Goal 13 – Help them Reflect on Their Errors & My PLN

Errors, dealing with failure, is diffiuclt for anoyne, let alone the special ed students! Such an important, huge, complex and difficult issue with my pupils !

It took me a while to figure out how to relate to this goal without turning it into a term paper!

So I just want to share the beauty of this new PLN I have been building since I started blogging and joined Twitter. With the extreme variation in my classroom, I need a variety of ideas and strategies to use (NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, works for everyone). I need to discuss it, a lot, without boring people silly.

Already I have had a “spark igniting” conversation on this topic with Tyson Seburn following his post on the topic. I feel greatly encouraged that I will have fascinating people to hash out these issues with!

Parents / High-School / Special Ed. – Goal 12

People have been posting amazing things about Goal number 12 of the 30 Goals Challenge. This one is a lovely example and DON’T MISS Shelly’s presentation on the 30goals site!

But here I am again saying “Except…”

Parents with a special-needs child tend to be EXTREMELY involved in their children’s lives. Particulary those who have sent their children with a hearing-loss to a regular school.

They come to the program at my school when they are 16 and often stay till 21. Many are DYING for independance!

Or

need to be taught that THEY are responsible for their behavior and education, not their parents. THEY have to take charge of their lives!

There are a few parents of tenth graders whom I talk to from time to time (I’m not a homeroom teacher). I rarely talk to parents of pupils beyond 10th grade. Many turn 18 in 11th grade!

B.T.W -My youngest is in 11th grade and as a parent I’m sick of “parent involvement” activities in the afternoon! So right – “involvement” is not “engagement” and I don’t need these school events in orer to do something with my son!

Goal 11 – The easiest goal so far!

Goal 11 of the 30 Goals Challenge is about giving the students choice.

By Gil Epshtein

Our classroom is in the format of a learning center!   Students choose where to sit, whether to work on grammar,  reading or the vocabulary project. Dates of tests are negotiated together and much more!

A book recommendation here:  Jonathan C Erwin’s “The Classroom of Choice, giving students what they need and getting what you want”.

Goal 10 – Beware of the “Michelle Pfeiffer Effect”

1995-Dangerous-Minds-

Goal 10 of these 30 goals deals with BELIEVING.

Since I teach Special Ed., starting new pupils off with challenges I know they are able to succeed at is a given. Success leads to self confidence and motivation which leads to success.

But these 30 goals are called challenges and the true challenge is that belief alone is not enough. You have to beware of what I call the “Michelle Pfeiffer Effect”. I phrase it that way based on many readings of  Dr. Robyn R. Jackson’s fantastic book “Never Work Harder Than Your Students” .

Michelle Pfeiffer in the film “Dangerous Minds” is  wonderful and inspiring. She walks into a very difficult high-school classroom and just believes in the students. After a few hard times , they all become amazing students.

Classroom reality is not like that (and not only because many of us don’t look like she does!). You can believe in the students and make them believe in themselves. But if you don’t figure out what the skills needed to bridge the huge abyss of knowledge they didn’t acquire till now are (when they weren’t such awesome students) they still won’t be able to reach their graduation goal. Belief must be combined with a good look at the reality and identification of the bare necessities they will need in order to deal with the level they are supposed to attain. Pupils who have missed years of REAL learning have huge gaps!

Dr. Jackson mentions  math skills as an example – if you can’t add or subtract you won’t pass calculus. My examples are from languages, I have to teach 10th graders wh questions even though they should have learned this a long time ago. I really recommend reading Chapter 3 of Dr. Jackson’s book – she explains it so clearly!

In short – belief is CRUCIAL but it can’t stand ALONE!

Goal 9: Global Connections

At first I thought that I wouldn’t be able to do goal no. 9.

I once participated in a lovely project called Friends and Flags where we connected with students from Finland and the US. We sent them real packages about our country. It was great but not suitable for my classes. It was A LOT OF WORK for me, I had a great connection with the teacher from Finland but the kids less so. And the physical packages arrived (as the program dictated) at a time of year when we were in exam mode for the final national matriculation exams.

Anyway, I created some poll questions on our class site. If we can get some students from abroad to take them, we can compare notes! Actually, we’ll see how many of MY pupils take the polls. I reserved the computer room for this Sunday so I dould have lots of kids take it. However, polls are blocked at school!

But this is about as big a global connection I can handle right now!

