Tag Archives: Bucks County

There is No “I” in Team

by Adrienne Young

It has been four years since the Bucks Division started on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) journey to improve the quality of our programs and to bring staff, parents and children together as a team through “positive possibilities.”

This year, we submitted our Benchmarks of Quality, stating that we are providing the proper strategies and supports to staff, children and families related to our behavioral expectations. In May, we were recognized for fidelity by the Pennsylvania Positive Behavior Support Network in Hershey and received a banner that is proudly hanging up in our vestibule. Thanks to all of the parents, staff, from the administrative staff, the classroom staff, therapists, nurses, the coaches, the Core Leadership Team, Mr. Dan, our music therapist and our amazing Facilitator, Meghan von der Embse. And an extra special thanks to Janet Rubien, our former Director of Programs – she was there with us from the start, cheering us on and brainstorming with us as a member of the Core Leadership Team.

PBIS fidelity could not have happened without the team working together and I am so proud to be a part this amazing group!

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Angels Without Wings

by Michael Murphy

Being a teacher you expect to have an impact. You expect the children you teach to at some point carry a couple of your lessons into the rest of their lives. This can be a difficult idea when you consider a preschool or primary grade student’s perspective. As a preschool teacher I battle for attention in a steel cage versus SpongeBob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse and a plethora of Disney Princesses for the World Heavyweight Champion of THE BRAIIIN… and sometimes I come out on top. Every once in a while I walk away with a victory. I get that it is never a routine victory, and that’s the joy of teaching. It is not often, however that a teacher expects to reach the parents in the same way.

At Easter Seals Bucks County Division, our Friendship Academy parents often pick up their students right from the classroom (as opposed to waiting in a car line or waiting for dismissal at the door). This offers us a unique opportunity to wrap up the day, share some praise and concerns about their child and creates the welcoming family community that we have established so well.

During an encounter with a parent after their child’s particularly rough day, one of several in recent history, I shared my concern:

“They did great with X, Y and Z but could use some extra help with A. Can I share some strategies with you?”

The look of joy, relief and grace poured from the parent. “I thank you. You do it, I don’t know how you do it, but you do it. They are a different kid since they started here. They clean up at home Because “Mom Mr. Mike said so.”

I’ve gotten compliments before, people notice what teachers do sometimes, but then mom stopped and reached out and said “this place is amazing. I love it. Everyone says hello, they smile, they ask how I am, they all know (child’s) name. You don’t know, Mr Mike. I come in here and I am so happy. You are angels without wings here. You may not see your wings, but I see them. All of you have them.”

I’ve gotten compliments before. I’ve gotten hugs and high fives, I’ve seen parents tear up with gratitude. In this sense I know I am lucky. Not every teacher gets to hear or see the kinds of things, achievements progress milestones that we get to see at Easter Seals. Not every teacher gets to be part of such a team as Easter seals. The parent went on to talk about the staff and administrators at the front desk who greet them both by name each day. She also discussed teachers, therapists and teaching assistants from the building that share smiles and praise her child’s walking feet or listening ears. She crosses fellow parents who share a wave or some words as they hustle to another stop or errand.

I’ve never heard any of these people set goals to make people smile, but it is just something we do here at Easter Seals. Something ingrained in our approach and our routine; to be thankful for each child and family we get to reach and those that are supportive and positive about what we do. It’s not always easy and no day is like another. We smile and take those parents who need us under our wings, that now I know we have, and let them know that they have a team behind them.

Splashing into positive possibilities

by Kathryn Wallace

This month in Bucks County  we are unveiling our PBIS Staff Acknowledgement Board!

fish-pic-copy

One of our very own teaching assistants designed and painted the board and fins. We polled our staff a few months ago and they chose to have a board for recognition. The purpose of the board to is highlight staff anonymously for their work with the students and with each other. We are going to highlight the actions of our staff when they are following the positive behavior principles by writing their good work on a “scale.”  (Learn about PBIS here, also here, and here) Our Core Leadership Team is excited to add another exciting resource to improve our blossoming positive workplace.

 

Six Super Rules

by Michael Murphy

At Friendship Academy in Bucks County, following the rules is not as hard as you’d think. While the children all learn differently, we have really had the benefit on controlling behaviors following six simple rules. The rules are not a list of ‘Don’t’ and ‘No’, which can intimidate and often do not help students behave any better, nor are they loosely described by any means. Our six rules are very closely tied to our classroom expectations as labeled through our PBIS initiative (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). Our six rules are:

Hands Help

Hearts Care

Ears Listen

Feet Wait

Eyes Watch

Be a Friend

The nice thing about these rules, best utilized during times of instruction (circle, story, activity\craft instruction, etc.), is that they describe aspects of the individual child that can be controlled with self-regulation and practice. Instead of telling students what not to do, and providing examples of how they can (poorly) behave to receive some additional attention, the rules simply act as reminders of what their bodies are capable of and how they can best use their bodies to their advantage.

