For the Kids:Read Now
Eleven years ago, freshman year at The Ohio State University I came across an opportunity. An opportunity to help create this new event. An event unlike anything seen at OSU, the brainchild of Rosa Ailabouni. Rosa wanted to have a dance marathon that raised money for a beneficiary. The beneficiary became Children's Hospital. This was something I wanted to get involved with, this was something I needed to be a part of.
Fast forward 15 months later. Over a year of laying the foundation and building the structure, planning each minute and dissecting each second the 26-hour Party with a Purpose was underway. We were thrilled to have about 80 dancers that fundraised for weeks and months, for the kids. I remember being up 41 hours to setup, run the event, and tear down - but it was worth it. We set the bar, once a vision of a student, BuckeyeThon came to realization and raised over $32,000 by the time the music ended.
Fast forward 10 years. The event known as BuckeyeThon had gone through many changes and evolved into a premiere campus event at Ohio State. The heart and soul put into this event by students and advisors through the years, for the kids, helped place BuckeyeThon as one of the top Children's Miracle Network Dance Marathons in the country. THON at Penn State is the pinnacle, and what they have done for kids every year for the past 40+ years is quite remarkable.
Fast forward to this past week. On our winter break, I made a trip back to Ohio and it just happened to coincide with the 11th annual BuckeyeThon. I was so excited to finally get back and see what this event has become, especially after last year's $225,000+ fundraising mark. What I got to experience on February 25th-26th still leaves me speechless and full of pride. The energy, the passion, the excitement, the mission to help kids. We struggled to get 80 dancers in year one, at BuckeyeThon 2012 they had over 1800 cheering on the kids, dancing for the kids, and going "nuts" for the kids. No dance marathon ever doubled their total, yet BuckeyeThon did that last year...and for the kids...they did it again! An astonishing total of over $454,000 was unveiled, as the new bar, as the new unprecendented mark of accomplishment for this vision that began almost 12 years ago. Well done BuckeyeThon - thank you for making the efforts of the past worth it, and for laying a new foundation for the future. For the Kids.
Another event for the kids started last year. An opportunity arose to participate in the 1st annual Camp Games for a Cause. This philanthropic event in New York City raises money to send underprivileged kids to summer camp, for an unforgettable life experience.
This event can grow and have the same success and impact on kids as BuckeyeThon, with your help. I again will be participating in this year's Camp Games for a Cause. Please join me in supporting this event: Every dollar counts!
Please donate for the kids!
Special Educator Attrition and Inclusion
Obviously, becoming a skillful special education teacher requires years of experience, as well as ongoing professional development. However, there is a chronic special education shortage in the United States (McLeskey et al, 2004). Because of this shortage, socioeconomic diversity in future cohorts of special education teachers is tenuous.During the 1990s, the population of students with special needs rose significantly; however, the number of special educators in the United States failed to rise accordingly.
Teacher attrition pays a big role in special educator shortages nationwide (McLeskey et al, 2004). Quoting an Ingersoll study (2001), McLeskey reiterates that special educators are more likely to either leave the profession, or move to another position as general educators. Teachers who transfer to general education mention lack of student gains, low administrative support, and a heavy paperwork load as reasons for leaving special education.
Ensuring special education teacher quality is admittedly a more complicated task (Brownell et al. 2009). Special educators surveyed in their first year seemed unprepared to teach literacy effectively. Brownell et al. point to several reasons for this perceived lack of preparedness on the park of special educators. One of the most far-reaching suggestions the researchers make is that the nature of special education certification programs hinders special education teachers from doing more effective, targeted interventions. Because most special education teachers are prepared through teacher education programs that target students between kindergarten and 12th grade, special educators are exposed to a broad spectrum of potential teaching techniques. However, Brownell et. al. suspect this broadened scope of study comes at the detriment of a more specific focus for special educators during their teacher training that could lead to me effective teaching practices earlier on. Like general educators, turnover for special educators is especially hight during the first few years of teaching. However, "far more special educators transfer to general education than vice versa. teachers (Brownell at al. 2009)."
For contemporary special educators, general education remains an attractive alternative to the diverse, sometimes frustratingly confusing world of special education roles within collaborative and self-contained classrooms. Nonetheless as we have seen, both general and special education teacher perceive their respective positions to lacking in support and coherency.
Contributing Factors to Success of Inclusion
Teacher perception, training, and administrative support all influence the success of an inclusion setting. These factors all tie into making the student feel like a member of the class, which translates to a higher degree of attention and motivation to learn. Over the past decade, there has been increased pressure to educate special education students in general education classrooms (Weiss and Lloyd 2002). The movement towards the inclusion model stems primarily from IDEA’s emphasis on promoting the least restrictive environment for students. As a result, team teaching, or collaborative team teaching, has gained in popularity, particularly in public schools in New York City. While the team-teaching model may be gaining more visibility, critics remain. One of the biggest challenges in current special education is successfully implementing the co-teaching model, and carving a place for both general and special education teachers to use best practices in the classroom.
