Thursday, June 24, 2010

Learning Strategy: Motivation from using affirmations

Several years ago, I signed up for one of these internet services where they send you a motivational quote of the day. My ulterior motive was to collect good writing prompts for my GED students, but I have found the affirmations to be useful for many other things. Besides using them as prompts, I have found them personally rewarding. They also have helped me to connect with other quotation lovers (I didn't know there were so many out there) and to share strategies with other teachers.

Today's quote was:
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Too often teachers, who love details and words and literature and school, forget that the students often do not share that love. Their lives and homes are fragmented without a true connection to education. Although they WANT an education, they don't have access to it. They really need help in developing the love of learning because once they love learning, nothing will stop them.

Many come to school understanding the concept that education is good, that education will fill a gap in their lives. But they haven't learned that learning is work: hard work. Unfortunately, most students believe that all they need to do is come in and sit in a chair, look at the teacher, and push a pencil. Few students come in each day with "What will I learn today?" on their minds and "How will I know if I learned anything?". So how do we take students who have become passive and show them that learning is an active sport.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New habits: How to keep up

Sometimes it is hard to establish new habits. Well, it is hard to establish new habits that you would like to have. For example, I am having difficulty remembering to write on my blog. Ahhhhhh!!!!

But what can I do about it? Strategize!

First, I was going to follow my set of CAMS (compensations, accommodations and modifications list) I figured that if I followed that, then I would have material for at least half a year if I posted every day. But can I remember to post??? No, too boring.

So I modified my plan. For many years, I have been thinking that I would simply post every day and write about one thing that happened. Well, that didn't work. It sat on the back burner, and then it did work here. Once. Also, when I am in my car, I do sometimes start thinking about what to post. I guess that is a small move in the right direction.

Why am I going on and on about nothing? Well this is a blog after all (just a little humor, haha). Pedagogically, this would be called a Think Aloud. Not the joke, but the way I am thinking and writing down what I am thinking.

To use strategies takes TIME and LEARNING and HABIT forming. You have to be like a little terrier. Attack the problem. Work at it from one angle and if that doesn't work, try another angle. And another until it works.

Sounds kind of weak, but that is what you have to do. Pick the few important areas you want to work on and then fight.

Just by the way, this morning I thought that maybe I will try using my planner to remind me to blog. Not sure how though. Maybe I will write B in it every time I blog. If I just write "remember to blog" I am afraid that the phrase will just disappear into the page. Yes. I think I will mark a B on my page when I blog. Let me do it right now.

If I blog again tomorrow, then you will know that it worked. .... For now.

Now another new idea has come into my head. Maybe I should come up with a designation plan such as Monday will be from my CAMS list, Tuesday something I learned today, Wednesday... fix up an old blog. (It would be good to have pictures or links in the blogs), Thursday... ??? I will have to think about that, Friday could be a day where I am free to post or not to post. That leaves two days where I would need a theme. Not bad for a start. Anyone got ideas???

My problem is that I have too many ideas and they all get mixed up and don't go anywhere. I just thought that maybe Thursday would be my parking lot. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reading: a big issue

Although many people take to books easily, reading is a very complicated task. There are many many reasons why someone would have trouble with reading. It could be an attentional issue, decoding, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency or all of the above.

One of the keys to combating a reading problem is to first really understand which piece of the puzzle to tackle first. NIFL (National Institute for Literacy) has valuable information on this subject.

For example, Strategies and Reading Profiles (ASRP). While there, you can learn about the components of reading or watch videos on how to give tests. Also, there are downloads available for free tests. Finally, you can match your test scores to reading profiles and get instructional strategies.

If this is not enough, then you can access other resources. Bon Apetit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Emotional issues:cutters

Early in my teaching career, I was teaching how to draw circles using a compass. As I dutifully went around to help each student, one had found an inventive way to retool the instrument. He was happily??? don't know if that is the correct word exactly, carving his name into his arm. He was truly puzzled when I sent him to the counselor.

I know wikipedia is not the best source of information, but it says, "These functions include self-harm being used as a coping mechanism which provides temporary relief of intense feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress, emotional numbness and a sense of failure or self-loathing. " It was astounding to me that a 12 year old rich kid could be dealing with all or some of these things.

