1. What is your teaching background and what do you currently teach?
I have been a special education teacher since 2007. I currently teach in a fourth-grade inclusive co-taught classroom in the Baldwinsville Central School District. I currently have students that are in person each day, students that are attending school through a hybrid model and students that are fully remote. I feel very fortunate to teach in the same elementary school where my three children attend because I get sneak peeks at them thriving in their classrooms. In addition to teaching, I maintain a website, NicolesLearningLab.com, for special education teachers, run a support group for co-teachers on Facebook, and create resources for teachers to use in their own classrooms. I believe that ALL people have great value and have the ability to learn. I am a huge supporter of teaching all students to advocate for themselves, both in the classroom and out of the classroom. In our classroom, we have continuous conversations about learning differences. I work with my students to help them think about how they learn best and give them the tools they need to make decisions for themselves that will support their growth.
2. How have you taught your students the importance of the Positivity Project?
Teaching the character strengths that are a part of the Positivity Project is so important, especially now. We have been met with so many challenges and changes in the last 12 months. Our students have shown plenty of perseverance, bravery, and kindness as we navigate through these changes. It is so important to point out when a character strength is being demonstrated so students can recognize it and apply it to other situations. Self-awareness and awareness of others is vital as our students grow. Students need to learn how to recognize the character strengths within themselves and in others. We spend a lot of time modeling actions and thought processes. We consistently reflect on how every person is different, and how those differences are to be celebrated and appreciated.
3. What lessons have you learned this year?
I have been reminded that children are amazing beings! They can adapt to so many different situations. I have learned that seemingly small things really make a big difference. I learned that human connection and building relationships is still the most important part of teaching.
4. What are some tips or unique ways to make remote learning successful?
Keep remote learning simple. There are so many different apps and websites out there and it is enticing to try them all, but that can be so overwhelming for everybody involved. Any time you add something new, it takes much longer to teach through a screen than it does in the classroom, and that is okay but important to remember. The more consistency you can provide, the better the remote learning experience is for students and their families. There also needs to be a great deal of flexibility and grace extended to our students. We are all of a sudden expecting little kids to do adult things. Suddenly, kids and young adults are expected to have organizational skills and autonomy, often without explicit instruction or an adult present. We have to be mindful that students will need extra support as they navigate these new ways of learning.