textbooksWith increasing costs and shrinking resources most, particularly public, universities need to find alternatives to ever-increasing tuition and fees. Basing graduation requirements on total grade points earned is a novel model that could help reduce the time students’ spend obtaining a degree and help focus their studies.

Under this proposed model, an A student would graduate with fewer courses than a C student. While still requiring all courses in the major and general studies, the requirements would permit a students to graduate when they obtained a certain number of grade points.

Using the equivalent of 125 semester credit hours of C as the minimum requirement, a solid B student could graduate with about 100 credit hours, which is more than the total requirements for many majors, including general studies, and can be done in three years. A straight-A student, of which there are very few, might graduate with 85 credit hours. (read more…)

classroomOne may argue that classrooms shouldn’t have to be magical. They may argue that classrooms are a place for rigor. However, I would ask, “What is more magical than learning?” The feeling you get when you persevere after multiple failed attempts or find out something interesting that changes the way you see the world is magical. At the earliest stages of learning, when a baby learns to say his or her first word, magical expressions ignite the faces of those who are fortunate enough to hear those treasured sounds. So, what does it mean to have a magical classroom?

The word magical can be defined as delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life. Why can’t we cultivate learning experiences that seem so extraordinary that they capture the student’s interest and motivate them to be self-seekers to the answers we would have taught in daily lectures? If we take a closer look at our curriculum, wouldn’t it be possible to sit back and ask the “bigger questions?” What is it that we are trying to convey with this standard or objective? (read more…)

iStock_000003772536SmallAs a therapist in the school setting, I’ve come to realize the importance of preparing curriculum and therapy activities based on the whole child instead of one characteristic or attribute. You wouldn’t want people to define you by one characteristic, so why would we do this with disabilities? A person with autism or with a speech delay is much more than that one specific attribute.

While especially true in special education, this idea should be conveyed across education. A child who loves art doesn’t want to be identified solely by his or her outstanding science skills. Maybe the quiet student in class is secretly the best actor or public speaker. It’s important to look past disabilities and other labels and truly take note of the individual’s strengths and needs.

In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, here are a few tips to ensure you’re teaching the child, and not the label. These ideas can be applied not only to special education, but to every classroom across the country. (read more…)

Kids laughingAs I was pulling out of my driveway one morning, I looked over into the neighbor’s yard. Their two-year-old was on the edge of a small, sloped retaining wall, about two feet high. The toddler concentrated on the slope, rocking back and forth to gain some momentum, trying to find the perfect foot placement. I held my breath and kept myself from yelling out or running over. He leapt and made it to the driveway safe and sound. No NFL quarterback scoring a touchdown could match the joy in his victory dance. His jubilation was worth the risk of skinning a knee.

Go to any educational workshop or conference these days, and you are bound to hear about “grit,” the term psychologist and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Angela Duckworth uses to describe “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

NPR recently published a story on the topic. The piece begins, “It’s become the new buzz phrase in education: ‘Got grit?’” It then takes a careful, almost hesitant view of teaching grit, quoting Duckworth as saying, “We don’t know whether we’ve had any effect — the jury’s out.”

Thinking of the toddler’s victory dance, however, I wonder if we’re asking the wrong question. (read more…)

iStock_000003772536SmallApril is National Autism Awareness Month. April 2nd marks World Autism Awareness Day. Light it up blue tomorrow for World Autism Day. Today’s blog post is in honor of these celebrations.

First doctor’s visit. First haircut. First wave. First “Momma.” Autism is measured by these missed developmental milestones, and I have long since misplaced those typically developing checklists and corresponding stickers for my son’s baby book. His first doctor’s visit was for colic and every appointment that followed had its own nightmarish retelling. His first haircut had a similar story: fearful screams as if the barber would slice off a leg rather than a soft shaft of hair. We had no diagnosis, only a sinking feeling that something was wrong. He was a year old. He wanted no part of his birthday party or the birthday cake or the presents or the noise or the company. He got a “first birthday” sticker in his book, but not the stickers that would follow: first wave hello, say bye-bye. (read more…)