Summer Slice Vol. II

LA Staff News

Missing EF Skills Looks Like No Motivation. What do we do?

Jessica Minahan says that in her work as a behavioral analyst and consultant, she hears lots of stories about students avoiding work – a first grader staring at the wall during a reading lesson; a high-school basketball star who still won’t do his homework even when he’s in danger of being kicked off the team for not doing it. These students all seem to lack motivation, but that’s not what’s going on, says Minahan. It’s one or more of these aspects of executive functioning:

- Accurate thinking – Assessing how difficult a task is, how long it will take, and one’s ability to do it;

- Initiation – Organizing one’s thoughts and getting started;

- Persistence – Sustaining effort in the face of errors and difficulty;

- Help-seeking – Knowing when to ask for support.

“Penalties and incentives don’t teach these skills and are unlikely to improve students’ behavior,” says Minahan. Instead, students feel misunderstood and rejected. Minahan’s analogy is training wheels when children are first learning to ride a bike – accommodations as they learn how to think accurately about challenges, get going, persist, and ask for help. “If we remove the supports before students are ready,” she says, “they’ll crash.”

Her suggestions:

• Accurate thinking – Anxious students tend to think all-or-nothing (I hate math) or engage in catastrophic thinking (I’ll probably flunk sixth grade). One strategy is having students rate the difficulty of an assignment beforehand (very difficult) and afterward (not that bad); comparing the two may help reset the student’s mindset. Another approach is breaking a task into parts and rating each one – I like it. It’s okay. I don’t like it. Looking over these after making a catastrophic statement can help isolate the problem.

• Initiation – Don’t ask students prone to negative thinking to work independently at first; instead, provide helpful support within 30 seconds of giving an assignment and then have them continue solo. Or go over the assignment beforehand: This is the math sheet we’ll be doing later. Let’s start the first and second problems together. Or chunk assignments and take one piece at a time. Or give the student a math sheet with all but the last two problems completed and ask the student to finish. Working with an erasable whiteboard is also helpful for students who are risk-averse and perfectionistic.

• Persistence – Some students need a dose of Carol Dweck: “Every time you push out of your comfort zone to learn hard things, your brain grows new connections and you get smarter.” It also helps to reward increments and get students monitoring themselves on persistence rather than the final product: Did I attempt more problems today than on my last quiz? Did I correct an answer?

• Help-seeking – “Students with anxiety or depression may lack the initiative to ask for help when they’re stuck or overwhelmed by a task,” says Minahan. Or they may be too embarrassed to ask. Agreeing on a silent signal may be the answer: Put a pencil behind your ear when you need help. Next get students thinking about how to reduce dependency: What do you need help with and why? The idea is for students to realize that they can solve some problems by themselves. Great! You didn’t need my help! I’m glad you figured it out. These students need to learn how to self-monitor, assess their needs, and find strategies to get help without depending on the teacher. The key is seeing where the student is at. Jeremy seemed unable to do research on the computer in his history class and answer two open-ended questions. Instead, he scrolled through social media and encouraged classmates to join him. Eventually the teacher kicked him out of the room. When Jeremy’s teachers were asked how often he completed open-ended assignments, they said, “Never!” They were “overshooting the method of output,” says Minahan. He wouldn’t engage in reading when there were more than two paragraphs on the page. The solution was simple: limit texts to one or two paragraphs and give Jeremy multiple choice questions. Within five weeks, he was completing work and moving toward reading one page of text in a book and answering fill-in-the-blank questions. “It’s like I’m a student,” said Jeremy. “I hand in work and get graded.” History was the one class he passed that term.

Please, text me some picts of your summer! Whether you're just sitting by the pool or decluttering your kids' closets, keep us posted! It is a great way to introduce you to our new staff. Mrs. Patterson has a big summer that involves travel, moving her mother to Kansas City from overseas, spending time with her family, and other summer bucket list items!!

Mrs. Patterson is transitioning from an Academy teacher to be in charge of our Long Term Suspension program. She has a lot of ideas and experiences that have allowed her to create a vision for that space that will allow us to help students succeed.

Can anyone guess where she is now by this picture???????

Interested in Summer PD ($18/hour)

Big picture

Let Melissa Know If You Want More Info!

Upcoming Dates to Note

July 29th: zSpace training at Liberty North 8-11 (Paul and Nick....and one more if interested)


August 5th-7th: New teachers to Liberty report (none from LA)


August 6th: Registration (optional if you want to meet kids) 4:00-6:00


August 7th: Registration (optional if you want to meet kids) 8:00-1:00


August 8th: All teachers return.


August 14th: First day of school.


August 19th: Back to School Night 6:00-7:00

Liberty Academy Staff 2019-2020

Melissa Norris, Director

Debi Straws, Secretary

Lori Streu, Counselor

Andrea Johnson, Social Worker

Mark Krause, Interventionist

Eddie Richey, ISS Instructor

Justin Fetters, Security

Ted Maxwell, Safety

Christine Patterson, Long Term Suspension

Lisa Augustine, Missouri Option Program

Judy Smith, Alt. Ed. Teacher

Art Smith, Teacher

Chad Brinkmeyer, Teacher

Summer Kelley, Teacher

Nick Schwieder, Teacher

Paul Richardson, Teacher

Jared Haferbier, Special Education Teacher

Jodi Williams-Sipes, .75 Teacher

Zach Osborne, Teacher

Janet Knoke-LA Cafeteria

Stacey-LA Custodian

Kathy Wright-LMS Nurse

Ed Leal-Technology

Clayton Smith-LMS Head Custodian

Kim Sadler-LMS Cafeteria Manager