Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Don't Want to Label My Child

I hear you.  I get it.  We don't want our kids to grow up thinking there is something wrong with them and being treated differently for it.  It's hard just for us to accept that this baby we once dreamed big dreams for as we rocked them to sleep may have such a tough time achieving that goal.

Consider this, though...

As a teacher, a label does not put a stigma on a child in my room.  The label tells me that he may need me to visit his desk during the spelling test to make sure his d's and b's aren't backwards and his letters and words aren't all mixed up.  It may tell me that I need to sit him in the front of the classroom so that I have his attention, or the back of the classroom so he can move around a bit.  I may need to spend extra time on a writing assignment or forgive his constant use of lowercase and uppercase in all the wrong places.  The label may tell me that he REQUIRES extra time during testing, oral testing, quiet testing, small group testing. It tells me that I need to watch him on the playground to make sure he's being sociable enough, instead of closely examining each insect he finds.  He may have times that anxiety overwhelms him to the point that he can't remember the answers on the test.  I need to know that I need to be understanding.  I may need to allow him to skip every other number in a homework assignment or let you write it out for him sometimes when homework has become so difficult and overwhelming that you just want to pack all of the books and hold him.

A child without a label, under the protection of mom and dad, tells me that I am being asked to treat him like every other kid who requires none of this.  Our Special Education teacher says, "If a child needed glasses to have an even playing field as his peers, would you give him glasses?"  Of course we would.  This "label" is glasses to those kids.

A label is only a bad thing, in my opinion, when it is viewed as a negative.  When the label is actually used to label the autistic child, the Aspie kid, instead of the kid with autism or the kid with Asperger's.  A child should not be told they ARE ADHD, but that they have ADHD or anxiety.  They have dyslexia, rather than always being called dyslexic.  They should have a true understanding that none of this is a measure of their intelligence.  Their brains are wired differently (in the words of one of my favorite kids with Asperger's).  They should know that there is a way to help all of these things.  They should also be prepared to work harder than everyone else.

I feel that a parent who hides a "label" sends the message that it is something they should be ashamed of or that mom and dad may be ashamed of.  We know we could never be ashamed of our children, though.  I realize that the decision to hide the label comes from a good place of love and protection, but can be perceived as something very different by the child.  A friend of mine helped me to understand this as an adult whose label was hidden from her.  When she actually found out that she had ADHD, she was relieved.  She wasn't stupid as she thought she was for so many years.

If you are under the impression that your child goes to school and thinks he is like all of the others, think again.  Kids know.  They know they are different, and they hate it.  However, giving them the gift of understanding their diagnosis allows them to feel that they are smart enough, they just have to work harder at it. 

They HAVE TO work harder at it.  That means you do, too.  It may never get better, but when you watch him walk across the stage to receive his college diploma, you'll thank God someone told you to do it.  Help him and don't accept excuses.  Help him to meet (and maybe exceed) all expectations.  Never, by all means, express your disapproval of a teacher or homework in general in front of a child who is frustrated.  Your opinion means the most to him.  If you are negative, he will be also.  Will all teachers be fair and understanding?  No.  That's something you just have to face and deal with.  Always fight for the rights that your "label" grants your child under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Find someone at your school who does understand and is in a position to help.  Research.  Research.  Research.

Many prayers for your journey.  I hope this helped.


Any questions, emails, or subjects you'd like discussed can be sent to me via email at

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why Can't my Child Spell??

Spelling is like anything in life and every school subject there is. Some kids are born with an understanding of words and their sounds, and other kids have to work very hard to understand the relationship.

Good readers are good spellers. Why? They see the words often in the books they read, developing their vocabulary, and seeing reoccurring letter patterns over and over. They may not even be book readers, but they are readers...of cereal boxes, bill boards, signs, menus, etc. My daughter does not read many books, but she reads EVERYTHING else. She's also a good speller.

Poor spellers typically don't enjoy reading as much, if at all. If they do enjoy reading, it's usually more of a take it or leave it attitude. They don't read the cereal box in front of them; they play the game on the back. They don't read the billboards, but they may notice the art on it. They may read, but more often, they don't. Take it or leave it.

