Practical Access Podcast

S7 E7: CEC Reflections on Disability with Joan McDonald

March 17, 2022 Season 7 Episode 7
Practical Access Podcast
S7 E7: CEC Reflections on Disability with Joan McDonald
Show Notes Transcript

Tune in as Drs. Rebecca Hines and Lisa Dieker honor, celebrate, and reflect on Joan McDonald's career, the Council of Exceptional Education (CEC) 's past 100 years while also thinking ahead to the future. Don't forget we love to hear from our listeners! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. We look forward to receiving your questions on our Google Phone (407) 900- 9305, Facebook (Practical Access), Twitter (@AccessPractical), or Instagram (@Practical_Access).

Lisa Dieker  0:06  
Welcome to practical access. I'm Lisa Dieker.

Rebecca Hines  0:09  
And I'm Rebecca Heinz. And Lisa, tell us about today's guests.

Lisa Dieker  0:14  
Wow, we have not only a friend but a legacy friend, Jen McDonald, you as I don't know, when did you start teaching down a minute? Well,

you know, as I started thinking about what we talked about yesterday, as far as the 100th year anniversary, it scared the heck out in the field for half of that time. I started teaching in 1970. Got my master's in 6970. And I've been in the field ever since. So

wow, we're really privileged to have you and you we know not only are you legacy in the field, but your legacy and CAC, you've done multiple service, and we appreciate all of that. So, we'd love to start by asking like, what is your proudest moment from your impact in your career, because I've been 1000s, but I'll let you share the one you're most proud of,

Joan McDonald  1:01  
oh, my gosh, that's really hard. Because I've I've been very fortunate. In my career, I've worked in state hospitals and public schools and in three states. But I think what I think I'm most proud of is during my time in TELUS Elementary School District in Arizona, we work with the Department of Education and Tolleson, Union High School District, don't don't ask me about how Arizona divides up its schools. It was an elementary district. But at any rate, we worked with pilot parents of Arizona, Arizona State University and the Department of Education. And we brought Marcy Magee he co back out from Virginia to train our teachers and our students. And it was beginning of the self advocacy movement for students back in the 90s. Really big push for that. And we taught our students how to lead their own IEP meetings. And we initially started with our middle school students, our seventh and eighth graders, and the high school started with their ninth graders. And it was absolutely amazing. I learned after you know, at that point in time, probably 3540 years in the field, I learned how ignorant when we started asking our students at that grade level, why do you go to this class? Why do you go to this teacher? And the answers that we got were very, very eye opening. Some of them because I'm scheduled to go, some of them because I don't know. And the response we got most often, which scared me the most was the fact that they said that they were stupid. And so beginning to teach them about their disabilities. And of course, we you know, we followed all the rules as far as confidentiality. You know, we dealt with general topics with the whole class, we dealt with specific IPS on an individual and specific disability categories with individual students. But I was so so proud of the group. And as a matter of fact, I followed up with the student that we did our very first student led IEP on and he left our district went on to tell us in Union High School District, and then went on to Community College and is now married with a family. So I've stayed in touch with his family. So that made me very proud. And if I can just quickly give another example, which I thought was amazing. We were working with a fourth grader. And he happened to be bilingual. And his mother spoke English, but his father did not. And so when his father came to the IEP meeting, we were not prepared, you know, we thought, okay, we'll just start the meeting in English. But then what happened is we had to invite our assistant principal down to help translate the meeting for us. So while we're awaiting the general ed teacher started, you know, who had this young, this young guy in her homeroom, by the way was also the gifted teacher for the district teacher of gifted. She started saying, you know, you're not turning your homework in, you're not doing this, you're not doing this. I don't know you know what to do. And then the assistant principal came in, the students started his own meeting, introducing everybody there, and shared what his strengths and needs were. And at this meeting, it was eye opening, this gen ed teacher did a 180 Turn around. All of a sudden she's saying to this young man, you know what, if you come in for a little bit before recess, or after recess, I can help you get ready for this. Or if you do this, then I can help you with this. And I've never seen such 180 degree turn around in my professional career before. And the self esteem of the students just blossomed. I could I could probably talk about a half hour but other cases and a little preschooler we did it with but that's that's another

Lisa Dieker  4:49  
that's a great was a great so we're sold.

