Saturday, June 25, 2011

Looking Ahead...

So yesterday was our last day with students.  It has been a tough end of the year for me.  I'm very excited about where things are going but because of all the changes we are looking at for next year I'm also very sad at all the endings that come with the end of this year.  I've spend some time celebrating all the good stuff but am now ready to look ahead.  Here is what we have coming up...

Masters in Education - Focus in Neuroscience and Inclusive Education:  We are moving to Lethbridge for three weeks at the beginning of July (moving a week from today) so that I can start my course work for my Masters degree.  My first two courses (which I will do in three weeks) are a Neurology course titled "Understanding the Brain" and an Education course titled "Foundations of Modern Educational Therapy and Practice: Learning and Development of Exceptional Children and Youth".  This degree is a new program that is being implemented at the same time as our province is trying to create a more inclusive education system. I'm very excited to be a part of this and know there is going to be much that I learn that can be applied to what I'm going to be doing in the next few years :).

AAC Parent Group:  We live in a very small community and to this point have had limited support with AAC.  Last year our health region hired SLPs that focus specifically on AAC.  Many of the potential AAC users in our area are actually in my class.  So the SLP from our health region and I have done some talking and planning and are looking to start a group to explore communication and AAC opportuntiies with parents.  One of the things we are trying to do right now is just start to bring people together around this topic.  We are quite a ways behind some areas but we have to start where we are at and I'm hoping this will grow in to better AAC services/supports over time.  I know there is nothing more powerful than bringing people together around a common objective.  We are bringing everyone together for 2 mornings  in early August.  Our thought is that if this goes well we will continue to do one evening a month through the school year and may possibly also do one or two sessions during school time and have learning assistants or teachers and students come together (also with some ideas around doing some work with other students in classrooms around how to interact/communicate with a person who uses an AAC devise).

PODD Workshop and Linda Burkhart Consultation:  At the end of August, Linda Burkhart is coming to our city to do an introductor PODD workshop.  I think this is potentially a great communication system for several of my students and so played a part in getting this workshop to Medicine Hat.  Linda Burkhart is also going to stay an extra day and do half day consultations with two students from our area - and one of them is one of my students.  Myself and the parent of the other student (in another near by district) are the ones who have put this workshop together.  I'm excited to get the training and also to have the families and learning assistants that work with my students trained in this system.

Inclusion Plan - Elementary Students:  My program and my job are going to change next year and I'm very excited!  I will now become more of a facilitator/consultant/case manageer and will no longer be a classroom teacher.  None of my students will be in the LAP room fulltime this fall although we will maintain the room as a support space (initially for my students but long term we are envisioning it as a student support center for all students).  My younger students will be placed in classrooms and I will support their inclusion.  This is going to be a slow process and will require at times that they continue to work on programming materials they have worked on in the past as well as time when they go back to the space we have.  For this fall we are focusing on social and routine inclusion for all students as well as making modifications to language arts curriculum so as to effectively include my students.  I will explain how we are approaching math below.  For all other subjects right now we are going to be looking at what on the spot modifications can be made.  It's a large and overwhelming task but it can be broken down in to managable steps.  We already made some great progress around social and routine inclusion last year for several of our students.  I am looking at having 2 students in grade 6, 1 in grade 5 and either 1 or 2 in a grade 1/2 split class (the 2nd student has not registered yet but it is pretty likely he is coming).

First Steps for Movement of High School Students:  I have no junior high students this fall but I do still have 3 highschool students.  Because our program is based out of a k-6 school the inclusion plan we have set up for the elementary students would not work for these students.  Our plan right now for the highschool students is to begin to move them over to the high school in our division (which is only a few blocks from the school I work at).  They have a self contained LAP program there for studetns who have tradtionally been labeled as "higher functioning" than mine.  Where we are starting this process is by trying to get them over and in to that LAP program for the mornings at some point during the year.  We will start with morning visits once or twice a week a few weeks in to the school year and increase until they are there every morning.  Once we get them to the point of being there and comfortable in the mornings we will start thinking beyond the walls of their LAP classroom.  This is going to be slow but we will get there.  I'm hoping to start up a Best Buddies program at the high school this fall as a starting step around social inclusion/acceptance.

Literacy for All Pilot Project: Our province is in the process of creating a more inclusive education system.  This means there are lots of pilot projects going on - and this year we are a part of a few of them.  The grade 1/2 teacher and myself are part of a literacy for all project where we are going to be evaluating resources and approaches around literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities.  We will be working with the "MeVille to WeVille" curriculum as well as using the book "Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Blocks Way" as a tool to help us modify balanced literacy work to include either one or two students in language arts classes.  I will be taking what we learn in this project and facilitating the same things for the students that will be in grade 5 and 6.  We also have the Literacy Starter sets that go with "MeVille to WeVille" and I will be using these with the high school students that I have.  The project includes face to face training time, online training time, a Moodle for us to share ideas and conversations and a support person we can e-mail or phone throughout the year.  At the end of the year we are to make some recommendations around the resoruces as well as around literacy skills for students with significant disabilities.  I'm really excited about this project!

Equals Mathematics Curriculum:  We are very fortunate as we have just gotten the Equal Mathematics program (Canadian Edition).  It's a comprehensive math program that allows for students at a vareity of levels.  I'm in the process of matching lessons and activiites to our grade 1, 5 and 6 curriculums (the classes that my students will be in) and then will sit down with teachers so we can set up a way to ensure that my students are working on similar concepts when Mathematics lessons are going on.  For this year it might be more of a my student sitting on the side with a learning assistant model but there needs to be some lead in to figuring out how to more authentically include my students and I think we will find ways as we go through the year.  This is a first step.

IEPT Pilot Project:  The second pilot project that we are involved in is on that our whole school is involved in.  Our province is thinking to change from the IPP that we have done in the past to doing an IEPT (Inclusive Education Planning Tool) instead.  The tool is meant to look at teaching practice and ensure that we are setting up teaching and classrooms to allow for all students to learn general education curriculum.  I do not know lots of details about the tool right now.  We will be piloting it at our school this coming up year so I'm sure I will be learning much about it as the year goes on.  From what I've seen and read about it I think it will really help in creating inclusive classrooms for students.  The focus is on supports rather than goals.

Collaborative and Capacity Building Pilot Project: The third project we are involved in I know even less about as I just found out we are a part of this very recently.  This is again a school based project and it involves looking at and changing service delivery more collaboratively and in a way that addresses univeral strategies (which should mean there are less targeted and specific strategies to look at).  I wish I could explain more but I'm thinking this one might be a figure it out as you go as we are looking for a delivery model that will work more effectively and efficiently.
Okay... so the bottom line is that life is about to get really busy and really exciting!  We are moving in the right direction and I can't wait to share all that we learn as we continue to make this shift :).