You may have noticed that this month lacked the usual posting. It turned out to be a month of emotional upheaval so I decided it was better not to post until things turned around. We got the good news this morning at 6 am. We will no longer be on strike but will return to work on Tuesday morning. This was after a negotiation session that ran 18 hrs. at the end of a week of walking a picket line through mostly rainy weather.
Striking was not an experience I thought I would ever take part in as a teacher. I can’t say I was an avid participant of union events up until this year. This year I was glad I had paid those union dues. It made the difference with not having to accept a contract that was grossly unfair to us and the students we work with. It is no joke that teachers are under attack. We saw it happen here in our little part of the world as 4 districts had to fight it out. Not over the money like the press continues to say, but over contract language that took away things like prep time, employment tied to test scores, allowing verbal complaints to go into record, and contract re-openers which meant nothing really was binding.
I have to say that our parents were are best allies. They put the pressure on the school board, and supported us on the line with coffee, and goodies. Although some animosity developed during the week as classified staff had to continue to work, it also allowed for some bonding as people were able to talk and meet like they hadn’t before. Hopefully we will now be able to finish the next 2 1/2 weeks on more pleasant terms.
If you have followed my blog you know that I have used StoryKit in a few of my activities this year. I thought I would bring it to the fore front since I found another way to use it. I keep finding new ways to use it and it useful for so much more than just editing a story. For those who are not familiar with it, you can read more about it on the ITunes app store. It is available as a free download.
When you first open StoryKit its full potential is not apparent. When I first saw the books listed for editing I thought it was just another app for downloading children’s books. Then I realized I could create my own books and insert pictures I took with my iPad or my photo library. The program also allows for writing and multiple recordings on each page.
This led to use number one. I found it was great for creating directions for crafts because of the multi-modal presentation. A child has pictured, written, and verbal directions that can be repeated at the push of a button. If you look back on my bulletin board crafts, there are examples of directions posted using this program. The App creations are actually better on the iPad because they are presented as a book rather than in story board form.
Use number two was actually incorporated into use number one. I used the recording feature for expressive language and carry over for articulation. The students created and produced the directions. They were motivated to use clear and concise speech when recording them. If it didn’t come out clear the first time, it was easy to record it again They would make multiple recordings and in the end keep the best one. It really made them more aware of errors to correct and what details were important.
My latest use was making a book of “Unexpected Animal Photos.” There are all sorts of collections of photos on the internet. It is easy to take a screen snapshot of these photos to make a book. Students can add verbal commentary once pictures are added. I’ve found that animals are a good topic for conversation and the unusual pictures encourage students to use descriptive detail and make inferences. You can make your own by using Google to search for collections of unexpected animal photos. When you find a photo that you like, you can add it to your photo library by taking a screen shot. Here are the directions to create a screen shot. Even if you don’t have an iPad, the pictures can be printed off and used for discussion. Students always seem to like to talk about animals.
Today we continued to work with the social pragmatic group using the Superflex program. The lesson of the day required the use of a flexible brain to illustrate how the brain needs to be flexible to grow and handle changes in its environment. There is a comparison of a rigid brain with a flexible brain. For those who do not know the program, Superflex conquers Rock Brain who is not flexible and doesn’t adapt to change well. He keeps getting stuck doing the same old thing.
The lesson manual suggested using a brain mold to make a jello brain. I was in luck because I knew someone who I could get the mold from. The manual did not give actual directions or a recipe. I put this lesson off for as long as I could because I do not have a good history with jello molds. I have a history of jello that sticks to the mold and never turns out looking right. The thought of trying to work with one in the time line of classes had me worried. I figured the jello would melt and be over the table before the session was up.
I researched jello brain recipes on the internet. It turns out that there are a lot of these. Some of them are a bit on the gross side of things. I decided to stay away from the worm and bug infested brains although I’m sure they would be attention grabbing. I wanted something that would be close to flesh tone and stay fairly solid. So I settled for the following recipe.
You need 3 boxes of jello with orange to pink colors (watermelon, peach), Evaporate milk (12 0z), green food coloring, and 2 1/2 cups boiling water
Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, Spray the inside of the mold with vegetable o spray. Add milk and cold water to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth. Add 2 drops green food coloring. The mixture should look more flesh-colored. Add a drop at a time until you get the right color. Pour the mixture into the mold and put in the refrigerator. This brain turned out to be quite solid and kept its form several hours.
For the lesson, slips of paper with brain functions from the categories of social awareness, motor,and factual/science are inserted into the jello brain. The students take turns pulling these out and talking about them. I debated the best method of getting the papers in the jello. I ended up laminating the papers and poking them in after the brain was taken out of the mold. This way ends of the paper were left sticking out and easy to grab with tweezers. Surprisingly, the brain is still in good shape after the papers are removed and I can use it again for another group. No one asked if they could eat it. I took a picture of the brain so you could have a visual.
This may seem like a strange title to some of you. It makes sense when you know I am referring to a book by Spencer Johnson called “Who Moved my Cheese?”. It is a rather short story based on the processes people go through to cope with change. A friend recommended it years back when a work location of mine was making a lot of employment cuts. I found this book helped me to get the right perspective so I could move forward and make the needed changes. This seems to be happening a lot in the education setting. I recommend it to anyone going through a lot of changes. I see there is a children’s version now too.
I’m sure there are many more of you out there dealing with the same changes that I am. Employment cuts not only hurt the people who leave locations, but also those left behind to pick up the pieces. I think this especially holds true in the education setting where staff is required to do more with less and still be reassuring and good-humored with students who feel the impact of missed programs and staff. Some change is good as it allows us to develop in different directions and meet new people.
This brings me to why I’ve been somewhat absent from writing. When I ended the school year last Spring, my assignment was in one building with a rather large caseload/workload. Two classrooms for children receiving lifeskills training and the general education students made a significant caseload for one SLP in that building. I was told I would be staying in that building. On my return this Fall, I was surprised to find I no longer served the life skills program but was assigned to two elementary buildings with the use of a SLPA or speech assistant in one of the buildings. That has left me scrambling to adapt to a new building and personnel. Meanwhile the members of my special education team in the old building also changed. This means I do not have the same support personnel as in the past. I had developed friendships with them, so that hurt on an emotional level.
Working in two buildings brings its own challenges. This is not new to me but over the years things have changed to make it more difficult. New mandates have occurred that require special education team members to participate in meetings and collaborate with classroom teachers. It makes it more difficult when people are scattered across several schools operating on schedules that do not match. Also SLPs have taken on a major role of case management duties, particularly with children who have the eligibility of autism. This means many more meetings for behavior plans and consultation with staff. An SLP is not available for this same level of support when they are divided between two buildings. Yet teachers are asking for more support as the classroom sizes increase and children feel more overwhelmed. The scheduling is turning out to be a major hurdle.
On a brighter note, all SLP staff here have received I pads. I am having fun seeing how many different ways I can use it. It has to be one of the most versatile tools I have ever received to make therapy easier. It has an app called face time that I have already used to make contact with the SLPA at the other building. I envision having meetings with an I pad used as personnel reported in at a parent meeting. I may also use it as an observing tool as my SLPA conducts therapy.
So even though I have been an SLP for many years I am finding this year already filled with many challenges and a bit mind numbing. I am afraid that many of our new people are being overwhelmed as they begin their CFY year. Would anyone like to report in and say how they are managing?