Friday, December 30, 2011

Clutter Free and Focuses for 2012

2011 has been a very busy year for me.  In July I started my Masters degree and this will be keeping me busy through to April 2014.  The program (Inclusive Education and Neuroscience) is amazingly interesting and challenging.  Life is busy and sometimes very overwhelming but I'm excited to be a part of this program and looking forward to continued learning.  My job has also changed quite a bit through the course of this year as we are shifting from teaching my students in a self contained classroom setting to teaching them in general education classrooms.  This also means that my students are the process of being moved to age appropriate schools and by next year they will be in three different schools.  There are many unknowns right now with the whole process and it has been a challenge at times to just stay in the now.

Life has not always been easy in 2011.  I am processing all these changes on a personal, professional and parental level and at times it is overwhelming.  There have been many ups and downs.  This accounts for some of the long periods of silence on my blog.

This week I have been trying to dig through the clutter in my house as it seems that it has just piled up over the last couple of years.  With Mikey's (my son) 13th birthday just around the corner I'm also feeling the need to purge a lot of the children's toys that we have collected through the years.  So I'm still working but making progress.

As I eliminate clutter in my home, I'm finding that I'm starting to return to a clearer focus around my job as well.  The last couple of months have been tough in that if you let this stuff get too big it gets too big quickly.  Moving my students from a self contained setting to inclusive settings has resulted me being in the look out for anything that might block their inclusion and as I've been working this week I have come to realize that I need to back up and refocus.

I need to get back to focusing on my students.  So, here are my focus areas for the next while.  I'm also hoping these will be the areas that I will be posting about as I want to get back to posting about the daily happenings and ideas rather than just general philosophy or reflection.
  1. iPad to Support Inclusion for Elementary Students:  I want to explore how we can use iPads more in supporting the inclusion of my four elementary students.  I will be starting with a session with the vision support teacher that consults with me for one of my students.  In February I'm going to a workshop.  I'm also going to do some research online.  I hope to posting what I'm learning as we go along.
  2. Literacy for All Students:  We continue to be a part of the Alberta Education project but we are also doing some new stuff with all of my students related to literacy and will be expanding to new stuff  when we get back to school.  We are going to start using PODD books for writing and doing more word work.
  3. PODD Communication:  We are well on the way to using the PODD books with the high school students.  I'm looking to do a parent night early in the year so that books are used at home as well.  I am also looking to begin using the books more with the younger students.  This is going to be an ongoing project.
  4. Expand High School Inclusive Experiences:  February will mark the beginning of 2nd semester and I will be looking to expand what we are doing with the high school students.  To this point we have mostly just been visiting the school.  I'm hoping to find some opportunities to do some short term projects with classes, get my students in to a variety of classrooms and perhaps even start a peer support group.  As we move through the next months the amount of time that my high school students are the high school will increase.
  5. Visual Supports to Support Independence for Elementary Students:  Some of the visual supports we have used in a self contained classroom don't really fit in the general education classroom so I'm working on revamping our approach to visual supports for my younger students.  More to come on this as I get things up and running.
  6. Social Interaction and Peer Support Strategies:  This is an area that we have been focusing on since the beginning of the school year and are seeing some great successes.  I am looking to continue to expand this idea particularly for my two grade 6 students who will be moving with their class to junior high school next year as I would like to ensure they have a "circle of friends" around them as they move to their new environment.
  7. Equals Mathematics Program for Upper Elementary Students:  We got this program over the summer and I was very excited about it but with everything else going on it has kind of fallen by the wayside.  I have it at home right now and am going through it to figure out how to use it with my students in grade 5 and 6.  We are finding right now with the student in grade 1 that modifying what they are doing works well.
  8. Weekly Learning Assistant Meetings for Planning:  I'm seeing a need to work regularly with learning assistants around developing programs, encouraging independence and finding ways to include students in what is going on in the classroom.  I'm looking to do three meetings each week with groups of learning assistants based on the groups of students they work with.  Hoping this will keep things focused as we will evaluate how things are going as well as make plans.
  9. Strength Based Methods:  This has become an area that I'm very fascinated with and I feel it is kind of sits at the bottom of everything else so on a personal level I know I will continue to explore it.  I'm currently reading one book on this concept and have already ordered another.  I'm sure I will be posting as I go along. 

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