Coming together is a beginning
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success - Henry Ford
Including all stake-holders: Process and Content
Partnership power is power from within, magnified by building successful community; power to enable ourselves, to bring others to share a common vision with us and to achieve the ends we desire for children. This power is motivated, not by fear, but by the desire to realize the possibilities within us and enhance possibilities for others.
Services for children and with one youngster in mind, can best evolve through attention to all who care about and know about a youngster. Each member of the transdisciplinary team holds key pieces to a complex and dynamic picture, and in assembling the different pieces, the masterpiece emerges.
The teacher holds the pieces to one group of ideas and understands the scope and sequence of concepts that can become literacy, numeracy and articulation of the humanities.
The classroom teacher provides a critical connection to peers, a sense of belonging in the general learning community, and support to the child and parents. The classroom provides a diverse and complex learning arena with a sense of connectedness to the community at large. Teachers in regular or inclusion settings often maintain a sense of rigor with respect to standards and offer the sense of continuity in the goals and objectives that will lead to academic achievement and completion of district guidelines.
The special education teacher offers insight into methods and materials that can expedite learning, support the student in the classroom setting, help the family adjust to and appreciate the child's special gifts and needs, advocate for the family and child when service provision is complex, refer the child or family for support services beyond the scope of the school, inform the administration of potential service enhancement issues and build a team through consultation and collaboration.
The parent holds the key to the memory of who the child is and hope for who the child can become. The individuality and preciousness of the youngster often burns most intensely in this personalized image of the student.
The administrator knows the full range of services that are available, the direction of the school and the potential for getting and providing services for the youth in the community.
The psychologist knows a number of ways to assess the student, and provide numeric references that can be used to plot a program and evaluate student progress. Many times the emotional well-being of the child can be monitored best by a person trained to see the norm and knowledgeable in ways to sort out individuality from traits that need amelioration.
Specialists, speech therapists, occupational and physical therapists, vocational rehabilitation case managers and social workers can bring better awareness of and access to critical services. By knowing about potential services and multiple ways to meet student needs, we increase the speed of improvement and quality of care.
Through teamwork, consultation and collaboration, the student is best served.
Who is wise? He who learns from all men. -Talmud
Read Chapter Five in the Wood text, pp. 104-130.
Focus on these cogent points as you do the readings:
Models for collaboration
Monitoring and evaluating inclusion
Teachers work in a community setting. In the student's early years, the family and school communities give children the sense of what the world is like. This provides schools and universities with a singular opportunity to establish peace and cohesion as a pattern for life. In this rich, safe environment, youth can learn the art and craft of community and self building. They learn ways to ask for and gain things that are needful, and to see those around them as openhanded, and sustaining. Nurtured and educated in such benevolence, peaceful behavior, resolution of conflict, self discipline, and empathy are natural outcomes.
At all stages of development the primary (intimate or inner) group plays a vital part for the individual, providing training, support, opportunity for expression, intimacy and emotional response. We are busy about the business of building a world community. We are doing so as a result of ease of transportation and the Internet. At the same time that we are reaching out to visit Russia, and China, to cruise to Central America, to read the news of distant conflicts and mend misunderstandings among their citizens, we are tightening our own border fortifications, and feuding in our own communities, sometimes maiming those closest to us.
We are in a contradictory place, for we are buying computers to reach out to the world and hiring police to protect us from those nearby and outside who reach in. The rush to require technocracy of high school and college graduates, is laudable. At the same time that we are fine tuning student ability to reach out and touch others, our educational processes can also prepare students to work effectively when those “others” respond, and the ability to live in a community of peace and mutual as well as self understanding. We need not require new courses to accomplish community building, but can embed group work and community building ideas such as the materials in this book, in any course, to the degree desired.
The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated. William James
The power of being proactive and team building
When we work to build a team, it is helpful to take the initiative , to be proactive rather than defensive or reactive. The following chart compares the two styles of working with a team
By saying that it is good or bad we put an end to thinking . . . .
It is love that destroys the sense of the inferior and the superior -J. Krishnamurti
Team building is crucial, yet it is not easy. We sense the importance of a cohesive Transdisciplinary Team, collaboration between home and school, the entire faculty working for the good of a child, yet it is difficult to accomplish.
