Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions – Teachable Moments

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to
New Year’s Resolutions – Teachable Moments
I have to admit this up-front.  I like New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t keep as many of them as I should, but I hope to do better.  I like New Year’s resolutions because they are the beginnings of a plan, and I think we all should be good planners.  As someone with an interest in disabled children, you should make some New Year’s resolutions, and better yet, you should teach the disabled students in your life to make them.
Of course, just teaching young people to make New Year’s resolutions is not enough.  You need to teach them how to follow through and achieve the goals they set.  That takes planning.  Many students just skate through school simply doing what they’re told (or not).  Most of their actions really don’t involve planning.  You can teach students to set goals and write plans to reach those goals just as you can teach them to write good paragraphs by teaching them to narrow their topics, write strong topic sentences, and outline the bodies of their paragraphs.
Believe me, students don’t learn to set goals on their own.  They don’t learn to plan on their own.  Most have heard of New Year’s resolutions and that makes for a very teachable moment for you to introduce the topics of goal setting and planning.
Let’s look at setting good New Year’s resolutions.  A popular one at this time of year is to lose weight.  If you set that as a New Year’s resolution and that’s all you do, I can almost guarantee that it’s not going to happen.  The goal is too broad and has no time parameter.  Are you going to lose one pound or a hundred pounds?  Are you going to lose some each week, each month, or are you just going to drop that weight all at once before next December 31st?
A much better New Year’s resolution would go like this:   I’m going to lose 20 pounds.  I’ll weigh once each week to make sure I’m on target, and my goal is to lose five pounds per month during the first four months of the year.
Really want to make sure you lose the weight?  Write in your plan to eat no more than 1,500 calories per day and work out on the treadmill at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.  Now that a plan.  It’s clear, it’s concise, it’s detailed, and it’s achievable.  It’s hard to beat a plan like that.  You can teach that kind of plan to almost every special education student you know.
Two other things you will want to teach students to do with their New Year’s resolutions:  a) write them down, and b) tell all their friends and relatives about their resolutions.  This will increase their chances of staying with their resolutions by about 1000%.
All too often we believe disabled students are incapable of setting goals and incapable of extensive planning.  Well, they couldn’t read or do any math before you taught them either.  Goal setting is a skill.  Planning is a skill.  You must teach disabled students the rudimentary elements of goal setting and planning, and then you must have them practice, and practice, and practice until it becomes a part of them.
Remember, riding a bike is a skill.  Keyboarding is a skill.  They must be learned.  They must be practiced.  Goal setting is a skill.  Planning is a skill.  They must be learned.  They must be practiced. 
Make your New Year’s resolutions.  Keep them this year.  But more importantly, teach every special education student in your life to make New Year’s resolutions.  And while you’re at it, teach them how to set goals and how to plan.  You might very well change their lives in ways you can’t imagine.
Grant Info:
Grant Name:  MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation Grants
Funded By:  MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation
Description:  The MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation is committed to creating opportunities for young people through youth-oriented programs. We collaborate with organizations and charities in the United States that share our commitment in helping the disadvantaged achieve self-sufficiency and personal growth.
Program Areas:  After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Disabilities, General Education, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education, Technology, Vocational
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other
Proposal Deadline:  1/31/13
Average Amount:  $1,000.00 - $5,000.00
Telephone:  1-800-MAXIMUS
Availability:  All States


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