Goal 8 – Rethink Student Behavior and Classroom Management

I’m beginning to think these 30goals challenges are from one of those fantasy films where as soon as someone says the WORDS the reality immediately reflects them. After “Invite Them In” a new entrance to the classroom became available through the broken window. And today…

Before I get to that, kidding aside, I feel that these challenges are so well crafted that as soon as you begin thinking of that particular element you are bound to see it!

Today was my counseling day and I was visiting another school. While I was there I  had a chance to observe them dealing with exactly the same behavioral issue that I’m having trouble with at the moment – pretty amazing, right?!

During the lesson I was observing a pupil opened the door and wanted to say something to another pupil (with users of sign language all you need is a sight-line). The teacher calmly told the pupil that she was interrupting and that she would get a YELLOW CARD. And that was it. The teacher didn’t get angry. The student was shown that actions lead to consequences. If a pupil at that school gets 3 yellow cards in one week that becomes a red card which means a disciplinary team is involved and that’s trouble.

We don’t have such a system at our school. If a pupil is disruptive during the lesson I write a notation in my diary which must then be typed into the computer database. That gets noticed and the kids don’t want that (of course some pupils care more than others…). But I can’t make the notation for pupils who aren’t IN my lesson who are bothering me. I end up getting angry at them. Which may have been a “behavior encouraging” reaction for one or two of them. But how else am I supposed to react when a pupil enters, totally stops the lesson and is in no hurry to leave?!! I’ve turned to the homeroom teachers of the pupils who repeatedly interrupt and that has helped (also one pupil got into so much trouble for other reasons he’s laying low at the moment) but if there was a school accepted way to react to that perhaps I could remain as calm as the teacher I  observed?

Anyway, the moral here is that when thinking of a way to modify pupil’s behavior first think which options are entirely up to you, the classroom teacher, and which require the staff to follow in order to work!

Goal 7 – Have Fun!

As usual – these 30 goals are so “RIGHT” – you have got to make sure there is some fun involved!

Anyway, as this topic is SO big and different for different age groups and settings, I’ll choose one small point. The goal says “Ditch the worksheet”!

Well, since I only teach reading and writing in English (we don’t speak English in class at all, only Hebrew and Israeli Sign Language) if we’re going to have any English involved in the fun activities, there has to be a written componenet.

So we have worksheets related to slideshows of funny pictures, or even a scene from a funny movie! I don’t have any of these activites online at the moment but here’s a sample picture from one of the slideshows. My pupils are teenagers, they like that stuff!

car wash

Goal 6 – “Inviting Them In” – but not through the window!

When I began thinking about the topic of Goal no. 6 “Invite them in” last night, the LAST person I imagined I would desperately be trying to get into my classroom this morning was the janitor! And he certainly wasn’t included in the list of people to invite in on this challenge!

As I have posted about previously, getting the janitor at our school to fix something in a classroom is a MAJOR production. This morning an exuberant 19-year-old (whom I say is 19 going on 9 years old…) banged on the window to scare a cat away who was trying to get in. She broke the window!!! We’ll see what happens first – I finish these 30 challenges or the window gets taken care of!!

Anyway, “inviting them in” is a real challenge for me. I enjoy a huge degree of autonomy as a teacher, more than the average Israeli teacher and much more than what I read of the American teachers. I have a department principal and a school principal but they are totally uninterested in any pedagogical decisions, they are all left to my discretion. I have the national finals “to answer to” , general school rules and that’s about it. I’ve had students teachers observe my lessons but have NEVER, in my 25 years of teaching, had any supervisor watch a lesson.

I began the YALP project (posts about that on the blog!) this year in order to enlarge pupils vocabulary. It has actually led to “inviting others in” in a manner I hadn’t experienced before. I began collaborating with the speech therapists for the project. Then I heard that the sign-language teacher had a problem with hours that were cancelled and invited her to join me for the YALP project. That led to adding options for the students working on the poem “The Road Not Taken” – she is teaching some of them to sign it in Israeli Sign Language and others in American Sign Language. The poetry project also led me to talk with the teachers who teach Hebrew lit. for advice about teaching poetry (I was having trouble with the difference between similes and metaphors myself, so I couldn’t explain it well!).

While most teachers do not physically come down to our ground floor classroom, there are more teachers involved in what we are doing this year than ever before!

Now I just hope that nothing will enter the classroom through the big hole in the window…

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