Successful implementation starts with teacher training, positive teacher perception, and ongoing administrative support. “Staff development or training is considered to be one of the key factors in not only the success of implementing inclusion, but it is regarded as one of the reasons for its continued success,” (Raj, 2002). General education teachers often worried about low efficacy when trying to serve all students in inclusion settings. They cited lack of training and professional development opportunities, as well as a lack of planning time with special educators, as two of the biggest reasons for this lack of confidence. “Training should include awareness level presentations, skill practice workshops, follow up lessons on application, and dialogue,” (Raj, 2002). For inclusion to work, general education teachers must feel empowered, supported, and most importantly, involved in both the referral process and the delivery of services.
The support comes from the administration whether directly or indirectly. “When attempting to implement inclusion in the schools, the administration must attempt to include the teachers in the change process,” (Raj, 2002). Teachers forced into a situation where they haven’t had an opportunity to take ownership through personal opinions and ideas will generate resistance. This is very similar to forcing a student into a classroom environment where they don’t have the opportunity to take ownership through generating the class rules or guidelines. Resistance is more likely to occur in this situation because there was no student buy-in. Just like students, teachers need the opportunity to feel they have some ownership of the environment or situation to allow buy-in and create a successful inclusion setting. “The role of the school administration in preparing for inclusion must capture the individual talents of each discipline and then be able to capitalize on those talents into forming an environment of shared responsibility for student learning,” (Raj, 2002). Overall through staff training and development, in conjunction with the administrative support in allowing teachers ownership opportunities of the setting, then the inclusion environment can flourish. The school leadership is vital to inclusion succeeding or failing, prinicipals piece together collogegues and make important decisions about student placement, teacher training, and the overall attitude towards inclusion. As Michael Raj stated in 2002, “One should not underestimate the influential power of the schools’ leadership. The support and leadership of principals has been documented as integral for successful school change…and successful inclusion.”
50 Actions for HappinessRead Now
It's Random Acts of Kindness Week! Have you filled a random parking meter? Have you written a note to a random person at work? Have you given your seat upgrades randomly away? So many great acts of kindness to choose from - get started today!
"When we give to others it activates the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help. Studies have shown that giving money away tends to make people happier than spending it on themselves."
I recently came across this in-depth, tangible list of action steps on how exactly to pursue "happiness". For this week, Random Acts of Kindness Week, numbers 2, 5, and 14 are great to begin with. Thanks to Action for Happiness for the action list, I can't wait to hear what you all do - an remember a High Five goes a long way!
Go get your random on! It's Random Act of Kindness Week....Month...Life!
High Five LifeRead Now
We often think of giving high fives after a little league game in congratulations, while watching our favorite team score, or amongst friends after a great joke.
Giving a high five is infectious, it's an agreement between two people, a bond shared through a simple gesture of slapping hands. If you think about it, aren't most people smiling when a high five takes place. Positivity. Nothing signals positivity more than a high five and a smile.
Did you ever want to burst into a mini dance party after landing a new client, selling a product, meeting a goal, earning an "A", finishing your taxes, cooking a fantastic meal, getting somewhere on time, completing a workout, finishing an interview, cashing a check, saving money, or cleaning the house? Celebrations need to be more common. Everywhere and at anytime - lift someone up with a quick high five, share a personal accomplishment with a hand slap and smile - why not?
You can change the environment of your workplace by a simple 2 second high five. Think if you just completed a sales report, or taught a great lesson the class really connected with, or finished your mail route and you found a co-worker and simply high-fived them. You feel great for the accomplishment, you feel better because you got to share it, and that co-worker is now infected with your positivity - which will probably ripple into their own work. They might even continue the gesture with someone else when they have an accomplishment of their own. Behold the power of the ripple effect, and in conjunction with positivity - anything is possible.
Start high-fiving life. Beginning the day with high fives at home will set the tone for you and your family for their days. At school, envision a class continuously sharing in one another's accomplishments with high-fives and smiles. I guarantee the level of learning increases and more and more students will be succeeding because of that positive environment. This can be replicated in any workplace...even Congress! At the gym, athletic events, out to eat, most importantly at home and at work start high-fiving life. Let the high five revolution begin...it just might change the world.
Middle School SpEd teacher, maze designer, tech club director, social media seeker, idealist, avid volunteer, sports/tv addict, living the moment