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A new school, a new set of challenges - and opportunities!
You, the educators working towards the best possible student outcomes, requested that AECMN find new ways to connect each other, encourage dialog and spark resource sharing. From that, came this year’s vision, of “Teachers Teaching Teachers”. Along with our website, we’ll be sharing “The Pulse” as a monthly newsletter that highlights tools, tips and resources – all in line with a unique, month-long, theme. These build towards our overall vision of ensuring there are no limitations in the education of children with medical needs. In addition, this year it is our goal that to empower “Teachers Teaching Teachers”.
To get a feel for what you can expect in our newsletters, click here. Then, dive into October’s issue of “The Pulse”, all about the AECMN “Connected Educator”. We know that it’s tough for a teacher to find the resources, colleagues, and TIME to stay connected. We’re hoping the tools here will get your connection wheels spinning! In this edition, you’ll find great online learning communities, AECMN forum discussions, and more.
And lastly, behind these new themes, great social media content, and aecmn.org resources - are the dedicated members of your AECMN executive board. Without their hard work, it would not have been possible to realize the goal of making membership in AECMN more valuable, more active and more connected. Hats off to the group!
However, they don't hesitate to remind me that our best reward is motivating our membership to live the AECMN mission. Simply, we help educational professionals work more effectively for children with medical needs.
With that said, I'm excited to work and learn along you.
Here's to a great year!
-Samantha Prachar Shea, President
How does a school measure success? The countless answers will depend on both state and local requirements, funding and resources, and unfortunately, local politics. Nevertheless, most of us are familiar with the formal measurements of success in public schools; state test scores, on-time graduation, and attendance rate to name a few. Or, maybe an informal approach to measuring success; student innovation and creativity, citizenship, social-emotional development, and possibly physical and mental health maturity are the benchmarks of a successful school. Either formally or informally, both paths of success are established by the state, local school division, and the specific school’s needs.
But how do we, as hospital school programs and hospital teachers, measure success? In my hospital program in Virginia, we measure success by establishing a belief in principles for a seamless and successful transition of our students back to their normal school setting. This is not an easy task, as many of you may know through various experiences, and one that we do not take lightly. We have continually run into a surplus of obstacles when dealing with public schools across the state and even throughout our region of the United States. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man, who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
Therefore, as we repeatedly assess our methods for measuring “success”, it has been essential to have established these two strong principles: alleviate school stress from families during their stay and provide a smooth transition back to school.
First, we make our commitment to each family and child to help alleviate the stress of school. Whether we are contacting schools, conducting Special Education meetings, giving state testing, or providing daily instructional lessons, we are focused on keeping the child and family connected to their home local education agency (LEA). By staying “connected”, I am speaking to our procedural methods, and the methods will change depending on the capability of our staff and the resources of the home LEA. However, our commitment of alleviating school stress for the family does not waiver.
Our second principle is to establish a seamless transition to the child’s home LEA. Admittedly, this principle forces our program to constantly reassess our methods that may be best described as inadequate. We ensure LEAs are notified of imminent discharges and homebound forms are completed when needed. We even follow up in a few days or weeks to check the student’s progress back home. But we stop short of offering a more comprehensive approach to assisting all stakeholders in the re-entry process. We acknowledge the need to build our services and reach beyond the hospital classroom walls.
We have begun conversations with our staff about how we can be more proactive with the transition back to school by including the “transition” planning into our daily lessons from the beginning of the child’s stay. An example would be through the use of Skype or Facetime to connect the student back to their class. The ability to share their work with the class or teacher will keep the student connected with not only the teacher, but assignments, curriculum, and FRIENDS. We have also briefly discussed using various resources like “Hopecam” or “Monkey in My Chair” to keep children and their classmates connected. Further, we seek to develop more outreach efforts to support the home LEAs whose returning students may pose especially difficult adjustments.
In conclusion, there are various methods to achieving a smooth and successful transition, but this process needs to be made a priority from day one and when needed, continue well past the discharge date. Join us for an open dialogue about School Transition on June 2 for AECMN’s last EdChat of the school year.
AECMN EdChat: School Transitions was held on Thursday, June 2, 2016.
