“Do What You Think Like”

By: Steven Tobias, Psy.D. 

What do Character Education, Mindfulness, religion, emotional intelligence, Weight Watchers, and your mother all have in common?  They all want you to think before you act, which is actually hard to do.   

As human beings, we tend to do what we “feel” like.  When we act based solely on our emotions, we are using our reptilian brains, and then we shouldn’t be surprised when we respond like an alligator, chameleon, or snake in a highly charged emotional situation. Unfortunately, we have a strong tendency to respond reflexively with “fight or flight” triggered by primitive parts of the brain.   Thinking seems to be a fragile ability, which is why we have to strengthen it.

So, what can we do?  First, soothe the beast.  Take care of yourself.  Have fun.  Be with others you love.  Do meaningful and rewarding activities.  This reduces the stress that feeds the tyrannosaurus inside you.  Yes, you are too busy with work, needs of your family, home, and distraction of screens (but that’s for another blog).  Get your calendar  (I’ll wait)…  Put “ME” time on the calendar.  Do it now, or you will never “find” the time.  You can decide later what to do, but make sure it is what you want and is pleasurable.

The above is a prerequisite for thinking.  The more stressed you are and focused on others, the harder it is to think.  Now that your life is back in balance, let’s work on thinking.

  1. Reflect: What is going on? How do I and others feel? This stimulates your deliberate human brain to control your impulsive reptilian brain.
  2. Consider: What is your goal? This will give you direction and purpose.
  3. Decide: What can you do? What else?  What have you done before?  The more solutions you can brainstorm, the better chance of success.  Then, set a deliberate plan:  who is involved, what are you going to do, when are you going to do it, where are your going to do it, and how are you going to do it?  By the way, the “why” is so that you can get what you want.

This is doing what you think like, not what you feel like, and is more likely to get you what you want emotionally, socially, and materially.

Want to learn more? Join us for the next webinar in our SEL Expert Webinar Series presented by Steven Tobias, Psy.D. This webinar will teach how to be aware of and control emotions that lead us to poor decision making, how to set deliberate goals for oneself, and how to follow through with actions that are consistent with what one really wants.  The trick is to “think” while feeling, and this is harder than one might think.

By: Steven Tobias, Psy.D. 
Steven Tobias, Psy.D., is the director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown, New Jersey. He has over thirty years of experience working with children, parents, families, and schools. Dr. Tobias feels a strong commitment to children’s social and emotional development and provides consultation to schools as a way of reaching many children, including those who are underserved in terms of their social and emotional needs. He has coauthored several books with Dr. Maurice Elias, including Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and Raising Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers. He has given lectures throughout the United States on topics related to parenting and children’s emotional development. Dr. Tobias lives in New Jersey. Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D Professor of Psychology at Rutgers., and Steven E. Tobias, Psy.D Director for Center of Child and Family development are the authors of several books including: Boost Emotional Intelligence in Students and Emotionally Intelligent Parenting.

What You Need to Know About Mental Health & Bullying Awareness

The school year is in full swing with curriculum, homework, and special events. In the midst of focusing on academics and sporting events, a major component that should not be overlooked is student’s mental health.  Even though there is a growing awareness of mental health, there is still ignorance and misunderstanding surrounding mental health and social factors that can affect it. One of the many social factors that can affect a student’s mental health is bullying.

Bullying is considered repeated aggressive behavior with intent to harm another person which involves a power imbalance (Hase, Goldberg, Smith, Stuck & Campain, 2015). For youth, this traditional form of bullying is commonly displayed in the school setting. However, with the booming digital world, bullying is not only limited to the school setting but has expanded to the cyberworld. Cyberbullying is defined as bullying using electronic venues (Hase et al., 2015) and has made bullying easier as by using digital sources such as social media, e-mail, websites, and text messaging, makes it easier to intentionally harm others even if they would not normally do so in a traditional setting.

For young people, bullying is a major health problem for all those involved. Mental health problems may be associated with deficits in their social, academic, and physical achievements (Murshid, 2017). They are at a higher risk of mental health problems during childhood (Landstedt & Persson, 2014) such as:

  • Psychosomatic symptoms
  • Depression
  • Attempted or actual suicide

Even though bullying commonly occurs during childhood, the impact can last well into adulthood. Victims of childhood bullying and youth who bullied have a higher risk of developing mental health problems later in life (Murshid, 2017). Mental health functioning should be assessed as early as possible and over time for youth involved in bullying as early intervention is necessary to minimize mental health issues later in life.

