Dr. Lori Desautels 317-207-0336 brain@revelationsineducation.com

Mini-Projects Created by Graduate Students for Students with Exceptional Needs

Tonight , I am completing the assessment of several graduate student projects and I am blown away by their passion, out of the box thinking, and their desire to further develop  these “concepts and projects” throughout the year. We had a very intense summer course on the Introduction of Children with Exceptional Needs  and I asked the students/teachers to choose a topic we covered during the past two weeks and integrate this into their classroom cultures and instruction…eventually developing the metrics of how they were going to assess;  to know if there was student growth, understanding and a carry over into the emotional and social lives of their students! Please enjoy these as I have!

 

Jacob Peerman

8/11/2013

EDU 535 – Intro to children with exceptional needs

 

Project outline:

I will be teaching a self-contained classroom for students with emotional needs. Using the course materials involving brain metabolism and functioning, I will teach my students how to effectively decrease stress. Specifically, I will develop a classroom procedure that is both therapeutic and reflective that promotes increase blood flow to higher level thinking centers and away from survival centers in the brain. The key difference in this approach is that I will frame the use of a reflection station as “a brain thing.” I will educate the students on how ALL BRAINS work as a precursor to the procedure in which a student needs to be removed from the traditional instructional setting.

 

Assessment of project: When I evaluate the effectiveness of this project I will not consider the decrease or increase “frequency” of students using the station as an assessment measure. My rational for this consideration is based in the idea that a student might need multiple times throughout the day to reflect on actions. I would also expect, given the needs of my particular students, that this process should be encouraged at a high or constant frequency to provide students with the practice in the reflective process. A more effect assessment measure might be the way in which students are behaving pre and post. If a student is able to recognize the power of the process, I would expect that resistance to the procedure would decrease. Similarly, if a student is able to return to the group and sustain attention or engagement then I could conclude that the process is effective. With that said, I have other classroom reflective practices built into the classroom culture. These general instructional strategies would only support the “reflection station” and it would therefore be difficult to determine if this project was the “sole” factor in increasing a student’s emotional stability. (It certainly doesn’t hurt J)

 

The materials below include: lesson plan, Power Point Presentation, guided notes, and a student reflection sheet that facilitates the process of framing a removal from traditional instruction as an emotional brain therapy intervention.

 

Future materials to develop: A list of coping skills based on individual student interests.

 

Lesson Plan “What happens to our brain when we are   STRESSED OUT?”
Objectives:-            SWBAT identify the parts of the brain that are   effected by stress-            TWBAT articulate the classroom procedure   associated with the “reflection station”
Time Teacher Student Resources
10 min T introduces topic through video that outlines the “Flight   or Fight” survival response. 

T will introduce lesson on “our brain.” T emphasis that   “All people are effected by stress, not just kids, and not just adults.”

 

Activity – Students spend 30 seconds reflecting on   environmental stressor.

 

T reengages students by calling on them to share stressors

 

 

S watch video 

 

 

S is tracking the teacher and following along with guided   notes.

 

 

 

S are writing down as many stressors on their guided   notes.

 

S share stressors

http://cmhc.utexas.edu/stressrecess/animations/fofmovie-start.swf 

 

 

 

 

10 min T outlines two main parts of the brain important for the   lesson.Frontal Lobe – “Right behind our forehead, in charge of   higher level thinking and processing”

 

Amygdala – “Deep inside the brain, in charge of our   emotional responses, also called the “survival center” of the brain.

 

T emphasis that when we are “stressed” blood leaves the   frontal lobe (in charge of higher level thinking) and enters the amygdala (in   charge of survival response.

 

S label the parts of the brain and fill in definitions on   their guided notes
10 min T outlines procedure by which students can increase their   brain flow to the frontal lobe of their brain. “When I, or you notice that   you are becoming stressed, we can use the reflection station to increase our   blood flow to the frontal lobe of our brain in order to get back on track.”T explains materials at reflection station and procedure

  1.   Move to station
  2.   Set timer
  3.   Chose coping skill
  4.   Turn off timer
  5.   Complete reflection
  6.   Return to the group

T ends lesson by modeling procedure.

 

T directs students to tear off exit ticket and complete

 

S are tracking the T 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S complete Exit ticket.

