Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What a Special Ed Teacher Needs...

Note: Visit my education blog, The Green Cup.

A friend of my is taking a graduate classas part of a degreee program in school administration. She recently told me she had to interview a special education teacher and turn in the interview as part of an assignment. The interview had one questions. It asked about the sort of support and participation a special education teacher needs from a principal in order to create and implement individualized education plans (IEPs) for their exceptional students. Below, with some minor editing, is the answer I gave her...

The principal is the single most important special educator in any school. I need them to realize that. I think mine does at my current school.

One of the most profound indicators of support I see from a school administrator is participation in IEP meetings. I have worked as a special educator at four schools now. One of my principals in the past refused to even attend IEP meetings, much less chair them as required by law. They wanted to falsify the paperwork to make it look as though they’d been present during the discussions and they wanted me to participate in the fraud. The lack of value for disabled students and for the processes mandated by IDEA that such actions communicate to me as a special educator made it difficult for me to respect the leadership of that individual in any realm of school governance. I need to see an administrator take charge of the process and make an effort to ensure that we as a school are doing our best for our exceptional students – individually, one student at a time. My current principal does that.

I need my principal ensure that my schedule allows me time to carry out non-instructional tasks like monitoring students I don’t actually teach and planning with teachers with whom I co-teach. My current schedule allows that. Without the time to monitor students, it becomes almost impossible to determine whether their IEPs are succeeding.

I need my principal to communicate to the general education staff a level of expectation regarding the school's exceptional students. I feel that I am personally responsible for the educational success of every student in my school whether they are eligible for services under IDEA or not – personally, but not solely responsible. I need my principal to create an institutional environment that imparts that sense of responsibility to the general education staff at my school. The principal has to make sure that the general education teachers feel responsible for the educational success of exceptional students. Otherwise, those students will fail. My current principal is pretty good at that.

Those are the primary issue I see regarding a school administrator’s role in helping to create and implement IEPs.

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Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was financially compensated for this post...

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Ate at Cici's...

On Friday, on my way to Pipestem State Park, I stopped in Bluefield and ate at Cici's pizza. I eat there once a year or so, maybe less. They're cheap. For a little over five bucks I get a pizza buffet that includes some good breadsticks.

I'm cheap. I drink free water instead of soda. Truth is, I don't really like soda.

So I walk through the buffet a first time. Thin crust with sausage and pepperoni. Two pieces of a thick crust with several veggies on it. A piece of jalapeno pizza. Five breadsticks. It was good.

I was pretty hungry when I showed up. I walked through the buffet a second time. I'd liked the jalapeno pizza. I got another slice. They had dessert pizza. I've always thought that was an oxymoron. I got a slice of thick crust somethingorother. And I picked up four more breadsticks.

I ate the jalapeno pizza. I ate the breadsticks. Suddenly I was full. There, staring at me on my plate sat the thick crust somethingorother. I like thick crust. I was full.

I contemplated eating the slice of thick crust somethingorother out of a sense of obligation. And then...

I looked up and watched as someone walked along the buffet. A thought hit me. I looked around the place. There were about 50 people in the establishment. Several of them were, well, large. Okay, huge. And, as I glanced around the place, I realized that at 215 pounds (more or less), I was the smallest person under 15 in the place.

I thought about that for a minute.

I got up and left. Without eating the slice of thick crust somethingorother.

Maybe I'll go back next year. Or not...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pipestem State Park Near Athens, West Virginia

My wife was invited to a workshop this past weekend. It was held at the conference facilities at Pipestem State Park, a few miles northeast of Athens, West Virginia. She spent Friday and Saturday night at the park's McKeever Lodge and I was fortunate in that she didn't have a room mate for the event so I was able to go with her.

Pipestem State ParkThe park is a beautiful, deer infested area on the edge of a canyon cut through the mountains of West Virginia by the Bluestone River. There are cabins and a campground in addition to McKeever Lodge where we stayed. An aerial tramway takes visitors into the river gorge for a small fee. There's a riding stable. The park has an 18-hole golf course (I never took up the game). And there are a number of children's play areas and picnic shelters.

McKeever Lodge is an old, quaint facility. You can call the rooms cozy if you like. Our room was a total of about 450 square feet. Of that, about 300 square feet was actual bedroom and another 100 square feet or so of bathroom. We had a handicapped shower with a trick nozzle to make the shower actually work; maintenance had to come show us how to use it. There was a small balcony and a full sized bed. The room had a coffee pot, TV with cable, free high speed Internet access via both wireless connection and an Ethernet cord (sometimes both worked, sometimes only one, sometimes neither), a closet, a dresser, two night tables, a phone, and an alarm clock.

Pipestem State ParkIt was clean and comfortable. And small.

McKeever also had an indoor pool and an outdoor hot tub. we sat in the hot tub Friday night with a couple of friends and relaxed. The pool and hot tub closed at 10pm, which we thought was kind of early. But I guess it's a state park, not a Club Med. Oh well...

I ate breakfast Saturday morning at the Bluestone Dining Room. The workshop was feeding my wife yogurt and pastries, I wanted eggs and bacon. The Bluestone had a breakfast buffet that reminded me a little of Shoneys. It was good. It was seven bucks. The view was marvelous and the waiter was too chatty (I wanted to meditate on the fog in the valley while I clogged my arteries and he wanted to talk about moving down here from some Mid-western state).

Pipestem State ParkThe workshop kept my wife busy for most of Saturday and for Sunday morning. I worked online, watched some football, read school related documents, napped, and waited. Saturday night we drove back into Princeton to eat with some friends. On the way out of the park we saw two little spotted fawns sitting on the park's grass...

In all it was a nice place. I'd like to go back when there's nothing to occupy our time and we can actually see the place.