SELD 688 – Class 2

I’m really enjoying our readings for this class. The mix of anecdotal and research articles provides much more depth than you find in a typical textbook alone.

I was a little wary of the video when it first started playing, but oh my! Though the quality (and the outfits) was dated, the presentation still seemed so relevant. The presenter was incredibly effective at causing the entire room of participants to really feel as though they were a learning disabled child in a standard classroom setting. I even felt uncomfortable and panicked at times when he would ask questions in a rapid-fire manner and chide those who could not answer quickly enough.

One of the most poignant excerpts, for me, was when he has the participants write a title for the picture of the woman looking in a mirror. As most of the participants did, I actually saw a skull at first glance. Upon reading that the participant whose title he selected had used word such as death, etc., he berated her for being inappropriate in the classroom. She, understandably, was bewildered by this response. His point, that an LD student may perceive things differently and may not understand why they get in trouble, was well taken.

I recall one incident in fifth grade where I was commanded to write an X by my name for misbehaving. I was mortified and to this day I cannot tell you what I did wrong. I can only imagine the effect that this would have on a student who experiences such situations often. For those who lack support or understanding of their LD, adulthood may continue to be frustrating and difficult.

SELD 688 – Class 3

This was a long class, and I felt myself dragging a bit towards the end. When Dr. Gerber indicated that we would be watching a video for the last portion of class I wondered I would stay awake! Not to worry, the videotaped interview with the dermatologist from New Orleans (my apologies, I cannot remember her name) was fascinating. Her stories of growing up as a child with significant learning disabilities were intriguing and her manner of speaking showed, to me, that she still felt very strongly about her experiences.

One aspect of her story caught my eye, or my ear I suppose. She mentioned that she struggled academically and that her teachers would often become frustrated with her perceived lack of caring or unwillingness to participate well in class activities. Even when she was not trying to “be bad” she was perceived that way. She stated that she then used “being bad” more or less as a coping mechanism. Being considered bad was preferable to being seen as dumb.

It left me wondering how many other so-called “bad” kids are really struggling with issues unseen, ignored or unrecognized? Some of these students, as was the case with the dermatologist, may be struggling with a learning disability. Beyond that, others may be experiencing trauma or difficulties at home. My point is, what educational opportunities are lost due to misunderstandings? Fortunately, the dermatologist was surrounded by a supportive family (social ecologies at play!) and received tutoring to assist her outside of school.

SELD 688 – Class 1

Monday was the first night of my final class in the Adult Learning program.  I’ve heard great things about SELD 688 and I was looking forward to find out what exactly I could expect from the next five weeks.

I’m only loosely familiar with disabilities in general, and learning disabilities specifically. I have two young cousins, siblings, who have been diagnosed with autism, though the severity differs for each. I have another cousin, an adult in his 30s, who was diagnosed with a learning disability (the specifics escape me at this moment) as child. I have seen him struggle throughout his childhood and into his adulthood as a result of this LD. Growing up in a small town and without the full support of his father (mom was a tremendous advocate) left him with few tools once he entered the adult phase of his life. He’s struggled with substance abuse though he is now clean and employed.

We discussed in class that children with LD very certainly face struggles, but as a society we seem to be more familiar with LD in the K-12 arena. Adults with LD, however, are often misunderstood, maligned or ignored. Several people mentioned that these adults must be strong self-advocates in order to seek out the resources needed. It seems to be such a shock to learn that an adult has LD. When asked what other adults need to know about adults with LD, I had written down what another classmate shared, “LD doesn’t just go away.”

I’m looking forward to improving my own understanding of the issues adults with LD face. I love the small class size and the discussion style of the class – I sense good discussions in the future.

Final Thoughts

As this semester draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect upon what a journey it has been. I went from thinking I had absolutely no expertise whatsoever to being invited to join a nonprofit Board of Directors. Who woulda thunk it? I greatly enjoyed the consulting project and the class readings and discussions that augmented this practical application. As with every semester, I continue to benefit enormously from the insights and experiences of my peers.

As we have discussed in class, so much of what we have learned from Block and Schein and each other is applicable to both professional and personal situations. The whole idea of being authentic, for example, is something that I will take with me into multiple realms of my reality. You are only doing a great disservice to yourself and to those whom you are trying to help when you hold back or feign emotions.

I appreciated the collaborative approach endorsed by Block and Schein, as collaboration is the method I prefer in my practice. I wholeheartedly agree with Block that when all parties are involved and engaged, implementation is more likely to occur. Making decisions for others is rarely as effective in the long run as making decisions with others. With respect to adult learners, I believe that classrooms environments where learners are actively participating and molding their learning experiences see more results than those where an exclusively top-down approach is utilized. My experiences with consulting this semester have stretched this view into work environments.

I have also seen that it’s perfectly alright to turn down or walk away from a situation where  a client turns out to be a stone. Continuing with this sort of client will likely only lead to frustration and a report filed away and ignored. And what a waste of learning that would be.

