Tag Archives: school

in which Tim becomes a teacher…

So the last day of Grade 3 has arrived.  This is Tim’s last day as he has now completed his teaching degree and next year moves onto the local casual rosters with the hope of picking up a full time teaching position in the area.

We always knew we only had the year with Tim in the teacher’s aide role and, while we are sad to see him go, we know there is a bond between he and Mac that will likely stick.  I chuckled when one of the teachers told me about the boys at the class party and how Mac was eating green icing of Tim’s finger…  like it was the most natural thing on earth.

I am really proud of Tim – he has been so open to learning and embracing the mindset we share about disability.  He is going to be a very different teacher to the one he would have been 12 months ago.  It is wonderful to hear him acknowledge those same sentiments.  Tim has established some great opportunities for Mac that I believe will set him up for the remainder of his primary schooling in a very social and engaged way with his peers.

As a farewell gift for him from Mac and the class I had to sneak around to all the kids for them to give me ‘words to describe Tim’ and develop a ‘wordle’ which I then framed for him as a piece of art to hang on his wall.  He was pretty thrilled with his wordle and the kids were blown away seeing their words turned into something so permanent and lasting.




Thank you Tim for the most amazing year.  Mac will be working on learning about text messaging & emailing in 2013, and since he has your details in his iPad I expect you’ll be at the top of his list ;-).

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December 20, 2012 · 11:44 pm

liver la vida

It’s hard to know how much involvement to have in assignments when your child has no chance of doing it on their own.

A lot of the assignments to date have been more about me teaching Mac the concept of choosing topics, researching and then deciding what to include – I guess this is probably much the same for everyone.

That being said… I wasn’t overly thrilled when he brought home the requirements for his assignment on “organs”.  He had been assigned “the liver” and was to present to the class as if he was ‘the teacher’.

Ugh, the liver, I thought.  How are we going to find age appropriate stuff and avoid the obvious drug, sexually transmitted disease and alcohol damage issues that seem to feature ‘way more prominently’ on the internet than any other.

With some focussed searching we did OK.   We watched some cool videos, found some good websites.  Mac had to decide what he wanted to include in his assignment.  I showed him how to change up the information so it sounded like something he might say.

We decided to go with a Powerpoint presentation so he could progress it with his switches while ‘taking the class’.

We created his own avatar using the WeeMee Avatar Creator app (we like it because it has a wheelchair accessory).

We popped his Avatar into his CrazyTalk 2D animation software so it could speak with his dialogue.

We decided to use the Acapela-Box to download the voice.  We had to pay for some credits to use this despite having his Dynavox.  Thing is the Dynavox doesn’t really ‘hold its own’ for long tracts of speech.  It gets crackly and breaks up a bit too much for our liking.  With Acapela Box we can use the same voice he uses on his Dynavox but with greater clarity and no chance of it failing mid-sentence.

I poked around on the internet and found some pictures, bought some stock images to include and created some of my own elements.  I discussed with Mac what his images might look like, what we could include and importantly made him choose the ‘liver’ image he liked the best.  From memory… I think he over-ruled my first choice for making “liver dude”

Here’s the video version of his Powerpoint presentation
(you’ll need your sound turned on & be sure to read on after you’ve watched it).

THE LIVER by Mac Burns

Did you learn anything new?

Oh, and for those super-observant folk…
Disclaimer: no M&Ms were harmed in the making of this assignment… but, that’s not to say a few weren’t hacked 😉  


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum


There was an in-class assessment task recently.  Mac & his classmates have been learning about shelters and investigating the many different shelters, buildings and constructions.   The assessment involved building a shelter during class time from materials they collected at home.  There was no limit on where or what the shelter had to be – intergalactic, subterranean, subaquatic, floating were all viable options.  I wasn’t really sure what Mac would be doing instead of building and, other than collecting scrap materials/cardboard cut offs for him, hadn’t done a lot of other preparation.

I chatted to him over breakfast about the in-class task that day.  I asked him if he wanted to take in his cardboard etc and offer it to the other kids for making wheelchair ramps for their buildings – he liked that idea.  He said “yes” he wanted to do the ‘ramp thing’ more than someone building him a building.

So apparently that is exactly what he and the itinerant vision support teacher did for the assessment.  They went and offered ‘wheelchair ramping materials’ to all the other students.  Mac was assigned the role of ‘building inspector’ checking they were meeting access regulations.  I am not sure if they used any of his communication devices during this time – it would have been a good opportunity for Mac to actually be asking the questions… nothing like being ‘under the pump’ from a local government official.

From all accounts there was a wheelchair accessible cave, space station, cottage, farmhouse and skyscraper… just to name a few.

Just some more incidental learning for his classmates… can’t wait for them to be architects, builders, building inspectors, lift manufacturers and stair demolishers when they grow up.


Filed under Access all Areas, Accessing the Curriculum

eggs on legs

The Easter Hat Parade takes on a different form at our school.  For K-2 they work on your stereotypical “Easter bonnets” for the Hat Parade.   The big kids (Grades 5-6) do Egg Diorama’s called “Egg-o-ramas” (usually with a specific theme) and are, literally, something to behold.

