{April 15, 2009}   Opinions

Howdy folks. Long time no updates huh?  That’s because of a little thing we like to call university.  It got me thinking (yup – we take time out for me to giggle at that…) about opinions.  I had to write an essay (I know, shock, horror – the things they make you do at uni) and my initial draft was quite lacking in the summation section.

Writing about education can be tricky.  It’s important that you do your research.  Trust me I did mine.  It’s great to form and idea, work out what you think you believe.  But things can change.  Education goes around in circles and you don’t always know which side of the trend you sit on.  I was scared that in writing that in my humble opinion this is what I think, lest it be taken by people as gospel, out of context and poorly researched.  Which to an extent it may have been.

Either way – it’s tough to write something about what you think is best practice then hand it on to someone else to let them read it even though they may not believe the same thing as you, and it’s going to end up in a huge debate to try and discredit your work.  OK so maybe no one will try to discredit my work, it’s not published anywhere, but you know what I mean.  Mostly the things is: what if in 10 years time I don’t think that anymore, and someone says… but remember back in 2009 you said….. 

So, to step out in the real world and tell people what you think, or to not… I guess here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about.  Good teachers question.  Good teachers keep their research and ideas of best practice up to date.  Good teachers empower.  Whatever opinion I form on what best practice is, I reflect on, test, discuss and research.  Then I form said opinion.  Knowing full well that I will continue to reflect, research, test and discuss.  If during that cycle somewhere along the line I change my mind, that’s ok.  My opinion or belief has changed along with more education.  Ain’t that always the way?  Maybe it’s like Kevin Smith said, and it’s important to have good ideas, but beliefs can get you into trouble.

Either way, with the position I’m in at the moment, a lot of reflection, thinking and discussing is about to take place about how we approach teaching in the special education sector (comments welcome) and how professional we are when we work in the classroom.  I need to have an opinion so that I have something that I can shape and form and mould what I believe is best practice.  And not be scared to teach the way I believe we should teach.  Hopefully I’ll find plenty of time to write and reflect and not be too scared to put my opinions out there to be picked to shreds.  It can only help me make up my own mind about whether it’s something I truly believe in, or if all y’all out there have a point that I missed!


{October 17, 2008}   Technofear?

Do you have it? I worry that maybe I do. I consider myself techno savvy, but then, if I need anything done I call me resident computer nerd and get him to do it. I have a phone, I’m connected to the net, and I feel nude without some techno gadget with me at all times. But this, sadly, does not mean that I’m techno savvy, but I have solved the other problem without a doubt – I DO NOT have technofear.

To me, technofear is not the worry that at that point in your day when you are about to do the presentation, all technology fails. To me, technofear is the absolute fear of technology. The belief that technology does not need to be used in the classroom. The fear that there is more technology in the world than is safe, and that students rely on it too heavily. The fear of letting students onto the computer, lest they click on the wrong thing and mess with your computer the way you like it.

These fears I do not have. I do have the fear that I am not aware of the decent technology out there, and I am depriving the students I teach. I have spent the past few weeks looking into the add-ons that Mozilla have to read your emails. I have been looking at speech into text software (and when I decide on what to use, and have a comprehensive list I will post them!) and how on Earth I can get non verbal students who would love to email their friends to use a computer effectively.

Technology needs to be embraced by teachers, and I was proud to hear of a first year out secondary teacher saying that he has offered the chance for a student to submit his assignment verbally on his I-Pod. Better than that, the student felt empowered enough to ask another teacher if he could do the same thing. Awesome. Getting hold of the technology is the next step though. I work in a school with no I-Pods, I am still looking for the microphones and worse – I need to figure out how the hell to get Vista to let me make the inbuilt voice recognition software work.

So here it is: I am a terrible speller, and it took me longer than most to *finally* get my writing style down pat. However, the important part is that I know this about myself. As such, I put the necessary things in place to combat said issues. I am concerned that I am not offering my students the technology that they need to be able to make the most of their lives and literacy skills. At least this means that I am actively exploring ways that I can improve, rather than ignoring all possibilities or worse – underestimating the students I teach in thinking that they can’t or won’t be interested in emailing, writing and communicating.

So – what makes me special? I believe that my students, the ones who have moderate to severe disabilities, some of whom are non-verbal, deserve and are interested in a chance to email other students. Now the challenge – how do I get a non-verbal student to show me what they want to communicate in an email? If you’ve got a clue… help a girl out!