Currently mental health education is not a mandatory aspect of all schools, however teachers and administrators can work to promote awareness with their students. Mental health and bullying awareness are important issues for all educators as they are often the first line of defense for their students at school. As the world continued to gain a better understanding of mental health and social factors that can affect it such as bullying, teachers and students should be provided with ways to recognize signs of bullying and mental health problems, and there should be opportunities around the awareness and management of these signs.

References

Murshid, N. (2017). Bullying victimization and mental health outcomes of adolescents in Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Children and Youth Services Review76, 163-169. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.03.003

Landstedt, E., & Persson, S. (2014). Bullying, cyberbullying, and mental health in young people. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health42(4), 393-399. doi: 10.1177/1403494814525004

Hase, C., Goldberg, S., Smith, D., Stuck, A., & Campain, J. (2015). Impacts of traditional bullying and cyberbullying on the mental health of middle school and high school students. Psychology in The Schools52(6), 607-617. doi: 10.1002/pits.21841

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Mental Health and School Psychologists

By Kristen Cain, M.A., LSSP

WHAT DO SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS DO?

According to the National Association of School Psychology (NASP), “school psychologists provide direct support and interventions to students, consult with teachers, families, and other school-employed mental health professionals (i.e., school counselors, school social workers) to improve support strategies; work with school administrators to improve school wide practices and policies; and collaborate with community providers to coordinate needed services”.

WHAT ROLE DO SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS PLAY IN SCHOOLS?

School psychologists play an important role by helping schools to successfully promote positive behavior and mental health. Here are 5 ways that school psychologists help to promote positive behavior and mental health:

  • Improving student’s communication and social skills:
    • School psychologists work to improve communication and social skills by providing teachers and students with strategies and resources they need to be successful in the school and community settings. Research has shown that children’s developmental competence is integral to their academic competence (Masten et al., 2005).
  • Assessing student’s emotional and behavioral needs:
    • According to the Department of Health and Human Services an estimated 15 million of our nation’s young people can currently be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. There is a great need for these student’s to be assessed and provided with the best social-emotional services in the education setting based on their needs. School psychologists work with students and their families to identify and address learning and behavior problems that interfere with school success. School-based behavioral consultation has been shown to yield positive results such as remediating academic and behavior problems for children and reducing referrals for psychoeducational assessments (MacLeod, Jones, Somer, & Havey, 2001).
  • Promoting problem solving anger management, and conflict resolution:
    • School psychologists work with students in individual and group settings to help provide emotional/behavior services to help improve student’s outcomes.
  • Reinforce positive coping skills and resilience:
    • School psychologists work with students and their families to support students’ social, emotional, and behavioral health and research has shown that students who receive this type of support achieve better academically in school (Bierman et al., 2010; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Fleming et al., 2005).
  • Make referrals and coordinate services with community-based providers:
    • School psychologists work with parents and administrators to respond to crises by providing leadership, direct services, and coordination with needed community services and research has revealed that school staff rate the crisis intervention services provided by school psychologists as very important (Watkins, Crosby, & Pearson, 2007). These referrals are often made to community services agencies, related to mental health needs.

School psychologists have extensive training in assessment, progress monitoring, instruction, child development and psychology, consultation, counseling, crisis response, program evaluation, and data collection and analysis. Their training is specific to applying this expertise within the school context, both general education and special education, and includes extensive knowledge in school systems and law (NASP 2010a, 2010b).

Learn how Rethink Ed supports School Psychologists at www.rethinked.com.

Empowering Paraprofessionals in the Classroom

The first few weeks after Labor Day usually indicates a return to school and the end of summer for families nationwide. Those first few weeks of school are usually dedicated to setting expectations, drilling down routines, and planning curriculum for the current cohort of students. While this is certainly an important part of school culture, do schools spend enough time building relationships amongst staff members?