Reflection

This is the time of the year, or semester, when I inevitably begin to feel overwhelmed. With only a month left to go, it’s crunch time in my classes. The holiday season is gearing up. And there are deadlines at work. And only 24 hours in a day! Nonetheless, onward we press.

June and I have more or less completed contracting with our client. We have a few details to iron out, but I am pleased with our progress thus far. I was apprehensive going into the contracting phase but our client was understanding of our needs as consultants as well as students and has been quite accommodating.

This Friday we will begin the data gathering. I’m looking forward to getting our hands dirty and meeting with some of the individuals in the organization. Of course, I’m also nervous about how we will be received and whether the information we get will be useful. Has anyone in class begun to actually collect data? I’m interested to hear what their experiences have been.

Contracting…eek. I am not known for being particularly assertive and I’m apprehensive about whether or not I’ll be able to make the points I want to make and ensure that my needs and wants are heard and understood by the client. For this reason, among others, I’m relieved to be working with a partner. Hopefully we will be able to back each other and fill in the gaps. I definitely have a tendency to hold back, which can make me a great listener but not necessarily an active part of the conversation.

June and I met with our first prospective clients yesterday at FeedMore, an umbrella organization for the Central Virginia Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and the Community Kitchen. The two individuals with whom we met were friendly and receptive but I’m concerned nonetheless. We already know that the last VCU group to work with FeedMore faced some challenges with one of the individuals. Also, the two project ideas they presented to us both seemed interesting, but large and perhaps not focused enough on human interactions. The first project concerns the development of a diversity program. Diversity of course relates to individuals and their interactions with each other and the community at large. However, I do fear that if we’re not careful we could become bogged down in the program development aspect and never focus on the actual human interactions, if that makes sense. Also, diversity is an important, yet large, issue to tackle in six weeks.

The second proposal was to work on a wellness program. Again, I worry that we would be relying too much on a program planning skills and not enough on our consulting skills. However, I do see the potential in this project and it may prove easier to pare this down into a manageable unit for the time frame we have.

We have a second meeting scheduled with the Hilliard House for this Tuesday and, depending on how that goes, we should have a program nailed down soon!

And then…contracting…

Consulting Skills – 2

I am still struggling with the idea that I have any expertise to offer in a consulting situation. We shall see as the semester goes on…

On to other thoughts: I love the idea of being authentic in consulting as well as Schein’s notion of active inquiry. In fact, although it was difficult at first to follow the proper line of questioning, our in class activity really showed the importance of allowing the client (or child, or spouse, or friend) to get out what they need to before we jump in with a save the day response. However, I do wonder if there’s a possible danger to this that we haven’t fully explored. Is there not a fine line between being authentic and perhaps opening up too much? How do you navigate that space between sharing and unproductive venting? Admittedly, I see this becoming more of an issue in personal relationships, however it still seems to me to be a risk in professional consulting settings. I’m certainly not attempting to disparage this approach – quite the opposite. It just seems that we need to be authentic AND aware.

Finally, regarding Nancy Sanchez’s checklist: #3 Admit when you are wrong. Yikes! That one may take some work.

ADLT 610

My meandering thoughts on the first week and our first set of readings:

As I mentioned in class last Monday, the topic of consulting brings to mind “the Bobs” from Office Space. Two middle-aged, out of touch, cheesy outsiders brought in to revitalize and reorder a company. Hopefully this course will continue what we started on Monday and throw this negative stereotype out the window.

In that vein, I like what I’ve read of Block and Schein so far. The idea that there are various types of consulting and that not all consultants are limited to performing like the Bobs is appealing.  It would appear that most individuals/companies are used to and expect either an expert consultant or a hands-on consultant, but may not be versed in process consultation. How well-received is process consultation? I certainly see the value in it and, based upon what I’ve read thus far, find this approach much more up my alley. I love the idea of helping, and not simply telling or doing. However, I would expect that there are many who would balk at paying a consultant to come in and require them to deeply participate in their own problem-solving. Will we get to ready any war stories from Schein or Block regarding their initial attempts to implement a collaborative approach?

Aaaand Done

I finally did my teaching demo last week (4/9) and I think it went pretty well. Woot woot! I haven’t had a chance to view the cd of my demo so I’ll save further reflection for my actual reflection 🙂

I mentioned before that I’m enjoying the demos…we’re definitely covering a wide range of topics. I will note, however, that most of the class seems to be fond of a more traditional lecture style. A lot of this could possibly be explained by the fact that the nurses, unlike the adult ed students, have not had the same conditioning (to paraphrase Prof. Wendy) and previous exposure to active learning techniques. I thought that Jennifer K’s demo on 4/2 was an interesting combination of traditional methods, lecture and powerpoint, and active learning. She handed out goofy glasses and had us work in teams to practice the interview skills she covered earlier.

We have stressed active learning in this class but I do think that is important to remember that there are situations or groups that call for a more traditional method. Or, as Jennifer demonstrated, a combination approach. Not everyone is responsive to active learning and as adult educators we must be aware of the needs and preferences of our learners. This is NOT to say that we should not challenge our learners to come out of their comfort zones. But I always come back to the same adage – We should meet our learners where they are.