{July 15, 2008}   Things that matter

So, this is what happens when I get a bit bored.  I surf the net.  Eventually I get back to and have a bit of a read.  I enjoy it because it makes me think, and I acknowledge it because I’m a little afraid of privacy issues…

Anyway, so lately we’re talking again about “us” versus “them”.  It’s so interesting not only to read the posts over there, but the comments that come back after it.  It made me ponder (shock, I know, I’ll give you a moment to recover….)  how important it is to get people to understand such a simple statement: every one is different, and everyone learns differently.  I work with teachers who like to write their work sheets out and photocopy them.  I like to  whack them up quickly on the computer so I can reuse/ change and edit them.  Now I like to  use  wordtalk to read my worksheets to my students.  This makes it a little easier for me to cater for the many different learning needs.  It does not make it impossible for other teachers to cater for the many different learning needs.  Their teaching needs are met, which makes them function in a way to help them help their students.

Mostly though, it made me think of the hours of work I’ve had to put in for my writing to get to the standard it is today.  I need to stop.  I need to think.  I needed to have a list of questions on a sticky note next to my computer to make sure that I could make a coherent paragraph.  I may also add that the the moment, I am a Masters of Education Student.  Just because some of us make it places, doesn’t mean we did it easily, didn’t search out ways to help ourselves of fight damn hard for the things we need to succeed.

It’s not always about “us” and “them” – who is better, who are winners.  What matters it that both sides are out there, shouting to be heard.  That those who may not be holding the megaphone at the time, get others in to help make up the noise, and point out what they do, how they do it and they help they need to get there.  Maybe that’s the reason I switched to Special Education…  I had a spare megaphone to start yelling

{May 21, 2008}   Not the “P” word

Yup.  I’m going to use it.  Pedagogy.  Now it’s not just a word found in text books.  It’s used in real life!  So the reason that I want to talk about the oft used, rarely defined word is this:  I find that many people don’t have a good definition of it, nor can they explain their place in it.  Maybe because it’s as elusive and difficult to define as anything we do, and some authors devote entire books on trying to define it.  Here, however, is a basic run down.  Pedagogy is the science or art of teaching.  I know, I know… if you clicked on the link it took you to Wikipedia… love it or hate it, it’s a great starting place.

So why am I all bang up for discussing it?  Because it’s been smacking me in the face since I started studying this year.  (Blogging tip #403 – try not to be vague coupled with #32 don’t tell lies)  So – since I started researching more and visiting schools this year, it seems to be hitting me that the major factor in a successful school, despite what research may say, is the ability for a) management to have a combined focus and agreeing pedagogy [for those of you following you may like to call it an agreed approach to teaching and planning] and b) to let staff slowly mould new approaches and shift in stages to embrace new ideas.  (Crap: blogging tip #2 avoid run on sentences…)  In this shifting of new ideas, it also seems that people have a very real sense of their place in their own philosophical sense of learning.  Yes I belive that students can learn through play or NO.  Get me out of here, and for God’s sake DO NOT MOVE ANY MORE TABLES!!!  Needless to say that the latter type, with time and support, end up being the ones with no tables in the room!

But still… how does this link, and when will I get to the point about why it’s bugging me.  Here goes.  I think essentially teacher’s boil down to two types.  Those who are there to educate the whole child, and those who are there to do a job, and create little academic machines who sit quietly and reach the benchmarks.  I also think that there is a major problem out there in some schools at the moment because to get to the top, you tend to be the second sort of teacher.  As a gross generalisation they have a tendency to preach to the first type of teacher and this NEVER works.  Essentially, there is a difference in what is believed to be the best and most effective art and/ or science to teaching.  It is a debate that will never go away.  However, I do challenge you this.  Think about what side of the spectrum you sit on.  If more than half you class does not make benchmark, but are able do things like

  • find and activity to do if you’re caught up in a meeting or conversation outside
  • comfort each other and recognise the difference between a good choice and a bad choice
  • think for themselves
  • help each other out
  • work independently

are you worried about them?  Or do you think that in the year you’ve had them they have achieved.  Or do you blame them and say that there’s nothing you can do – these kids will never learn.  Or do you simply freak out because obviously there’s a mistake in the testing…???

Think on it for awhile.  Mull it over.  I can see the necessity in all things academic and bureaucratic.  I do believe though that there is a developmental stage where children are ready to hit it, and I think with some children we start to early, but often, we’re not given a choice, since the data must be collected.  I think that’s where pedagogy comes into it.  What I believe to be the best art of teaching may not match up to the sceince of teaching (yup – teaching is an art form, not a science… can you fit them to type one and type two teacher mentioned earlier?) and if they don’t – either leave the business, you’re not appreciated or change schools.  There are plenty out there who a strong enough to believe that teaching is an art form and act in the best interest of the children, not the paper work.