 

Resources used

–          http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/cells/cellcom/Play-by-play.pdf

–          http://cmhc.utexas.edu/stressrecess/animations/fofmovie-start.swf

–          Brain slides provided in EDU 535

 

Katie Rutledge
EDU 535: Introduction to Children with Exceptional Needs
Dr. Lori Desautels
Final Project
August 11, 2013

 

“[A]ny kid will prefer to be viewed as a bad kid than a dumb kid. If you put a kid in the position of choosing between looking bad or looking dumb, he will choose to look bad.” Rick Lavoie

This quote expresses the pain that many children experience in the classroom on a daily basis. Not knowing an answer, being unable to read fluently, or struggling to follow directions can draw negative attention to students from teachers and peers. Children who learn differently than the way they are taught suffer the most in school. Often these children have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. Often they are labeled by teachers as slow or unmotivated. Often they are called “dumb” and “stupid” by their classmates. However, I believe that the challenges these children face at school arise from dissonance between how they learn and how schools teach.

As an elementary special education teacher, I would like to use the concept of multiple intelligences to teach my students the truth about themselves. They are not slow. They are not dumb. There are many different kinds of smart.

For my final project, I have created a lesson on multiple intelligences for my fourth grade special education students. The lesson includes a Power Point presentation, a script, and a paper quiz they will take to assess their own intelligences (I found this online on the Scholastic website). The goal of this lesson is to introduce the concept of multiple intelligences and begin the process of creating a unique learning profile for each of them. But perhaps more important, the message I hope to communicate is that they are smart and it is my job to help them get smarter this school year.

It is my intention to continue studying the theory of multiple intelligences and translate it into learning strategies that will suit my special education students. For example, I would like my students with bodily/kinesthetic intelligence to practice math facts and sight words while bouncing a ball or jumping up and down. I would like to use several types of manipulatives to teach fractions to my students who rely strongly on visual/spatial intelligence. For example, we could cut Play-Dough with plastic knives to represent the parts of a whole. My personal goal is for all of my lessons to “speak” to as many types of intelligence as possible.

I also hypothesize that the types of intelligence a student relies on the most will give clues about the student’s interests and how he/she can “recharge” his/her brain. This fall I intend to set up a special area in my classroom for students to take brain breaks. These breaks could be from school work/frustration or an emotional breakdown. This area will have different activities, manipulatives, and stimuli that will cater to the different types of intelligences. Here are some examples from my brainstorms:

1. Linguistic – jar full of short notes with encouraging or thought-provoking sayings

2. Logical/Mathematical – hand-held puzzles

3. Musical Rhythmic – MP3 player with limited music selections

4. Bodily/Kinesthetic – fidget balls and other hand-held toys

5. Spatial – art supplies, Legos

6. Naturalist – shells, pinecones, plants, and images from nature

7. Intrapersonal – journal prompts, self-assessment questions

8. Interpersonal – note cards for letter writing

9. Existential – though-provoking art work, guided meditation

 

As I use learning strategies and “brain break strategies” in my classroom, I will keep notes on what is most appealing and most effective for each student. I believe that I will know my strategies are successful if: 1) my students are having fun in my classroom (most of the time!) and 2) making steady progress towards their academic and behavioral goals.

 

SCRIPT FOR POWER POINT

Slide 1:

  • I am in school at Marian University. I took a class about the brain. I learned a lot of cool stuff that I am going to teach you this year.
  • The brain does a lot of stuff for us. It enables us to move our bodies to play sports, open jars, pet our cats, turn pages in books; it enables us to process and make sense of what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. The brain enables us to make connections between things we already know and new things we are learning.
  • We go to school to learn new things, so our brains are hard at work while we are at school.

 

Slide 2:

  • Look at your pointer finger. Look very closely at your fingertip and observe the tiny, tiny lines. These ridges make up your fingerprints.
  • Did you know that everyone in the whole world has different fingerprints?! Even identical twins have different fingerprints.
  • Our brains are like our fingerprints. Each one is unique and one-of-a-kind.

 

Slide 3:

  • A super smart scholar who is a rock-star-teacher at Harvard University made up a theory about our brains and how they work. A theory is an idea that explains something complex. A theory is a way to look at the world and see things in a new way. The theory is called multiple intelligences.

Slide 4:

  • “Multiple Intelligences” – those are scholarly words. Let’s break them down!
  • Multiple means many or difference
  • Intelligence means smarts; what you know and how easily you learn new things; it’s your brainpower

 

Slide 5:

  • Multiple Intelligences means there are many different ways of being smart!
  • If you don’t get A’s on all of your school tests, that doesn’t mean you aren’t smart.
  • If you have trouble reading, it doesn’t mean you aren’t smart.
  • If you hardly ever get an award for doing well in school, it doesn’t mean you aren’t smart.

