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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Learning Differently Requires Teaching Differently

Misbehaving or Misunderstood?

I often think about the students I have known throughout my years of service as an educator. I must be honest and admit  there are some students that, looking back on my relationship with them, I just didn't understand. More children come to our schools today who are misunderstood. It pains me to think of the problems some students face...many problems that I have never faced in my lifetime. This takes me back to college when I learned about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Basic needs are a `prerequisite for learning. We are all very aware of the need for food, clothing, and sleep. The social and emotional needs of a child are sometimes not recognizable for a long time, if ever. Kids can express they are hungry, but they are not likely able to express their feelings and emotions. Kids will often react when feeling a specific emotion, and are unable to self monitor or self regulate. So here is the big question...

Is this misbehavior, or is the child misunderstood?

One of the most common impairments in children is ADHD.  I like to think of this as "Attention DIFFERENT Hyperactivity Disorder". This came to me in a workshop I recently attended, where the presenter reminded me that these kids don't lack the ability to focus...they lack the ability to decipher what should require their focus. They lack executive functioning skills, such as time management, organization, planning, and multitasking. Kids with attention difference will become hyper focused, but it is not always what we want them to focus on! They have no problem with focus; they know how to do it! These kids are misunderstood; they need us to provide support and strategies which will help them learn to attend more holistically. It is okay to think differently, and we can help kids who think differently to keep their light shining. 

 Executive Functioning skills are vital to our success, and they are vital to the success of students. We must teach students to help themselves. This week I challenge you to look at your students who are struggling with things such as task completion, attending to directions, time management, collaborating with others, and controlling emotions. Ask yourself which Executive Functioning skills the students are lacking, and what supports we can put into place to help the students help themselves. This will require patience on our part, and investment in a plan of action to train kids. Kids who lack these functioning skills are not misbehaving as much as they are trying to survive. How can we help them get from barely surviving in a classroom setting to thriving? 

I am thankful for an incredible staff filled with people who love kids. We do what it takes to meet their needs, but we can always do more. We can always learn more about students who learn differently. The more tools we have, the better! Thank you for your investment in each student who walks into your classroom. You are most likely one of the most stable and consistent people in their lives, and they will forever remember you as one of their teachers. 

It's going to be a great week! 

Noteworthy Resources: 

The Infinity Walk: A multi-sensory strategy to support kids ability to attend (video)

A testimony from a person with ADHD...very insightful! (video) (website)

Important Dates: 
December 10: RTI Meeting at 3:40, Designee Office
December 11: Embedded Session
December 12: Coat Drive Ends
December 15: Fire Drill @ 1:30
December 16: Awards Celebrations (more info coming soon)
December 16: CE volunteers for Christmas Alliance at the Armory
December 17: 6:00: Bring something HOT to your leaders on the roof! :)
December 18: Early Dismissal @ 2:00
December 19: End of Second 9 Weeks, Early Dismissal @ 2:00

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