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Special Education Today Newsletter 3(2)
Here's another round for all you winners!
Welcome to Special Education Today, Volume 3, Issue 2. This is the weekly newsletter that captures recent events associated with my writing at SET. And, yes, we are in the third year of the project.
The structure and contents of this issue should be familiar to regular readers, although they may recall that modified the order of the content last week. In this issue, readers will find the familiar table of contents from the past week, followed by a report about SET’s status, and then a little commentary.
The photo for this edition of the newsletter is an old one. This past Thursday was the 100th anniversary of my late mother’s birth. Courtesy of our daughter and her dog, I went to my mother’s grave and left flowers for her (and for her mother, who had surely labored mightily 100 years earlier). The photo here shows my mother and me on what was probably my 12th or 13th birthday (see if you can count the candles). It looks like a happy party!
Table of contents
This past week I posted messages to the Web site, as usual. Often, I send them via email to subscribers, but I don’t always do so. Interested readers can wait until the weekly newsletters to see them, but those who are interested can see even those that are not emailed by simply visiting the site regularly.
Here is a table listing posts for the week of 3 July 2023. too; usually, these would be behind the paywall by now, but I’ve opened them up for all readers. Happy catching up with the latest.
Remember that because I didn’t publish newsletters during June of 2023, those posts that appeared during that month were not included in the tables of contents for those weeks...’cause there were no newsletters! So, if you’re interested in the posts for the previous weeks, please visit the site directly. Check the archives.
This year's 4th: I hope it's fun for those who are celebrating
Curriculum, instruction, teaching, and behavior: What are the connections?
ASAT reminder: Did you miss the newsletter for July 2023?
Jan Hasbrouck on fluency: What would you like to learn about ORF?
Invite your friends to read Special Education Today by John Wills Lloyd.
Make sure you go to the Website to see the most current content. There will be additional posts during the coming week. You’ll find an HTML-formated version of this newsletter (much prettier than this funky version that comes in the e-mail) as well as any newer posts.
As of mid-July, the SET community now numbers in the upper-mid 500s. There was a gain of two subscribers in the last week. I hope that the growth increases. Subscribers are what makes the gerbil wheel spin.
And, you, subscribers, have to be the reason for growth. Please share posts and recommend SET to colleagues. As I reported the first week in the new volume year, I am testing ways to increace growth. The first one applies to both paid and free subscriptions. The second one provides a way for groups of people to become paid subscribers.
As you may have noticed if you already read the post of 2 July (“Invite your friends...” https://www.specialeducationtoday.com/p/invite-your-friends-to-read-special), I am testing whether rewards associated with bringing new subscribers to SET will help the community grow; see the post for details.
I am launching group subscriptions; the general idea is that a school administrator can have multiple members of a local education agency’s team subscribe or a professor can have many students subscribe to SET at deep discounts for the individuals. Write to me for additional details; just reply to this newsletter from your e-mail application.
Let me flash the old electrons to all-time leaders, Jane B., Clay K., Dan H., Mike G., Ed M., Jim K., Joel M., and Michael K, for their comments on posts. These folks drop notes on posts, and I encourage readers to scroll past the ends of posts and read what they have to say. Look for their notes on current and future posts, and upgrade to paid to be able to add your own comments.
Hide your eyes, cause the glare from these flashes of the electrons may be bright. The all-time leaders in using the “share” button are Tina C., Clay K., Betsy T., Angelique W., and Jane B. Thanks, y’all!
Recently I found myself a bit disturbed when I remembered hearing an educator remarking about students who “didn’t give their best effort.” There are many variations on this theme: “She wasn’t really trying...just going through the motions.” “You know, if I could just get him motivated....” I suspect readers have heard similar complaints.
There are issues with adopting a position that attributes not succeeding to a lack of motivation or interest. Let me catalog a few of those issues.
To me, these sorts of statements are just plain mistakes. They absolve educators of responsibility for student performance by putting the onus on some socio-psycho-personal characteristic of the learner. Here we have students who are not succeeding, and we explain that failure by making them responsible for that failure? In the vernacular, let’s blame the victim?
Another issue is that the argument devolves into circular reasoning.
Q: “Why didn’t he read those words correctly?”
A: “Well, he wasn’t [motivated | interested | trying].”
Q: “Oh. Well, how do you know he wasn’t [motivated | interested | trying]?”
A: “Well, he didn’t read the words.”
Q: “And why didn’t he read the words?”
A: “Like I told you, he wasn’t [motivated | interested | trying].”
Of course, to the question about why a student didn’t complete a task successfully, someone might reply, “You could see it all over her face. She just wasn’t [motivated | interested | trying].” So, the respondent is predicating the interpretation of the learner’s inner state on an assessment of the learner’s behavior, her facial expression. So, now I’d want to learn about the reliability and validity of the assessment, those fundamental features we ought to want to know about any assessment. “Well, look at that cat’s face. He just looks [guilty | embarrassed | sheepish].”
Here’re my thoughts: I think we ought to move away from attributing student failure to a lack of effort. Indeed, one of the responsibilities of educators is to create learning situations in which students are motivated. That responsibility is just one aspect of complete teaching. Just as presenting well sequenced lessons is part of teaching, and presenting the lessons with clear timing and emphasis, and providing feedback are also parts of totally teaching...so too is ensuring that students complete the work successfully.
“Complete the work successfully,” means presenting tasks that students can get 90% of the tasks right. It means that they can see that the tasks they are completing this week are more difficult than those they were asked to complete the previous days. It means that they can tell that they are succeeding.
Educators should not resort to providing baby work to make them feel successful. Kids can see right through that approach. It means employing instruction that sets them up for success. For our kids, who often have been beaten down by repeated failure, setting them up for success can mean weeks of totally effective teaching. But, that’s our job.
We educators should be interested in and motivated to provide complete teaching. When we do so, we’ll be able to feel successful, just like our students.
And while we are doing so, I encourage us to take care of ourselves (e.g., wear those seatbelts; keep exercising; drink lots of water), take care of others, and teach our children well...well, that is what it is all about.
SET Editor guy
Special Education Today by John Wills Lloyd is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
SET should not be confused with a product with the product that uses the same name and is published by the Council for Exceptional Children. SET predated CEC’s publication by decades. Despite my appreciation for CEC, this product is not designed to promote that organization.