Archive for August, 2010

Please Join Us For #spedchat

And thus was born #spedchat.

Please join us on Twitter on Tuesday, 31 August at 8:30pm Eastern.  We hope to make this a regular weekly event for educators (of all disciplines, not just special ed teachers), parents, students, and all other interested parties to discuss issues pertinent to special education.

We follow in the tradition of similar Twitter hashtag-based chats such as #EdChat (general education discussion), #SSchat (Social Studies), #BlackEd (education issues pertinent to the Black community), and #Engchat (English education).  To participate, all you need to do is log in to Twitter and search for the #spedchat hashtag using Twitter’s search engine or a client such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.  This search will show all the tweets with the #spedchat hashtag; from there, all you need to do to participate is include the #spedchat hashtag in your comment (see the example of my tweet above).

What will we discuss on Tuesday?  The potential topics are:

  • How can parent-teacher relations be improved?
  • What do grades mean in special education?
  • Is inclusion working for general and special education students?
  • How do we get general education teachers to understand? (the current leader in the voting)
  • How have school budget cuts affected special education?

You can vote for your favorite topic here; the poll closes around 1:30pm Eastern the day of the chat.

Please join us on Tuesday for what promises to be a lively discussion.  Of course, big thanks to Deven Black for organizing and developing the #spedchat concept.

The Sins of His Father

I originally wrote this blog post for parenting blog This Mommy Gig; it appeared on July 29th, 2008, and I’ve edited it slightly for inclusion here.  Although the subject matter falls slightly outside my normal scope here at AoC, I’m posting it in the interest of consolidating my posts on other blogs here.  It’s not too difficult to draw parallels between what I write about here and how each of our prior life experiences shape the ways in which we interact with our children and/or our students.


There’s this song by Ben Folds that brings me to tears whenever I hear it. “Still Fighting It” is essentially a love song to his son, and the line that hits a little too close to home for me is, “You’re so much like me… I’m sorry.”

I’m not shy about tooting my own horn when it comes to my strengths, and I’m always proud when I think I see them in my son.  His love of books and puzzles, his problem-solving skills, his fairly early grasp of phonics – I’m proud to have helped laid the groundwork for this sort of thing, both through nature and nurture.  Like any 3-year-old, of course, he has his moments – the temper tantrums, the irrationality, the occasional laser-like focus on certain elements to the exclusion of everything and everyone else around him – and we roll with the punches.  I try to keep my cool and engage in all that positive behavior support that I learned about in grad school (and really, that many teachers learn simply from years of experience dealing with people). But there are some times when it’s even harder than usual to maintain that detachment – when I see him grunt or tic, when I see him whine incessantly about nothing, and when I see him terrified of the most benign things (e.g., soap bubbles). Those times, I feel like it’s 1980 and I’m looking at a 3-year-old version of myself.

Let me be clear: I know these things are perfectly normal behaviors for 3-year-olds to display, which is why I regard my emotional response to them as problematic.  I’m not sure if it’s more a sense of self-loathing or overprotection that makes me feel this way; moreover, I’m not sure which is worse.  Maybe it’s the uncertainty of it all – for example, I had a variety of physical tics (including grunting and twitching) when I was young; and truth be told, I have never managed to completely kick them (I’ve just become an expert at masking them).  When I see my son grunt for no apparent reason, it scares me.  I start to question myself – is he going to have to endure the teasing that I had to because of this?  Is this my fault?  Is he learning by watching me, or is this genetic?  What have I done? And I just go down the rabbit hole of anxiety and neuroses typically reserved for brand-new parents of infants.

I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t impact how I react to these behaviors.  Yes, I’ll typically react more harshly when I see these than when he does something that wasn’t problematic for me as a kid. Intellectually, I know that’s no good, but I’m so emotionally scarred by invested in what I believe people’s reactions to those behaviors will be that I sometimes find it hard to treat the situation with the cool head and clinical perspective that befits someone in my profession.

Looking up the road for my son sometimes feels like looking back down my own well-trod path.  In looking into his future, my greatest fear is that I’ll see the same pitfalls and traps I went through being painfully socially awkward and withdrawn for much of adolescence, and the resultant bullying and teasing (or should that cause-effect relationship work the other way around?).  I’m not here to say my childhood was significantly worse than anyone else’s (hell, I probably got off easy compared to what could have been), but to look at the larger significance of my concerns, I guess I kind of want him to learn from my mistakes before he gets a chance to make them himself.  Not too unreasonable, right?

Makes me wonder if I’m more concerned about protecting him from having to experience them, or protecting myself from having to watch him experience them.