Best intentions can be blown off course or hit a microburst without warning.
Each person is special, unique in important ways, and rather insulated from others -- unable to truly reel the physical or psychic pain or pleasures experienced by others. It is only over a span of years that we come to realize who we are, and it is much longer, still, before most of us reach out to try to fully understand others.
We present a paradox. We want so much to be loved, to be understood, to be accepted unconditionally. Yet often, those who need that support the most, build protective barriers to keep others at a distance, fearing and desiring contact at the same time.
We want to tell others how we feel, yet may not be motivated to listen to another’s story. We may find it difficult to allow someone access to the sensitive and tender places, or fear that by sharing who we want them to see, they will see beyond that to who we fear we may be or feel ashamed of being.
We both need to be together with others, and we seek to be alone.
Human beings thrive in community, yet we do not automatically have the tools and skills to feel safe with others. We can learn them, and we can become adept.
Building a Team
Volume are written about team building, and learning the ins and outs of group work can consume a life time. This next section hold tips and secrets to utilize in your own journey to creating and nurturing community
Community building, of necessity, involves a balance that meets individual and group needs -- “all for one and one for all.” A group is only as strong as its concern for the views and needs of every individual. And any one individual can sabotage the well being of all.
Equal distribution of power is critical to longevity and health of a team.
1) Use two leadership positions a) task leader - facilitates goal setting and helps the group focus on task b) social leader - keeps watch on the cohesion of the unit and comfort of individuals.
2) Leadership revolves around the group, changing at each meeting.
Goal attainment is highly valued, but not at the expense of trust building or needs of an individual At the same time, no individual may hold the group hostage to individual need.
Conflict resolution skills may be employed to help balance these issues as they emerge.
Group dynamics include locomotion, cohesion, and flow
Locomotion - ability to move forward
Cohesion - intensity of need for group to stay together
Flow - the combination of task and trust define the amount of give and take in the group and the health and resilience of time spent together
Integration and synthesis of a group is serious and crucial work.
Understanding and meeting the needs of each person is essential. Functional groups integrate the needs of each member into decisions and actions. Attention to this dynamic produces the fastest results.
Humor provides a wonderful outlet for tensions and may reduce the frustration and anger that is generated during norming and storming. - adapted from Olmsted, 1959
Many sounds reach the ear, but true listening is an art.
The following ideas strengthen group and build openness to the ideas and messages being shared in group. They may make a good handout for setting the tone and establishing common ground if used prior to beginning the meeting.
Everyone who is here belongs here.
1) We will keep each other safe.
2) We are all welcome
3) We will work to maintain comfort for all.
4) We listen for the person inside who is living and feeling.
5) We listen to ourselves.
6) An important part of our purpose is being in contact with each other.
7) We listen for deeper meaning in the things people say, and clarify assumptions.
Are you saying . . .
I understand that to mean . . .
Did I get the message, then when I say . . .
So, what you need is . . .
For each person, what is true is most often determined by what is in that person,
what s/he feels, expresses,
what makes sense in that self hood.
Task commitment is important, and the group leader is responsible for accomplishing a task -- working to provide a tangible outcome. It is equally important, during the completion of a task to also build trust and community We try to be as honest as possible and to express ourselves as we really are. We feel as much as we can, and work to be safe to share what we feel.
Role of the Social Leader
In successful groups, there not only a task leader, but an identified social leader who is responsible for two critical elements:
S/he protects the belonging of each member.
S/he provides openings for each to be heard.
It is part of the social leader's task to help the group face the realism of the situation rather than pretending things are different or turning from honoring the reality by blaming and fault finding.
The social leader monitors group decisions to be certain that outcomes include the input of everyone.
The confidentiality of the group is sacrosanct. The social leader helps to be certain that all participants recognize the importance of maintaining this sacred trust. This applies to everything said during group, whether it seems private, or was given in confidence or is a comment made in passing. Only the person who owns the statement or information may decide with whom and when to share it.
