Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sorenson's Ranch Activities

Last Fall, some staff from Sorenson’s Ranch took 16 kids to the Shakespearean Festival at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. We went to see “A Midsummers Night Dream.” The Festival is world famous and even won a Tony Award a few years back.
We try to give our students opportunities to attend activities/performances such as this for two reasons: first, we want them to be exposed to culturally significant events that coordinate with the subjects we teach in the classroom; second, we want them to have opportunities to demonstrate their trustworthiness and practice new behaviors that they are striving to master in connection with their overall therapeutic goals.
When we arrived, we had the opportunity to go to a lecture, conducted by festival staff, that helped the kids understand what the play was going to be about, why the actors speak the way they do, and why they dress the way they do. The students were allowed to ask questions and tour the outdoor theatre.
We got to sit in the balcony of the indoor theatre. As the play started, we thought the kids might start acting up, but we were pleased to see their eyes glued to the stage. By the time the intermission arrived and we went down to look at the Shakespeare displays, we heard the kids trying to predict what was going to happen next and saying how they couldn’t wait to get back to the play.
All of the students acted like perfect ladies and gentlemen. After the play, we went to the library and viewed a display of Shakespeare’s writings and other materials associated with the plays. We saw an original folio from the 1600’s that contained the works of Shakespeare. It was in a special display, maintained at a certain temperature and guarded by a security officer. It was so interesting and the kids felt privileged to see it.
Finally we went to lunch a Taco Bell, which they all loved and then we took them to A&W for root beer ice cream. We discovered that 80% of them had never had root beer ice cream which was fun also.
Our day was wonderful, and we are always getting requests for a return visit to the festival in 2012.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sorenson's Ranch School Teacher Highlight

My name is Steve Nielson. I am the science and math teacher here at Sorensons Ranch School. I have been teaching at Sorenson’s for 20 years now and have a lot of much-needed experience with our type of student. Patience becomes a key word regarding reaching children at Sorensons. I believe in tolerance (to a point) and building rapport in order to help students reach their potential academically. We walk a fine line at Sorenson’s with regard to our patience as teachers. Most of our students have not been successful in public school environments because of discipline problems. We have to balance the need for patience and tolerance with the need for respect for other students’ learning opportunities and the necessity for hard work.
I believe that peer tutoring is a key in helping me reach students in the classroom. It has been working for me as of late, and I believe that many times the brighter students can be used as an asset with academically challenged students. Using this type of teaching technique allows me to spend more one-on-one teaching time with the middle of the class students and the accelerated students. I find that when I teach to the middle and higher performing students, the rest of the class will rise to the level of expectation. This simply has proven itself time and time again in my teaching experience.
I also believe that touching each students life in my classroom is very important. Just a simple statement such as, “Do you need my help?” or,”How is it going today?” can make a big difference in the teaching process. Students simply perform better in this type of environment. Success begets success, and true teachers make sure success is felt daily.