I have a BA in Speech Pathology and an Elementary Education certification for grades 1-5. The reason I had an interest in both of these things is because I was the reader in my family. My brother and sister, on the other hand, were not. I was the kid left on the bus hiding behind Charlotte's Web. My brother and sister hated reading. There was nothing fun about it. It was work and it was HARD work. It made them feel stupid when they tried because other kids could do it, but they couldn't. My sister would later be diagnosed with dyslexia in a higher grade. My brother would be diagnosed with dyslexia in 1st grade. In 1980, kids were not often diagnosed with much, but it was obvious.

Because of this huge difference between my siblings and I, it made me extra sensitive to others who struggle, and it still does today. My heart goes out to them, and I want them to be understood. The following is my theory and my theory only based on my education and experience in my classroom. This is not any scientific data, but I think I can help.

How do I help my kid learn to spell?

1. DO Know this. A poor speller does not mean a child is not intelligent. Know it, believe it, and drill it in your child's brain. It's a skill. Every kid has a weak subject. This just happens to be theirs. They can overcome it, but it takes work. Some of the smartest people I know are awful spellers.

2. DO NOT believe "Who needs to learn to spell? That's what spellcheck is for?" You have to get close for spellcheck to recognize it, and if you use a homophone spelled correctly, it will not catch it. Grammar Nazis like me will know the difference when they are an executive later in life and have to put out memos for the whole company, or worse, hand write memos for others. We want our kids to be their best. They don't get there by making excuses or being lazy. (Was that too harsh?) They also go through many years of school and college where they will be graded on such things.

3. DO NOT MAKE YOUR CHILD WRITE THEIR WORDS 5, 10, 20 TIMES EACH!! This may BE the reason they cannot spell. It is also the reason they hate spelling.

4. Do NOT call out spelling lists in the car to a struggling speller. You CAN do this to an achieved speller. The already use the strategy I will get to in a bit. Struggling spellers must ALWAYS write the word. Did I say ALWAYS? Good.

5. If your school does not already offer a list of spelling rules, find some. Our school uses the Spalding Method of writing, but there are other methods that offer the rules. Google it.
This is a link I just found for the 29 Spalding Rules. It is overwhelming at first. Don't be scared. You can do this. You already know some of them! So does your child!

6. Know the sounds that the letters make. In PreK, kids are taught that X says /ks/ and Y says /y/. Then they are taught the word "xylophone". Where's /ks/? They are taught x-ray. This X says /eks/, /not /ks/. X only says /ks/ in the final part of a syllable. The list should be "fox, box, mix". For Y they learn "yarn, yellow, yak" Those all say /y/ as they were told. Then they get in 1st grade and learn "baby, my, by" Where's /y/? Y only says /y/ in the beginning of a syllable.
THEY NEED TO KNOW UNITS OF SOUND, NOT LETTERS. Spalding uses these phonograms. Learn them in order. After # 45, it gets complicated. Learn those when they present themselves in a spelling list word.
These are the videos on you tube. There are cuter ones, but I teach 4th grade. You can google that, too. Save these on your computer desktop for easy access for your child to work alone.
Phonograms 1-26
Phonograms 27-45
Phonograms 46-58
Phonograms 59-70

7. Review these cards (mastering one set at a time and only the first two sets) nightly if you have a struggling speller. Total immersion is best, not just when we feel like it. It takes very little time to review. Once your child has mastered 1-45, they can start finding them in words. These flashcards are also available in a student set for around $13, I think, at Find the "store" tab.

8. The spelling list. Your spelling lists will typically focus on a rule, like the magic e that makes the vowel say its name. Spalding lists are different, but you need to adapt this to your child's spelling lists at school. Underline silent e twice always. Spalding gets more involved in this, but you'll be fine just using this rule with your child. "If the letter does not say the sound it should make, underline it twice."