When you are in Grades 3 & 4 you produce “Eggs on Legs”.  Generally, poster sized egg characters in many different guises that you get to carry around the parade circuit.  This year there was a huge variety including Darth ‘Vad-egg’, Spongebob Square Egg, Princess Eggs, Bunny Eggs, Dinosaurs breaking out of their Eggs,  the Jimi Hendrix “Eggs-perience”, Storm Troop-eggs, Harry Pott-eggs and so many more.

So, what to do when you’re a ‘wheelie’ who can’t carry their own ‘egg on legs’?

Isn’t it obvious…

You turn your entire wheelchair into an “Egg on Legs”!

The kids were very excited to see those legs walking on his wheels.  His classmate “J” took on the role of ‘egg pusher’ in an instant.

As I packed the eggs away in the wardrobe I thought “at least we’re done for next year 😉 “… although we may just get the kids to help us ‘tart up’ the old eggy so he at least seems ‘current’ in 2013.

And while is certainly good fun making stuff like this (and not terribly difficult) it does allow for some incidental learning for the kids.  Today they got a little insight into animation, how to ‘pimp a wheelchair’, and how to easily create funny characters with carboard, bit of timber, a glue stick, paper and thick black texta.  The whole activity gives them a great chance to explore character modifications/tweaks and start to really take in the whole idea of a ‘play on words’.  It really is a fun activity.


Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, The 'mod' squad

fridge magnet friday

This is perhaps my favourite quote to do with inclusion – so simple, it just goes to the heart of the matter.



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Filed under fridge magnet friday, Inclusion... straight up!

school photos

image found on http://weheartit.com/from/m-a-l-e-d-i-c-t-i-o-n.tumblr.com


Tough times for a child who can sometimes take on the form of a pretzel.

Depending on the time/place/moment/noise/temperature/season… Mac can be tough to get a decent shot of.

After an epic fail in Year 1, where I was meant to be helping, and subsequently Mac’s individual photo was atrocious, I have been banned from assisting by Mac’s dad.

So Shawn has had the task, and has done a great job, for years Kindy and Grade 2.  As a hardened journo from way back, he isn’t shy asking for a ‘re-take or do-over’.

This year he wasn’t available so Mac’s aide, Tim, took charge and assured me he was up to the job and was going to make sure it’s a good one ( although I don’t think he realised how much easier said than done this actually is 😉 )

I do think it will work out ok – Tim’s nothing if not determined.  On collecting Mac at the end of the day Tim advised, “we didn’t get him smiling, but he did look ‘a bit posh’ ”… hmm, intriguing… can’t wait to see it now.

Tim took the initiative for Mac to have ‘two sittings’ for individual photo at different times of the day and said the photographers “were extremely accommodating”.  I love that Tim took the job so seriously – he and Mac appeared to have a good time, even if Mac wasn’t prepared to smile whenever a camera was anywhere near him.   But Tim being a bit pushy  helps the photographers know they can ask for a redo themselves and not feel like they are embarrassing anyone, in fact it would be welcomed.  It also sends a message that it’s ok to set a higher standard for all kids photos, particularly those who aren’t always as easy to photograph.

In this era of digital photography there’s no real extra cost to taking those few extra shots here and there.

I actually think there’s almost a social role for photographers to ‘step up’ and ensure they are presenting those most at risk of being devalued, in valued roles through respectful and thoughful use of their art.

Still, glad they are done for another year but only ‘half glad’ that kid in the pic at the top of the post isn’t mine…

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Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!

timing is everything…

Are we there yet?  How much longer?
When can we go?  How much more?  

Sound familiar…  ?

Time Timer (visual timer for visual people!) from Time Timer on Vimeo.

Another parent shared the Time Timer® with me the other day.  Her daughter is using them at home and school to help her with time management, understanding time concepts and planning.

They are fantastic items and thankfully, just as good ‘in the flesh’ as they appear on the site.

There are watches, 3x timers with prices starting from about $35, software for $24 and  via iTunes you can buy iPhone and iPad apps (AUD$1.99 and AUD$7.49).


For Australian families the best deal you can get is from Bilby Publishing and Consulting.  A business I have just found out about even though it’s ‘just down the road’ (hmm, well four hours drive) – they have some other interesting items so will probably be ‘poking around on their site a bit more’.  Bilby are the official Australian distributors for Time Timer® (which is why they can offer such low prices) and schools can order on account.

I will be using the Time Timer® to see if we can help Mac with motivation to get work done in a set time.  I think the visual for him will be really useful and perhaps, at other times help him feel like there is an ‘end point’ to an exercise and that he won’t be working on something for the ‘rest of his life’.

It may even help him understand that “our” 10 minutes isn’t actually the equivalent of “everyone else’s”one hour.  Unfortunately I have to take full responsibility for that one.  I hate to think how many times I have told him we would do something in 10 mins and actually get to it so much later (even hours later) – poor kid never stood a chance in understanding time management.

And, yes, I have already downloaded the iPhone app and plan to use it ‘keep me honest’ at home.

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Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help