 

Slide 6:

  • Here are eight kinds of intelligences. Most all people have and USE all of these intelligences. But everyone has a different balance of how much they rely on one kind over another. That makes us and our brains unique—just like our fingerprints.
  • What you like to do and how you like to learn often REVEAL or GIVE US CLUES SO WE CAN DISCOVER the types of intelligence you rely on.

Word – you like reading books, it is easy for you to take notes
Math – you like to play strategy games like chess; you like problem-solving and following steps
Picture – you can read a map and get somewhere, you can imagine places and people in your mind, you like art, you build with Legos
Music – you always get songs stuck in your head, you have played an instrument
Nature – you love being outdoors whenever possible, you like animals and can get along with them
Body  – you  love to play sports, you are good at making things with your hands
People – you love being with other people, you are good at talking to new people
Self – you think a lot! You don’t mind being alone.

  • What kinds of intelligence do you think we focus on in school?
  • That’s right: Word and Math.

 

Slide 7:

  • Right now you might be thinking: WHO CARES? Why should I care about multiple intelligences and how my brain works?

 

 

 

Slide 8:

  • There are a lot of reasons. One that is most important is even if you struggle in school, it doesn’t mean you’re dumb.
  • Another reason is that knowing how your brain works will help me be a better teacher. For example, if you have a lot of bodily intelligence, I might have you practice your math facts while you are jumping up and down or bouncing a ball. If you have a lot of musical intelligence, I might help you make a song to memorize spelling words.

 

Slide 9:

  • And one more reason why it is important to know what kinds of smarts we have: it tells us what smarts we haven’t developed as much. It gives us an opportunity to work on getting smarter! For example, I am a huge klutz! I am always running into door frames and tripping over my own feet. My skin always has bruises from these little accidents. I know I don’t have very much bodily intelligence. I decided I needed a sport and chose yoga. Yoga is a kind of stretching where you do funny poses and have to keep your balance. Yoga is a way for me to become more coordinated and to increase my bodily intelligence. I’m making myself smarter by doing yoga and challenging myself.

 

Slide 10:

  • So, I told you a little bit about the theory of multiple intelligences. But now we’re going to test it out. We’re going to take a fun quiz that will help us figure out the strongest areas of your intelligence. Then I will figure out ways to help you learn that fit together with your intelligences and how your brain likes to learn.

 

Slide 11: This one is just for Dr. Lori! Thank you for an excellent class!

 

A Stress Free Learning Environment

Sheri Vogel

Introduction to Children with Exceptional Needs

Dr. Lori Desautels

August 11, 2013

 

 

In room 211, my sixth grade classroom, there is much stress in the students before they even enter the classroom. The students are made up of mostly eleven to thirteen year olds who are currently, to add to their stress, going through major hormonal changes. Most of their stress comes from the home environment, from the neighborhood environment (with shootings, etc), and one students two older brothers are incarcerated for reasons I do not know. A few of my students are also stressed because of frequent school changes and learning and emotional disabilities such as; bi-polar, ADHD, autism, or they are learning disabled. The best thing I could do for all of my students to help them learn would be to first teach them to deal with their everyday stress and any other stressors that may pop up and surprise them that are out of their control.

The brain of the students aged eleven to thirteen is easily disrupted. They already have a prefrontal cortex that is nowhere near developed enough to help them make the intelligent, thought out choices that are required to make it through some of the situations that they are experiencing daily. In the power point from Dr. Judy Willis, she shows a stressed brain of an adolescent. This brain does not have a functioning prefrontal cortex; the lower reactive part of the brain is in control. The amygdala is the stress filter and in a high or sustained stress situation(s) is keeping the brain in the zone out, act out, flight, fight, or freeze mode. The child has no control over what they do in even more stressful situations that are piled on top of the ones that they are already trying to deal with. Which according to Dr. Willis are; peer relationships, test-taking anxiety and oral presentations, physical, clothing, language differences, the feel like they have no personal relevance, there is frustration due to previous failure and falling behind, or sustained or frequent boredom.

To help my students deal with this stress and to understand what is going on in their bodies I am going to teach them about the amygdale, the prefrontal cortex and the brain stem. If they are aware of what is making them feel the way they do, they will be able to deal with it in very different ways than they currently do such as, fighting with others, not being able to sit still in class, not having tolerance for others, and acting impulsively on emotions. I am also going to help understand what to do when they experience certain emotions that make them act irrationally. Dr. Willis also discusses that children need to understand that “bad behavior” does not mean that they are “bad” kids. She states that they also need to understand that when they have strong negative emotions like fear, anxiety, or hopeless frustration (which I have seen several times in just one week with my students) puts their brain into survival mode. They will also need to understand that when the lower brain takes over it harder for them to control their behavior (Willis).