9. Help your child to mark their spelling list. Underline phonograms with more than one letter. See if there is a rule(s) that matches each week in your list. Learn the rule as it presents itself. For example if the words end in Y, there are two rules possible. Words do not end in i, so we use y. In one syllable words, Y says long /i/. If the word is more than one syllable, Y says long /e/. You will have lists with "ai" and "ay", and "oi" and "oy, etc. Mark (underline) these phonograms and any others that are more than one letter.

10. Sound out the letters as the letter "should" sound, not the way it does in speaking. For example, "vote" sounds like /v/ /o/ t/ /e/, say the e. Then read it the way we say it "vote". "Cheese" would be /ch/ /ee/ /s/ /e/ "cheese". "ee" is a phonogram. Do this nightly. Read the list once they way we write it all the way through, then read the list once just reading it normally, without sounding. The more they SEE the word, the better they know it. This takes very little time as well. If you are a last minute studier, quit reading, none of this will work. You have to be honest about the amount of effort that goes into this. It seems liks a lot at first, but soon they will do ALL of this on their own, without you.

11. Take a practice test nightly. Now, they write it. This is the more time consuming part. Now, you have to "teach" them to use the sounds to spell. You can call a word out and separate the syllables. Tell them to listen to each sound in the syllable. A syllable has one vowel sound in it. Not one vowel, one vowel sound. "Nice" has one vowel sound /i/, one syllable. Sound it for them as they should learn to sound it. Have them sound each sound out to you as they write each phonogram always. "dozen" would be "doz" "en". /d/ /o/ /z/ /e/ /n/. Sound the short e here. The more you do this with them, the more they will naturally go to that strategy during the test (and homework)

12. Be patient! They are learning. The spelling grade may slip at first, but the trade off is that they are learning to spell. After a bit, they will use the strategy more, and grades will come back up. They will not memorize words anymore, they will spell them. They will spell all other words, as well, much better because they have a strategy.

Memorizing has worked for us? Why can't I just keep doing that?
A kid who memorizes the order of letters, mixes the letters up and misses them on tests. They also can't spell that same word 2 weeks later when it's not on the spelling list. After middle school, there are no more spelling tests, and your kid still won't know how to spell. They've put a band-aid on the wound and it never fixed itself. You must plan for the future in everything. One day, they will be expected to soar. You have to give them the tools. Without the proper tools, they will not be as successful as their peers. If my child needs glasses, I get her glasses. If my child can't spell, I help them to learn how to spell. Glasses are quicker, but you get the point. I didn't say it would be easy.
Do not depend on your school. Textbooks design lists this way. They are only following what they are supposed to teach. Since most kids can memorize a list, they let them, give them spelling homework so they write them nightly, and move on to bigger and better things, like reading and math. Oh, by the way, your poor speller is also struggling in reading which is not just something they need in reading. They need it for every test they take. They can memorize answers, but if they can't read the words, they can't figure out the correct multiple choice answer. They probably bomb every math word problem, too.

My child leaves out vowels where you can clearly hear the vowel? What do I do?
YOU can clearly hear that vowel, but they do not. This is my conclusion for it. Vowel sounds are made with your mouth open. Your tongue touches nothing. In the word "cat" I hear and FEEL the sound in my mouth /k/ and /t/. The short "a" gets lost because it feels like a transition from /k/ to /t/ rather than a sound that takes up space in a word. Working on vowels is key for these kids. Pick up a game of "Vowel Bingo" They'll love it and it builds the skill very well.

My child puts random letters where they obviously do not belong in his schoolwork?
He's guessing. Pure guessing. He has too little an understanding of the letter sounds. If it's not a memorized spelling word, he cannot spell it. Sure, he makes straight A's in spelling, but his intelligence is fine, remember? He can memorize the order of the letters!

This is a seriously long post. I apologize. It was much smaller in my head.

Lesson: I have a lot to say about spelling.


Life lesson

My son has been playing football and baseball during the fall. This means 2 baseball practices per week, 2 football practices per week. Games start next week. His heel has been giving him trouble as boys of the this age will sometimes experience. We plan to call the doctor tomorrow to check it out. Today, when I picked him up from practice, he was not on the field. He was sitting on the sideline with a "limp". I was furious.

