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!

Pernille Ripp

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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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!

“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!