I’ve been talking to folks outside of the Forman community about how we get teachers to buy in to Schools Attuned. I find this a fascinating topic. So often, those who are closest to the point of impact for students who learning differently serve as advocates who champion the cause. Some classroom teachers respond by explaining that they are not special educators or that they did not go into teaching to work with “these kids.” Classroom teachers, public and private, have these students in their classes. Most classroom teachers do not have an understanding of variations in learning or learning differences. We need to be mindful of the time needed for teachers to change their mindset. Teachers need to have the opportunity to be heard and their concerns should not be discounted. By listening deeply we may gain the place where we should begin our work in presenting a new framework for understanding. This is the first step to creating a partnership that leads up to teacher buy in. The Schools Attuned work provides the opportunity to pull back and learn more about student learning. Once the classroom teacher gains an appreciation for variations in learning using the specificity characteristic of the Schools Attuned model, there is forward motion.
Since our intensive training in the Schools Attuned Program, Subject Specialist Path, which earned faculty a certificate two summers ago, all Learning Specialists at Forman School now use the neurodevelopmental terms in the Learning Profile write-ups which they compose for each of their students before classes begin. This one page Learning Profile provides a “snapshot” of the student that includes his/her learning strengths, challenges, affinities, and necessary accommodations. These profile pages are given to parents, classroom teachers, college advising staff, and other professionals who need access to this information. Learning Specialists are also asking that students use the neurodevelopmental terminology when articulating their learning needs. As a faculty, we are making a conscientious effort to include this specific language in the comments we write home to parents each term. The problem we are facing is that oftentimes parents and educators do not fully understand what is written in the learning profiles because they never had the All Kinds of Minds training. Students are also experiencing difficulty learning the terminology. Forman is a high school which specializes in teaching only those students having learning differences. Do you believe using this technical language makes our reports more accurate, or should we write in layman’s terms?
My role at Forman School, a private school for bright college bound learning disabled students centers on bringing two different playing fields together. A percentage of our students are funded by their local school districts. I have to deal with the districts, attorneys, advocates and parents. One issue that surfaced with regard to public schools deals with classification. I was involved in a PPT with a district who stated that the students testing, as good as it was, could not be used to classify the student, and thus allow him to be eligible for services. The student’s testing had been done at the All Kinds of Minds clinic. The language used in the All Kinds of Minds testing really is phenomenal, yet we were told that standardized testing needed to be done in order that classification could be determined. Districts are looking for numbers, especially the difference between the Verbal and Performance on the WISC IV. At Forman we speak a language that follows the AKOM language, but I have to speak the Public School language when running PPT meetings. How do we change the mind set?
I recently shared AKOM’s Research Base of the Schools Attuned Porgram, www.allkindsofminds.org/Research/Index.aspx, with colleagues. Several teachers asked for this information following our school wide Schools Attuned work. While we work exclusively with college bound students who have learning differences, prior to learning the neurodevelopmental constructs, our teachers possessed many varied understandings of the learning differences. These different interpretations were the cause of varied perceptions. A year following the program, evidence of our common understanding was abundant. Classroom teachers were more confident in working with struggling students. Instructional planning was more learner centered and student engagement increased. The research base includes studies that demonstrate these changes. We are presently using the research base to inform further implementation. I review educational research regularly and I was excited to learn that AKOM has a research team who actively studies advances in educational, psychological, medical and clinical research. This is translated into the further development of the program. The content of Schools Attuned has many authors from the field of learning. Our students benefit from this daily.