I know I sound heartless, but he had not limped until I told the coach he had been having pain, and he did not limp at the end of practice during field clean up. I asked about it when he got in the car, and he said the coach was not very nice. I knew what he meant. The coach was tough. In this world of "let's give everyone a trophy and call them a winner", this is the age where the athletes survive. So, it's time to make a choice. You'll suck it up and hang in there, or you'll quit...but if you quit, you can't go back. Make a decision.

Again, I know it's tough, but our kids need someone to tell them to be better than they think they can be.

It was time for the David Thibodaux talk.....

and so it goes...

My first year of college was an eye-opener. I realized that my high school education had not much prepared me for what was to come. I had Dr. Thibodaux for English 101. As most students know, you scout out your professors before scheduling, getting the low-down on the workload, testing, etc. Well, I didn't know this strategy yet. This class was tough. He graded HARD! No grammatical error slipped by him, and he had high expectations. He took no learning differences into account. He graded everyone as an equal. I worked so hard for that first-year English class. In fact, I never worked that hard in any other class for my whole college career. I hated every second of it. I had homework all the time. I could not wait until it was over.
...When it was finally over, I breathed a giant sigh of relief...and signed up to have him for English 102. Was I crazy? I just knew he had challenged me, taught me, and I wanted to know more.

You see, this man was not an ogre. He was gentle, caring, and intriguing. He had a large family, served on the Lafayette Parish school board for years as a voice for teachers fighting for smaller classroom sizes and higher teacher pay, a political activist, ran for Congress several times while I was his student (and nearly won). In fact, during one of these campaigns, his opponent claimed that Dr. Thibodaux, an author as well, had written pornographic works. In fact, it was his dissertation that had earned him tenure at UL, or something like that. This political trash talking came out days before the election and probably costed him the seat.

I learned more from 2 semesters as his student than any professor taught me. I am an English teacher today and a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi all because of what I learned in his classroom in Griffin Hall.

Dr. Thibodaux lost his life in a motorcycle accident in 2007. It was devastating. He had so much to offer to our students and community. Today, he is still remembered as a school board member who fought for his beliefs regardless of popular vote. Today, there is David Thibodaux Magnet Academy in Lafayette. A technical school named for the late Dr. Thibodaux.

I had the honor of being his student. I am so grateful.

Lesson: When the going get tough, the tough must get going. They have to want it. They have to earn it.

When my grandmother (and best friend) was fighting cancer, I wrote a note for her and posted it by her chair, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." We read it together every day when I would visit.

God Bless!

The Day I Became a Better Mom

May 18, 2012 is the day I became a better Mom. This did not happen because of me or anything I did that day. It happened because God needed me to pay attention to the blessings in my life.
It was a Friday, nearing the end of baseball season. All three of my kids decided to play baseball this season. This means that each kid has 2 games per week, and maybe one practice between the bunch. Catie also takes dancing on Wednesday nights, and, of course, there’s after school tutoring that I do, homework, and studying. Needless to say, our lives, since March, have not stopped.
It all began in the school day when Abby’s homeroom teacher pulled me aside and whispered to me that Abby had been nominated by her classmates to receive the David Award. This is an award given in each homeroom at their school. It is considered the highest honor a student can receive. It has nothing to do with how smart you are or how fast you are or how popular you are. It is based on your kindness to others. It is awarded to the student who exemplifies a true Christian. The fact that it is chosen by classmates makes it even more special. When her teacher told me, I had to leave the room to hide my tears. I could not be prouder of my middle child who, at times, does not realize the person she can be in life.
After school, I rounded everyone up, beaming with my new secret, and we headed home. It was dance rehearsal night! For a 4-yr-old who attends dance from August until May, THIS is the moment she’s been waiting for all year long. The day she can put on the pretty make up and the sparkly tutu! While we got ready for the big show, my son dressed for his baseball game and he and my husband headed to the ballpark. I would have to miss this game, which I never like to do.
On the way to the dance rehearsal, we were all so excited. I was so proud, again, that my youngest child was finally reaching her long awaited goal. I was also anxious to see how much she’d learned all this time! On the way there, I received a text from my husband. “Zac is PITCHING”. ….Another dream come true. Zac had been asking me for weeks, daily, if I thought coach would ever put him pitching. I kept telling him to ask the coach, but he never would, since he gets his shyness form me. I was missing it, but still so happy to be with Catie for her big day.
Catie performed so well, I was so proud. I was now beaming with THREE major accomplishments: The David Award, the dancer dancing, and my pitcher pitching. I realized, in that moment, driving to the baseball field after dancing, that I had lost focus. Our busy lives were taking away from our family. Since that day, I am more patient, I am more understanding, I am a better mom. These are my blessings. This is my one shot. I get it, God.
Oh, and to add to my pride even more, Zac pitched a good game. When I asked him why coach finally put him in, he said, “I asked.”
Abby with her St. David medal
My pitcher pitching

