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Text Transcript: Bridging the Gap

- I'm pleased to share with you, I guess, a project that I took on a couple of years ago.

And I think, like most of us, a lot of sometimes our work comes out of a need that we see, right? So you have an issue, you have a concern, and, you know, and I guess what I called this was a gap, "Bridging the Gap".

And I know a lot of us are doing creative things around transitions, and transitions plannings, most certainly, I know.

Even in the past, we've all shared different expertise.

So like I said, this is just a little project that I kind of had developed.

I guess where this came from a little bit, is a transition process.

So as we know transition is kind of change from one form or state… Okay, like that, is that better? Last aspiration.

Okay Great.

Try this again.

Style or place to another.

So in our practice on PEI, I thought that I had a really good process kind of, this is one of our documents and there's some information in here, on incoming students.

So kids coming in from kindergarten into Grade 1, we have a process to follow.

So you know, I thought I had a good process for that.

In elementary school, we have, Elementary Transition Planning Binder, which some of you may be aware of, and this is really great for Grade to Grade transitions.

Sometimes you can use it for school to school certainly.

And I have that process to follow.

In exiting students, we have our Secondary Transition Process.

And I kind of can always go to that to reference.

We are having a little bit of struggles with some of my students on school to school transitions.

And what I mean by that, I guess, or what I was noticing was this.

So here were some of my observations.

And what I'm talking about, or particularly, and I know every parent is different.

We still kind of have the junior high type of model, PEI, so those may be Grade six to seven or we have some consolidated schools that would be eight.

We may be moving into high school for Grade nine or Grade nine into 10.

So these are the types of transitions I'm talking about.

So these were some of my observations I started to notice.

I seemed to be getting a lot of requests from parents for their child to stay all of a sudden, in Grade six.

All right.

All of a sudden in Grade nine, "No, no, we're not gonna go to high school, I think we need another year." So I was seeing a bit of an increase in that.

Like I'm going, "Hmm." Parents were expressing anxiety.

Right? Certainly.

And that, you know we noticed, I'm just going to try to adjust that.

Even though, you know, kind of we have talked about it and you know, we're preparing for that.

I have also seen a bit of an increase in behaviors of anxiety of some of my students.

In Grade nine, let's say or Grade six.

So in the spring time, I started to see a bit of a spike in calls.

You know, the going in, they'd be talking, "I just don't wanna leave here." Very emotional, highly emotional, "I don't know what's gonna happen." "I don't wanna go to that big school, there are bullies." You know, all those fears.

And they seem kind of putting on the brakes, you know, sort of, "I'm not leaving here." Now, certainly, the schools, during the typical visits that they would do for all grade six or grade nine students.

And I'm sure you guys may be familiar with this as well, everybody over, Principal kind of comes out, talk a little bit about the schools, they travel around the building, you know, and everybody goes back, and it's usually just one visit.

And all the grade six students or nine students could participate in that.

The thing that I found about that was the focus of that was mostly around the building and how to get around, not necessarily the school community and the staff, right? So the kids were just kind of going in, "Here's Cafeteria, here's the gym, here's this, here's that." Well, you know, first day of school, it will be people to help you.

This is kind of how you get around this.

So that is some of my observations.

The other thing is some of my students who were diagnosed or had special needs did get the opportunity to go on additional visits.

It typically was an Educational Assistant who would take them.

And what I find I noticed was, The EA would take them and often meet with other EAs, right?.

So they be coming to the school, they may see a resource teacher, but it's usually other EAs in the building that were kind of involved not as much as the school staff as I wanted.

So that was a bit problematic.

A lot of the information that was being shared was auditory, right? So a lot of my students couldn't retain the information.

And sometimes were becoming really overwhelmed, "I don't know what said." You know, they couldn't remember that kind of one-time visit.

The school that the student was at was also anxious, so they weren't helping there.

"I don't know how he's gonna do there." "I guess, they're not as kind as we are." "They don't know him, I'm telling you." Right? "Are you gonna be there? Are you gonna be there the first day? Are you gonna follow them? Are you gonna…" Right? So they weren't helping us, right? And no one will be necessarily helping the kids.

And it's again, all while needy.

Right? Nothing but all in the best interest of the child but not really kind of seeing their role and how it all played out.

And the other thing I guess I noticed was, students needed to be an active par of the process, okay? So those were just kind of some of my observations.

So what do I do? I also had a student, and what do we know? Well, we know that change and the Autism Spectrum Disorder do not go over well together.

That's why I chose the universal No symbol, right? So I knew there were things from this huge change when I had all of these observations.

I also had at the time, one particular student, and I'm gonna introduce you to him.

And I have ayes, got into his class and had consent.

And I really appreciate this family for sharing this with me.

And it did come actually from this specific student.

So I will introduce to you Jake.

Jake is now currently in Grade 11.

Jake was a late diagnosis.

