What Students Really Need to Hear

This says it all!!!


It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Are You a Joy Remover?

Reading this during the lazy spring break morning coffee time caused me to reflect on the joy that is missing, not only in my classroom, but my professional life. Joy that has been lost due to focusing on “have to” and saying yes, when I really wanted to say no. This week has been about reflection, soul searching and developing a meaningful purpose to the things I commit myself to. Add return of JOY to the purpose. If what I say yes to does not bring joy, if what is put on the class schedule does not foster JOY, then it needs to be purged from the calendar!

image from icanread

Dean Shareski asked me (and many others) yesterday, “Whatever happened to joy?”   A simple question really that should be easy to answer if you are a teacher – it’s right in our classrooms – but then again, one that requires more thought.  Is joy really prevalent in our classrooms?  Or is it reserved for special occasions or for those students who earn it?

Joy is often associated with special events in a classroom.  We earn our joy and happiness through parties.  When I gave up punishment and rewards, I didn’t get rid of joy, I just tried to make sure it was always present rather than something we marked on the calendar.  And yet, in today’s learning environment we seem to reserve joy not just to special occasions but also to those who we find deserving of it.  If a child is behind academically, joy…

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“It”? a Self Check

It has been awhile—writing in the midst of all of “it” is difficult. Having time to drink a second cup of coffee and not rush into the classroom, sit on my screen porch is helping me resolve some conflict inside my heart. What I write is for me and it helps me to process, move forward into the “it” that has become my life. So here are the current rumblings—–

Altruism vs. Egoism something I have been pondering as I check my motives in accomplishing “it”. Why am I so passionate about “it”? Why am I putting so much time and effort into “it”? What is truly motivating me? This week of Spring Break is time to sit back and take an honest look at what is in my heart—am I following a true calling or am I following my ego?

1. Altruism defined by Wikipedia:

” Much debate exists as to whether “true” altruism is possible. The theory of psychological egoism suggests that no act of sharing, helping or sacrificing can be described as truly altruistic, as the actor may receive an intrinsic reward in the form of personal gratification. The validity of this argument depends on whether intrinsic rewards qualify as “benefits.”

2. Ethical Egoism defined by Wikipedia:

“Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one’s self (also known as the subject) with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests and “the self” to a status not granted to others). But it also holds that one should not (as altruism does) sacrifice one’s own interests to help others’ interests, so long as one’s own interests (i.e. one’s own desires or well-being) are substantially equivalent to the others’ interests and well-being.”

Questions I need to resolve before moving forward with “it”–using  Prayer, Mediation, soul searching and the above sited definitions:

When I volunteer for NonProfit organizations that benefits youth with disabilities, work outside the scope of my job description as a Public School teacher, to open the door to “it” for  youth with disabilities ; am I doing the work for” it” out of true giving for the wellbeing of another? Or am I doing to for ” it” from my own ego–to feel better about myself, to detract from what I need to do to take care of me?

When I say yes —Why am I saying yes? Do I really feel called, is “it” something God wants me to do, or am I just saying yes because “it” is what others think I should do?

I do not want to be one of those people who do things for the feel good moment. I want to be in “it” for the duration, to stick to the commitment even when “it” is hard, to do what is needed to be done when no one is watching. I do not want the commitment to become a have to or just one more thing on the to do list. I want to feel the joy, and have “it” be fun.

Conflict seems to prevail in Non Profit organizations and also in the Public School system. Dedication to rise above conflict and to stay the course has always been something I have been able to muster. Systems and the Policies have always been something I can work inside of, jump through hoops and over barriers to make things happen does not bother me. For youth with disabilities, an advocate is needed to remove systematic barriers for them,  so they  have the opportunities to succeed. It takes energy, passion and constant research to “learn” the system, and once that is accomplished the person with disabilities takes off! and accomplishes “it”! Inside of  all the energy to make “it” happen I have found find fun and joy–to know that something good is being accomplished.