Along with teaching the students about the reactions and non-reactions in their brains, they are also going to learn about neuroplasticity, the “function” of the brain that will help them “stretch” their minds. Room 211 will be taking regular brain breaks during the learning in a day. The students will need to exercise their brain to help it grow and repair itself from the constant stress that they have been under and will continually have to deal with. Our brains shut down mentally when they are stressed. Learning to reduce stress and ways to deal with it will help my students excel in my classroom.

To do this we will first take brain breaks, and the students will learn to identify when they are getting to that really high stress level and that they have to be able to do something about it. Our brain breaks will include taking three to five minutes to breath and stretch. I will first teach the students about the ways that their brains are functioning. I plan on using parts of the power point in the list of files on canvas, “It’s a Brain Thing-Final Project.” It is in terms the students will understand and has pictures of the brain that will help them understand. This power point contains information that will teach them why stress is interfering with their learning; it also gives strategies on how they can control what they learn at school. They need to want to learn and use metacognition (think about thinking) to help them retain information. In my classroom, we have a wall that is labeled, “mindfully engaged.” On this wall I am going to have the students come up with ways of “thinking about thinking.”

In a list from Dr. Desautels, there are several ways to reduce stress. To reduce their stress, they will write brainstorm a list of ways that they could be stressed at home or at school. I will encourage them to write about this stress, in doing this it will help them get it “off-loaded” from their brain. Another way we have learned to reduce stress is the one week rule; ask the student, “Will this matter one week from now?” They can also redirect their attention to something else. When taking brain breaks, the students will be encouraged to stand up, stretch and breathe deep breaths. They could also learn to reframe the experience, look at the experience from another perspective. I will also help the students see how they can take control over their feelings; they are in control of deciding how something makes them feel.

Once the students understand how their brain functions and from what parts stress directly effects they will be able to identify when they are overly stressed and they will be able to turn to the strategies that we practice in class. The will also be encouraged to talk to me or to another teacher that they trust when they just need to vent or let off steam. I will be able to assess the effectiveness by students’ performance in the classroom. In the past week, I have seen the stress that the students are under and they inability to focus on lessons and the way they deal with each other. There will be a change in their attitudes and how they relate to each other and the material that we are covering. The students will also be able to articulate to me and each other how they are feeling and if their stress levels are reduced.

 

Adam Gross

Abstract for Neuroplasticity Song

8/11/13

Intro to Children with Exceptional Needs

 

 

Neuroplasticity should be the rally cry of educators.  What neuroplasticity tells us is that any person, regardless of age or ability, has the capability of learning new information and skills.  It also tells us that this learner’s brain can physically transform by increasing the number of synapses between neurons and by changing the internal structure of the neurons themselves.  From an educator’s standpoint, the concept of neuroplasticity is very intriguing as it gives us scientific proof that every student is capable of learning.  I believe that if students were taught about neuroplasticity, their drive for learning would be increased and their outlook on their own future as a learner would be bright and optimistic.

 

In order to teach this concept to my kindergarten class, I have written a song detailing the facts of neuroplasticity while also relating it to a kindergartener’s life as a learner.  Before singing the song, however, I am briefly introducing the concept of neuroplasticity through a mini lesson.  In the mini lesson I will introduce the terms “neurons” and “synapses” and I will teach the students a hand gesture that represents two neurons coming together to form a synapse.  I will explain to them that every time they learn, this is what happens in your brain and that we are going to refer to it as their brains growing.

 

During the song, students will participate by singing pre-identified repeating parts and also by using their neuron/synapse hand gestures.  I believe that singing and participation is the best way to teach this concept because it reaches the auditory learners as well as the kinesthetic learners.  The composition of this song was based on several strategies.  Since the song is geared towards students in kindergarten, I believe that using a little humor is an appropriate and effective way to induce learning.  Kindergarteners will also be interested in the fact that their brain is moving and shooting electricity while they are sitting still and learning.  Another strategy that I incorporated in the composition of this song is the appeal to a child’s desire to grow.  In my experience, most young children wish they were taller or bigger and they are very excited when they grow even a half of an inch.  In this song I attempted to appeal to the desire to grow their brains by relating it to their desire to grow their bodies taller.