He was not diagnosed until Grade six.

Okay.

He is a very complex case.

Prior to that, he was diagnosed with significant learning disabilities, in reading, math, writing, and significant memory deficits.

So he had those levels.

And then in Grade six, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger syndrome.

Jake's mother is a teacher.

She taught in the school that Jake attended.

Jake was at the time, probably my most violent and aggressive student.

And once he was diagnosed, he immediately came on to my caseload.

So here I am at the beginning of Grade six, taking kind of on, on Jake and all of the history.

So the history to this point was he had very little educational system support, his IQ and his assessment results were average to superior, to above average intelligence in a lot of areas with significant learning disabilities.

He had a history of aggression in school and I really don't think attended much class, he was all over the place.

And a minute there was a behavior, his mother ran upstairs 'cause it was a small wall school, to try to intervene because she felt she was the only one that could handle him.

And he didn't want anybody being injured.

So of course, at our very first meeting with the psychologist that diagnosed him, when we talked about things, her first thing was, "Now we have how this diagnosis, I think it's really important to extend Grade six this year and stay for two years because we really need to work on this." Right? "We really need, I don't want him going to junior high.

I think we need two more years here at this elementary school." And I'm sitting there going, "I need to get this kid out of here." Right? That was my take, like, I have so many dynamic students to manage, I've got so many, I've got such a history, I had a staff that's exhausted, who love this teacher and colleague, right? A mom can't see her self, how's this adding to this.

So in my 1st of September, I thought, okay, the goal besides all the other things I had to tangle with him was, he's got to go to junior high and he needs to go to junior high at the end of this year.

So when I didn't address that at the September meeting, 'cause I thought, "I'm not done, I'm not here right now." 'cause I knew that wouldn't win any favors at the time to say, "No, no, no, we're not gonna do that." I just thought, "let me earn." I have, I guess a saying about earning currency.

I had to earn no currency with this this parent at the stage.

Right? She knew I was, 'cause I was there, teaching with her in this school, but I had no currency.

So I had to earn some currency before I was ever going to say to her, "I need you to think of this." So I thought, "I will just wait." So as the year progressed and we had tons of trials and tribulations and lots of phone calls and lots of work.

Eventually, we were able to start to talk about transition planning.

So this project that you're gonna, we're gonna talk about, and you'll see came because Jake.

So what was the goal of the project? To develop a tool that supports students, schools, and families, that would support that school to school transition.

To involve the student as an active participant, to engage the staff in the receiving school, and interacting with the student.

Because while I think all the schools were interested in the students, typically, I find in the spring time it's so busy, right? And they're kind of like, "When they're coming in September I'll get to know them then." And they don't necessarily realize that for some of the students that we support they really need to start to get familiar with them now, right? And to provide an opportunity for the student to have a tangible completed project from the process.

And then they could review the project as needed.

Okay.

So those were my goals.

So at the back, you'll see the project.

So this is what I come up with, and I've kept it pretty, so that any school can use this, okay.

And again, it can be, and should be adapted for the student that you're working with, and this isn't rocket science.

So the first we talk about, I like the way we guide here in the visual, because it keeps people on track and it kind of gives a roadmap of what you wanna do.

So I did talk about, they could do background research, so sometimes we encourage that students go on the school website, start to look at the school they're going to be attending and doing some background research.

And in one of the portions, I think it's the second visit, they're going to interview the principal.

And I have given some schools a guide on what interview questions, but for the most part, I like that be structured in the school to help the student prepare those interview questions, 'cause often again, it's school-specific.

So if it's a school that has a cafeteria, they may ask questions about that.

But if it's a school that doesn't, they may not.

Right.

So it's, you just kind of, I kind of let that be student and school-specific.

So the first visit, as you can see, student would go in, introduce yourself to the school Administrative Assistant, the Secretary, explain you're visiting this school.

So start in some of the social things, take a walk around the school, make a list of things that are unique and different that are at this school, so in Jake's school, it was West high school, list the things that are different from your previous school.

And that you think your classmates would be interested in.

Write down the bell schedule, 'cause it's gonna be different probably or from the bell schedule.

Wow it's was really interesting, because this year, even when he's been at high school, last year was Grade 10, this year his high school, they decided in their wisdom, which was I get it, but forgot to let me know or a plan that they will do away with bells.

So he had sit-in, and had a good day with his old behavior 'cause he just thought was just, you know, and we've worked with him on art of protesting and how you protest effectively, and kind of put in a grievance, and he did present his grievance to the Principal on why he thought it was so stupid, in his words, that he would take away bells When you've had bells all along.

Now he has since suggested to that, that was really interesting, they just didn't foresee that, for him being a major change.

If there is a bell schedule, write it down, and before you leave, arrange an appointment to interview the Principal on your next visit, so they get to go in, talk to the Principal and arrange that visit.

