An Interview with Jennifer Corcoran, Ed.D, Assistant Principal Boca Raton Community Middle School, Boca Raton, FL
At an IEP meeting, a parent of one of our ESE students suggested that we purchase MindPlay Understanding Dyslexia™. Our District had heard about this Professional Development Course and supported our request by purchasing 100 licenses for our teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, and speech-language pathologists. To date, all of the educators on our campus have completed this training and are motivated to expand strategies that will support students with dyslexia.
When we presented Understanding Dyslexia to our educators, we explained that the program was valuable and important. We dedicated three hours during one of our professional development days for all of them to take the on-line training. We also allowed them to work at their own pace and set a completion deadline of October 1. By using the reports produced within the program, I could monitor their progress and send reminders to make sure they would meet the deadline. We had only a couple of exceptions. The On-line Program Design and Technology. The program was very straight forward and easy to implement. Not one person had problems working on it, which is impressive because computer programs are not always user friendly.
As an administrator, I like that I have access to the program and the reports. If I want to talk to a teacher about a concept in the program, I can pull it up, and we can listen and review the module. With an in-person training, a person has one opportunity to get information; s/he can’t go back and hit replay. The pre-test activates teachers’ prior knowledge and compares that information to the information being presented. The post-test takes a teacher back to a section to review the video if s/he gets an answer wrong. The program reteaches the information until a teacher understands the concept being assessed. I like that everybody gets 100 percent by the end. The educators on our campus enjoyed taking the training. For Exceptional Student Education teachers, Understanding Dyslexia is a great refresher; whereas, for our general education teachers who have not had disabilities training, the program gave them background knowledge about dyslexia. Teachers benefited from the empathy and support section because it made them aware of the needs of students’ with dyslexia. The challenge section was an eye opener: Dyslexia students present as really good students academically, but they face unique challenges that impact how they act in class. After our teachers observed the characteristics of dyslexia students from the program, they were able to identify current and former students with similar characteristics.
Teachers said: “I saw a student like that; or I have students in my class like this; or now I understand, and it makes sense.” When teachers understand the underlying issues, they can approach instruction with appropriate strategies. Dyslexia Intervention Strategies In our district, we do not have a separate eligibility for dyslexia. It falls under the umbrella of Specific Learning Disabled. The Understanding Dyslexia training gave us a better understanding of dyslexia and fostered conversations that we needed to have about how we will move forward to better meet the needs of our students with dyslexia. We are currently using graphic organizers, audio books, visualization strategies, and MVRC and discussing how we will tweak our instructional practices moving forward. We are also planning to provide additional professional development to our teachers. My weekly newsletter, Spotlight on Instruction, is sent to all staff on campus. I will include information about dyslexia intervention strategies and how dyslexia impacts students socially and emotionally, especially at the middle school level. Our educators had a very positive experience taking the Understanding Dyslexia on-line training, and I think it is going to be a catalyst to help us improve instruction to meet the needs of all the students on our campus, including the ones with dyslexia. The program made our teachers aware of the social and emotional aspects of dyslexia, which is just as important as their academics. If we know that our students feel frustrated or are struggling, we can make sure we foster an environment in which they feel accepted and are able to succeed.