectrum disorder; but we all expand our horizons and speed up new discoveries when we take time to slow down, and really process our world.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Parenting Thoughts For the New Year: Changing “I Should” to “I Could”

Parenting Thoughts For the New Year: Changing “I Should” to “I Could”
By: Nicole Beurkens, M.Ed.

The start of a new calendar year tends to be a time for us to reflect on the past year, and also make plans for what we envision in the 12 months ahead. Some people make resolutions, write to-do lists, or set goals for themselves. What often happens with these lists and resolutions, however, is that they fall by the wayside shortly after they’ve been written. One of the reasons for this is the pressure we put on ourselves to accomplish these things; and that pressure and level of expectation leads to stress, resentment, and ultimately giving up on what we originally set out to do.

I recently heard someone talk about changing our “I should” to “I coulds.” That really resonated with me on a personal and professional level, as it seems so easy to get caught in the trap of stressing about everything I “should” do. When we think of things in terms of “I should,” we exist in a pressured state of feeling forced to do something. Thinking about what I “could” do shifts us into a mindset of choice—I am deciding in this moment whether to do this thing. It not only sounds different, but it feels different to phrase options from the perspective of “I could” instead of “I should.” There is an internal mindset shift that occurs when we do this; and it allows us to move forward with trying to do the things we could, instead of getting stuck in the mode of pressuring ourselves to do what we should.

Since we are at the start of a new year, we have the opportunity to think about the year ahead in terms of “I coulds.” Instead of making lists of all the things we “should” do, why not think about all we could do and accomplish this year? Here are some simple ways we can apply this thinking to our parenting and the relationships we have with our children:

  • I could spend a few minutes of 1-1 time with my child each day.

  • I could have my child help me with a chore I need to get done.

  • I could plan a simple activity that our family can all do together each week.

  • I could get the playroom/bedroom/office/garage organized.

  • I could be more consistent with my response to the negative/inappropriate behavior my child exhibits.

  • I could read that book/journal/blog I find interesting.

  • I could be more patient with my children.

  • I could set limits for how much time my children spend watching television and playing video games.

How about you? What are some of the “I shoulds” that have been hovering over you and your life? Take a few moments to write down all the “shoulds” that come to mind – just jot them down in whatever order you think of them. Your list might include household chores or projects, such as doing the laundry or repairing something that’s broken; personal ideals such as losing weight; activities with your children, etc. Once you have your list, go through and read each one using the phrasing “I could…”. Notice how you respond mentally and physically to thinking about each item on your list as a “could” versus a “should.” When these things arise for you on a daily basis, focus on shifting into the choice mode of “I could” instead of the pressure mode of “I should.” Let’s make the coming year a year of “coulds!”