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Taking Charge-Part One.

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Taking Charge. Linguistic Coaching and Dialogues for actions for students with special needs is a graduate-level course developed by Dr.Nancy Lavelle. The class is offered through UCLA inside of their continuing education program. Nancy found The Institue for the Redesign of Learning in 1974 and then founded Total Education Solutions in 1997. I currently work as a Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Almansor Academy, which is one of two schools inside of IRL.

Almansor is a school that serves students with special needs. These include Emotional Disturbance, Intellectual Disability, Autism, and Other Health Impairment.
The students who come to Almansor are placed here by their local school districts. Because the behavior they exhibit has become so extreme that learning has stopped and they have become a threat to themselves and others.

In the Taking Charge course, we learn the philosophy of working with students as linguistic coaches. The goal we have matches the mission statement “of helping students become competent, caring contributors to society. “

Currently, I have completed two weeks of the course.I have learned several components of Taking Charge.-I would like to discuss how two principles taught in Domain One have played out in my day to day. One component is this- All students are whole able and complete in all the ways they are and all the ways they aren’t. The second is that children have an inner belief about themselves which is called a vicious circle. To break this circle, you use linguistic coaching; you help the child become an observer of their behavior. If you get the child to see that they are a learner, the child will take effective, coordinated actions and steps that will enable them to achieve competencies.

As you work your way through Taking Charge, you develop tools to accomplish this. One means is to observe the student, you learn that behavior is language, and behavior opens possibilities for learning and closes opportunities for learning. It doesn’t help to blame the parents for what is occurring in their lives. You also should not make assumptions about the child. Through linguistic coaching, you are moving the child to observe his or her behavior and make decisions accordingly.

I learn Taking Charge by practicing.

This past week I was asked to ride a morning bus route.

I would be assisting Student A. Student A is a 17-year-old male student who has a disability of emotional disturbance and intellectual disability.

I climbed on the bus at 5:30 am with my Venti drip, and sat in the back of the bus. I chatted with the driver and learned about his background. Yet inside I was nervous. When I  started in January Student A had punched a female bus aide in the eye several times causing her to miss work. I also thought back to my first day at work. One of the other Directors was taking me on a tour of the school. He introduced me to Student A. He told me Student A had stabbed him in the neck with a pencil. He made Student A clean the wound. Over the summer, I watched student A- kick a female aid and watched as he had to be physically restrained by another staff member. In a few minutes, he was going to sit next to me for a long bus ride.

As the bus rolled along, I watched the sites, and the sun come up. I began to say to myself, Whole Able, and Complete in all the ways you are and all the ways you aren’t. Then I said, look do you think he is going to stab you in the neck? Do you think he is going to punch you in the face? I told myself that those were poor behavior choices that he had made in the past and that he deserved me to not evaluate him on them.

I also discovered that merely replaying over and over all the negative things, didn’t prepare me to work with him. It made me more and more stressed. So I stopped. I didn’t tell myself positive mantras, but what I did begin to do was to remember other times I have encountered Student A, I saw student A many times working on assignments with his teacher, I had said hello to him, and he had said hello to me. At that moment, I said, Student A is a learner.

Yes, he had done terrible inappropriate things, but he also has done some very positive things. So I would work with him from that position. My ontology or the way I carried myself had to be from the place of seeing Student A as a learner. When Student A gets on the bus, we were going to learn. In my next post, I will talk more about my interactions working with Student A, and also two other students from my morning ride.

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