Apr 22

Testing Daze

testThought I might share some experiences with FCAT testing. I am the reading coach at my elementary school and I hate the formalized testing that we put the kids through. Even with modifications, it is a torturous time for kids. It is difficult for us adults, so I can imagine how they feel. Today I was the test administrator for a class of fifth grade students. They all know the importance of these tests and their behavior and demeanor reflected it during the testing time. They were focused.

To add some more difficulty to the stressful time, it was the first time that the kids have taken the test online, a fact that made me as nervous as they were. I was afraid I might mess up the whole computer system.

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Mar 12

The Other Side of the Schoolyard Gate

Marty the Panther welcomes the children to MES

Marty the Panther welcomes the children to MES

 The Other Side of the Gate

I know how frustrating it can be when dealing with an ETL and the school system. I have seen the process from both sides of the schoolyard gates. I am the Reading Coach at Margate Elementary in Broward County, Fl. I am also an ADHD advocate, parent and teacher who deals with ETL kids on a minute-to-minute basis. All of this experience gives me a bird’s eye view of what’s happening with our kids.
My day is a variety of school activities, from working with small groups of struggling readers, conferencing with parents and helping out with discipline and positive reward systems. I know every ETL child in our school of 900, some very well.
We have a comprehensive program in place for these kids but still have many issues on a day to day basis. School begins at 8:00 and our first behavior code is usually at about 8:05. So we are off and running. We have 5 adults who take turns responding to behavior codes if a child is likely to hurt themselves or others. We retrieve children who have left classrooms without permission. We separate children who need to be separated, we talk to kids about their anger issues, we try to provide a safe yet structured environment for these kids for whom school is so challenging.
Despite ongoing training, we don’t always have the answers. What we have is time, concern, love and empathy for their struggles. I have called parents for advice, asking them, “What do you do?” My office always has 1 or 2 children in it, working, taking time out, talking with me, crying, and occasionally having a tantrum.
Sometimes they just need somewhere to go. Sometimes they have had a remarkable day and get to pick out of the principal’s treasure box, or call home to tell the good news. My office revolves around these kids daily.
There are times when my whole day is spent working with ETL kids, their teachers, and their parents. Paperwork I never finish is lugged home, because let’s face it, it can be done later. Kids are immediate priorities.
I meet every week with the RTI (Response) team. We meet with teachers and parents to discuss current interventions and how they are working. We put new interventions in place and follow up on their success. A coach is assigned to each case to help the teacher with what needs to be done. Some children are tested for learning disabilities if interventions prove to be insufficient.
We also work very hard to promote success. Teachers have been trained to be proactive so as to prevent future problems. Children are placed in classrooms where they will be deemed to be most successful. If their environment is not a good fit, another class is tried and many times this helps a lot.
Our Positive Behavior program is very effective. Selected children (K-5) are put on a contract each school day. Their goal is to earn 10 tickets per day. At 1:00 PM they come down to the Positive Behavior Room with their tickets and a work folder. If they have 10 tickets we celebrate! High five, mark it on their chart and they choose an activity. (reading, board games, legos, handheld video games and video games on the TV. Also air hockey.) If they have less than 10 tickets we talk about their day. They must complete some activities that the teacher has provided before they can play. So if they have 7-9 points it is pretty easy for them to earn points. Once they finish their work they get to play. Children with no points do not get to play that day. At times, we have had to move them to a different class away from the others. At the end of the 45 minutes, dismissal time, children who had 10 tickets get a special reward. They all get a snack for appropriate behavior in the group. There are celebrations for highest number of points in a week and then a monthly award.
We have seen a huge turn around in the kids involved in our program. Teachers report that the point system is working great for them. Of course, we are still struggling with transition times such as during special classes and lunch. But it’s a start!
We feel many of the same frustrations that parents do. What works one day does not work the next and so on. What we hold dear, is the parents who are trying so hard and who show us that we are all on the same page together in trying to provide the very best education for our kids.

Sep 24

Humor? Really? You Have to Be Kidding

I have always prided myself on having a good sense of humor. I can make other people laugh. I can stand in front of an audience of 200 and create laughter that warms my heart. I can poke fun at myself and sharpen my wit at my own expense. So why is it so hard to always be upbeat when you’re dealing with an ETL child?

There are so many emotions that you encounter during the day when you are dealing with kids that are not cookie-cutter easy bake kids. Embarrassment comes to mind. Public places, friends with children who “do” all the right things, sitting in church. Guilt, another favorite emotion. What did I do wrong? How come it looks so easy for everyone else? Should I try medication? Was it that glass of wine I had during my pregnancy? Who does he take after?