On your second, now I just put a pulse, it may, It just depends, and like I said, the template will be on your jump drive so that you can change it to whatever you want.

Same sort of procedure, visit the office.

So every time starting at knowing what the rules and regulations are, you know when you're visiting a school, you go in, you sign in, the Administrative Assistant start to get to know who you are, right? Those types of things.

When it's time for your interview, complete your interview.

Now one of the components I have in this, is that you can take pictures of the school.

But there's a rule that you can't just take pictures with other people, even them, so you have to ask her permission, those types of things, really focusing on the space or staff.

They can take pictures of certain staff if staff are comfortable, okay.

They can interview the Vice Principal and make an appointment for that.

This is the third visit, same procedure with Vice Principal, this one usually we try to have and eat lunch in the cafeteria and experience that.

Visit any of the rooms you might be, you know likes of the Resource Room, that's probably one for him where he was going to be spending some time.

Get a copy on the cafeteria menu down, or write it down so you can share it.

Okay.

And then the final visit is again, visit, sign in, finished taking pictures and gathering your information.

He had recess break, or eat lunch.

And this was the piece that was really, that I find as the nicest part of it.

Bringing information back and preparing a class presentation.

So you can either, for him he prepared a PowerPoint, and at the time, and he was missing a bit of Language Arts mark.

So what we worked out, is the Language Arts teacher said, "This is fantastic.

I will use this supplementary assignment and he will be graded on it." So he knew that, going into this, which had more meaning to him and more kind of validness to why I needed to do this.

And so when he did his presentation to the class, it was awesome and he was of course, the only one that had all this information.

So the classmates who were also going with him, were so impressed and liked kind of that.

So it was a win win for everybody.

So he was kind of being able to share information that he felt, you know, only he had.

He actually got marked on it.

And then he had that to look at during the summer, to share with family, to do whatever he wanted to do.

Now for him it was PowerPoint, Some of my students, they may just, they may do a poster board, right? They may do a book.

I kind of again, depending the functioning level and then the ability, and kind of who you're doing this with, you would adjust it.

But like I said, for him, it was PowerPoint and he really enjoyed that.

And then present to your class and share your project with your family.

So it's fairly simple, but what I find that it is when it's completed, you have a nice tangible project that they have and it helps alleviate that anxiety, the family has it, and absolutely their anxiety and both schools, the receiving schools feel like they know the student much better versus seeing them the first time in September.

And the school that has the student leaving, is feeling better with them going.

So it kind of worked as a win win.

So just to share a parent perspective, I guess and this was one, a parent that had, was intermediate school going into high school, so the parent thought that staff at the intermediate school would dedicate and had contributed to the student's progress and successes, that they felt they had that trust relationship.

They felt that the staff was aware of the challenges and they faced each one of those head-on.

And they filed that leaving that setting was totally anxiety provoking for them.

So they were very stressed about heading to high school.

And what they felt about the project, was that the project is, this student purposed for his transition visits it wasn't just, let's go visit a school.

There was an actual designated purpose, that, "Meeting with the staff and asking questions allowed many of her son's concerns about the move to high school to be reduced.

And that he also began to establish this relationship with the staff and establish some scaffolding for the support that he would need." So that was kind of what the Parent Perspective was.

And I was just sharing with Marilyn, I had a student, had a student who is moving from Grade six to seven, and we had a meeting a couple of weeks ago.

It's a new school to me.

I've just been there this year.

The parent was highly, highly anxious.

And so when we shared and went through the project with her she was like, "Oh, this will just make it so much easier.

I will Be able to support him at home, I'll be able to talk to him about this, we'll able to go through this during the summer." All those types of things.

So to wrap it up, I'm gonna leave it to Jake.

- [Interviewer] Would you tell me how you think this project will help other students.

- The way that it would help them in, that if they're anything like me though, you wanna know what's going on in school.

- I did not review those questions with him.

I gave him a broad sense, but when he came out with that, I thought he's gonna lose it.

Now, just read him.

Like I just thought, "Where do you?" you know, it was so amazing for him to say that and what it meant to him.

So I think you know, you know, for it was a validation of kind of what it has done for him and other students and I think, you know, certainly it's a simple tool.

If you can at all use it, feel free, adapt it to what you need to arm with it.

And just to share with you a funny thing, he has two more years, he's gonna do an extra year of high school.

And he, 'cause we're kind of just doing reduce course load to watch his stress and anxiety.

So when we finished up, he said to me, I mean we're looking at a Holland College or secondary option for him, which will be I think a good placement.

So he said to me, "I just wanna ask you something, we're gonna be doing this project when I go to Holland College right?" Doesn't that really mean that he's already thinking about, "How am I going to get ready to go to post-secondary?" And we certainly can adapt and use this for him going to Holland college.

So I appreciate your time and I hope you find the tool useful and thank you very much.