Sunday, May 9, 2010

And the Decision Has Been Made......

Well, sort of.

I know all of you patient readers are sick, sick, sick of my fence sitting and angst.  

I received an informal email offer to teach two sections of an advanced methods course and do some supervising of practicum and student teachers next year by a nearby university.  No contract yet, but I am penciled in for these assignments.  I have agreed to the assignment in another informal email.  I am good with the informality but have not resigned from my EBD teaching position yet.

Why not?  Well, I love the security of having that contract and EBD teacher assignment in my hand.  But I think I have processed a good part of the grief.  I think I am ready to move out of EBDland and into a new place in my career.  I think I am ready.  I think.....

It will be great to pass the baton, to impart all my EBDland wisdom to special education teacher wannabes, to tell my tales, to hold them to a high standard of performance, to expect nothing but the best from them, to not inflate grades or pass them on if I don't think they are ready.  It will be great.  


Won't it?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Research-Based Best Practice. HUH?

Yes, most of us know that the law requires us to use research-based best practice while teaching everything from calculus to social skills.

Yes, most of us would love to know what those most current research-based best practices are.

Yes, most of us would also like to say that just because something is research-based, does not mean it is necessarily useful in our specific situations or that the data wasn't skewed so the researcher could publish or prove his/her assumption true.

Yes, most of us would also like to be acknowledged for all the great methodologies and strategies we use daily that are based in us just being good teachers.

I am not saying research isn't a great thing.  It is.  Without it we would not be where we are in so many areas. But what I am saying is that some long ago research-based practices are outdated and no longer work.  And that some of those practices were never really all that anyway.

One such strategy is using only ABA methods with AUT kids.  Even though it is really the only well researched, much published and practiced method for working with AUT kids, it is NOT, by any means, THE BESTEST and ONLY way to work with AUT kids. In fact, there are some great newer methods that work really well, even better for some AUT kids.  Greenspan's Floor Time, Autism Treatment Center's Son Rise Program, just having a relationship with the kids, meeting the kids where they are...

Or the emphasis on behavior modification, level systems and token economies.  Do they work?  Yes, absolutely in certain situations, with certain kids, and with very specific goals in mind.  Do they work with all kids, in all situations, for the long term, or with certain mental health issues?  Absolutely NOT. In fact, if used inappropriately, they cause harm, they alienate, they don't extinguish target behaviors.  There are other great tools like cognitive behavioral therapy, using a psycho educational approach, feedback, Richard Lavoie's methods for helping kids socially, just having a relationship with the kids, meeting the kids where they are......

It is just hard to measure these alternative methods using traditional research protocol.  But does that mean they aren't effective?  Does that mean we should not use them?

Let's keep our wits about us, not throw common sense to the wind.

What I propose is that we stop staying in our academic heads only and do what all great teachers have been doing since the beginning of time.  Be smart about how we teach, know our kids, and love them, work our asses off, and never stop looking for and trying any solution that looks like it just  might work.... researched or not.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This Cannot Be True

This is for real.

My favorite and most challenging student of ALL TIME has been in crisis all year.  Since I have been all but banned from my old school due to replacement teacher's issues with me,  I have not been able to stay closely involved.  I am one of a very few people this kiddo with attachment issues ever bonded to.   So, as his behaviors have increased this year... directly due to the level system they insist on using with him... those in charge of him have done the following:

They have NOT taken him off the level system even though it has proven not only ineffective but harmful.
They HAVE suspended him more than 20 days this year.
They HAVE rewritten his IEP 5 times this year.
They HAVE hired another parapro to help with him.
They HAVE shortened his school day.


They shortened a 5th grader's school day?

So, now he is loose in the community when he really should be in school?

In school with people who take the time to understand him and care for him?

How can this be right?  

While my head is still trying to wrap around this, I hear this one.  One day last week after this kiddo had done NOTHING all day, and I mean nothing at all, the parapro bagged up all the soon -to- expire- unopened- but- confiscated- by- my- parapro -while- on -lunch -duty- and put- in- the- EBDland- refrigerator- cartons -of- lunch- milk and gave them to my kiddo to take home.  A very impoverished home, by the way.

The milks were not given as a reward.  They were not given with any sort of praise attached.  They were just quietly bagged up and handed off when he left for the day.  This was done a million times under my watch.  No biggie, right?


So, unproductive kiddo leaves for the day with half a dozen little cartons of milk and my second replacement teacher scolds my parapro for giving the kid the milk.  

"I would rather have had you pour that milk down the drain than give it to him."

Again, real good job people.  Real good job.