My dancer after her recital

Embarrasing Mom/Teacher Mistake #3452

(post from mom blog March 2012)

This morming we arrived at school earlier than ever. Ever so proud of ourselves, we leapt out of the Expedition cheery-eyed and bushy-tailed. As we all gathered our 872 things needed for our school day, I realized Abby's booksack was missing! I looked at Abby and asked, "Abby, where is your booksack?" "I put it behind the truck this morning," she replied.........................................................................................
(Mental Note: Text Todd to retrieve book sack from driveway before the rain.)

Upon arriving into my classroom, I get a call....................from Todd...............Apparently the neighbor found Abby's book sack in the middle of the road and rang the doorbell. "Not to worry," Todd said, "they have a kid in Abby's class and will bring it with them to give to Abby."

Enter mortifying eMbArRaSsMeNt!!!! Yes, that's right, this morning I backed up feeling like I'd conquered the world since we were so early, not realizing that I was dragging my poor 8-year-old's sweet flowery blue monogrammed book sack SEVEN feet into the middle of the street. Lurching forward, oblivious to the scene I was leaving for the new neighbors to ogle over. To top it off, to my rescue comes a neighbor whom I've NEVER MET, WHOSE SON I WILL TEACH NEXT YEAR!

Unbelievable. If you need me, I'll be hiding under my desk.

**Update: Just met the Mom in the school cafeteria while she had lunch with her son. She introduced herself as the one who brought Abby's book sack to school and said it was so nice to meet me.

Shoot me.

Top Reading Mistakes

This is a list I quickly decided to put together after working with a couple of kids today. When a kid has trouble with reading comprehension, it really affects them in all subjects. Worse than that, the kid's parents have no clue how to help. For advice on that, you must read this post:

Moving on.....


1. They may not be stopping at ending marks. This makes sentences flow together in an odd sort of way. The meaing of the sentences are lost.

2. They make mistakes in reading and do not go back to correct what they read. When a child does this, they are not paying attention to the story, but sounding out the words...again, losing meaning.

3. They do not understand the vocabulary. The struggling reader will simply continue, hoping to get the meaning figured out. They typically do not. They passed up the sentence or two that would've helped.

4. They do not ever reread. If they do not understand what they read, or forgot, or was daydreaming while reading, they continue. They think that it will show their struggle if they have to read it again. When I tell a struggling reader that I have to read things more than once all the time, they are shocked. Their eyes actually get wide. They have no clue that successful readers reread and poor readers do not.

5. They do not envision what they read. I always thought this was a natural thing until my husband and a couple of friends said to me, "I don't see the movie in my head when I read" Gasp! Use art to help this skill. Have them draw their favorite scene and tell you about it. They are retelling the story when they do.

6. They are reading above their level. My daughter is notorious for this. She wants to read what her brother is reading. They are too hard. This causes frustration and eventual disinterest, causing them to think all reading stinks....and giving up.