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education stated that 91% of schools employ instructional paraprofessionals and half of those paraprofessionals work in special education. Over the decades, the surge of paraprofessionals in schools allowed for greater 1:1 support for teachers and students. However, often the paraprofessional/teacher relationship becomes hierarchical and the paraprofessionals are assigned menial tasks. This is often to the detriment of students and teachers. Here are three simple ways teachers can better include paraprofessionals throughout the day:

  • Receive feedback:

Paraprofessionals are a great avenue for self-reflection. They are an extra set of eyes, hands, and sanity! Make a point to ask for feedback daily. Listen to their thoughts on methods for teaching a lesson, addressing behavior, or arranging the classroom.  Remember they are a part of the classroom culture and it is important to make them feel seen and heard.

  • Assign roles:

It is essential to assign roles and create a plan of action for each paraprofessional. By creating a schedule, paraprofessionals understand their roles and expectations and can better prepare for each day. Be courteous and do not have a paraprofessional complete a task that you would not do yourself. They are an important part of the classroom and deserve to be treated with respect.

  • Share teaching opportunities:

Paraprofessionals are qualified educators so allow them to take ownership during academic time. Allow paraprofessionals to lead calendar time, an academic station, or a fun cooking activity. It is important that students see paraprofessionals as academic leaders in the classroom so give them the space to take on that role.  While students are working in independent stations, during PLC time, or after school, sit with the paraprofessional and provide any additional training and support.  Show teaching videos, provide resources, or discuss research-based practices and create a paraprofessional toolkit that empowers independence. Then, allow the paraprofessional to practice the skill in the classroom and provide follow up support.

We know that relationships are an important component of learning for our students but let’s not forget our staff members as well. The Council for Exceptional Children (2012) found that the relationship between paraprofessionals and teachers is an essential component to classroom culture and the success of students. So, empower your paraprofessional, share the teaching space, and watch your students flourish over the year!

3 Tips for Increasing Parental Engagement This School Year

It’s September and schools are back in session!  For educators, it is that magical time of year when anything seems possible.  You’re refreshed and ready to make this year the best ever.  You want all your students to have a successful year!  And you know that a key component to any educational program is parental engagement, especially for children with special needs.  But with the demands of today’s parents, getting appropriate parental engagement can be a challenge, and this is compounded for the parents of children with special needs.

Before we discuss ways to encourage parental engagement, let’s first look at what we mean by parental engagement. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines parental engagement in schools as parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development, and health of children and adolescents. Schools and parents have the responsibility for educating our children (retrieved from CDC)

There are many benefits to parental engagement across the board, but particularly for students with special needs including:

  • Increased parental involvement and collaboration in the development of their child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP)
  • Greater confidence and ability on the part of the parent to educate their own child
  • Better understanding on the part of the educator as to the special needs of each student
  • Higher student success due to the generalization of skills and consistency between home and school

Unfortunately, barriers to parental engagement do exist.  Some of these barriers are due to: cultural or language differences, special education law that can be difficult to understand, lack of time, past negative experiences, and lack of training on the part of the educator to effectively facilitate engagement.

What can you do to eliminate the barriers and make it easier for parents to engage? Here are three keys to increasing parental engagement.

Treat Parents as Partners.

Do you respect the role the parent has in the education of their child with special needs?  Do you actively invite parents to meet ahead of the IEP to set goals together?  Do you accommodate their schedules and consider their cultural contributions or differences?  Do you think about how to improve parent participation in the decision-making process?  These are just a few questions that can help you think about parents as partners in their child’s education.

Here are a few ways to help your parents’ partner with you:

  • Consider your message before the IEP happens. Did you invite them to listen to you and others tell them about their child or did you invite them to participatein the meeting and share their knowledge of their child?
  • Wait for the parents outside the meeting room prior to the IEP and walk in together as a team. That will be much less intimidating for the parents than walking into a room full of “experts” sitting and staring.
  • Understand that some cultures interact with educators and other school professionals differently. A parent may be agreeing with the proposed goals because they want to be polite and respectful.
  • Invite parents to ask questions and give them a platform to suggest goals they have for their child.
  • Take time toeducate the parents. Explain any special education jargon, provide them with resources, and connect them with other support programs such as translation services, if needed.
  • Let the parents know you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
  • Create tool kits that provide parents with activities and resources to extend the learning into the home. The tool kits may also include tips and strategies for teaching their child or websites they can go to for additional activities or information.
  • Work with the parents to set realistic parent participation goals. They are the parent, not the teacher. Remember, the goal is quality, not quantity of involvement.

