Lately, I've been reading a bunch of articles in my free time about something that I've always been interested in: autism. In doing so, I have come across a community of autistic people on Twitter and Tumblr.
It started with a video that came across my recommended YouTube videos. It was by an autistic person named Amythest Schaber. I can't remember which video I watched first, but their videos are about different aspects of autism, such as stimming and executive functioning. (Amythest is also intersex and prefers the singular they pronoun when referring to them.)
I found these videos fascinating. So I wanted to learn more. I decided to follow her on my personal YouTube and Twitter accounts. Through her Twitter feed, I saw her retweet other autistic bloggers recounting their experiences with the world. It was through this network that I learned about Autism Speaks.
Now, I had heard about Autism Speaks before I started reading these blog posts, but only on a surface level. Several of these bloggers have posted explanations about what Autism Speaks really does. Here is a masterpost by The Caffeinated Autistic with all of the links. I would recommend reading through the post, but a quick summary for those short on time and/or Internet speed: autistic kids are "broken," they need treatment for their disease in the form of intense behavioral therapy, and they need a cure before this gets any more out of hand.
Let's just say I disagree. Autism is a developmental disability that affects everyone differently. I view autism as a variation of the brain that should be supported, not changed. Basically, I view this from a neurodiversity perspective. To me, it seems to be the opposite of Autism Speaks, who doesn't even have a single autistic person making decisions for the organization.
How am I supposed to support this? Wearing blue for autism awareness isn't an option for me. There has got to be something else.
I found a different color: red. It's meant to represent autism acceptance, not just awareness. Personally, I think we (as a society, in general) are aware of what autism is. While it's a great start, I think it's time to move on and start on autism acceptance. Accepting autistic people as an integral part of society. Accepting them as a person like anyone else. Accepting them for who they are; nothing more, nothing less.
So why the blog post? Because I feel more people need to know that accepting is something we should all try to do. It takes baby steps, such as educating yourself on ableism and the experiences of disabled people. I wouldn't do this just for autistic people, either. I would do the same for any disability. I want to be the best educator I can possibly be, but I also want to be the best advocate and ally I could possibly be. I know I'm gonna screw up (I probably already have in this post), and I will learn about more ways I have been ableist. But I'm working on it. One baby step at a time.
At this point, I want to let autistic people tell their stories. Here are a few autistic bloggers and tweeters to get you started. Let me know if I missed someone, because I think I have missed a few people.
Amythest Schaber (@lemniscamythest): neurowonderful.tumblr.com
Cynthia Kim (@aspiemusings): musingsofanaspie.com
Lydia X.Z. Brown (@autistichoya): autistichoya.com
Coffee Spoonie (@coffeespoonie)
Dominick Evans (@dominickevans): dominickevans.com
Annie Segarra (@annieelainey): youtube.com/theannieelainey
Amy Sequenzia (@AmySequenzia): nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (@autselfadvocacy): autisticadvocacy.org
Autism Women's Network (@autism_women): autismwomensnetwork.org
I understand that the idea of neurodiversity is very controversial. I am okay with disagreeing with people. If I am misunderstanding something on either side, I am open to a diplomatic conversation. This will help me understand other points of view and see where I might be in the wrong.
In elementary and middle school, I enjoyed having a book to read after I had gotten my work done. It gave me something to do while others were finishing up since I usually was one of the first ones done.
What happened since then? Well, in high school, part of the Honors Language Arts curriculum is the Accelerated Reader (AR) requirement: In order to pass an Honors Language Arts class, you were required to get 20 AR points per quarter. AR is a program that allows students to read books and take multiple-choice comprehension quizzes that give out points based on the difficulty of the book. This was nothing new; I had taken AR quizzes since either first or second grade.
I did not see this as much of a problem freshman year, sophomore year I found it a nuisance, and junior year I was taking Honors Language Arts 11 and taking college level English classes in order to get out of doing AR my senior year. Reading became an assignment. I could no longer read for fun because I needed to read other books in order to get the AR points needed to pass the class. In order to get the 20 points, I would need to read at least 2 books. Sometimes I would need to read a third.
So once I was able to get out of doing AR my senior year, I did not want to read any more books. I had forced myself to read for several years in order to pass classes, and I was burnt out. Books became a form of torture for me, so why would I want to go back to that again?
Two years after I quit the AR program, I am still trying to get myself to read more for my own enjoyment. What has helped me the most: self-help books. I know that name gets a bad rap, but I find the books useful and practical. In school, I was more interested in nonfiction, but it was pretty dry. I could read fiction, but those types of books can seem a little cheesy at times. Those were also the types of books that were used for AR roughly 90% of the time. Self-help books have the storytelling element of a fiction book with the practicality of a nonfiction book.
Here’s the thing, though: I never read any of these books until the end of my senior year when I got a book from the college library. I never saw these books in grade school. In fact, the only experience I have had from these books were people that made fun of the genre. I can’t remember what was said about them, but I sensed that the genre got put down a lot.
So what’s the point of me telling this story? I want to tell you because I would like to see more teachers offer students self-help books in class or at the library to check out, especially at the high school level. I do not understand why schools do not have these type of books. And maybe my experience was just at my school. But would it be worth getting a few of these type of books so students can see if they like them or not?
What has been your experience with reading throughout school? What has been your experience with self-help books, either for you personally or in your school or classroom?