7. They have not found a genre or author they enjoy. A dyslexic student came to me this week and said, "Hey! Mrs. Adrienne, I hate to read, but this book is so good! I can't put it down!" I quickly had him write down the series and the author encouraging him to find more books by him. He got in trouble for reading during class today:)

8. They do not find out anything about the book before reading. Have them read the back cover. If they do not, they spend the first few chapters distracted until they find out what is really going on here.

9. They are still learning how to read. In this case, read with them. Listen to how they read, and read to them in a way that fixes those mistakes, exaggerating your pause at a comma, the stop at an ending mark, the excitement with an exclamation, and the sadness the character may feel.

...and # 10~ Well, you'd have to read another post for #10. Here's the link.

God Bless!


First Day of School

(Post from my mom blog, Summertime 2011)

First day of school today....whew. If you think the first day of school wipes the kids out, you should meet the teachers at the end of the day. My legs are threatening to give out on me without any notice, my feet hurt from my shins to my pedicure deprived toes, and all I want to do is go to bed. If anyone stops by to hand out Mom of the Year trophy today, they would probably leave laughing.
I need eggs, wheat bread, apple juice, and turkey. It can wait. I'll have to be creative for lunch tomorrow. The only thing that would get me to the store would be if coffee or wine was on that list. It is not. I'm safe.

My kids asked for McFlurries after school. I stopped to get those after realizing my purse was left at school and I had to go all the way back there, through road construction, and BACK to the drive thru window I HAD JUST LEFT as they snored in the backseat. While there, I decided I may as well get dinner (since Todd is out of town on the worst night to be out of town). We are home now. They have just eaten their McFlurries and dinner all at the same time. Normally, I would die before that would happen. Not tonight. Just give me a bed.

Currently, the only words coming out of my mouth are, "Maybe you should get ready for bed." This would be in response to "Mom, I'm tired"; "Mom, my tummy hurts" (that's what we get for eating dessert with our fast food meal); "Mom, we are out of apple juice." ; "Mommy, Zac hit me." ; and "Mom, I need socks for tomorrow." To ALL of this, I say, "Maybe you should just get ready for bed."

The dog is pacing since no one in this house will walk him. My kids are arguing. The house is a mess. My laundry room suddenly needs attention that it will not get. There are dishes in the sink.

.....I just want to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Lesson learned: I will never be fully prepared for the first day of school.


Reading Like a Champ!

(A post from my mom blog, Summertime 2011)

It's summertime! The time when the kids can sleep late, play on the Wii until they start bouncing around like Mario and Luigi, eat enough to feed third world countries, and annoy the living heck out of each other. In all of this madness, we, the well-meaning moms, are just mean enough to require them to fit in some quality reading time. My kids must be mutants because they love reading time. In all fairness, I taught reading to 2nd grade for quite a few years and know all the tricks to make this happen. They also come from me, the nerd who once missed her bus-stop and traveled to the next little town because I was enthralled in a good book (Charlotte's Web). I thought you might like to know some tricks.

This blog is geared more toward the child who needs a little more help in their reading comprehension. If your child comprehends just fine and soars as a reader, all you need is to share the reading time with them. Read with them. For example, Mr. Popper's Penguin will be in theatres this month. We all read this story together last week. My oldest whizzed through it alone, but my 7-year-old preferred that I read it with her. They had fun, and we can't wait for the movie.

Now, for the tips.

1. Find what they like.
Go to the library and see what genre they like best, or find an author they like. Girls tend to like fiction more, boys tend to like non-fiction more. If they don't like their book, let them get another. They need to know that people don't always like every book they pick up, and that's okay. They think that THEY don't like the book because they don't like to read. (Books they could later watch as movies are great.)

