This school year (2017-2018) has been a highly challenging one for me. The obstacles I faced this year with the significant challenges and learning needs of my students were none like I ever experienced before in my 32 years in the classroom.
For the first time ever, one particular class had 5 students with Autism, three students with significant Learning Disabilities, one student with Down Syndrome, and three students with Intellectual Disabilities. To top it off, these students were transitioning into the Middle School (which was in a new school building), with a 9 period day, that had 9 different teachers who each had different requirements and expectations for their classes.
This group of students never experienced real HW or grades before entering middle school, and they were completely dependent on support staff, tutors, and parents to initiate and complete any tasks given to them. It took two months of intensive work for this class to complete the Getting Started/ Mindset Matters Workshop and Software Segment with moderate success.
Having this group of students in an 84-minute Read 180 class was often an exhausting and frustrating experience. The students' short attention span and atypical behaviors caused me to alter classroom routines, adjust seating charts, re-arrange learning groups, and modify lessons numerous times. But somehow, I kept pressing on, hoping that ALL of the kids would, indeed, internalize and eventually make a "180" not only in my class but in their overall school experience as well.
Then January came. Mid-January to be exact. When, out of nowhere (it seems miraculous), my entire class did a "180" with their focus, behavior, effort, and performance. At first, I was in shock and thought the change in my class's demeanor was temporary. But here I am, three weeks later, reporting that all is remarkably well in my classes and that my students' work has never been better.
So the point of this blog post is to communicate that as much as we try to teach our students the concepts embedded in the Mindset Matters Segment, and ask them to master vocabulary words such as perseverance, effort, determination, focus, mindset, challenge, and strategy, it is imperative that we demonstrate these principles with our everyday interactions with our students, especially when this seems impossible.
By constantly communicating with my students' parents, adjusting classroom lessons and routines, and implementing various technology resources, such as Read 180 Universal, Google Classroom, Action Magazine, and Don Johnston's Snap and Read and Co-Writer programs, my students are making slow but steady progress with their reading and writing skills. And their RI (Reading Inventory), PI (Phonics Inventory) and Software scores show it!
If you are having a tough year and don't believe that your kids will ever move in the direction of making a 180, don't lose hope or faith in your ability to make the rest of the school year a successful one for your students. It took almost 5 months for my class to fully engage in the routines of my class, and transition to the overall changes of the middle school. My classroom experience this year is a true example of how hard work, perseverance, effort, and the ability to learn from failure, can move all students, and their teacher, in the direction of making a "180" in school.