But lately, the fun has not been there— conflicts have taken the place of the people for whom I have been working for, opening doors for the “it” that is benefiting them. Resolving the conflicts has taken time and energy away from the peeps I love. I am not “with” them–and I do not like that.

Therefore I am searching my soul and pondering what action I need to take in order to change this feeling inside of me. Do I need to remove myself from the conflicting situations? Maybe by removing myself the conflicts will be resolved—my emotions, my ego and my opinions may be the catalyst that is causing the conflicts to become more important then “it” and the peeps it benefits. I am not stating this from the victim role—just an observation from some meditative thoughts.

It is important that we all do a self check and ask deep questions of the heart–hard questions that we may not like the answer to. In that place of self honesty is where I will grow. It is where God’s mission and vision will become clear. Spring is a time of rebirth. During this week of Spring Break I am going to follow the rebirth of “it” that is stirring inside of me, Self Checking to be sure that “it” is God’s will and I am not mixing my ego into what He wants.

“Have the courage to go beyond other people’s rules and expectations. I pray that you will live and write your own story and then be brave enough to communicate it authentically to others. people will be inspired by it, people will learn from it, and people will have the courage to change their own lives because of the example you have set.” Eunice Kennedy Shriver

On the Defensive Front Line

A dear young lady, who I knew as a child and has now joined the honorable profession of infiltrating the adolescent mind shared this blog with me. Reading it stirred something inside my soul. Developing relationships with students and helping them relate to each other, via understanding the dynamics within the classroom social circle is VITAL to all learning. Columbine changed the way this teacher approached the social atmosphere in her classroom. That event and others have forever changed my approach to developing an environment of social peace in my classroom too. We are responsible at the front lines. We must do more than make rules and enforce them. Being on the defensive and developing tactics to infiltrate the adolescent social mind is not something they teach us in college. As I leave this profession I hope and pray others will take this line of defense.

The world is not what it was when I entered this career. My beginning years were not easy, the violence was visible and could easily be noticed– red eyes and smells of pot smoke, cigarette smoke in the bathrooms, backgrounds of families involvement neighborhood illegalities were well-known. Our rules of engagement included direct confrontation. Not today. Signs of danger are hidden, subversive and designed to undermine us. Our current world needs us to use the unevaluated skills of humanitarianism, to go beyond the evaluation rubric and testing. Thank you to all who stand beside me, have my back and guide me through this battleground we call Public Education.


Good News! We were wrong about Disney’s New Disability Policy.

Good News! This makes me wonder about some of our a Florida Seniors who want to attend Grad Bash! Each year in the spring, Florida seniors travel to Disney for a night of fun. I am going to look into this system for some of our youth with disabilities who want to participate with their peers.

Travel for People with Special Needs


When I heard Disney was changing their

policy on disability passes, I knew it was long overdue, but I was apprehensive.  Would it be more difficult to obtain?  Would we have to wait in long lines?  Getting a disability pass at Disney World had always been a simple process.  You went to guest services and simply made the request.  This pass would allow you to skip the lines at the attractions.  However, it was beginning to seem like there were more tourists in the disability lines than in the regular lines.

Well, I recently escorted a group of adults with disabilities on a visit to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom parks.  I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of the new process.  You still obtain the pass at guests services.  Like before, it is assigned to a specific person with a disability.  What has changed is that they now put a…

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The Apalachicola Riverview Project, Part II: Getting to Know the Guys

What an awesome blog! This journey and the entire project of FX500 that Justin Riney brought to us in 2013, made me love Florida even more!

Live Oak Production Group Blog

January 9th, 2014

By Nic Stoltzfus


Morning mist by the old and new Highway 90 bridges at Chattahoochee (Photo: Nic Stoltzfus)

2013-12-05 09.18.30

The Crew 

Front row left to right: Joey Dickinson, Justin Riney, Paul Veselack, John Ruskey, Elam Stoltzfus, Daniel Veshinski, Nic Stoltzfus.

