As I was thinking about posting for the last time on this blog, I began thinking about a person who has influenced my attitudes toward the many challenges we face as teachers for children and youth with disabilities. Barbara Coloroso, acclaimed speaker and author on parenting, teaching, conflict resolution, and grieving, has always provided hope and inspiration. Here are three of her quotes that I like to share with colleagues.
Last week I gave a speech to a statewide rehabilitation organization in the field of blindness. The focus of the presentation was on literacy, technology, and the future. I titled my presentation, “What Do Grandmothers Teach.” I chose this title because I have now taught for many years, I am a grandmother, and I continually engage in reflective practice and challenge what I teach along with where, when, how, and why. A guiding quote for my reflection is from Parker Palmer and The Courage to Teach. He said, “As the elders in the society, . . . we need to look back toward the young and help them find a future that we will not see.” I remind myself that today’s kindergarten students will be the Class of 2021 and my granddaughter will be my age in 2063!!! I find those facts interesting and challenging to what I think it is important to teach them today.
In my “Teachers, Advocacy & Politics” blog (10.12.08) I mentioned that “as teachers, we need to be competent through a deep understanding and knowledge of our purposes, subject matter, and our students . . . .” A way to increase and maintain our competency is valuing the importance of ongoing professional development.
Professional development is an interest of mine. I have participated in a variety of activities to continually increase my knowledge and skills in effective learning designs for teachers. It is an area that has challenged my personal growth and assisted in my collaborative work with others. Several years ago I studied course work at the University of Minnesota to obtain a certification in professional development and joined the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) to maintain my knowledge and skills. The content in the area of professional development is essential to my participation in the myriad of educational contexts in which we work as collaborative special education teachers.
During this current “political season” my thoughts frequently turn to how we, as a culture, society, country, and educational community, take care of and provide for our children, especially our children with exceptional needs. I have often found that my role as a teacher and as an advocate is ambiguous.
A teacher’s role in advocacy can be unclear . . . we can get messages from administration that we should “be careful” with how, what, when, and where we make decisions regarding services for our students. We can be told about not crossing an unstated line between what is considered “Cadillac” services and “Chevrolet” services, about what is considered “FAPE” (free and appropriate public education) and what is not necessary for FAPE to be met.
Greetings to my CEC Friends and Colleagues,
I am delighted to join all of you on this blog and look forward to hearing from you. I teach children who are blind/low vision and I am also an orientation and mobility specialist. I teach in rural Minnesota and have been teaching long enough to have owned many Subarus to get me through the Minnesota winters as a teacher who travels to students in seven school districts. I currently refer to myself as a “collaborative” teacher, rather than an “itinerant” teacher, because I feel it is a label that is more representative of the important work that I do with others so children learn. I work a .8 contract (for the past seven years) so that I have the opportunity to engage in a variety of other professional activities.
I have many passions that drive my work with children. I like to say the following: “My two feet stand firmly planted on the ground…one foot in direct service to children and my other foot in changing systems to improve my direct service work with children.” CEC has played a very important role in keeping my feet grounded in these activities.