Beginning Blogging

My blog turns three years old today!  In the last few days, I’ve been re-reading some of my older blog posts (check out some of my personal favorites), which was an interesting exercise for me, now that I have an established body of writing in this space and a little bit of emotional and chronological distance from much of it.  It was also interesting to look back at some of those posts from the summer of 2007 and note what has changed between then and now in terms of my style, tone, and topic choices, as well as what has stayed the same.  If nothing else, it’s been a self-indulgent little trip down Memory Lane for me (I prefer to think of it as my portfolio of personal learning and reflection, but to-may-to, to-mah-to…).

At any rate, I was recently asked for some “getting started” advice by a teacher who wants to begin blogging.  I considered my own blogging behavior over the last three years, and while I never codified a particular set of rules to follow, these are some basic guidelines I have followed (in no particular order):

  1. The anonymity question: A question to consider is whether to remain anonymous or not.  Some people prefer to start anonymously and then reveal their identity as they get more comfortable with the idea of being online outside the familiar confines of Facebook.  I’ve said before that I feel transparency is the best way to go, but everyone’s got a different take on the matter.  Keeping in mind what Ben Franklin and Will Shakespeare (among others) said about keeping secrets, if you do decide to blog anonymously, you probably shouldn’t mention the blog on your Facebook page or associate it with any of your online presences.  You really can’t half-step here; you’re either 100% anonymous or you’re not.
  2. Don’t name names: For better or for worse, I have shied away from referring to individuals referenced in my posts by name, even those that are entirely complimentary in nature.  The only exceptions I’ve made to this are when linking to blog posts or making reference to other folks who are active and already visible online.  It may not be an entirely rational distinction to make, but it seemed logical to me – unless someone has already put him/herself out there, don’t put him/her in the public eye without their permission (and this should go without saying, but it goes triple for students).  In a similar vein…
  3. Write about observations, lessons, projects, but omit personally identifying details: I’ve written about all of these, explained what I did, what my kids did, my reflections on how things turned out, but I’ve never said anything like, “One student/group really disappointed me” – it wouldn’t be hard to deduce who you’re talking about (or who someone thinks you’re talking about) if a parent or colleague came across this.  Whether you’re writing about student issues, workplace issues, or whatever else, it is possible to be critical while being tactful.
  4. If you say it, stand behind it: This may vary based on how open you plan to be about your identity, but a good rule of thumb is not to put anything online you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying at school, in a faculty meeting, or any other public forum (which is exactly what a blog is, albeit not a physical one).  I feel that everything on my blog is 100% appropriate for public consumption; I don’t feel I have violated any colleague or student’s privacy, nor have I said anything to call my professionalism into question.  This isn’t to say that everything you write has to be academic in tone, or even even-tempered.  Just remember that there is no universal “Delete” key, and once you put it out there, it’s out there, for better or worse.
  5. Write on other blogs besides your own: If you’re looking to encourage folks to comment on your blog, my best recommendation is to start commenting on the blogs of others, and leave a link to your blog in the “website” field.  I’ve found that to be the best measure for driving traffic to your blog, and I’ve noticed that all the lulls and upswings in commenter activity on my blog have correlated pretty strongly with the lulls and upswings in my commenting habits (and yes, I know my own commenting is currently in “lull” mode).
  6. Take ownership/write a disclaimer: Some people may see this as a “CYA” move, which I suppose it is, but I also see it as taking ownership of your writing.  You’re saying, “These are my thoughts and opinions, and I represent nobody but myself”.  I have mine on my “About” page; it’s just a few sentences that state my background and purpose in blogging, links to the Creative Commons license under which I publish my work, and that the views expressed on this blog do not reflect those of my employer or colleagues.
  7. Pace yourself: When I started I was banging out 5-6 blog posts a week, which was great, but after a while I started to burn out, run out of ideas, and then I’d have multiple weeks-long dry spells.  Then I’d feel guilty about not posting, which would make it harder for me to come up with something to write about.  At the end of 2008 (after about a year and a half of blogging), I set a goal for the coming year to write 3-4 blog posts per month, and by the end of 2009, I averaged 3/month, writing at least once per month.  Now I’ve scaled that goal back to 2-3/month, and at this point in 2010 (including this first post of August) I’m averaging 2.1 a month and writing every month.  That’s just me, though; you may decide you just want to write when inspiration hits and don’t mind long gaps between posts, in which case disregard everything I just wrote.

Surely these are not hard & fast rules to blog by; some of the education bloggers I read & respect do the exact opposite of these guidelines, and it works well for them.  I guess that – much like with teaching – you have to experiment a bit until you find what feels right for you, and then stick with that.

So this is what has worked for me.  Please share what’s worked for you in the comments.