Rebecca Hines  4:55  
Now and student led IEP, so let's say I'm a teacher, and I'm like you You know what, I love that idea? It's far from what we're doing. But I'm on board. Can you give us some practical ideas on how somebody might get started? Whether you're a parent teacher? How do you get started with that process?

Joan McDonald  5:14  
Oh, absolutely. And it's initially I'll tell you, it's like anything else, initially, it takes more work. But once you get it, it makes your life so much easier. We started by working with our administration, so that they knew, you know, the building principals. So that they knew what we were doing. And that was very helpful. We also notify the parents and we talked to the parents a little bit, and we said, we want to try something. Because if the parents had no, I don't want them doing it, we didn't, okay. But we did talk to the parents and say, you know, we want to try something. And in an example, would be a parent who did come into an IEP meeting and her son. And I can share this because he's in the training video, we did, and we have a release of information. So I'm not violating any confidentiality. But he was a young man with an emotional disability and was constantly being thrown out of school, he was constantly being suspended, you know, he was impulsive, has been language. And his mother was threatening to sue us under, you know, 504. And anything else you can think of at the time, even though he was in special education. But she came into that meeting, that young man led his meeting, and talked about what is hard for him. And his mother, kind of just turned around and said, You know, I am so proud of him, it being able to express himself like this. And so I saw a parent do 180 degree turnaround, it's, so you get, you need to get your parents support, you need to get your administration support. And you've got to get the students support, and you've got to allow them to be involved at the level at which they are comfortable. Because not all students can lead their own IEP s, you know, you hope that will happen by high school, but when they're younger, their participation level is going to vary, you know, some will only just do the introductions, some will want to talk about their strengths and needs. You know, we try to get them to develop their goals. Before the IEP meeting, actually, we meet the teachers meet with them and say, Well, what do you think you need to work on, even though the teachers know, I get that input from, we get that input from the, from the student too. And you know, in almost every single case, it's in this it's in alignment with what we wanted to work with them on. So you know, works great. So, and with me, who loved learning about the most is we taught students about the laws and the protections that they have under the laws, the older students, I would start that, you know, maybe in the late intermediate middle school grades, they loved learning about, you know, Ida and section 504. And Ada, they love that.

Lisa Dieker  7:50  
So I have kind of my last question for you would be, you know, just this whole theme of self advocacy. So it's a two part question. You've done so much advocacy in the CC organization, as a as a teacher and leader, you know, voice, what is what is the starting point in your mind for both a child with a disability to get their voice, you've given us some examples, but also for that new professional in the field to get their voice? Well,

Joan McDonald  8:17  
you know, so much of it goes into, you know, kind of in onboarding, onboarding, whatever the terminology is, for new teachers in the field. I think a lot of it starts at the universities, I think universities need to be teaching students, college level students about the importance of self advocacy and the importance of getting the students involved to the level of which they're capable of being involved. I think it starts there. And I think once they start, you know, the the mentoring program, and the, the in service as they transition into service, from pre service into into service positions, I think needs to continue. And I think that's a big challenge, because I don't think we have enough administrators, and or teachers that are really knowledgeable enough to even start, you know, looking at this as an as an option, you know, for students. And I'm sad to see that happen. Yeah, I'm sad to see that happen. So anyway, I, you know, I, as an administrator in the district I worked in it was it was automatic. All of our teachers were trained in it, and they trained the students. And the general ed teachers that were owed the secondary benefits from working with the general ed teachers was absolutely positive. We then increase the number of general ed teachers that were attending our IEP meetings, even though they were required to, you know, you put a notice in their mailbox, and it's like, oh, I have a dentist appointment. Right, I forgot about it. But we had our students give them a handwritten invitation to come to their meeting. And how do you look at a 12 year old or a 15 year old or whatever, or even a younger kid and say, Oh, no, I can't come to you. So it's harder for the general teachers to take basically not except, right, they're required. And I say that with a bit of humor because we all know what happens with that.

Rebecca Hines  10:07  
It happens to them just so much don't that was really insight.

Lisa Dieker  10:14  
Yeah, well, we appreciate you visiting with us. And if you have questions, you can post them on our Facebook page, or send us a Tweet at Access practical. Thanks again for your service of filled donut. Thanks for being with us.

Joan McDonald  10:25  
I appreciate the invitation and good luck is just going to be exciting. Thank you. Take care.