2. Read with them.
If your child is of elementary age, they are never to old to be read to, especially if they are struggling. You CAN read with your fourth grader. It's called shared reading. You read, I read, you read, I read. Take turns. They love the attention, and it helps when they hear a good reader read. Remember to use expression. (If you're going to fly through a book devoiding it of all meaning, don't waste your time...sorry so harsh)

3. Mess up.
While sharing, make it a point, as the more efficient reader, to mess up, catch your mistake go back and reread. Kids who struggle think that good readers don't mess up. Tell them there are times you read a whole page and have to reread. They think that doesn't happen, too.
(Struggling readers will read, mess up, and not reread, making the story impossible to understand. They may not even realize they skipped 2 lines because they are only reading words and not a story. When your child finally stops and rereads, it is a milestone. Acknowledge it, but be cool about it.)

4. Make it real
If the story is about a dog who eats a slipper, talk about the time your dog did something he shouldn't have. Relating the story to real-life helps them to remember it. It's okay to talk about something else while you're reading, and go back to the story.

5. Ask questions at opportune times (when you're not stopping the flow of the story).
This is the most important one. Never ask any question that can be answered with yes or no. Ask questions that require thought and were not stated by the author. How do you think that made him feel? Why do you think her friend is so angry? What do you think she should do next? Do you think she will do that next? Why do you think he wants to go there so badly? How do you know? What would you do if it were you?
These go along with the skill of drawing conclusions and inferencing (figuring out things that the author meant but didn't say). These are the skills that kids struggle the most with. Think of when you go see a movie. As the plot unfolds you try to guess what will happen next, you feel what the characters feel, you try to guess the ending. Bring those questions to the story being read.

I guess that's all I have for now. I could go on and on, but these are the most important. So, Go! out of this heat. :)


(((LoVe NoTe)))

A love note I received from a student at the end of the year :) It's love....


P.S. Excellent grammar, too! 

Blessings (update)

So, I blogged about those wonderful kids I teach a few days ago, and the love, acceptance, and guidance they've shown to one of our kids who have special needs (Asperger's Syndrome). The birthday party invitations that Ben handed out remained in high demand all week long. Ben began just giving verbal invites to anyone and everyone who asked :)

Today was the party. 30-35 of his classmates showed up. He received tons of gifts and tons of cash and gift cards.

If you're a mom, you know that 10-12 is a fantastic showing for birthday guests. It just goes to show you that a little education and understanding of our differences goes a long way. Ben does not realize how significant today was, but his family does. Today he felt like one of the kids. Accepted. Not different.

Help our kids to accept one another. Teach your kids about the others out there.


Lesson: taught

Happy Birthday, Ben!


Twister with friends:)

Water balloon fights!!

You can also read Ben's mom's blog with this link.

VoTe for my blog top right.


(Post from original mom blog I also have from April 2011)

Last night I had the privilege of being part of an evening of reflection for our school staff. Many parts of this evening were touching and eye-opening, but one particular part of the evening stood out for me because it's something I think of often.

In discussing different ways that we encounter our faith, I began thinking of my students and all of the different ways I see God in them. As each of these kids walk in my door each day, I realize over and over again how different they all are, and how many different things they need from me. I'm not sure if all teachers see this so blatantly, or if God has just given me a gift to see it more clearly. I see it, I feel for them, and I adapt and adjust to what they need. Plain and simple: I do this solely because if it were my child who needed something from his teacher each day, I'd hope he was respected and understood enough to receive it. I am so thankful for this gift that I've been given, and I hope I use it to the best of my ability.

This year, my mix of kids is interesting, varied, and exercising that gift all day long. One of them, in particular, has Asperger's Syndrome. He has been in school with the same kids in this sweet, private school since pre-K. The kids know he's different. It's obvious. That's about all they knew until this year. This year, their eyes have been opened to understand, support, and encourage those who are "differently-abled" as his mom prefers him to be described. At the beginning of the year, I saw kids who just shrugged at his quirkiness, still being respectful, but not understanding all the time. These are 4th graders. They are certainly old enough to understand. We decided to educate them about their classmate. One day, when he had a doctor's appointment, we gathered all 64 of our kids. I presented a slide show about Asperger's Syndrome (but this kid in particular).