Back row left to right: Mark “River” Peoples and Kristian Gustavson (Photo: Dan Yoder)

Thursday, December 5th: Day 1

The plan was to meet at the Chattahoochee Landing at Clyde Hopkins Park right behind Jim Woodruff Dam where the Apalachicola River begins (the dam holds back the water from Lake Seminole, the terminus of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers). Dad, Joey, and I prepped our kayaks. Justin showed up and began to assemble his paddleboard. The last to arrive was the crew from Below the Surface. And out of the truck stepped two…three…four…five guys! There was Kristian Gustavson and Danny Veshinski from…

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Really Cool Idea to Promote Self Advocacy

this is an awesome idea!

This week in the TIES ( Transition to Independence a Employment and a Success) Program the team of young adults are focusing on Self Advocacy techniques. It is awesome that they can speak up, self disclose a disability to receive accommodations in college and the work place– BUT what if they offered their users manual to instructors or supervisors? What if these young adults entered their post-school life with a users manual?

The process of writing the users manual would ensure that they get to know themselves. Then sharing the product, using it as an ongoing project would be a game changer. I am going to incorporate this into the weeks lesson plans on Self Advocay. So glad I found this resource at http://www.edutopia.org

Here is an example of the author’s users manual
Ashley Hutchinson recommends we, as teachers also write a users manual. I am looking forward to doing this with my students tomorrow!

Staying in the NOW!

SO proud to know all of these famous people who were featured in the Keys Style January Edition!

Take a minute and read three awesome articles in this January Edition:

Teacher Spotlight  pg. 4 and 5

Ship Happens-Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) pg. 26-29 

Student Council Members Seek to Improve Their School for Every Student pg. 6-9

What great articles about our little island!

I love living here and experiencing the connection we all have, a connection that supports EVERYONE to reach their ULTIMATE Goals. Sometimes I get bogged down into the logistics of planning future events, writing lesson plans, scheduling practices, doing paperwork, watching from the sidelines, networking and facilitating opportunities for my students/athletes, that I neglect look at the results that are evident TODAY.

These articles cover a great teacher and our local Special Olympics Director at Horace O’Bryant Middle School, the lifestyle born from meetings at the Lazy Dog picnic table and the Key West High Student Council moved me tremendously.

Reading these made me look outside the “To Do” list and returned my feet to the NOW.

2014 is going to be EPIC!

2014-01-04_0741 Invitational Maria Teacher Spotlight


“New” Faculty Meeting Format is Forcing Me to Grow

Every Thursday I rush across town from my Program Building to the High School, keeping an open mind about the PLC format that our faculty meetings are taking. Traditionally, our meetings left me wondering where I fit into this faculty, a group who focuses on AP (advanced placement), ivy league college entrance, standardized test scores, student behavior, attendance and tardiness.

At the beginning of the school year we were divided up into two PLC groups, one with our curricular department and one with grade level groups. We are charged with sharing strategies we are using in the classroom that have been adopted school wide. I was kind of excited! Here it was, an opportunity to connect with a staff I am part of but separated by due to the nature of my off campus program.

Let me put in the disclaimer here—our principal is FANTASTIC, she “gets”it” and there are many faculty members who are awesome teachers in their specialty. This ramble of mine is my feelings about being a nontypical high school teacher who is teaching nontypical students!

Through our weekly PLC meetings, I have become enlightened that my students are equal in the utilization of strategies. They utilize them in different settings or with different materials that are not typical to a high school student in a classroom, but they use them!

An example of my enlightenment came during a PLC sharing of Marking the Text , a strategy that came from the school wide use of AVID.  I missed this presentation of the strategy  a few years ago, because I was not included in school wide usage of the program, due to the nature of my mobile teaching of young adults with special needs in the workforce. I did not, nor ever will utilize the AVID program. There seemed to be a misconception at the time that “Ruth’s” kids do not need this approach to learning about reading. I too was not paying attention when it was first presented at a two-hour long faculty meeting in lecture format and did not sign up for any of the PD.