Create an Effective Communication System.

The goal of an effective communication system is to bridge the gap between home and school by providing a way to share concerns, successes, behavioral challenges, stressors, and changes.

There are many ways to implement such a system.  Choose the method that is simple and works best for you and the parent. The easier the system, the more it will be used.  And again, remember, quality of communication is more important than the quantity of communication.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Connect at the beginning of the year and ask parents what information they want. Perhaps you can come up with a checklist together, that’s easy to use and sends home meaningful information. The same goes the other way too. For example, create a checklist for things you want to know from home such as changes in sleep patterns, nutrition, or family relations.
  • Use a notebook that goes back and forth from home to school in the child’s backpack. You can report IEP progress or write anecdotes about the child’s day, etc. and the parent can write back questions or concerns. This can happen on a daily basis.
  • Many teachers use texts or email to communicate (check with the parents first for the most preferred method). They may find this less intrusive and intimidating than a phone call and allows the parents to think and respond on their schedule. If a phone call is necessary, perhaps send a text to say, “Can we set up a time to chat on the phone?”  This allows the parent to choose a time that works for them.
  • Schedule home visits, if appropriate.  This may help parents who lack transportation or have other circumstances that keep them from coming to school.

Create a Welcoming Climate.

Welcome your parents into your classroom in many ways and for many purposes.  The more you know your parents, the easier it is to work with them as partners.  Inviting parents into your classroom also provides an opportunity for family networking, bringing families together with other parents to share resources, empathy, and support.

Some ways to help parents to feel welcome in the classroom include:

  • Volunteering for special events and holiday parties, field trips, family and friends’ breakfasts, guest speakers, photo shares, parent presentations, etc.
  • Providing ways for parents to volunteer without having to come into the classroom, such as organizing and preparing materials that require cutting, collating, or stapling.
  • Volunteering to read to or with students or provide one-on-one assistance to students in the library or media center.
  • Inviting parents to attend presentations or view displays by the students or to school assemblies when appropriate.

So, as you set up for another successful school year, I encourage you to think about your parents as partners. You are the educator! You’re good at it! But reaching out to your students’ parents as partners will help you help your students and make your job a little bit easier!

Press Release: Cultivating Safe, Supportive Schools & Communities: City School District of New Rochelle Partners with Rethink Ed to Roll Out New Learning Initiative

With every new school year comes the promise of a new beginning: new academic subjects, new teachers, new classmates, new friends, and, of course, new opportunities to learn, grow, and develop.

And so it is for the students, teachers, administrators, and parents of the New Rochelle Public School district.

That’s because the 2018-2019 school year is bringing with it an extended partnership with Rethink Ed and the implementation of Rethink Ed’s Social and Emotional Learning Solution, designed to promote active learning, mutual respect, and well-being within the entire district, for all students.

“We couldn’t be more excited to expand our six-year partnership with New Rochelle Public School District by implementing our comprehensive SEL Solution,” says Diana Frezza, senior vice president of Education for Rethink Ed. “Not only is SEL scientifically linked to improved academic outcomes, it’s shown to have a profound effect on increasing prosocial behavior and creating higher quality relationships. Ours is a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind SEL Solution for alllearners, including the educators who teach them and the parents who support them.”

Amy Goodman, Assistant Superintendent for Student Service, has her district keenly focused on SEL, or social and emotional learning.  SEL refers to evidence-based practices rooted in applied learning and rigorous social psychology. These practices underscore the why and how behind understanding, using, and managing emotions, which then leads to a whole host of positive changes academically, socially, and emotionally.

All human thoughts, actions, and behaviors—what we pay attention to, how we manage our time, the decisions we make, the way we feel about ourselves, how we treat others—are driven by emotions. Fundamental to Rethink Ed’s SEL Solution is a series of interrelated social and emotional skills that support learning, promote development, improve achievement, and encourage connectedness. The results of successfully implementing a whole-community SEL Solution is remarkable: engaged learners, happier teachers, and socially healthy communities.

That, coupled with the district’s prior work with Rethink Ed on training and support to the New Rochelle Special Education team and students, led the district to extend its partnership with the EdTech innovator and research-based content provider.