Wow, what a rant.  Like I said the other day – don’t hold me to this opinion… I may do some more reading and completely change my mine.  Right now, however, this is what is on my mind.  I’m off – I have things to read, resources to find and rugby to watch.  Yeah.

{May 20, 2008}   All things blue and printy

So… as mentioned the other day I went to the forum on the blueprint and it was, surprisingly, good!  The forum that is.  In all seriousness though, the blueprint – mark2 has what could be the right idea.  It bangs on about early intervention, community hubs and professional development for all involved.  There was quite a lot of discussion around early intervention, pre- service training, improved communication between kindergartens and schools, the impact of integrated venues and how, especially at the moment, it is culturally exclusive.

Early Intervention
The catch cry of all us spec ed people.  There is just not enough of it.  Not only that, when your child is diagnosed it would seem that you get put on the waiting list.  Is it still early intervention if your child is school age when they get there?  However, upon mentioning this I was asked if we had a solution for the problem.  What?!  You want teachers to stop bitching and recommend something?  I told them I don’t get paid the big bucks for that.  Joking.  Our suggestion (having been cluey enough to discuss these things before hand) was two fold:  in the ideal world, early intervention centres spring up near special schools as feeder kindergartens.  Staffed with enough staff to help those in need when they need it.  *Ahem*  I got the look that said “never in this life time, try another suggestion”.   So the next best thing we could suggest is that each kindergarten has a teacher that is special ed trained (stay tuned for the discussion do you need to be specially trained to work in special education).  It’s not that far a stretch.  We also suggested that in the Professional Development (PD) sessions that are to be run as part of the implementation process (really… you want to read it? Just take the jargon) prep teachers and spec educators* PD kindergarten teachers and vice versa.

Pre Service Training
Also known out there in the business as student teachers.  One student (kinder) teacher was observed by a member at our table to be doing what can only be described as a woeful job.  There are many different ways in which we can improve pre service teacher education, and please – leave a comment and let us count the ways!  It would seem, however, much in the same way the government would save money through early intervention rather than ‘catch up’ education, they could save just as much by providing quality teacher training.  Personally, I think that the way to go is an apprenticeship.  4 years worth of learning on the job – uni on the holidays and actually dealing with students.  I believe that they should be asking teachers the best way to revamp university.  Especially those who haven’t been at it for long.  They can view the gap in their learning and what would have been more helpful in their course.

Improved Communication
So often, the teacher is the holder of the knowledge.  They know all about their students and don’t always pass the information on – and there can be a number of reasons for this.  It can also mean that ground covered in the support of parents can be lost in the transition to school.  The suggestion is that there be regular network meetings, in which local schools and kindergartens get together to have discussions, swap ideas and offer support.  Also, in terms of early intervention, sharing the knowledge of support systems can be essential.  Wading through the information and paper work can be demanding and the more you know the system the easier and more effective you can be in jumping through the hoops.

Integrated Venues
Simply summed up here:  you don’t have to share a venue to be effective.  Just because you’re under one roof doesn’t make you more effective.  Consider the true story:  one early intervention centre, one kindergarten, one day care and one *blanks on name* care centre under one roof.  Each have their own staff room – no one knows who they work with or the names of people from the different sections.  Think about it people.

Cultural Diversity
I’m only going to say this once, so listen up and listen closely.  It was only avaliable on the internet and in English.  Should I say more?  I can add (and is this under cultural diversity or not?) that the only people to attend and have the document readliy avaliable were teachers and those closely linked… and by that I do not mean parents!

So there you have it… my brief run down of the what happened in my part of the blueprint forum.  There’s more, but life is too good to spend sitting in front of the computer.  However, the one thing that was not addressed (at least not enough) and I need to mention is this – where in the blueprint and in schools is the support for those students who are really struggling.  The ones that we have assessed thinking that there is a disability and/ or impairment.  The ones that miss out on funding and the constant assistance they need by less than 5 points.  These are the students slipping through our system.  More on that another day.

Today there is more wine, there was an amazing dinner and now some trashy TV.  And soon?  Good books to read.

*sorry to change from sepcial education to spec ed to spec educators… but it’s my blog, and I will change at will since it’s not my masters write up and I can!

{May 14, 2008}   A small rant

Sooo, here is my small rant. Tomorrow I’m going to the forum on the Blueprint Mark 2. Typical of a government body – I don’t feel that I’m qualified to write a submission in reply to the discussion papers until I’ve been to the forum and heard the discussion and ideas being put forth. For the WMR this forum is on Thursday the 15th of May. Written submission (the only sort that they’ll pay attention to) are due on Friday the 16th of May. I might also add, since this officially a rant: we got the email reminding people that the forums are on and when they are and how to book from a colleague. How many times do you think we’re going have to say it… A Special Developmental School is a school. Why the department and the powers that be forget to send us all the mail I will never know.

