Student-led IEP Meeting: The story behind a student asking to participate in her year-end IEP meeting

July 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Literacy, SmartBoard, Student-led conf | Leave a comment
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The next time someone asks you for a good reason to learn new technologies to use in the classroom you can share this story. Last week I was visiting many good friends in New Hampshire, two of whom I taught with in a rural NH town where they are currently both Special Ed teachers. Last September Linda and Robin attended a 3 day certified SmartBoard training in Montreal and during separate social visits they shared that experience, how they used the boards and Notebook software last year and how transformational it was for all their students. When talking about it, they were almost bursting with excitement over how it enabled their students to learn easily and happily and become the tech experts in the eyes of their classmates and teachers. Robin is a new teacher and Linda a veteran- Linda shared the new enthusiasm she felt for her work and they were equally enthusiastic and excited about their work as teachers and learners.

The most poignant example of student success was the story of Rachel (name changed to protect identity.) Rachel is a fifth grade student who wanted to read The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo. She had not read a book that lengthy or complex before. Her teacher, Robin, said that will be fine if they use it as part of their work with reading comprehension and fluency and that she keep a record of the story and reflections on it. Because Rachel had learned often that year through use of lessons and activities on the SmartBoard, she asked if she could create her Desperaux portfolio on the SmartBoard as her own book file. As Robin showed me Rachel’s portfolio, I had goosebumps. It began with information and a photo of the author, many graphic organizers showing characters and other story elements, challenge words with practice activities to review them, character descriptions with images, chapter summaries with supporting slides showing event highlights- it is engaging, shows what she learned as well as how much she enjoyed the book. She also shared it with her class, after which her class applauded.

When it came time for her year-end IEP meeting, Rachel asked Robin if she could join the meeting and share what she had learned. Rachel also stated she can speak publicly better when she is prepared so she voluntarily wrote up the points she wanted to share at her meeting. Robin said that Rachel independently wrote a statement containing her suggestions and requests for classroom accommodations, which included removing some she felt she did not need.  The statement was a way for her to express to her upcoming teachers her strengths and weaknesses as she saw them as well as strategies that help her to be successful in the classroom. The amount of self-awareness regarding her strengths, challenges and learning that Rachel demonstrated as Robin told me about their discussions, Rachel’s planning and the actual meeting were breath-taking.

Both Robin and Linda shared their excitement and student stories about how engaging, fun and exciting the previous year had been for them and the springboard was the SmartBoard, but more importantly how they used the Notebook software and use of other media tools combined with that. Together, they recently presented a 2-day workshop for interested colleagues at the end of the school year, as many teachers are receiving Smartboards for their classrooms. The attending colleagues were beyond appreciative at the end of the training, one teacher shared, “I haven’t been this excited about teaching in a long time.”

So, I return to my opening statement regarding why we should be learners as well as teachers. Here are new technology tools and software combined with life-long learners who are also gifted teachers and the result is students who are succeeding inside the resource room, their regular classroom and in their personal growth and esteem.

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