He's super smart, makes fantastic grades on the same exact tests, not modified. {{Really? I didn't think he knew much of anything.}}. His writing is illegible because of his dysgraphia. {{Oh...that's why he uses the computer for some lessons. I get it.}} He thinks you are all his best friends, and he thinks he's playing with you when he is just running alongside your game. {{He does that? I never noticed?}} His hands don't work as well as yours do. He can't get the words out of his brain like you can. His BRAIN IS ACTUALLY DIFFERENT THAN YOURS. He's not contagious. He's not upset because of any of these differences. He's just different. We're all different. He is expected to perform the same daily tasks and follow the same school rules. We can help him to feel like a part of our class, instead of an outsider. {{How can I help?}}

From then on, the kids have made a daily effort to help, encourage, guide, and befriend our friend. Even more than that, they've transferred that acceptance to others who are "differently-abled". Today was our boy's birthday. When he walked into the door, I simply told him happy birthday. He said, "Oh! You remembered!" After that, with no prompting from me, the entire class erupted in a wonderfully loud "Happy Birthday To You" song {{tears!}}. He was thrilled, but quickly moved on to pass out invitations to his party. He was given 24 invites just for homeroom. Not enough. The kids who did not get one (in other classes) were asking for one.

I am so proud of the change that took place in these kids this year, and I hope they keep and use the gift. If you haven't ever explained another child's differences to your children, take the time to do it. They will understand. If you don't know enough to explain it, look it up together. Learn together. God could have chosen to give any one of us a child with special needs. Take the time to understand. It can make your child a much more understanding child on the playground. We're all different. God wanted it that way. We're all differently-abled:)


Getting That Dang Straw Into the Capri Sun is a Skill!!

This is a blog I post and repost for parents all the time because I believe it is something teachers see all the time, but parents don't have a clue that it exists.  I hope it helps.

I was teaching first grade and had a student who struggled in her independent work, but seemed to know it during whole group lessons.

There were small clues of the culprit throughout the year: She couldn't do a lot of things the other kids could, like opening her chip bags, getting a straw in the Capri Sun, organizing her desk. But the biggest red flag was when she needed to open the flip-top on the ketchup bottle. "Mrs. Adrienne, could you open this for me?" I couldn't believe that she had never had to open a ketchup bottle before in her life???

Then, we had our Christmas party. All of the moms were invited. Well, it all became clear as her mom began opening all of the Capri Suns, putting napkins on laps, opening chip bags, etc. When there were no more bags to open, she began emptying and cleaning out her daughter's desk. She was left with an immaculately clean work area. You get the point. This little girl seemed oblivious to anything going on around her that may require any effort. She was completely taken care of by her wonderful, but well-meaning, mom. She was a wonderfully sweet lady who adored her children.

The Lesson: Kids who are never allowed to problem solve will not be successful problem solvers in the classroom either. Math requires problem solving, of course. However, this is also a key skill for reading comprehension (figuring out why and how something happened even if the author did not clearly state it.) This skill carries into Science, Social Studies, and every other subject learned in school.

Problem solving is a skill that we must teach our kids to ensure their success. I teach 4th grade now, and I guarantee you that my most successful kids in the classroom are also my best problem solvers. This skill comes easily to some, but not so much to others. Of course, there are the kids with developmental delays, and this post does not include that group of kids. Some of our kids will struggle, and that's okay. But, even those kids will benefit from learning independence.

When we don't teach our kids to figure out things on their own, we are handicapping them. When teachers are taught how to teach, they are taught to include "HOT" or Higher Order Thinking in every lesson. These are those questions that you have to think of the how and why. You cannot answer yes or no to them. These are the hard questions on tests that some may perceive as tricky (those meanies). They really only require extra thinking to figure out.

Now, when a student comes to me b/c they can't open a piece of candy, I refuse to open it. Not because I'm a meanie, but because I am 100% positive that if the kid really wants the candy (and she does), he/she will figure out how to open that wrapper. If I really get my way, they will also teach the next kid on the playground how to do it.

So, do your kid a favor today. Refuse to do something for them that you know they can do. Let them open their own Capri Sun.