Currently there is a general lack of confidence about a "cure." Maybe treating underlying depression or anxiety may work.

Vocational Impact
Must wear long sleeves to cover the scars.
I imagine that high stress jobs would not be a good match for most of these people if it brings on the need to cut. On the other hand, maybe some would like the high energy. If you know more, please comment on this post.

I was just thinking that the tattoo and piercing industry would benefit. Instead of being branded as a cutter, you might be able to use the services of the tattoo/piercing industry to do the work for you. Just thinking.

Throughout the ages, most peoples have rituals where they harm themselves in an effort to be closer to the truth. Fasts and self-flagellation are just two. I guess the question is culturally sanctioned or deviant self-mutilation.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Makes frequent errors

Frequent errors can be caused by many things. Lack of attention can lead to mistakes. For example, 2+ 2 = "oh look at that bird flying to the tree! I wonder what it has in its beak." = 1 It has one thing in its beak.

Another reason people make mistakes is due to rushing. This often happens to people who are slow at doing work. Because they are slow, teachers, parents, friends are always telling them to get a move on. So they do.
2 + 2 = 1+ 1 = 4 1 + 3 = 2

In the rush to get finished, small errors creep in, or rush in. As seen above, the first question didn't get answered... oh yes it did, but on the wrong problem which then triggered an avalanche of errors. How FRUSTRATING!!!!!!!

Vocational /Educational Impact
On the job, how annoying is it to have a co-worker who is always messing up. It slows everyone down. Someone has to be always watching what that person has done. It brings the whole team down.

Frequent errors can especially cause difficulty with jobs requiring speed or accuracy--clerical, accounting, quality control. Fast food places and banks are very sensitive to errors. This is also frustrating. Many of my students say, "I couldn't even manage a job like at McDonalds." But fast food is fast, and that is not a place for people who make frequent errors.

Does not do well in piece rate jobs, timed tests. Tests are terrible for error makers. What is even more frustrating is that you complete a test and feel good. You knew most of the answers. BUT... you didn't answer the questions correctly. This often results in loss of job or no promotions. Plus a complete lack of faith in yourself and the educational system.

Problems on jobs where your performance affects others --assembly line- group projects

Creates frustrations on-the job for self, employer, co0worker

Feeds poor self-esteem, job satisfaction, performance and opportunities for advancement.

Complete frequent performance checks by supervisor, peer or teacher. Break things into small parts and build in a monitoring system. Don't go to the next step until you are sure that the first step is accurate. Although this will slow you down a lot at first, in the end you will make progress because you will have fewer errors.

Teach self-check method (e.g. have a step-by-step checklist, ask student to check for errors.) Learn to be a good checker. OK. How am I going to know if I have done a great job. Many students rely on teachers to find out if they have done a good job. A good student will have the skill to assess their own performance. On Bloom's Taxonomy, this is the highest level skill.

Many many things have been learned through mistakes. The trick is to be cognizant when making mistakes. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

Penicillin, a mainstay in modern medicine, was found to be effective when a plate of culture was contaminated by blue mold.

Post-It notes also were the result of a misconception. The researcher was trying to develop a really strong glue and instead found a really weak glue. It took some time before someone realized how valuable a really weak glue can be.

Oh, and don't forget Christopher Columbus. He tried to find India. Instead he bumped into a large land mass now called North America. He named the natives, "Indians." And some people celebrate a day for him. No one seems to remember that he really really messed up.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Organization: Difficulty managing daily schedule

Today, most of us lead hectic lives. For anyone, managing a daily schedule can be difficult. However, for some people managing a daily schedule is incredibly taxing. This topic was originally organized under the "math" heading. The issue could be with reading the numbers on the clock. It could also be under ADHD or memory issues where the trick is to remember to look at the calendar and to put appointments into the calendar.

Vocational/Educational Impact
This can be an exasperating topic for employers. Being late is not a good thing. Following a set schedule of work tasks is very important. Following time tables or a route map can be infinitely challenging

What to do about it?
Technology can be the savior here. There are so many ways and so many machines today that I believe there is an answer out there if you are willing to work at it. I have students who program their cell phone to remind them when to take medication. Others use the phone to leave voice messages in an auditory, to do list.

