Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida

I recently was given a copy of the new release and bestseller: Reasons I Jump.

It is a quick but enlightening and thought provoking book that I highly recommend.  A young man with autism is the author and he answers questions about how his life has been as an individual with autism.  I realize that these are his opinions but they are a great starting pint for some discussions.

One fact I found fascinating is that the Japanese use three characters to write autism: "self", "shut", and "illness."

Please note, i in no way receive any benefit nor do the authors know I am writing about the book but I think everyone who has a student or child with autism should at least read this book.  It will only take you and afternoon but one afternoon of your time could build a bridge between you and someone you care about.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Making a Living

What do you do for a living?

This is an icebreaker, form of introduction, status determiner, sense of camaraderie, or a way to kill an awkward moment but is it a good question?

Here is one problem I see with this question; it only addresses a very small part of our lives.  Let me break it down in mathematical terms, there are 24 hours in a day and only 1/3, or 8 are spent at work for only 260/352 days for approximately 40 years of a life average of 80 years (I rounded up slightly to make it easier to compute).  Therefore, our working lives are:

1/3 of each day * 260 days * 40 years =
4699.2 days of a 28,480 day life time
or 16.5% of a lifetime

I was shocked by this math!  I thought the answer to that question was one to aspire towards.  IEPs are designed to answer this question at the age of 14 with the work prior and after focused on helping the student secure "a living"  All the hours the IEP teams I have been a part of should count for more of a person's life than 16.5%.  It is time that I ask a better question,

How do we design a life?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brotherly Love

A child with a disability is a blessing, a challenge, a student, a child, a comedian, a source of stress, and often, a sibling.  This sibling shows us what true brotherly love looks like in his outward gift to his brother.

10-year-old Gives Gift of Running to Brother

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Testing, Assessment, Accountability, Oh My!

Testing, assessment, accountability, oh my!

Testing, assessment, accountability, oh my! (Hey it's a big year for the "Wizard of Oz", I had to go there.)

I don't know how things are in your local schools but in mine, we are now required to assess students in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies at the beginning, middle and end-of-the year, as well as unit tests, performance assessments, and formative assessment.  In short, we are testing students almost every single week of the year on at least one skill set or content area.

This sounds like accountability and data collection at its best.  The only problem, the testing takes up the very valuable and limited instructional time.  Schools have definitive times and calendars.  Unlike a corporate position where they ask for you to do more and the lucky (read this facetiously) employees get to work additional hours, schools have a dismissal bell that rings at the same time daily.  The buses collect students and they are gone.  Even if I, as a teacher, decided to stay and work late, there is no one there to teach.  I missed my chance.

Does this mean we should stop testing or assessments?  Of course not!  What I am suggesting is balance.

Let's put it in a way all can understand.  You get a scale and weigh a 10 pound bag of seed.  It weighs, 10 pounds.  The next day, you weigh the bag again.  What does it weigh?  10 pounds.  If you weigh it each day, it will weigh 10 pounds and then, over time, it may weigh less as the seeds begin to fall apart and become dust from drying out in the process of sitting on a scale daily.

However, if you weigh the 10 pound bag of seed the first day and then, maybe you plant some in dirt, water them, feed them, nurture them, and then after this love, attention, and focused devotion to helping them become their best, you reap their fruit and seeds and weigh them again, how much will it weigh?  10 pounds?  No way!  It will weigh 10 times 10, or maybe even more.

You see, it is through planting seeds of knowledge, nurturing inquiry, and giving love attention and focus to the students that the results change, not by placing them on a scale.

So I say to all legislators and policy-makers, please, consider the process of learning as well as the measurement.