Sara Guadagni

"Your life as a teacher begins the day you realize you are always a learner."

Professional Development

Today, I chose to attend a POPFASD workshop. I chose this workshop as many students where I live and teach in Prince Rupert are expected to have or have been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I knew a few things about FASD before I went into the workshop; the first was that FASD is characterized by the impact on the brain and body of individuals exposed to alcohol while in the womb during pregnancy. The second is FASD is a lifelong disability. I had always thought people with FASD always displayed distinct facial features, but I was surprised to learn that only one of ten people have these features.

It was stressed that FASD is often referred to as the “invisible disability” because these physical features can be non-existent. In addition, if a mother of a child doesn’t sign off stating she abused alcohol while pregnant, there can be no diagnoses for a child. In my experience working in the school system in Prince Rupert, many mothers are either in denial or won’t sign off on the diagnoses because of the stigma and shame that surrounds admitting this. It’s a very sad and touchy subject for many. Without a diagnosis, often it means we don’t get the support we need for the child in the classroom.

As the workshop continued, the presenter talked about the different academic adjustments that students with FASD needed in classrooms. He stressed that there were eight magic keys in the classroom. Consistency, concreteness, routines, structure, repetition, specific, and simplicity. This was the part I really listened intently as I wanted to find out the strategies for assessing students on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. The presenter stressed using a variety of assessment strategies to generate information for planning and instruction. Some include giving instructions one step at a time orally and visually, allow time to process information, provide extra time and reduce workload for our students, and one that I think more teachers need to consider: allow student to look away, fidget, doodle, or even chew gum during listening activities. 

It was stressed to use classroom examples linked to the real world for students on the spectrum. Use manipulative’s and pictures, role play, and use ideas and concepts that are familiar to our students. The presenter gave a great example on this. He stated one class in Prince George had to do a free write based on a child’s ferry trip to Vancouver Island. Some of these children had no concept of what a trip was, let alone what a ferry was. Living in Prince George, many students would have no idea of what a ferry is or even understand the concept of an island. For any child this could be frustrating, but for a child with FASD this could be extremely overwhelming.

In addition, our learner might make impulsive decisions, become agitated, and even uncomfortable in a classroom setting. They can become distracted by colors, smells, clutter and noise and can have difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next. To help support our learner it was suggested we as teachers should have a supportive classroom environment that is neat, not cluttered, color coded, labeled, and if possible, have options for tuning out noise. We can create “social stories” for our learner to ease transitions for them. “The challenge is to become conscious of all stimuli in an environment and consider them for their potential impact on a person with FASD. Sometimes it is the littlest things that make all the difference between comfort and agitation.” (Diane Malbin, 2002: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Trying Differently Rather Than Harder).

 This workshop opened my eyes to the many struggles my students will face in my future classroom.  As a teacher, this workshop along with all other professional learning opportunities remind me to consider what my learners go through, how their perceptions are different, and lastly what adjustments and modification I can include to fairly assess them while making sure their learning is catered to their unique needs.


Indigenous Learning Implementation

Truth & Reconciliation

What an amazing day of learning! Both keynote speakers spoke about “What is Reconciliation?” which I loved learning about today. They both mentioned something that resonated with me: “reconciliation means something different to everyone”.  To me, this statement is so true and as teachers it’s something we need to think about. Our ideas of reconciliation may not match those of our students and their families, and we need to consider that always.

As a non-Indigenous person my biggest obstacle is the fear I’m not or I won’t do things right in the classroom. I want to do the right thing, but I’m also scared of making mistakes, offending or misinforming. This is where I lean on others, resources, elders in my community, and continually educating myself. I believe reconciliation starts by understanding and acknowledging the past and its effect on generations of people. My opinion is that anyone who wants to become part of change must be willing to educate and inform themselves first before becoming a part the healing journey. As a Canadian, I am angry, ashamed and embarrassed by our past government’s actions. I allow myself to feel this but feeling this way and not doing anything about it will not help anyone. My anger and frustration motivate me towards making a difference in my community, for my students and the future.

Unfortunately, for many Indigenous people today, reconciliation means nothing when the legacy of colonialism and residential schools still very much exist today. I have heard older generations say it’s never going to change and that makes me sad. Both speakers mentioned that the work has slowly started but it needs to continue for a long, long time. In many ways, we know more about colonial legacies, have more guidance, people, and resources to help us move forward, but in a classroom, reconciliation starts where a teacher stands on the issue.  As a teacher, I commit to fully listening, learning, being open, and to never judge. Although I’ll never know what it’s like to be an Indigenous person, I want to continue to educate myself, my students and all people around me to help move forward.

Most Influential Teacher

Most influential teacher:

Throughout my life, I have had many great teachers who have impacted my life.  These were the teachers who motivated, encouraged and believed in me no matter what. There was one teacher in elementary school who always stands out for me. She was the kind of teacher who was always happy to be at work. You could tell she never brought her bad days to work and if she did, we never knew it. She acknowledged everyone and tried to make each student feel important. Just knowing when I walked in the door that I’d be asked how I was, gave me excitement heading to school.

Grade five was a hard year for me. My parents divorced, my family dynamic had completely changed, and school was tough for me. For a while, it was hard to focus but this teacher always made time to check in and assure she was there If I needed anything. It felt like she “got me”. I think about this teacher often as I go through this program and although I don’t remember a ton of what we learned that year, there’s one thing I’ll never forget; the way she made me feel. She prioritized my social emotional learning over my academic learning because at the time, that is what I needed most. She was flexible, open, understanding, empathetic and understanding; all qualities I believe are important for teachers to have. I think about her often and strongly believe even after all these years that we share the same teaching philosophy. She was the one teacher who made me want to be a teacher.

When I look back at my school experiences, I remember the classrooms I was excited to walk into. The ones where teachers acknowledged you, asked about my interests, my life and ones who took the time to see me as a unique individual. My grade five teacher will forever be remembered and talked about to my future students and children one day.


Teaching metaphor: Flowers 

All flowers are different. Some are full of life, bright and thriving while others can be wilted and dried out. Although each different, every flower is beautiful in its own way.

Naturally, all flowers want to grow. With the right nourishment, patience, and care, all flowers can flourish.








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