Of course, the tried and true "to do" list works for many people. Not for me, but my husband swears by it.

I might even suggest going into a major technology store and tell the salesperson, "I have difficulty ....." you fill in the blank, " and what could you suggest that would help me."

Planners are great if you know how to use them. They can be monthly calendars, weekly or daily. I have often created hour by hour schedules for my students. We included times for eating, sleeping, bathroom breaks, school, travel to school, you get the picture.

I always tell people that when my boss bought me my first day planner, she insisted that I take the Franklin Covey workshop to learn how to use a planner. Many people skip this step and think that using a planner is a piece of cake. That would be wrong. Starting a new habit is very very difficult.

Good News
Although unscheduled people can be very frustrating, the spontaneity can be refreshing and fun. Life is always an adventure.

Also, I find people who have difficulty maintaining their schedule get really good at finding efficient ways to complete tasks. They are so frequently late that they have little time to get things accomplished and so often find new ways to achieve things in very little time.

Friday, June 4, 2010

ADHD: often causes feelings of restlessness

One of the most common issues for people with ADHD and those around them is fidgeting. It is hard to sit still and hard to put up with someone who cannot sit still. One leg starts to shake, under the table to start with, but then the table starts to shake. Another outlet is fiddling with pencils or items on the table. Extra energy builds up and needs direction, needs somewhere to go.

Vocational/Educational Impact
Sedentary jobs are not a great idea! That includes sitting in a classroom for 6 hours a day.

Difficulty concentrating on tasks.

All this fidgeting agitates co-workers/supervisors to the breaking point.
Doesn't it drive you crazy when someone is constantly clicking their pen. Click, click, click. Click, click. Stop it already!!!

Increase risk for accidents

Low stress tolerance

Strategies or What to do?
Build movement into activity. One of teachers I work with does her best thinking while she is ironing. Don't just sit there all day. Even something so simple as standing up and sitting down again can relieve that energy build up. Take a walk, but make sure to return to work asap.

Work standing up. Surprisingly, there are many work stations designed for people who need to work standing up. Not only does it allow for movement, but it is actually much better for your blood flow.

Chart/time productivity or work rate. This works really well. If I am stuck at a certain level on a computer game, I find that if I simply start writing down my scores at each level, suddenly I can do better. Somehow the statistics start to make sense to my brain and I start improving. Just chart what you are doing and what the outcome is. Things will start to improve.

Break tasks into small pieces. I plan on doing this blog one strategy a day because it would just be too hard to accomplish everything in one hit. Spend some time planning on how to break the tasks down. This could also be done with the help of someone who is really good at chopping things into small components. That way you get a lot of little things done. Plus the whole thing gets done as well.

Frequent breaks I can focus really well for about 30 minutes. If I am working hard, I know that every 30 minutes, I need a 30 second break: walk around the office, go to the restroom, drink some water. Then GO BACK to what I was doing. This is very important.

How can this be a strength?

A good friend loves her ADHD. If she wants her house clean, all she has to do is take a medication vacation. All that energy can move mountains. All that energy, captured and tamed, can get so much done.

Here's a treat: a little youtube video to assess your own attention power. Enjoy.
Attention video

Getting started

Working with people with disabilities is always an adventure. Just when you think you know what you are doing, Wham!!!!!! Right in your face. Then you need something new to put in your toolbox.

Well, this blog is an attempt to create a toolbox. Strategies upon strategies. Hopefully, I can overcome my own short attention span and keep them coming.
Strategies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, each one good for just a right situation. I plan on discussing the various negative characteristics of people who struggle in school and work. Then move on the vocational impacts... Next talk about some strategies to deal with all this. Finally, I want to brainstorm how the negative characteristic can be turned around and used as a strength.

Successful people with learning disabilities (and I am humbled to know many), are masters of using their weaknesses as strengths that move the world. Hopefully I can share some of the wisdom that I have gleaned from successful people I have known.

Please join the discussion and share your wisdom