Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Considering the Purpose...All Sorts of New Questions

I've had the pleasure of hearing Shelley Moore speak twice and one of biggest takeaways has been when she speaks about PURPOSE. What's the purpose of a student being in a class that they are in? When I work with teachers and advocate for students, I make sure the teacher understands the PURPOSE in a student being in their class. Once we have this common understanding expectations, grading and planning becomes so much more clear.

My district is on Spring Break this week but the week before we had our first five days of virtual learning. I'm feeling so challenged right now.

For a student with significant mental health issues, autism and an intellectual disability - what is her purpose of being in 20th Century American History, Biology or Art now? Two weeks ago, it was to build academic stamina and be able to participate in classroom activities while practicing self-regulation techniques. It was to practice turn taking in group activities with her peers. It was to practice writing and reading graphs or find information on infographics. She has a 1:1 assistant to help promote these goals but also be in close proximity when she verbalizes she needs a break or when behavioral outbursts occur - and they do at least once a day.

Now she's at home and participating in Google Meet video chats with assistants and me throughout her day. Gone are the peers in an academic environment. Gone are the group activities. Gone is the highly structured day. We have 10 weeks of school left, what's her new purpose of being in these  classes? I have materials and activities that are at her independent level because she needs to be independent. There's only so much cueing that can effectively happen during a Google Meet so I'm worried I'm not giving her any access to grade level materials.

I was pleased when I heard that some of her Best Buddies and classmates had been reaching out and she had been FaceTiming with them. When I hear that, I feel that her social PURPOSE had been successful...but what's her purpose now? COVID-19 has now created a situation that we can't even worry about, "least restrictive environment" because everyone's environment is home but I wonder am I creating a situation where her curriculum is more representative of what she'd be getting if she was in a self-contained environment? Then, I go back to the reality that she needs to be independent with her curriculum requirements so they aren't the same as if she had peers next to her to provide cues...then I ask why does it even matter because academic content was never really her purpose?

It's a heartbreaking circular argument that I'm having with myself and trust me, there have been a lot of tears. I probably just need to breathe and admit we're all doing the best we can right now.