Monday, October 10, 2016

Watch your language!

Principal ponderings...

There is a new four letter word that has been popping up in schools, and it is one that we all need to get better at avoiding.  Actually, and unfortunately, it's not new.  It's a four letter 'S' word that gets used all of the time, but it should really be treated like other inappropriate words or foul language.  Some of you may have had parents that threatened the bar of soap when you said a bad word.  Some of you, if you were like me, may have had a mother that skipped the bar soap and went straight to the liquid soap.  That definitely got the message across much quicker...we knew that there was certain language that we just did not use in our house!

So what is this four letter 'S' word that adults and kids have been using?


I have to admit that I have been guilty myself of using this bad word.  Sped is an education slang word that has developed out of everyone shortening the term 'special education.'  But what has happened is that we have forgotten that we are using that word to label people, in particular, kids.  We will say things like, "I have the sped kids" or "she's sped, that's why she got that score" or "which classroom has the sped kids?"  Is that the only way we see them?  As the 'sped kids'?

As I was reading and preparing to write this post, I came across a good post on the Global Down Syndrome Foundation page called "Words Can Hurt."  First of all, it was great to discover this foundation's page because if you did not know, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  Secondly, I really liked the exercise that Patti McVay, an inclusion specialist, described in this post.  She suggests that you think of something you don't like about yourself that society has also deemed less desirable.  Now put that word in front of your name.  What if you were called that all your life?  I definitely struggle with piles and disorganization.  (Don't look too closely in my office and definitely don't come over to my house right now!) So if everyone referred to me as 'Slobby Liz' for the rest of my life, I would certainly struggle with improving my organizational skills, and I would most likely have pretty poor self esteem.

So let's think about the kids that we are talking about when we label them as 'sped kids'.  They may have slower processing or may need to be retaught skills over and over before it finally clicks.  They may have poor communication or they may have a hard time regulating their emotions.  But they are kids, just like all of the other kids in the school.  They lose teeth like any other kid.  They would prefer pizza over broccoli like any other kid.  They soak up praise from their teachers just like any other kid.  And they have feelings that can get hurt just like any other kid.

So consider this your dose of liquid soap on your tongue.  The next time you are talking about students, hopefully the thought of using the term 'sped' will leave a bad taste in your mouth.  You may have students who require special education in your classroom.  Let's not stamp that 'sped' label on them.  Instead, why not think of all of the different learners that are in your class?  Yes, we have students who need special education.  But they don't need a label.  That four letter word will not help them learn.  In fact, if students begin to label themselves as 'sped', then that is how they will see themselves.  Once labeled a 'sped student', it's hard to wash that stamp off.

It's hard enough for a student who requires special education to learn and grow and feel good about themselves, let's not make it harder.  A child who has a need for special education should not be defined by the label we place on them.

I challenge myself and everyone reading this: Stop using that four letter word.

Currently reading:
I got more books in the mail this week!  Just love opening up Amazon boxes when they arrive.  The first book that I am excited to share is called Dear Dragon.  This book is by Josh Funk, who is a resident of Massachusetts and actually works with one of our parents!  You may know about his other awesome book Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  This book is a great new take on pen pals and friendship.  Let me know if you want to borrow it!
After a recommendation from a principal friend from Illinois, I got the book A Child of Books.  Here's what the book jacket says about this awesome book:
          Woven together by a simple story line, the one-of-a-kind illustrations in the book provide an                 unforgettable reading experience that will inspire and encourage readers of all ages to 
          explore, question, and imagine timeless stories of their own.
Kids and adults will enjoy taking a closer look at the illustrations and discovering lines from treasured children's classics and lullabies.

And the other new book I got this week is a new leadership book written by a principal who I had a chance to connect with this summer.   The book is called Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson.  I am excited to be participating in a book chat through Voxer, discussing this book. 

Events this week:
Monday - Columbus Day, No school
Tuesday - Curriculum Day, classroom teachers and special education teachers meet at the Black Box @ 9:00, specialists, other staff meet at the PAC @ 8:45 with Dr. Novak, 4th graders doing the pledge @ School Committee meeting @ 7:00, high school library
Wednesday - Special free yoga session in the gym, 8:00-8:30am, run by Laura who will be offering yoga Monday nights through community ed, first BLT meeting 8:30-9:30 in the staff development room, join in on a Twitter chat at 8:00 pm - #MESPAchat - all about professional learning
Friday - PARCC results go home with 4th graders in backpacks, Dianna and Liz @ UDL Leadership course at high school, 8:00-12:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I enjoyed going into 1st grade classrooms this week to read the book, School's First Day of School.  I asked the students what they thought our school might be thinking or saying about us.  I have to share one of the best answers that a little girl in Mr. Rider's class shared.  She said, "I think that while we are reading our books or when we are partner reading, our school is listening to all of the stories and smiling."  I'd like to think that is happening too!
  • I popped into Mrs. Benkley's class and heard them thinking out loud about math. 
  • I was lucky enough to be able to cover in Mrs. Cragg's room during one afternoon.  We talked all about being writers, read about an author, did some literacy work stations, and they even shared a special chant and dance they can do to remember to do many steps when writing!  

  • I had fun helping Ellen Potter and Angela Smith prepare for their presentation that they will be giving on an upcoming Saturday.  It is going to be an interactive way for others to learn about the co-teaching model, and I know they are going to knock it out of the park!  Looking forward to reading this article that Angela found about co-teaching. 
  • After reading in Mrs. Wilkins class, I got invited to do the Tooty Ta Dance with the whole class.  How could I say no?!  It was good to get up and move after sitting down to read and listen! 
Check it out:
Here is a post written by a college student about her experience growing up as a special education student:

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