Naturally, the City School District of New Rochelle is equally excited about the extension of the alliance, says Amy Goodman, the district’s interim assistant superintendent for Student Support Services.

“Not only does Rethink Ed’s SEL Solution align with the national competencies set by CASEL,” she says, “it extends and enhances the value of the work we’re already doing in our Multi-Tiered System of Supports initiative. That means our Rethink Ed SEL initiative will touch all students, across all grades, in all our schools, as well as every administrator, educator, and parent.”

Ms. Goodman adds “The advantage of implementing Rethink Ed’s whole-community SEL Solution is that it helps advance the vision of district administration to foster cooperation and increase collaboration with Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) teams, principals, and community outreach.”

“Rethink Ed’s comprehensive, all-learners, whole-community approach to SEL complements the positive and forward direction this district is headed,” says Goodman, “which is to create and sustain healthy and supportive school, family, and community environments.”

About Rethink Ed

Rethink Ed combines the power of technology and research to deliver innovative, scalable, and evidence-based instructional materials that positively impact educators, students, and their families. With a comprehensive suite of tools, Rethink Ed ensures that every student develops the academic, behavioral, and social & emotional skills necessary to succeed in school, at work, and throughout life.

The City School District of New Rochelle

The City School District of New Rochelle works to provide a high-quality education for every child within a safe and nurturing environment. The District seeks to embrace its rich diversity, and to further student success in partnership with a dedicated team of parents, teachers, administrators, and staff.

Learn More: https://go.rethinkfirst.com/l/83952/2018-08-20/b4c9hx

Rethink Ed, ERB Launch Groundbreaking SEL Solution with Embedded Assessment to improve culture and climate in schools

Rethink Ed and the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) have launched the first comprehensive social and emotional learning solution that includes an integrated assessment, on-demand professional development, and a multi-tiered curriculum for all learners.

A key differentiator in Rethink Ed’s approach is that SEL is for all learners, and that includes teachers, as well as students in general and special education. Rethink Ed’s SEL professional development series not only helps improve the social-emotional well-being of the teacher but also empowers them with the knowledge and confidence to teach SEL successfully to their students. Rethink Ed’s curriculum address the learning needs of all students, including students in Tiers 1, Tiers 2 and 3.

Rethink Ed’s SEL approach is based on research that students who are motivated, who know how to learn from failures, and who persist through challenges are the most successful in school and adulthood. An essential part of a student’s development, SEL skills such as “communication” and “relationship building” are rarely taught of formally measured in American schools.

And yet, today’s caregivers and teachers are charged with preparing children in a rapidly changing, technology-saturated world in which an estimated 65 percent of children entering school today will eventually have jobs that don’t yet exist. To thrive, students will need more than traditional academic learning, said Rethink Ed Senior Vice President Diana Frezza.

“The keys to a successful program of developing SEL competencies are to begin with standardized measurement to assess where you are and then to link programs and professional development to the outcomes of that measurement,” said Dr. Tom Rochon, ERB president. “We are delighted to partner with Rethink Ed on an innovative product that for the first time provides students and teachers a reliable, effective means of measuring ‘soft skills’ and then acting on the results.”

A key differentiator, ERB’s assessment is a measure of socio-emotional learning as described by the five CASEL competencies, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. The combination of ERB’s assessment tool with Rethink Ed’s curriculum and professional development components allows teachers and students to make classroom adjustments that meet individual student needs.

“ERB’s SEL assessment serves as an objective lens through which schools and districts can measure their students’ social and emotional learning skills, intervene appropriately to address deficiencies, and evaluate the effectiveness of their curricula and teacher professional development,” Frezza said.

“Our world will demand that today’s students are communicators, collaborators, and problem solvers,” Frezza explained. “A data-informed SEL program will prepare students for today’s and tomorrow’s workplace.”

About Rethink Ed

Rethink Ed combines the power of technology and research to deliver innovative, scalable and evidence-based instructional materials and supports for all learners. The comprehensive suite of tools ensures that every student develops the academic, behavioral and social/emotional skills they need to succeed in school, at work, and in life. Rethink Ed positions educators, students and families for success.

About ERB

ERB is a not-for-profit organization providing admission and achievement assessment as well as instructional services for PreK – Grade 12. For 90 years, and with over 2,000 member schools and districts around the world, ERB continues to be a trusted source to inform admission decisions and/or to support curriculum and instruction.