In our new PLC format I have come to realize that this strategy CAN and IS being used by my students. AND the kicker is they have been utilizing the strategy in the real world as adults. I realized this as I watched them read the job ads online and in newspapers, highlighting key vocabulary and then discussing it in our daily Job Club session. My students are able to pull up a website for a major employer, using their fingers on a touchscreen device, highlight the important info they need to apply for a job, prepare for an interview and become knowledgable about the employer. We have been utilizing this strategy digitally for quite some time, while the General Education population is still using pencil and paper! The PLC gave me a name for what we were doing, which seems to happen quite a bit, I am practicing effective strategies in my classroom from instinct or common sense and then learn there is a name for it!

I was excited when it was my turn to share with other General Education 12 Grade teachers how we were using the strategy with Ipads, personal phones and other digital media in the mobile world outside the high school walls. The recorder took notes and then we quickly moved on to the next thing on the standardized PLC agenda, leaving me feel a bit empty—I was hoping for more collaboration and real connections with my peers. As these weekly meetings are continuing, I am learning to listen more, share less verbally and the use  pictures of my students in the real world to share what I do, which is helping. There has een a small spark–a few of the teachers I have known for many years started asking questions. Like “What is Autism?” “How can I get help with teaching a student with Aspergers?” This spark is growing and one teacher is asking for resources.

Although, this empty feeling keeps coming up in my professional live. When I am with a group of high school teachers and talk about my “kids” or get excited about a new thing like opening doors for them at our local community college, eyes glaze over. If I lived in a larger geographical area (not a 2 by 4 mile island) and closer to a university (not 4 hours away on one road to the nearest Walmart!) I might have more opportunities to collaborate with people who are doing what I do. Colleagues who take Transition seriously, people who know that students with disabilities CAN go to college and are making it happen. Sometimes I feel like I live in the backwoods instead of Paradise!

Therefore I have been reaching out to the wide open space of the digital world and the internet! Strategically trying to build a PLN (Personal Learning Network). My goal is to develop connections and resources that will carry me into retirement from Public School System. I do not want to stop doing what I do, but would like to do it on a wider platform.

So I am learning to Tweet! To dust off this blog and to set up our Program Blog as a class project for my darling young man who wants a job in Technology building websites and games. Learning about Edublogs and moving the Program Blog from WordPress. Learning to manage digital information is a full-time job and I think I am getting the hang of it. Trying not to feel overwhelmed and like I have to take immediate action on everything I discover.

So to connect with me outside this Blog I am now on Twitter @ononeroad and have making a Facebook titled On One Road as a goal, until then you can connect via my personal page.

Any tips, tricks and just general comments would be appreciated! I am quite distracted by shiny objects! As one flies across my screen I will follow it to other links and then forget about what I was studying to start with!!!!

Here is a summary of my connections I have been utilizing since I started this PLN project!

www.coolcatteacher— GREAT BLOG!

Hootsuite APP and Desktop Great explanation of how to put all social media together

Blogging through the Fourth Dimension  Great BLOG!

Diigio  my links can be found at ononeroad

Developing a “home” page on my Google Chrome that will follow me on all devices, MAC and PC–this has been fun–I have been gathering RSS feeds and Bookmarks from Safari and my internet explorer on my school computer, finding things that have not been used in a while

One resource that is being dusted off is Classroom 2.0 and the tried and true CEC-Council for Exceptional Children

Florida Resource that is being dusted off and found to be very useful in helping me fit the round peg in a square hole

And I rediscovered Edutopia! It has been a productive and renewing Christmas Break so far.

Now if only the weather would clear up—-I am ready to go enjoy my last week off of school in Paradise!