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Feb 28

Are You a Good Listener?

I work with a lot of parents and teachers in my elementary school in Broward County, Fl. One of the sadder things I see today is that many people have lost the art of listening to each other. You see parents with their kids, but the parents are on the phone. Or, the parents are trying to rush from one activity to the next, and do not have time to really listen to their kids. Even at a restaurant, I have seen both parents on separate cell phones, while their kids sit by in the booth, waiting for their server. The dinner table discussions have been lost in many cases because there are so many things going on.

I think that these problems may be partly at fault for the difficulties of children listening in school. If parents are multi-tasking as they talk to their kids, then kids think it’s ok to multi-task while listening to the teacher. Have you gone over the basic listening skills with your child? Have you modeled them every time you have a chance? Some things that are important are…

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Sep 22

Social Skills

In the olden days, girls attended finishing school to get, well, finished, I guess. I imagine their parents couldn’t get them completely done on their own. Boys were excluded from charm school, and hopefully just inherited it from their stately ancestors. But then, they weren’t dealing with AD/HD in those days.
And so we have the predicament of social skills and the AD/HD child, one does not respond correctly to body language and verbal cues like other kids.  

So added to his/her inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, social skills deficits are thrown in the mix. Problems that can be very demoralizing in relationships with peers, teachers and family members. It’s important for AD/HD kids to have friends. Easy to say, hard to maintain. Impulsivity, sensitivity and poor anger management make it difficult to make and keep friends. High levels of sensitivity make AD/HD kids easy targets for bullies.

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Sep 07

Taming the Homework TIger

Homework Hassles?

Homework, Sweet Homework!

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Homework is a nightly battle.
  • Your child rushes through homework. It’s sloppy or incomplete.
  • Your child forgets to bring homework home.
  • You do more of the homework than your child.
  • It takes forever for your child to finish homework.
  • The first time you hear about a major project is the night before it’s due.

Well, we have all been through it. Sometimes we get so desperate we ask, “Why do they have to do homework anyway?” Well, as a reading specialist and elementary educator for over 30 years, I can tell you why.

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Sep 03

Is It Perspective?

Time Out for Perspective!

Maintaining my perspective as a mom is the most important and challenging job assigned to me. You have to realize that being a mom and maintaining perspective are really major oxymorons.

It’s like someone is telling you, “Forget all that you did to care for him as an infant. Forget the sleepless nights, and the vomited-on dress you were going to wear to the office Christmas party. And, by all means, forget that cute little toothless smile and the knowledge that your child is the most wonderful, brightest, cutest kid on the planet.

It's not easy to focus on the here and now. The what if's can drive you crazy.

Maintain your perspective.   Ha. Easier said than done.

My perspective was first tested when Cory was diagnosed as AD/HD at 6 years old.   Immediately my Mom Guilt went into overdrive.

What did I do wrong during pregnancy?

Why my child?

How come lots of other kids look active but mine gets the label?

And of course the genetic link: Why did I marry this man? It’s his fault.

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Apr 24

Study Skills and Summer

This is the time of year that parents come to me a lot for information on how to help their kids stay thinking over the summer.  As a teacher, I know how much is lost over the summer and that in the fall, it is like starting over again. So I recommend to parents that they continue a “study” time each day. First of all, of course, 20 minutes of reading every day is a must, at least. Reading with a parent, to a parent, silently, having a book discussion, whatever works. Keep the kids reading. It is so important. Practice reading fluency. Take a book your child is reading and select one paragraph. Time them. Do it again several times and see how their fluency goes up.

Watch out for punctuation and expression also. They are all part of fluency. Make weekly trips to the library.

For math, keep your kids involved in real life activities. Count change, tell time, and add up items at the grocery store. Cook together using recipes, great fractions usage, and talk through what you are doing.

Whatever you do, enjoy your summer but avoid the TV Marathon. Minds need exercise, so do bodies.

Feb 13

A Different Perspective

I see so many articles on children of elementary age. Been there, done that. My journey is a bit longer, lasting over 29 years for the most part. My AD/HD child, Cory, the subject of one of my books, is now all grown up and I am able to see what my mom efforts have brought forth. It is a wonderful time in life to sit back and say, “Yeah, you got it right.” At least, mostly right.
What helped? Practice, persistence, and listening to my gut about what my child needed, despite advice from friends, relatives and teachers. The pathways I pointed him to made a difference in the future. Keep on keepin’ on, always with a smile and a dash of perspective. One day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time. And be as proactive as you possibly can.
“But, Mom, you never told me I couldn’t take my hockey stick to school!”