A Portland Public Schools Special Education Teacher Offers 3 Steps To Empower Students

A Portland Public Schools Special Education Teacher Offers 3 Steps To Empower Students

Children rarely have much power over their lives. They are told what time to get up, what to eat for breakfast, who their teachers are, what classes they must attend, and so on. This can be especially true for students in special education who often struggle in school, and receive even more academic and behavioral instruction. When a special education student has experienced trauma—hunger, homelessness, violence—the loss of control a student feels over even the simplest part of a school day can be exacerbated.

But at our school, children in special education are empowered to thrive. They are the ones in enviable positions getting to leave their classrooms for small group sessions in the learning center where they learn to be kind, listen to others, follow routines, and otherwise “do their jobs.” These messages motivate students to self-actualize, and they are succeeding with learning tools that help them think critically and persevere when the going gets tough.

So, how do we help students feels more confident in taking control of their lives?

The answer is simple: When students are allowed to make choices, they begin to have power.

In my classroom, I use a motivational program called The Shadow Project to help kids realize and use their power in making decisions over schoolwork and behavior. The Shadow Project provides resources and incentives so that our students can do their jobs with more confidence and feel the value of a task well done.

1. Goal Setting

When students set goals for themselves, they are able to see they have a say in their own path forward. They aren’t being told where they must make gains, they are guided towards goals. They are given power in choosing their goals. They are listened to and their opinions are valued. When students’ ideas and opinions are valued, they are empowered.

2. Incentives

Not all kids get a paycheck for the work they do! Our learning center students who do their job and act like respectful, responsible students get Shadow Bucks (classroom money) just like an adult might earn a paycheck. If students don’t engage in learning in a way supportive to our community, they don’t earn Shadow Bucks like their peers. Students keep their Shadow Bucks in envelopes (we call them wallets) and periodically get to count their Bucks, and can decide to trade up for bigger bills, which is motivating as the Bucks accumulate, as well as good for math skills.

3. Celebrate

It is important to take notice of kids’ progress and accomplishments, particularly those with learning disabilities whose forward movement may be incrementally smaller, and who aren’t always recognized for their efforts.  So, every six weeks we have Shadow Day. In order to participate in Shadow Day, our students are expected to have a strong work ethic with community-minded behavior to match. This doesn’t mean that they need to be perfect. This just means that when our students make mistakes, they are motivated to set goals and improve where needed so that they can achieve their goals and participate in the celebration.

Shadow Day is a top secret event only for our kids in special education. They know not to talk about it with their peers, because it is a privilege, and we don’t want other students to feel bad that they are not included. This secret celebration makes them feel special and in charge of their destiny. Older students get to help choose the Shadow Day date. Then, we post the date in the classroom so that the date is known by all our students who need to know. On Shadow Day—like a payday for adults—students are empowered to spend their “paycheck” in whatever way they choose with their Bucks. They can select gifts, school supplies, books, sensory tools, art supplies, and more. Being able to spend one’s own paycheck as one chooses is empowering. Where else can young children in a lower-income community have the power to earn and purchase?

Empowering kids with special needs through goal setting, earning Shadow Bucks, and celebrating Shadow Day gives meaning to students’ lives. As Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”  When my kids feel that they are spending their days at school with a purpose they are more motivated to show up and work hard. Our students’ purpose is supported by their kind, caring teachers … and by The Shadow Project.
 

Shadow Teacher Beth BrodBeth Brod, M.A., is a longtime special education teacher in Portland, Oregon, currently based at Woodmere Elementary School in the Portland Public School district.

Shadow Hiring for Operations Coordinator

Shadow Hiring for Operations Coordinator

Employment Opportunity

The Shadow Project teams with teachers to make school a place where children who learn differently can thrive. We are seeking highly-organized, technologically-adept, and mission-driven applicants for our Operations Coordinator position.  The Operations Coordinator is a full-time position which 1) coordinates The Shadow Project’s Goal Setting program, and 2) maximizes the organization’s capacity to grow by creating and maintaining efficient and effective systems for data collection and evaluation, fundraising, and office administration.  This position serves as a key player on the Shadow Program team, which focuses on standardization of our three programs and continuous program improvement.

The Operations Coordinator reports to the Director of Programs, but will work with other staff on database management, stewardship, and administrative support duties.

The Shadow Project is growing, and we are looking for a dynamic problem-solver who is ready to learn and grow with us.

ORGANIZATION DESCRIPTION

The Shadow Project is a Portland-based nonprofit committed to making school more accessible and engaging for children with learning challenges. The only nonprofit of its kind in the country, Shadow serves 1,600 boys and girls grades kindergarten through eight whose dyslexia, ADHD, autism, or other special education need can turn reading, writing, or paying attention into a daily struggle. Shadow Project: equips teachers with three evidence-based programs that motivate discouraged learners; provides access to tools for success, including tailored reading and sensory materials; and supports teachers in integrating these tools and techniques into their classrooms.  Shadow Project works to advance equity for our diverse learners, most of whom attend low-income schools and are from communities of color.