Note: This is not a complete put-down of the Accelerated Reader program. Up until it became a requirement, I loved reading books for AR points. My middle school made a competition out of it. Once it became an assignment, though, I fell out of love with it because I no longer associated it with fun like I had before. I enjoy the program, I do not enjoy how it was used at my high school.
So I have been wanting to get involved in Twitter chats recently. They seem to be a great way to communicate with others about different topics and an excellent way to get new ideas for the classroom. So I would like to hear from you. What Twitter chats are you involved with? I will keep a comprehensive list of Twitter chats on this page that I have looked at joining or at least watching. You can let me know in the comments section below or via Twitter (@MsCottrill). If you are looking for a Twitter chat to join, see if anything below interests you. I hope to hear from you!
List of Twitter Chats
#ohprinchat: 1st Tuesday of the month, 9pm
#ohedchat: Wednesdays, 9pm
#spedchat: Tuesdays, 9pm
#mschat: Thursdays, 8pm
#k12artchat: Thursdays 8:30 pm CST
#satchat: Saturdays, 7:30am
#bfc530: Weekdays, 5:30am
All times are in EST unless otherwise noted.
You've probably heard at least some talk on the importance of grit in our schools. I feel like there will be at least someone who is absolutely done with hearing the word grit. (Sorry.) But I found something out this week that will hopefully put the term grit into something a little more concrete.
This week, I had the opportunity to hear Jim Grant speak at my school. He gave a really great speech on the importance of grit in classrooms today. During that speech, he pointed out something that I found fascinating. I consider it the foundation of grit!
This is not exactly how it was presented, but here's what he pointed out:
Self-determination fosters perseverance, which increases effort.
This means the foundation of grit is self-determination.
I got to thinking about it, and it makes sense to me. I think of the word determine as a synonym for decide. In that case, self-determination can be thought of as the ability to decide for oneself. This means no one else influences the decision. If you have self-determination, you decide what you are going to do. Now that you are in control of your decisions, make the decision to stick with the task ahead and show perseverance. In order to show perseverance, however, it will require effort in sticking with it. So in order to have grit, you have to have the self-determination to decide to stick with the task at hand.
Great. So how do we foster self-determination in our classrooms? One thing that could be done is to focus on goal setting and getting your students to actually complete that goal using 5-10 minute conferences. The hardest part of setting goals is sticking with your goals, even when it gets tough. Kinda sounds like grit to me. You could also practice ways to overcome obstacles in order to finish a goal, even if it means to finish homework, such as practicing how to ask someone for help instead of giving up or having a discussion on why people don't finish what they start and figuring out what to do differently.
Don't forget that students look up to you, too. Tell your students a story about a time when you had trouble finishing something and what you did to overcome it. Make sure that you set an example for your students to follow every day, even when it gets tough. (Teachers need grit, too!)
What do you think? Is there something else that would be essential in fostering grit? What other ways could you incorporate self-determination into your classroom?
Have a great edventure! ~Sierra
Just an FYI, I am just a fan of Scratch. I am not getting paid to say anything.
For Christmas, I sent out a Christmas "card" to my Twitter followers that I made with Scrach (misspelling shown below, don't forget to look for mistakes in your Tweets before you tweet them out!), and I mentioned having a tutorial out relatively soon. Well, here it is! (And let me know if you know how to embed Tweets, I would love to know!)
So here is my tutorial of Scratch that I have divided by section. I have the projects embedded into this post, but if they don't work, just click on the links in the titles.
Here are some terminology that you may need to know (in no particular order):
Project: ex. my Christmas card
Sprite: character in the project
Script: what the sprite does
Costumes: different looks for the sprite
Block: script part
When you click on the links, the green flag starts the project (like a play button), and you can even look inside to look at the scripts that I used by clicking "See Inside" (which I encourage you to do).
This section defines how your sprite moves. You can change where your sprite is located or you can rotate your sprite.
Here, you can choose what the sprite says or thinks, change the size or color of the sprite, or change the backdrop.
This is where it gets fun. You can play sound effects, music loops, and instrument sounds. You can also change the volume and tempo of the sounds.
This is one of the new things that I learned for this post. This is where you can draw with your sprite. I have yet to perfect this, but if you figure it out, let me know how you did it.
There are two sections to this. This is another one that I have just learned and I have not quite perfected this yet.
List: I used the list as suggestions for how to greet someone.
Variable: I set this up as a quick game, with the variable being the score.
These things are what start each script. For this project to work, press the spacebar after you click the green flag.
This is where you can better define when you want the action to occur or the sound to play, etc. Here, you can make a block "wait" before the next action, you can create clones of the sprite, you can repeat a block or set of blocks, you can add if/then statements, or you can stop one thing or the entire thing. Click on the sprite, then press the spacebar for a ton of cats!
This is an interactive project. For the most part, this is the "if" of the if/then statement. Use the arrow keys to move the sprite around and look for a couple different messages. Hint: near the poster and near the mirror.
Most of the operators will give you some number from whatever you give it. It depends on which operator you use. I used a few of them in this project. This will make more sense if you click "See Inside" and look at the scripts.
Here is where you can make your own block to define and use in your project, in this case the jump action. Also, if you have PicoBoard or LEGO WeDo, this is where you can find extensions to go along with those.
So that is my tutorial for how to use Scratch. Feel free to share some that you have made. All of these pieces are interconnected, so you cannot truly separate these components. Keep in mind that you don't have to use all of these to create a great project; in fact, you can do whatever you want to with Scratch. The possibilities are endless!