Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cameras in Classrooms

I'm wondering.....

I'm wondering about video cameras being placed in special education classrooms to record the actions of teachers, assistants, therapists and students. Some members of my community are calling for cameras to be placed in all special education classrooms.

I'm wondering about cameras in classrooms because, to me, there are various shades of gray. I'm wondering about about cameras in classrooms because I empathize with the parent whose child may have been harmed by a teacher while at school. I'm wondering about cameras in classrooms because I understand the concern of teachers in the classrooms who are dismayed by the fact that every moment of every day would be recorded.

The following are some of the "wonders" or the questions that I believe impact this issue...

~I wonder how parents of a child who is non-verbal trust a teacher to care for their child 7.5 hours every day?
~I wonder if cameras are in classrooms, who is allowed access to the recordings?
~I wonder if parents/families are given access to recordings, how does that impact the confidentiality of other students' education?
~I wonder, if parents/families are not given access, only supervisors/administrators are given access, will parents/families trust the school system any more?
~I wonder if talented special education teachers will choose to leave an already stressful field because of an all day camera or a perception of "Big Brother?"
~I wonder if after the cameras are there and "forgotten about" will it make a difference to the many ethical and talented special education teachers out there?
~I wonder what services would be cut or what additional taxes would be necessary to fund cameras in the classroom?

But most of all.....I wonder, would cameras in the classroom have a widespread, positive effect on special education services to CHILDREN?

It seems to me, that the ultimate goal of placing cameras in the classroom is to increase accountability of teachers of children who may not be able to verbally or physically defend themselves while simultaneously increasing the safety of those children. However, there are several emotional issues on the sidelines: trust, professionalism, ethical practice, confidentiality.

I wonder what you think?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Memorable Moment 1

One of the most valuable tips I can offer to teachers and parents is to enjoy your students/children. As a teacher, one of the ways I enjoy my students is by taking note of moments during the day that I classify as "memorable." Sometimes these moments happen when a student makes a breakthrough or a connection; sometimes it's when a lesson for a group goes particularly well and sometimes it is just a funny moment when kids are just being kids.

I would like to share some of my memorable moments with you. I also invite you to share your memorable moments in the comments section. It is my goal to make "Memorable Moments" a weekly feature. (note: I have changed the names of the students and other persons mentioned to protect their privacy.)

Memorable Moment #1:
Arabela entered my pre-kindergarten class as a three year old with developmental delays. We worked on communicating wants and needs with words and we also worked on task related skills such as "raising a quiet hand." After Arabela had been in school for about a year and a half, her skills in these areas developed quite nicely.

She decided to showcase her skills for us when we had Fireman Will come to visit the class. Now, Fireman Will happens to be a 30ish stud, who is good looking, friendly and somewhat flirtatious. He loves coming to the elementary school for visits and consequently, this was not his first visit to our classroom.

Fireman Will's topic during this visit was his protective clothing. He showed the kids all of his gear and explained that it protected him from the fire. He put each piece on and repetitively talked about how it was not scary, it just protected him when the fire was hot.

After repeating numerous times that his gear protected him when it was hot, Arabela decided to raise her hand to comment. Now at this point here is 4 1/2 year old Arabela sitting "criss-cross applesauce" just a nicely as can be, raising her quiet hand and waiting patiently to be called on. She is the picture of pre-k perfection. So Fireman Will calls on her, and in perfectly clear speech with wonderful articulation, she blurts out "My mom's hot!"

The speech pathologist, my assistant, the teacher next door and I busted out laughing! Fireman Will was rendered speechless by a 4 year old!

(And by the way, her mom is gorgeous.)

The point being, as teachers and parents we all face stressful and seemingly "impossible" situations. It's important for all of us involved with children to acknowledge and enjoy the humor and honesty of children. They add to our lives!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Alphabet Soup" of Special Education

Special educators love to use acronyms. I don't really know why. Perhaps it's because we spend so much time doing paperwork that if we actually used words throughout the paperwork, it would take us twice as long.....just kidding! :-) But the fact remains: If you want to sit at the table and know what the rest of the people at the table are talking about, then you need to have an understanding of the acronyms that will be tossed around the table. Here are some of the most frequently used in my district in Florida:

If you are one of my SCF students, pay close attention to the acronyms that are bolded.

Legal Acronyms:

FAPE = (pronounced with a long /a/) Free and Appropriate Public Education

PL-94-142 = (as in Public Law 94-142) the first law in the 1970's that guaranteed FAPE for students with disabilities

IDEA = (pronounced just like it looks "idea") Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; sometimes also referred to as the "reauthorization of IDEA" (because it has gone through and been approved by congress more than once)

IEP = Individual Education Plan (every child enrolled in special education services has an IEP)

LRE = Least Restrictive Environment

Disability Acronyms:

LD = Learning Disability

SLD = Specific Learning Disability

ASD = Autism Spectrum Disorder

EBD = Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

EH = Emotionally Handicapped (older acronym for EBD, no longer used in my district)

InD = Intellectual Disability

DD = Developmental Delay

LI = Language Impairment

SI = Speech Impairment

S/LI = Speech/Language Impairment

OHI = Other Health Impaired

VI = Visually Impaired

PI = Physically Impaired

OT = Occupational Therapy

PT = Physical Therapy

VE = Varying Exceptionalities (This is the exception! VE refers to a program that services students with many different types of disabilities. VE does not refer to the disability that a child has.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Introduction, Reasons and Rationale

What does Charlotte say from Charlotte's Web? Salutations?!?

Well, if not, Salutations, anyway. :-)

I have created this blog in an attempt to provide a place for teachers and parents of children with special needs to find positive strategies that promote academic, social and emotional growth. I believe in early intervention and in positively addressing both the challenges and strengths of students with disabilities.

I am currently a special education teacher working with students in pre-kindergarten. I have taught for the past 12 years, primarily servicing students who are eligible for full-time, self-contained programs. I have taught kindergarten-second grade and third-fifth grade. (Obviously, I made it through the special ed burn out period of 4 years!) I also teach Early Childhood and Exceptional Education classes at a local community college. This semester, on the first night of class, I asked my college students to tell me what they thought of when they heard the words "special education." I recorded responses such as "slow learner," "testing," and "bad behavior." I wasn't particularly surprised, but I was disappointed to find most of the responses were what would be understood as negative concepts or negative words. I am hoping that this blog will help to highlight the positive aspects and the positive interventions of special education. By this, I'm not saying that challenges aren't addressed. However, challenges should be addressed from a problem solving framework. (i.e. the teacher, parent, or caregiver should ask: What can I do to help solve this challenge/problem? )

Over the years I have learned how to successfully manage my classroom by synthesizing theory, strategies, curriculum, and behavior management. I did not learn this overnight or even by the time I finished college. I learned, and more importantly, learned how to apply what I knew by observing and collaborating with other professionals. This networking and sharing of ideas helped me to enhance my own teaching skills.

It is also my hope that this blog will provide a level of professionalism and sharing to others via the internet. Soooooo, yes, as are expected to be posted in every classroom...the rules!

If you want to comment:

1) Use appropriate language (no profanity).
2) If you disagree: challenge the idea, not the person.
3) Always refer to a child with dignity and respect.

I look forward to hearing from you!