Learn More: http://bit.ly/2rcicKo

School System Leaders Convene in Chicago on meeting the needs of the whole child–including social and emotional development

“We are proud to partner with AASA, The School Superintendents Association and launch the first SEL superintendent convening”

Rethink Ed and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, announced last week their joint collaboration in pioneering the first SEL Superintendent Convening, Educating the Total Child through Social Emotional Learning, in ChicagoOct. 19-20.

SEL is an innovative practice scientifically linked to successful student development, enhanced school climate, improved well-being, and greater connectedness among administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

“SEL is an evidence-based practice designed to help children and adults understand, use, and manage their emotions to learn,” said Diana Frezza, Rethink Ed’s senior vice president, education. “Because SEL programming for all learners contributes to healthy and supportive school, family and community environments, it only makes sense for us, as creators of the first comprehensive social and emotional learning solution, to partner with AASA to empower school administrators to transform their schools with SEL programming.”

Throughout the two-day symposium, leading superintendents will discuss why and how SEL contributes to educating the whole child, as well as hear from leading experts, learn strategies for enhancing social and emotional skills in children and adults, and examine real-world success stories.

“School administrators not only have a responsibility to ensure academic performance but, as child advocates, they must also meet students’ needs for social and emotional development,” says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “SEL is proving to be a catalyst for doing just that, so we’re excited to partner with Rethink Ed to host an event that will inform and inspire district leaders who are committed to meeting the varying needs of all children.”

More details about the event, including the agenda, speaker bios, and registration can be directed to Rebecca Shaw at rshaw@aasa.org.

In the meantime, Rethink Ed invites school administrators to receive a complimentary superintendent SEL Toolkit. For additional information on how Rethink Ed can support your schools SEL implementation please visit www.rethinksel.com or schedule a demo today.

About Rethink Ed 

Rethink Ed combines the power of technology and research to deliver innovative, scalable and evidence-based instructional materials to those who work with students with disabilities. The comprehensive suite of tools ensures that every student develops the academic, behavioral and social & emotional skills necessary to succeed in school, at work and in life. Rethink Ed positions educators, students and families for success.

About AASA

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.

Read More: https://go.rethinkfirst.com/l/83952/2018-08-09/b45bh8

Stop the Summer Slide

3 tips for teachers to support students & avoiding the summer slide

The Summer Slide is a familiar conundrum for all educators. The term refers to the learning loss many students experience over the summer break. Research done in 1996 concluded that students on average experienced the equivalent of at least one month of learning loss as measured by standardized test scores over the summer. While all students are at risk of learning regression over long breaks, additional research suggests that students with special needs may be more at risk of both regression and slower recoupment of skills when they return in the fall than their general education peers.

Isn’t that what the Extended School Year is for?

While many special education students will have opportunities to attend Extended School Year (ESY) programs over the summer, ESY can present its own unique challenges. For one, students are taken out of their regular routines, which for students with significant disabilities can severely impede their ability to learn. With only 4 to 6 weeks of classes, there is little time for establishing the procedures and routines that these students need to thrive. Additionally, students in ESY programs are often supported by interim teachers and paraprofessionals, many of whom have little-to-no experience working with the students in the program. Finally, ESY staff do not always have access to quality curriculum that is aligned with state standards and addresses the unique IEP goals of each student. As research reveals, “quality is the key to making time matter,” (Aronson, Zimmerman, and Carlos, 1999) and with all of these factors combined, ESY can end up having little impact on learning regression.

What can I do? I don’t see my students over the summer.

Whether or not your students will be attending ESY, there are things you can do now as a teacher to support skill maintenance over the summer for your students and make the inevitable change in routine more manageable.

  1.  Provide easy-to-access learning opportunities using technology

Rethink’s Activity Center provides students opportunities to practice skills they learned during the school year that are tied with IEP goals on mobile devices and laptop computers.

An article on how technology can help prevent summer “brain drain” pointed to the fact that students without access to educational content over the summer are more likely to experience learning loss. With mobile technology, providing students access to educational content on the devices they are already accessing is easy. Spend some time now finding online games, applications, and activities that reinforce the skills your students are learning in the school year and provide students and their families training and practice on how to use and access this content. Your students will be able to stay engaged in learning in a way that doesn’t just feel like homework.