Key Responsibilities

Goal Setting Program & Warehouse Coordination (60%)

  • Operate free online Shadow Store for special education teachers, including inventory        management, Shopify website, and in-person educator support.
  • Manage warehouse volunteers who build teacher orders, and deliver materials, and collaborate to build warehouse volunteer base.
  • Collect data and report on program evaluation metrics.
  • Collaborate to promote teacher fidelity to program.
  • Maintain positive relationship with warehouse partner and lessor, Schoolhouse Supplies.

Program Team Collaboration (20%)

  • Actively participate on The Shadow Program team, with focus on program standardization, and continuous program improvement.
  • Assist with scheduling, installing, and maintaining Sensory Spaces.
  • Assist with planning and staffing of Shadow events.

Evaluation Support & Database Management (10%)

  • Maximize organizational use of Salesforce for donor relations and tracking. potential school partner marketing; and partner communications, relations, and tracking.
  • Assist with execution of program evaluation.
  • Design and maintain program evaluation tools.
  • Collect and analyze data; produce internal reports.
  • Administer student evaluations.

Office Management & Administrative Support (10%)

  • Manage office supplies inventory and ordering.
  • Manage in-house technical and Internet issues.
  • Assist with budget maintenance.
  • Help update organization website content.
  • Assist with organization development tasks, including soliciting and tracking in-kind donations for Shadow Store, and overseeing thank you letter production and mailings.

Minimum Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • 1 year of experience (paid or volunteer) coordinating projects or programs
  • Strong technical and computing skills; highly proficient in Excel, WordPress, and Survey Monkey, or
    similar programs
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail
  • A sense of service and commitment to The Shadow Project’s mission
  • Ability to travel among Shadow’s 30+ school sites in Portland and East Multnomah County

Desired Qualifications

  • Experience working in K-12 education
  • Experience working with data, reporting, and budgeting
  • Experience using e-commerce sites (Etsy, Shopify, etc.), Salesforce or other CRM, and basic coding
  • Familiarity with learning challenges or disabilities
  • Ability to work independently, be a strong team player, and learn new skills via research
  • Reliable access to a vehicle and current car insurance

Additional Requirements

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is occasionally required to stand, walk, and/or sit. The employee must regularly lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. Hours are flexible, with an occasional evening or weekend required.

To Apply

Interested candidates should submit a resume and short cover letter outlining how they meet the minimum requirements, via email, with their name in the subject line to info@shadow-project.org. Salary is $34,000 to $36,000 based on experience.  Benefits include health insurance and three weeks vacation annually. The Shadow Project is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We encourage applications from candidates with disabilities, from communities of color, veterans, and those who identify as LGBTQ.

 

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Dinner Cruise to Benefit Courageous Kids

Dinner Cruise to Benefit Courageous Kids

Join us Jan. 19 for Red Gala Foundation’s dinner and dancing cruise aboard The Columbia Sternwheeler to benefit The Shadow Project. Fewer than 100 tickets remain so click now to buy.

Boarding starts at 7 p.m., and the boat leaves dock at 7:30 p.m. sharp.

Dinner is included with the the $70 ticket. There is a no host bar, silent auction, DJ, dancing, and much more!

The Sternwheeler is located at 1000 SW Naito Parkway.

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The Shadow Project Helps Build Perseverance

The Shadow Project Helps Build Perseverance

Ronan, a third grader with dyslexia, didn’t want to read aloud, because his classmates sometimes made fun of his slow pace. Ronan’s teacher used the Shadow Project to help Ronan persevere, and he doubled his reading speed. In fact, 89% of Shadow students say they continue trying, even when schoolwork is difficult.

Ronan’s teacher, Heather Stearns, set regular reading goals with Ronan, and used Shadow reinforcers to build his confidence. Naturally quiet, Ronan began emerging from his shell and is now the first one in class to raise his hand to share ideas. He is completing work regularly and is reading 50 percent faster than before, said Heather.

Mom, Alissa, is thrilled. “For Ronan, school is really hard. Watching him struggle with reading has been the hardest for me as a parent.

“But Ronan is so determined,” said Alissa. “No matter how frustrating the work is, he never gives up. He has a great attitude. I’m so grateful that organizations like The Shadow Project are out there to get Ronan the tools that he needs.

“The Shadow Project has been very positive. The program does a good job of making reading something you can do so you’re never embarrassed or ashamed. The news of Ronan’s improvement made my whole year!”

Donate now by clicking here.

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Classroom Behavior Improves with Sensory Spaces

Classroom Behavior Improves with Sensory Spaces

School can be stressful for children with disabilities, leading to behavior that affects the whole class. But in Oregon schools whose students have access to The Shadow Project’s SuperSensory Literacy Spaces, teachers report that 73 percent of children strengthened their behavioral management skills.

Without tools to cope productively with the challenges of disability, trauma, and chronic mental health issues, students can act out and be disruptive, and the effects are immediate and long-term. Instruction time for all students decreases.  Students can be suspended or expelled, decreasing their chances of graduating high school.

Responding to the call from educators to have more resources to address their students’ increasing mental health and behavior needs, The Shadow Project’s SuperSensory Literacy Spaces alter this trajectory.

Our multi-sensory breakout spaces empower children with tools to develop and practice self-regulation skills, a key determinant of life success and mental health.  Last year, 61 percent of students were less likely to have behaviors that interfere with peer learning, and 39 percent increased attendance, according to educator observation.

Read more about student outcomes here, and see our spaces in action at one North Portland school.

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