In 2008, I began developing a pool of volunteers to utilize in helping me meet the educational needs of the children I serve. What started as a handful of select volunteers helping with homework has grown into program of close to 30 volunteers providing over 400 hours of tutoring each school year.
These dedicated volunteers help patients with homework, play enrichment games, work on science projects, and even just read alongside of them. What they are doing for others is immeasurable. They are ensuring that education does not have to take a backseat during illness/injury. That these children can keep up with their peers in spite of hospitalizations and medical treatments. They provide the one-on-one attention that may be in short supply with the limited teaching resources of a hospital school program.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day draws to a close, I cannot help but be reminded of all the volunteers I have the privilege to work with daily at the hospital. Each of these volunteers has answered MLK's call: "What are you doing for others?" in a very special way.
AECMN EdChat: Volunteer Recruitment was held on February 4, 2016.
When a child becomes ill or injured, medical care comes to the forefront in the family’s life. But soon the family and child begin to think about the future and with that, school. Collaboration between the world of education and health care becomes a necessity for the child with medical needs. It becomes increasingly apparent when these worlds collide that it takes a team to ensure the child isn’t being left behind. In general, schools and the systems in which they operate are not equipped to meet the needs of the chronically ill child. Gaps in legislation also compound this process, making it difficult for schools, families, and the medical team to help ensure that child is meeting academic milestones. This role of collaboration is often filled by the hospital based teacher or hospital school liaison.
My hospital school program is a one-man (woman) show. I act as both the teacher and liaison. Each role has taught me the importance of communication both with the school and the medical team. Close collaboration with the child’s medical team ensures accurate and up to date information. This information can be relayed to the school when developing a plan for re-entry. Discussing this with the patient and family to determine their goals for the school year, and finding a reliable point person at the child’s school help create a solid communication plan for monitoring student progress. It is important to be as proactive as possible in sharing suggestions with schools that enable them to think creatively to provide solutions to the loss of instructional time a child may experience.
Our medical team does not come equipped with a crystal ball and cannot predict the child’s exact return to school date. The families trust our doctors and need to trust their input when they say it is safe for the child’s return to school. Maintaining social interactions, daily academic routines, and a written communication plan to monitor the child’s progress helps. These collaborative efforts take time, coordination of services and specialists, and clear communication. The best of treatment plans can go awry and be altered by each individual’s response. Equipping our schools so they know the basics, the anticipated (but unpredictable) barriers to learning, and providing support helps greatly.
AECMN EdChat: School Collaboration was held on December 3, 2015.
The new “Three R’s” are commonly defined as Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. In a hospital setting, the third R becomes paramount, as the child comes to us with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and anxiety. In order to address this, our team of teachers at Cincinnati Children’s developed a worksheet that we give to the patient on day one. It allows us to begin getting to know the patient in a safe and non-threatening way.
The front side of the worksheet is focused on the student’s current academic situation. We ask for class schedule and current grades. We also ask the child to rate their experiences with school including asking about the best and worst parts of their day, and how they feel when they’re at school. We also ask about their favorite and least favorite classes and if there’s a staff member at school that they feel comfortable talking to. This information can be incorporated into the transition planning, when we look at schedules and identifying who the child can check in with. We close up the academic side with asking when the child learns best, and when they struggle to learn.
On the back of the worksheet, we look to gain some holistic insight into the child. We ask for them to describe themselves in three words, what they love, fears, and what they’re proud of. Asking these kinds of questions can create opportunities to show your patient that you have a genuine interest in who they are.
We wrap up with asking about their goals, both short and long-term. We also ask what they would like their teachers to know about them. Aside from the actual information provided, we are able to learn how well the child writes.
The information gleaned in this exercise which takes all of 15 minutes, has proven invaluable in our efforts to transition kids. We build stronger relationships faster by identifying with the interests of the child. Furthermore, when we call a guidance counselor and if they’re not familiar with our patient, we can share what we’ve learned in a collaborative manner.
Whatever format you use, take the time to build relationships with your patients. They are craving the attention and knowledge that someone cares and is looking out for them.
AECMN #EdChat: The Patient Profile was held on November 5, 2015.
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