 

I truly think that this is a very useful concept to teach children of all ages and abilities.  Once they have learned about neuroplasticity, their drive for learning will be so much stronger because they will want to make their brains grow.  Likewise, for those students who have been in situations where they feel as though they will never be able to learn properly, this will give them scientific proof that they have the capability to learn new tasks and information.  Neuroplasticity is certainly a very useful tool as an educator and as a student.

 

Song lyrics- going to try and download the auditory… This project was designed for Kindergarten students!

Alright students today we’re going to sing a song about neuroplasticity.

Woah that’s a big word right?

It sure is, but I bet you could say it if you tried.

Ready?  Repeat after me “neuroplasticity” your turn.

Great job!

So now show me that hand sign that I taught you earlier. Remember it looks like the neurons in your brain with a synapse in between.

Great Job!

Now I’m ready to sing this song, but before I sing it, I’m going to need some help from you.

At then end of each part I say, “grows grows grows”.

Now when I say that I need you to repeat it after me and show me the hand signal at the same time.

I know you can do it, but let’s practice first.

Ready repeat after me “grows grows grows”.

Woah that sounded great!

Now let’s learn about this neuroplasticity thing!

 

Just like your body grows every day

inside of your head you have a working brain

Your brain sticks around as you get old

and just like your body it grows grows grows

 

Now when we’re born we don’t know many things

but now you’re gonna learn a new song to sing

you learn every day that’s just how it goes

and when you learn your brain grows grows grows

 

Your brain has neurons like telephone wires

they send information and they never get tired

And whether you’re 5 or 80 years old

the neurons in your brain can grow grow grow

 

To put the neurons together they make a synapse

They fire electricity across that path

They reach the other neuron and what do you know?

The inside of your brain has grown grown grown

 

So if you have a new experience or learn something new

like how to ride a bike or to tie your shoe

Or the first time that you ever stub your toe

The brain makes a synapse and it grows grows grows

 

So all of this is happening in your brain right now!  You’re learning a new song, you learned a new hand sign

and you’re singing with me.  So inside of your brain you have synapses firing all over the place and you brain is growing!

 

Now the good thing about this is it never goes away

your neurons and synapses grow every day

so if there’s ever something that you want to know

just put it in your brain and it grows grows grows

 

Now every kid wants to grow big and tall

but we don’t want our brains to stay so small

So you learn every day as much as you can know

and just like that your brain grows grows grows

 

So today you all learned something new

about that brain inside of you

neuroplasticity helps you know

that every single day your brain grows grows grows

 

Words are Power!

Karen A. Moore

EDU 535

August 12, 2013

 

There have been many things said about words. In the Bible it says that “life and death is in the power of the tongue.”  The Koran says that “Indeed a servant will speak a word pleasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it Allah raises him by many degrees. And indeed a servant will speak a word displeasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it, He will consign him to the Hellfire.”  As children we said that sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me, however time taught us that was not necessarily the whole truth.  Whatever spin you want to put on it, it can be agreed upon that in any situation that words are powerful. Just how powerful only time and research will be able to tell.  But for the sake of this short paper, let’s examine how words are used and how we can use them to serve our students.

In our course we learned that what you say is just as powerful as how you say it.  Responding to an exceptional needs student using negative words can further isolate them from the class, push them further into their self-made cocoon, or spur them to react in a violent nature. These responses have nothing to do with being left brained or right brained; but it has everything to do with common decency and respect of human space and energy.  No one wants to be disrespected or embarrassed, and exceptional needs students are no exception.

It is important for educators to use the best practices of positive framing when dealing with all students as it allows for students to still keep their dignity while being redirected.  Educators also need to remember that the student and the disability are not the same and should never refer to them as such.  We would never say the blind student or the deaf student, so why say the ADD student or the autistic student.  We cannot let exceptional needs students be defined by their disability.  It makes them less human and when that happens it is very easy to dismiss them, become negligent with services, and ultimately ignore them completely.  Educators also must remember to inhale, exhale, pause, think and then respond.  With the stresses of the typical school day, any student can have the ability to send one over the top; and exceptional needs students can unknowingly be one of those students.  The way an educator responds with words will set the course for the rest of the school year.  It will be challenging at best for these students to ever trust that teacher again after a public tirade and in some cases, they will be that student that acts out for the rest of the semester.