  1.  Prepare students for upcoming changes in routine

For many students with special needs, unexpected changes in routine can be challenging. Preparing students for upcoming changes and helping them know what to expect can make the transition from the regular school day routine to home, ESY, day camp or wherever they may be over the summer more successful and set them up for success when it comes to learning.

Here are a few ideas for how you can start preparing students now:

  • Start a count down! Encourage your students to be excited about summer while also communicating to them that summer means a change in routine. You can review a countdown calendar with your students in the classroom every morning and use this as an opportunity to talk about some of the changes they can expect.
  • Review summer routines: If your student is attending ESY, use a picture schedule to help teach them about the new routine in advance. If ESY is in the building, you can even show them to their new classroom so that when the time comes, it is already a familiar place. If your student will be at home or somewhere else over the summer, find out from their parents and families what their schedule will be, and do the same by creating an individualized schedule that will help them anticipate the change in routine.
  1.  Involve parents and families

Often the one constant for students between the regular school year and the summer, parents and families are crucial to establishing new routines for students over the summer and providing them with opportunities for learning. As a student’s teacher, you can work with parents and families before school is out to support them in preparing their children for whatever the summer may hold. A few ideas for how you can collaborate with families are:

  • Encourage families to reinforce classroom routines at home:Consistency between home and school is key to reinforcing learning. If you are doing a summer count down in class, for instance, encourage parents to do the same at home every morning before school. If you are using a picture schedule to teach a student about their new routine, provide the parent with a copy so they can review at home as well.
  • Help families build learning opportunities into summer routines: Collaborate with your student’s family to create a predictable summer schedule for the student and build in specified times for learning into the schedule. For instance, if you are providing online activities for the student to work on over the summer, coordinate with the student’s parent to find a time in their daily schedule where the student will have access to a tablet or device, so they can complete the activities.

Remember that advanced planning is key to supporting your student in the summer transition, and there are lots of simple things you can do now to make this transition easier on your students and help them maintain all the wonderful things they have learned throughout the school year.

Happy Summer! Enjoy yourselves. You deserve it!

Rethink Ed Spotlight Educator: Jean Lawson, Truman Elementary School (Springfield, MO)

Mrs. Jean Lawson

Ms. Lawson is a special education teacher at Truman Elementary School in Springfield, MO. Truman Elementary is a part of the Springfield Public School District, which is Missouri’s largest school district. Over 25,000 students attend 36 elementary schools, an intermediate school (grades 5 – 6), nine middle schools, five high schools, Phelps Center for Gifted Education, and 2 early childhood centers! Out of all the teachers at those schools, Ms. Lawson has been awarded Springfield’s Teacher of The Year 2018-19!

Classroom Cafe Cart

We are honored to celebrate with Ms. Lawson and feature her as a Rethink Ed Spotlight Educator. Ms. Lawson has successfully implemented Rethink Ed into her daily classroom activities. For example, she uses Rethink resources and data tracking to help her students meet their goals. These resources help create obtainable targets because she can break down a student’s goal into smaller, more achievable tasks.

“Skills we learn are practiced through authentic experiences. I believe in providing authentic experiences to bring learning into the real world. Math and social skills are used in cooking and selling snacks to teachers on our Rolling Café.”

Ms. Lawson also loves using the Rethink motivation boards from the resources section. In the photo below, you can see some of her students making pizza. When a student meets a goal or completes an assignment, they receive another pizza topping until they have made a finished pie! Ms. Lawson has seen great progress and success using these motivation boards. She found that many students,

Baking Pizza and cookies!

“who have been reluctant to do nonpreferred work, willingly work. The positive association with the table work has crossed over to other times where they will willingly work and not use the motivation boards. That’s success!”

With the ability to record, track, and analyze student data, Rethink helps Ms. Lawson promote the success of her students. We are honored to partner with Ms. Lawson and Springfield Public School District and we look forward to continuing to inspire hope and power potential.

Mrs. Lawson and her staff (along with Santa and an elf). This includes Mrs. Lawson and her other autism teacher (in the green on the right), Phoebe Ezell; and our 6 paras. A couple of them also work with students on their goals, collect and enter data on Rethink.