Sunday, June 24, 2007

Professional Development

So I did not "post more during my trip," as I had thought I might. But here's a recap:

I attended a week-long educator training seminar called "Schools Attuned," which is based on the work of Mel Levine. The basic idea is to look at students (and your own lesson plans/assignments/teaching) from a "neurodevelopmental perspective" and be more specific and symptom-based rather than label-based when adapting instruction and providing accommodations/interventions. What that means in English is, rather than saying "this kid has ADD" (which may or may not be true, is different for every kid, and isn't that practically helpful), you look at specific aspects of attention, memory, language, temporal-sequential ordering, spatial ordering, social cognition, higher order thinking, and neuromotor function. Say the kid has attention problems. Then they have these specific "components" under attention to help you narrow down the problem: is it sleep/alertness problems? trouble starting projects? trouble maintaining attention/follow-through? trouble planning things? trouble thinking about long-term vs. short-term? trouble self-monitoring? etc. All of these things have specific little education names, and once you learn what they all are it actually does make kids' specific difficulties a lot easier to talk about. You also get this strategy resource binder (which is worth its weight in actual gold) which is symptom-based: If a kid has trouble with sequential ordering of information while reading or processing directions, you can try these 12 things. If a kid has trouble with short-term memory specific to vocab words, try these 85. Brilliant.

It was pretty tiring, though. Even though I got out of the training each day at around 4 pm (approximately 10 hours earlier than I get out of a typical day at my school), I was pretty brain-fried by that point in the day. Since I was in a different city, I would then amuse myself by walking around the quaint little downtown area, reading in the sunshine (beautiful! around 80 degrees), and eating at restaurants and even, once, the ice cream store. I could justify all of this because I was out of town and couldn't cook, but the trip cost approximately six million dollars. My school is paying for half. Hopefully they will pay for half of the food, too.

Anyway, an intriguing and informative week, and I feel smarter and optimistic about what I'll be able to do with my students. For once it wasn't filled with a bunch of teachers wanting to talk about their own situation and going off on tangents that are not relevant or useful, and that was very much appreciated. There were about 13 teachers there total, and we got to talk a lot and go out to lunch. Fun and inspiring - what a treat it is to be around gifted and excited teachers. It did depress me greatly, though, because I know I can't hire people like that to teach at my school and even if I could they would end up quitting because the stupid management would not let them be creative or bring in their intelligent and helpful accommodations. I have been thinking a lot about this, because the management was whining about how inept many of our instructors are at that recent Idiotic Friday Meeting (TM), and because I will have to hire almost an entire new staff for next school year. Which sounds far away but is really, as I realized during the training, only about two months.


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