The social leader facilitates appropriate interaction by monitoring the following:
When training animals, we know that the nature of the critter is a “given.” We train dogs to be good dogs, but not to do things a cat or goat can do better. We know that gentleness and love are critical if we are to win the love and obedience of a pet. Great animal trainers train themselves, and then use these honed skill to enhance animal behaviors. It is not so different with group work. People come with gifts, talents and traits that are unique to them. If we are uncomfortable in group, we can enhance experiences if we develop personal skills and strengths and take full responsibility for what we need and what we have to offer. This empowers us. When we recognize that we can change ourselves and expectations rather than being upset with the actions of others, we can enjoy group more and contribute more fully to community building.
Communicating - Really
Sharing how we feel and what we need is complex. It seems like it should be simple, but over and over again we have the experience of thinking we sent a clear message, only to find that the other people are not responding as we thought they might.
Group work is a quick way to increase awareness of our communication ability. As we frame ideas and share feelings, we find what captivates the attention of others and also what behaviors or messages stop the flow of ideas. We learn to be attuned to nonverbal messages that suggest our messages are no longer being heard and find ways to shift those messages to recapture audience attention.
Group work also allows us to gain expertise in recognizing and understanding the needs of others. Human beings can feel pretty isolated. I may have a tooth ache. Unless I tell you my mouth hurts, you probably won’t notice. You will not have a literal sensation of my pain, and if you are self absorbed with your own concerns, you may miss the subtle change in the way I hold my mouth, the dampening of energy, the swelling in my cheek.
The ability to sense and attend to the “being” of others might be called second person perspective. Some of us value those insights and are adept at watching for cues about others and how they feel. Some of us pay very little attention to others. Of course, our level of consciousness determines some of that. When asleep, others are shut out of our awareness. Some people seem to sleep walk through life, oblivious to the needs, perceptions and feelings of others.
Good communicating requires that we send a message others can and will hear, and some form of feedback that assures us the message was received, plus an accounting of what that message means to the recipient. Interpersonal intelligence refers to the cluster of skills we have in being attuned and working successfully to understand and convey that understanding of others. It is obvious that some people are better are sharing ideas and feelings than others. This kind of intelligence can be further developed and is probably a combination of innate ability and life experience.
Collaborating with Parents
Partners in Learning
We know that children learn best when everyone works together to encourage learning. The following are some key ways to build and enhance this collaborative partnership. (Wood text, pp. 120-125)
Two-way communication: Frequent and regular two-way communication can be enhanced by establishing clear channels of communications, meeting together before and after referrals, testing, IEP meetings, when students are excelling, and when students need more support. Notes and phone calls can provide intermediate forms of contact.
Building a Foundation: Trust is an important way to build a healthy and vital base for communicating and sharing ideas. When healthy relationships exist between home and school, teachers and parents can share expertise, viewpoints, frustrations, emerging concerns.
Realistic Expectations: When team participants are honest about expectations and discuss personal beliefs about roles and needs, the trust builds. Parents can share their hopes and dreams, their needs and their concerns about the safety, well being and education of children. The teachers can provide a sense of educational continuity, referral sources for meeting needs outside the school, the rights and responsibilities mandated by law, assessment and evaluation information, insights into the learning styles and strengths of the student, the way the student handles the school setting, methods for enhancing learning, modifications to help youth, and hopes they have for parent support. The administration can be clear about available level of services, the potential for bringing in needed services and help students and parents to feel welcome when coming to the school.
Believing the Best: The school and family can work together most effectively when assumptions are checked out rather than acted upon. Most parents and teachers really care about youth, are trying to go their best, and want to feel honored rather than questioned. Calls and notes in both directions can start with what is going well, and then concerns and questions can be addressed.
Flexibility: Gracious understanding is a gift. When a teacher has high expectations, it is a powerful message for all concerned. If the teacher can use a system of give and take, helping the student and family to focus on one success at a time, small steps will most rapidly move the student toward full motivation, a feeling of value and and sense of accomplishment. The same is true of the parents. Every journey does indeed begin with one step, and by trusting and supporting each small success and being patient about the areas that are slow in coming, or still not in evidence, a team feeling emerges. This mutual understanding may involve days when a parent cannot support homework, times when a teacher cannot hold a meeting, bad days for students, when a holding pattern is the best the student can give.
Click on this link to view a current model of school collaboration .
E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu
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Northern Arizona University