AKOM and the Solo Practitioner

There are many roles an educator can play. For years I was blessed to work at the Center School, an independent school outside of Philadelphia. During my years there, our faculty completed the Schools Attuned Generalist Course, and another teacher and I trained to become course facilitators.

The school was a perfect setting for using a neurodevelopmental lens to develop my understanding of how kids learn – a common mission, supportive colleagues, and families who were committed to finding ways to better understand how their child learned. It is not surprising that my involvement with AKOM has deepened since my initial introduction years ago.

But now I find myself in a new role – reading specialist-at-large.

As a private practitioner, I perform many duties with students in a variety of schools, including tutoring, assessment, academic coaching and advising. The tutoring relationship lends itself to demystifying students and helping them to develop and implement workable management plans. In my experience, students are hungry to better understand themselves, and appreciate the opportunity to take ownership of their learning.

But working independently also presents challenges I never faced in my years at Center School. The biggest is forging a relationship with the teachers my clients have so that they can better understand the learning needs of their (and my) students.

Over the coming weeks in this space, I will be processing out loud some of the challenges that educators face when they are providing ancillary, rather than primary support to students.

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Word from the Quad: Good job, guys!

Max and Chris finished a week-long SA training for our newbies last Friday. During lunches and dinners, I spoke with many of the teachers being trained and they all had wonderful things to say about SA, Chris, and Max. They also enjoyed working with each other throughout the week.

Just sending along a “way to go” to Max and Chris for doing a fantastic training worth so much to our new faculty and more to those of us already certified. This means we’re all on board with SA… again. Woo-hoo!

Common Language with SA

Among our faculty at Wasatch Academy (WA), we benefit from a common language learned through SA certification. This is a major advantage for our staff which enhances the already-embedded philosophy of wanting to collaboratively help our students achieve through learning.

Last week I spoke with Suzanne, one of our math teachers, who said she’s more excited for this, her second year at Wasatch, knowing how well everyone worked collaboratively last year. “We’re just going to add to what we did last year and make it even better,” Suzanne commented.

I agree. The SA shared lingo was a major part of the success among our faculty last year. This week Max and Chris are training newbies to WA in SA so new faculty and staff will be privy to our common language and philosophy as well. It should be a great year of collaboration thanks to SA.

Continuing to ride the Wasatch Academy Bandwagon

When I arrived at Wasatch Academy (WA) last year, Max Roach trained I and all newbies in SA. What I found fascinating, as a master in special education, was the excitement the WA faculty possessed in working together for the benefit of our students. This positive mind-set for collaboration was a major contrast to the experience I had in the public school system.

The other remarkable event was that these faculty members backed their words through their actions during the school year. When a student had a difficulty (or two, or three) we used SA methods to pinpoint the issue, then implemented either appropriate interventions or accommodations. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn’t, but we always worked well together in trying to figure out a solution.

I feel fortunate to teach in an environment where educators are so willing to collaborate enthusiastically for the welfare of our students. With the combined efforts of our new team, headed by Max and including Chris English and myself, I’m excited for this new year.

Schools Attuned at Wasatch Academy

The integration of Schools Attuned principles, philosophy, and practices can look very different from school to school and educator to educator. Each individual and each institution can find ways to blend the Schools Attuned program with the work they are currently doing. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I have been working in both academic and therapeutic settings. My work with Schools Attuned as a participant and a facilitator has given me further insight into the unique neurodevelopmental profiles of students. Conflicts may arise when students find themselves in environments that place demands where they are weakest or limit their affinities.

At Wasatch Academy, my primary responsibility is to help meet the needs of students who would benefit from private counseling. Although this is not academic counseling, I am in a position to notice how emotional difficulties are often caused by stressors in the classroom. Difficulties with attention and completing assignments can lead to feelings of failure. Problems with memory and recalling information for tests may lead to anxiety or feelings of inadequacy. Poor social cognition can make group projects difficult and lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Although Schools Attuned is not a program for dealing with the emotional needs of students, there is a strong connection between academic success and failure and a students emotional state. Student cannot be present cognitively if they are consumed by personal/social/emotional issues.

I was hired by Wasatch Academy, in large part, due to my familiarity with Schools Attuned and the ways in which I have integrated it into my professional practice. The school works to meet the academic, residential, and recreational needs of every student. My counseling practice is yet another aspect of student life at Wasatch Academy that is guided by the All Kinds of Mind principles. Even though I am primarily concerned with the emotional needs of a student, I am able to suggest accommodations and modifications in the classroom and dormitory that while academic in nature, may work to ease emotional stress as well.

As a professional, I am curious about ways in which other counselors are integrating Schools Attuned into their practice. How are other educators who are not primarily classroom teachers integrating Schools Attuned?

-Lori English

Implementing SA at WA

Since Max has taken the time to introduce you to the school, I’ll take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Chris English. I am in my ninth year as an educator, and will be starting my first year at Wasatch Academy this month. I have a MA in English, and have been working in North Carolina Public Schools until this summer.

My wife, Lori, and I were first introduced to Schools Attuned (SA) while working for Edenton-Chowan Schools. After completing our initial SA course, we were asked to attend Schools Attuned Facilitator Development Academy (SAFDA) to become facilitators for North Carolina Schools Attuned. We met Max at SAFDA, where we quickly became friends.

Since SAFDA, I have facilitated several courses in NC, and have become a member of the Schools Attuned Facilitator Advisory Board.

Here at Wasatch Academy, I will continue to teach Advanced Placement English courses, something that I truly love, but will also be working in another capacity as a Learning Strategies teacher. In this role, I will work closely with small classes of students (class limit is 6) to help them understand their own neurodevelopmental profile, the neurodevelopmental demands of their classes and assignments, their personal affinities, and the modifications and accommodations that will allow their affinities to overcome any learning difficulties.

Sounds challenging, but it is one of the many ways that Wasatch Academy in integrating Schools Attuned.

Please understand, this is not a replacement for EC services, the Learning Strategies Course is open to students who desire/need a better understanding of their own learning.

As I am preparing for this school year, I was asked to place my courses on the school’s Atlas Curriculum map. Some of you may be using this in your school. I had plenty of experience with it in Edenton-Chowan Schools. One of the interesting things that Wasatch Academy has done with the Curriculum map is adding a section on neurodevelopmental demands. This allowed me to post the neurodevelopmental demands for each unit, and even assignment types, in my course.

Is anyone else implementing SA into curriculum mapping? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages may be if you were required to include neurodevelopmental demands in the descriptions of courses, units, or assignments?

-Chris English

AKOM at Purnell School

We are pleased to be the July bloggers for AKOM. We have actively implemented the Schools Attuned program since 2004; all of our students get demystified during their first year at Purnell, all teachers are trained, and AKOM strategies and terminology are utilized in and outside of class. As a small girls boarding school, we at Purnell have the unique opportunity to implement the All Kinds Of Minds Program in many aspects of academic and residential life. As the Affinities Coordinator at Purnell School, I would love to open up a dialog or answer any questions about the implementation and/or effectiveness of the program in a boarding school situation. As we progress through the month, more of our faculty will chime in.