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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why do some children having trouble learning?

"Why is it that Johnny or Jennifer did not demonstrate proficiency on that reading test?"
 The bigger question:  “What is the best way to help children get up to speed?”

Students learn differently. They learn at different rates. They learn in different ways. Our job as a school system is to recognize these facts, and then do everything we can to help children overcome the barriers to their success.

When students do not progress as quickly as others in their grade level, schools cite some of these factors (not a complete list) that may create challenges for children:

Attendance: A student missed too much school and now must be caught up. We ask, “WHY was attendance a problem?” (Examples: Medical reasons, family dynamics; moving from place to place--many reasons that are no fault of the student)  A schools' response: Devise ways to increase a student’s attendance.

Information Processing Issues: Students may need different instructional cues to learn a skill or concept. We ask, “What skills/concepts are lacking? Why? Do we see auditory or visual processing issues? Practice issues?" A schools' response:  Review students’ work/behaviors to figure out different instructional strategies.

Family/Medical Issues: Sometimes things happen in families that make it impossible for children to concentrate on academics. Usually these are temporary instances, yet it may take children/families longer than others to resolve a problem and thus catch a student up. Student motivation, the ability of a parent to be able to support student learning at home, the communication between home, school, other caregivers all become factors schools must take into consideration to most effectively help a child. Each situation is different, requiring educators and other professionals together to address the foundational causes in the most sensitive manner.

Lack of long term, systematic exposure to information: Students learn at different rates, and may need more time to fully understand information so that it can be applied. Scaffolding what has been learned to other concepts deepens learning and helps a person make meaningful connections. Education isn’t a race. Everyone can win as long as opportunities and support are provided.

Guided Practice: Have you ever taken piano lessons? If so, you know that practicing makes the difference between being a two-finger-key-pounder and someone who can play a recognizable song. Just like piano playing, skills such as being able to recite math facts as well as how to fluently read a paragraph increases understanding of “the whole” and improves performance. When schools identify that students lack practice, programs are created to give students more practice, and care is taken to help parents know how to help their children practice.

It is also important to note that if a certain set of skills in a content area (example: reading) are not at a proficient level, it doesn’t mean other content areas (example: math) are in need of help. Teachers know that just retaining a student due to one troublesome area, is not only an ineffective solution to help a student gain proficiency, but  they also know retention may impede a child’s academic progress in other content areas, while removing the child from his/her peer group.

My point is this: No one single solution can sufficiently address student achievement.  All children are unique, and are entitled to a personalized education taught by a school family that cares. We have to remember that we are working with children—children who have friends, families, and teachers who are part of their world.

If you have a desire to help children, take time to find out WHY individual children sometimes find learning a challenge. As the “reasons” are discovered, solutions can be sought—but let these ideas be thoughtful and respectful of the unique needs of our kids.

Michele Lemire

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to School and Health Fair--Caring for our Kids

On a beautiful Sunday, children young and older ventured out to the Ruth Butler Building for the Back to School and Health Fair. I am so pleased with the Escanaba Area Public Schools involvement! The "prize" for our staff members: SMILES and EXCITEMENT from our current and potential Eskymos! Here's a peek at some of the fun:

The Robomos guided children so they could "drive the robot" and launch frisbees into a target!

Laura Bartell, one of the Escanaba Virtual Career Center teachers was on hand to help the little ones, but also available to talk to interested families, home schoolers, etc. about Escanaba's new program!

Here's a sweet little boy who came to our booth! Students received pencils, got to sign their names on our poster, and get a button!

Teachers Marie Young and Sue Gannon volunteered their time, as did Principal Jude VanDamme!

The Fair is About KIDS! 

We believe: "Once an Eskymo, Always an Eskymo"--we are so proud of our school district. It is a great place for learning, for working, and for living!

The Escanaba Football Team, along with Coach Hansen, visited the fair and competed in the cherry pit spitting challenge and WON extra funding for our Fan Club! Also, we had two bus drivers, Lisa Miller and Jody Bergeon volunteer to take children on bus rides so kids would feel more comfortable riding to school. What a wonderful experience for new kindergarten students, and they also got a school bus coloring book to take with them! 

All in all, the entire fair was designed to benefit children in Delta County. The Daily Press, St. Francis Hospital, the YMCA, and the other most generous sponsors all made this a fun day for kids!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Robomo Robot Group Prepares for the Back to School and Health Fair

Upon leaving the high school today, I ran into Marie Young, our Robomo Robotics Team leader. She was pushing a cart to where son Jordan awaited to help her lift it out of the truck. Marie donates her time by supervising our students, but also by garnering community support and grants in order to keep the program running. On Sunday, the Robomo Robot will make a visit to the Back to School and Health Fair at the Ruth Butler Building at the U.P. State Fairgrounds. Thanks to Marie, the Robomo Team, and of course our community partner, EMP--students who attend the Escanaba Area Public Schools are provided an opportunity to learn in this exciting STEM field! The Back to School and Health Fair will be held on Sunday, August 4, from 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.--Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Highlighting the Eskymo Fan Club

You may have heard this before: "Once an Eskymo, ALWAYS an Eskymo!" It is a belief shared by the Escanaba Area Public Schools. Once you become a part of our school system, you BELONG. You are part of the Eskymo family...and isn't it amazing to consider that years from now, you will STILL be a part of this family.

A truly amazing a supportive group that has this belief at its core, is the Eskymo Fan Club. I recently attended a Fan Club meeting, in the "Igloo" at the football field (and the Igloo itself will be ANOTHER blog post some time!). Fan club members, young and "older" were in attendance. The commitment of this group, to keep the traditions and excellence alive and attainable, was truly evident by the comments, actions, and attitudes I observed in that room.

Not all fan club members make the meetings, however, I notice that members DO step up during the course of the year to make both financial and time donations to benefit our students. I encourage you to visit the Fan Club Web site to learn more about this awesome group. Several events and projects are held throughout the year.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Do Administrators Do In the Summer?

Yesterday and today, administrators from all over our region are attending the U.P. Administrator's Academy at Bay College in Iron Mountain. Yesterday's topics ranged from learning how to utilize the data tools, Michigan Virtual University, and how to use technology tools to help students critically think, and more deeply understand content. Today we are learning about legal issues and how to improve school climate, culture and attitudes. Being able to network with other administrators is a huge benefit, as we learn so much from each other! All of us are hoping to bring some worthwhile ideas and skills back to our districts to help our students.

 Darci Griebel (Escanaba Jr. High Principal) and Doug Leisenring  (Escanaba Sr. High Principal) 
prepare for today's presentations.

Paulette Wickham, Soo Hill School Principal