I also read another blog spot that made me think of Justin… who none of you know as he’s a Canadian friend of mine. He has a learning difficulty (or should I say disability… you’ll have to ask him which he prefers, or just that he learns differently) which means that written word means nothing to him. Ira reminded me of it. All I’d like to say in reply to that is this: do the powers that be really think you enjoy spending your time like that? I am a kinaethestic visual learner. I like noise, mess and movement to help me learn. All of which I can get in my lounge. If it’s not that, then it’s music, wine and curled up in a chair. Do they really think it’s ‘better’ to study in a little room with a computer reading what ever piece of homework you feed in to it? Can that really be considered to be giving people an extra advantage in learning stakes (other than the fact that intelligent people who learn differently may just in fact learn something new). There is no convenience in it, there is little fun in it, and whole lot of wishing you could just get it done ‘like everyone else’ at home or in a study group without feeling pressured or worried about whether the words will stay still on the page long enough for you to grasp at least enough to convince people you’ve read it.

In other news, dinner is on the stove, I have a glass of wine and some cheese. Life is good, I’m fully enthralled by my job and the reading that goes with it. Three cheers for enjoying your job. Oh, and I haven’t been to the gym or for a jog… stay tuned.

{May 12, 2008}   Busted!

So… today I have a meeting about the Ultranet.  The new initiative in schools to link up all up to the super highway.  As a result, I was doing a bit of research.  Nothing like rocking up to a meeting to realise you know nothing about what’s going on.  I found myself reading some education blogs – a new world for me.  It had tips, links and ideas.  Which made me think that perhaps I should change my blogging style and put some of my ideas out there.

Turns out – when I logged on I was busted!  I had a comment from another user, where I was bagging out his spelling.  Ah – can I really call it irony?  I’d like to put it out there in a kind of back pedalling way… I’m a terrible speller, and I try my best to make it right.  To be fair – I realised back in 2002 that North Americans spell the way they speak… it was the aluminium/ aluminum discussion that lead me to that conclusion.  With the help of a dictionary.  Mostly, it’s when Australian software changes my spelling and Americanises it.

Anyway – as I chew the food for thought for my study, I think I’ll be putting it out there.  I’ll disclaimer it now:  What I type may not be what I think, rather just something that I’m thinking about, or what I’ve found, sans view.

Happy Reading

{May 11, 2008}   Not the “R” word!!!

Well… professional reading be damned. It’s a bloody interesting thing. I have been party to the ‘retard’ debate and been involved in looooong discussions about the use of the word. I think everyone should read this post on Retard Theory which discusses taking back the word and denormalizing (ick… bloody Americans with their bloody language and stupid spelling) “them” – Ira speaks of the assistance devices that are in place for every body every day – suggesting we
Demand to see the doctor’s note from anyone wearing eyeglasses. Ask for a note from the cardiologist every time you see someone in an elevator. Challenge anyone who prints out a copy of a digitally-supplied text – “Did your doctor say you couldn’t read a computer screen?”
Be sure to read the posts after… food for thought. Try also the awesome article found here.

Consider not what makes your normal, but what makes you special?

{May 5, 2008}   I got one on…

which sounds extremely dirty!  What I mean to say is that I have a photo of me up on my page, but I think it’s only for when I leave silly comments on other people’s pages… let’s go test it on Wen heheeeehehehe.

In other news, I got an email today that said simply we won.  Congrats to all you people out there who supported the hard work that won the teacher’s their pay rise today.  Stay tuned to see Anne up on her high horse preaching about that!

{May 5, 2008}   Soooo

I had a lot of fun the other night dressed as Kassa Daggersharp.  Who be she?  The pirate/ witch of Dreadnaught I say… and a mighty fine singer at that.  So when I logged on the other night to start writing, only to become sidetracked by the new chat feature on FB…. wait.  Where was I?  New paragraph to try and find old idea…

Right.  I logged on to start talking boring shit, and it asked me, as it always does, if I’d like to upload an avatar (which I believe in computer speak to mean: put a photo of yourself on you tool!) which lead me to thinking that perhaps one of the nifty pirate photos of me might be a nice idea… so I also had to find out what my pirate name would be…. so here be it
The author of this here blog be: Red Anne Flint.  Keep it in yer head all ye land  lubbers…

Now, excuse me while I go and figure out just how the hell I’m meant to upload a picture of me that I need to download from FB… this could take some time people!!

et cetera