So how do you use words to serve students?  Well, special education practices are best practices for all students, so my goal is to first, treat all students with the same respect and decency that I expect from them.  Next, acknowledge their presence.  Many times students are just left out of the conversation, so I will be intentional in including them, making sure I ask how they feel, what their opinion is, and making sure that other students do so as well.  Though they may not say a thing at first, over time when these students “feel” safe, they will participate.  I will also celebrate successes, no matter how small they are.  It is important to recognize accomplishments and exceptional needs students even more so need to be encouraged.  The level of celebration may be different, for instance making an IEP goal versus completing a homework assignment, but both will be celebrated because they will lead to bigger successes.

At my school I have an advisory full of girls.  They named themselves the “OG’s”, short for Oprah’s Girls; so we are going to research who Oprah Winfrey is and how she came to be and think about how that impacts us.  They are pretty cool kids.  I have two of my students in advisory, both the same and different at the same time.  One is extremely quiet and introverted and the other is popular but guarded, as if she might be found out at any moment.  Each morning I greet them with, “Hello Beautiful”, and they just smile and laugh.  What an awesome way to remind someone of who they are!  One day when I greeted another student not in our group they looked at me as if I had broken a sacred trust or something. They responded with, “You didn’t speak to US like that!” even though I had; they just did not want me to speak to anyone ELSE like that.  Now the introverted student, we will call her V, never says anything, not even here when I call attendance, but I continue to include her in our conversations.  V finally asked a question. Success; small, but progress nonetheless. We have a case conference next week and want to include a communication goal which I think will also help with her reading; it is challenging to read if you cannot hear the words.

When you think about it, the positive things we say to students may be the only thing they hear that’s positive until the next time they are at school.  Words are powerful!

I am not sure how I will measure how impactful words are with a tracker, but I will be able to observe students engaging in lessons, in conversations with other students, and taking part in activities when normally they would or did not.  And though I may not be able to say what word had the most impact to motivate them to action, there will be no doubt in my mind that the sum power of all that was said gave way to students feeling safe enough to participate.

 

John Russell

August 11, 2013

EDU535

Students minus Stress

French president Francois Hollande vowed to ban homework when he entered office. While many Americans scoffed at this idea, careful reflection reveals it to be routed in an outlook that is deeply egalitarian, if a tad idealistic. All the same, children across the world complete their homework in settings that are tragically varied. Some receive support from parents who may be better qualified to help them than their own teachers; others live alone on the streets. To hold an impoverished inner city student to the same academic expectations as those of his middle and upper class peers is to create an environment very high in stress. Whereas nearly all of my students at KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory are eligible for free or reduced price lunch and thus have a sixty to ninety-five percent chance of being subject to chronic stress, this is an issue that is very close to my heart and one that I seek to mitigate.

The three greatest stressors for students are school academic pressures, family pressure, and bullying. I hope to give my students tools to cope with all three, but it is school academic pressures that I have the greatest control over, so that is where I will focus my efforts for this project. I of course intend to be as present and helpful as possible for every one of my students during the school day, but I must keep them from feeling helpless when they go home. I hope that many of them have supportive families that will assist them and cheer them on in their academics, but, even if they do, it is imperative that I remain a resource for them at that time and that they can easily access me. Fortunately, KIPP is in agreement on this point, and they have given each of us teachers a cell phone to that end. I choose to use this resource to its fullest potential, and I aim to make sure my students and their parents feel comfortable calling me or being called by me at any time and for any reason, whether positive, negative, or neutral.

My first attempt at achieving this atmosphere came (somewhat ironically) in the form of a homework assignment we gave to all seventh graders on the first night of school. The assignment (included at bottom) was to call a teacher and practice leaving a voicemail to ask for help with homework. That night, we received calls from nearly every seventh grader, and many of them seemed to be having fun with this task. I was optimistic that this was a productive step toward reducing student stress levels, and this optimism was only augmented when the next night I received several more calls

from students about homework when we had not even assigned any! They were simply calling to confirm that there was nothing they needed to complete for the next day.

Of course, this is just the beginning. I will need to be active and pursue my students and their families over the phone, and I will need to be very explicit about how happy I am to hear from them outside of school hours. Most importantly, though I will need to develop strong, authentic relationships with each of my students that convince them that, although I do have very high expectations of them, they are not alone in their struggle to get there. Even if they might not have the support at home they ought to have, they have teachers who care about them enough to keep working past the end of the school day to make sure they get what they need. If we can make this work, we might even be able to convince the French to keep homework legal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to come! Will try and add power points and MP3 song on Neuroplasticity…

 

 

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