What has made our rules all the better is tying them, in part, to a superhero theme. Thinking of the different aspects that make superheroes special, yet still require them to work in teams to solve problems, helps to create some additional hints towards working together with our peers, finding individual strengths and using new ideas for the greater good. Many preschool and early learning programs use a similar “Be A Superfriend” strategy that helps to recognize the everyday superstars that our children can be, through simple, kind and intentional acts in daily interaction.

Recently Edwin Gonzalez, Friendship Academy’s artistic Teaching Assistant, has created an exciting set of pictures and classroom reminders that help students focus on their expectations. The pictures show diversity, from Wonder Woman’s watching eyes to The Incredible Hulk’s waiting feet to Iron Man’s mechanical caring heart. They are bright and colorful, much like the students we teach. The pictures speak to all types of children, whether they like the hero or just the picture itself. The pictures grab their attention just enough for the teacher to direct it to the lesson. The pictures are unique and even the process of putting them together drew attention from the students as they watched Edwin plan, draw, color, laminate and post. You could tell that they already felt a little super about each addition to the series.

In addition to our Superfriends, there is much to be said about the everyday unsung heroes, the Teacher’s Assistants, the Bus Aides, the therapists, nursing staff, individual support staff, those that cook, clean, file or place calls. We are all part of a team of heroes. When we focus on what we are able to control, our body and our attitude, we can think more positively about the effects our actions have on our team, and more so, how we can contribute to make a team stronger. A team is only as strong as the weakest link, and if your weakest link is the Incredible Hulk, you are in pretty good shape.

 

It’s Just Not Fair

by Michael Murphy

“It’s Just Not Fair” is often heard throughout a preschool classroom, more so in an inclusive classroom such as Friendship Academy where students are treated and educated as individuals; meaning that praise is always given, but rewards are based on expectations of those individuals. We get excited for each and every achievement that happens in our classroom, but even the youngest of students notices when one student has a reward bin, or a penny board, or gets to take breaks after long activities. They catch on quick, they can get upset, they can sometimes be right.

As a teacher I explain the situation in ways they understand, ways they can remember. I dance until they smile, I offer them the world. They still know it is not a sticker but it is enough for the moment to let them forget.

As a preschool teacher, I get excited for all sorts of achievements. I may dance and sing more than I teach. A successful circle time, I dance. An awesome line in the hallway, I sing. A classroom of good listeners, I do both.

As a teacher of Friendship Academy it gets a little different. All types of students have all types of achievements. Friends utilize full sentences, I sing. Friends keep hands to themselves or find ways to control themselves in exciting activities, I dance. Friends make basic vocalizations, I do both. Friends engage in a flawless transition from one activity to another, I do both. Friends go a whole day without a meltdown, I do both. Friends engage in an activity and try their best for two minutes, I lose my mind for that.

What is really “just not fair” is that after all the work, after all the success, after all the praise and rewards. I don’t get to watch them grow anymore. They go off to elementary school. They work to be the good leaders in the classroom, the examples, the students who engage because they want to, not because they have to. And then I start from scratch, one step at a time. Maybe it is better this way because after all the leaps and bounds…

I’m running out of stickers.

All about play

by Sue Lowenstein

As many of you may already know, the Bucks Division has expanded programming to include typically developing children in our new Friendship Academy classroom!

One thing we can say for sure about all of the children at Easter Seals is that they love to play in our gym. The children from our APS program head to the gym to work on their gross motor and play skills, and nothing is more motivating than playing with their new friends from Friendship Academy.

It is always nice to take a break from the classroom and expend some energy moving and grooving in the gym. Under the guidance of Sue Lowenstein, Physical Therapist, and with the help of several staff including Laura Dettore, Teacher, our kids explored lots of fun equipment such as our moon bounce, our large colored barrel, our wooden rocking boat, our indoor slides, and much much more!!! Smiles and laughter are heard all around!

Elizabeth and Julianna - cropped Jayvier and Evie

Sue Lowenstein is a part time physical therapist who has been employed with Easter Seals of SEPA – Bucks County Division since 2001. She is a resident of Levittown who is busy raising and playing with her own 3 daughters when she is not having fun at work!