Monday, April 29, 2013

5 Survival Habits for Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Parenting a child with special needs is hard, it is demanding, and it is often thankless. We often feel as if we are surviving from day to day. Yet, without you, where would your child be?  Your child needs you. More than that, your child needs you at your very best. Below are five habits that I sincerely believe we must always keep our eyes fixed on developing as we fight to do our best for our children. I know that sense of exhaustion first hand and I hope this can help you refocus, renew, and revitalize all of your efforts.

Monday, April 22, 2013

PASSING (out during) EXAMS!!!: Nutrition is How You Can Outwit & Outlast the TEST!

This pic seemed to really capture the spirit of the post

Today I got the opportunity to proctor in a 4th grade class during our state’s week long standardized testing rodeo. It was a torturous test…not for the kids mind you, but for me! I’m still dizzy from walking around in circles (I threw some figure 8s in there for good measure). I just wearily kept bouncing from student to student, while carefully monitoring every last bubble filling moment of the testing process. Over the years, there has been ONE observation that always stands out and most folks don’t seem to be aware of it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Stressed Out? Testing, Learning, & Your Brain


‎"When I hear somebody sigh, "Life is hard," I am always tempted to ask, "Compared to what?" "
-Sydney Harris

Testing season!
I’m in north Georgia, just an hour away from the Appalachian mountains. Spring is absolutely beautiful here, with a gorgeous explosion of colors. It really is marvelous…well all except for the pollen. And along with spring, another season is upon us…TESTING SEASON! To some, testing is absolutely horrifying, with a tragic explosion of worry and stress. It really is migraine inducing...well except for its actual purpose. I must admit that I actually enjoy testing. Why? Because I see the underlying purpose, and do my part to fulfill it’s ideal intention…to gain greater understanding of what a learner knows, so we can help them reach their potential. That is the good, and I just work on cutting out the bad.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Developing Readers: Part 2 - Viva Las Vegas

I like playing the numbers. I like playing the odds. Just look at any Vegas casino. You could walk in there with $20 and walk out with $20,000...yet at the end of the day, the casino STILL made money! And they repeat the process over and over. Why? Because the odds are in their favor. As a learner, if I can stack the deck in my favor, I do it and so should you!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Developing Readers: Part 1 - Feeling the Love

Everyone knows that reading at home is important. There are Public Service Announcements and slogans (reading is FUNdamental). You've heard it, your kids have heard it, and it is probably the #1 suggestion given by teachers since the beginning of time (read more books, read more scrolls, read more hieroglyphics  read more cave, read, read). So you go home and you try do it. It was easy as cake with your first kid, ah but the second. All kids are different. Some are ready to swim in the deep blue ocean of words while others stick their big toes in and their whole body shivers. What are we missing?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Autism Awareness Month: Celebrating Amazing Parents & 6 Ways of Teaching Kids With Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month. This has been celebrated since the 1970s by the Autism Society as a way of educating people about autism and issues confronted by the autism community. The school that I work at houses many of the autism classrooms in our local cluster of schools and it has given me the chance to interact with these children and families on a daily basis. The one big take-away that I've learned from working with and supporting these families (from help with IEPs to our monthly special needs playtime get together), is how deeply they are committed to ADVOCATE and EDUCATE!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Adoption, Brain-Based Learning, and Fatherhood: My Interview today by DaddyBloggerTV

Okay, this was pretty cool. Today I was interviewed by Ricky Shetty at DaddyBloggerTV and it was a blast! Those that know me can tell you that I love my kids, I love foster care, I love adoption, and I love learning (I also love Cuban food, but there are only so many hours in the day). Now give me an opportunity to talk about ALL of them at one time?!?!....Well, let's just say I'm surprised my head didn't explode!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Ultimate Blog Party 2013

My name is Angel Rodriguez. I'm a educator, adoptive dad, scholar, neuro-geek, and occasional superhero (according to my kiddos). I'm excited about participating in UTB13 and hope to visit and enjoy many of your blogs. 

I'm new myself to this whole blogging thing, but I am awfully excited about it! In a nutshell, my life pretty much revolves around helping others (especially families and children) and LEARNING! My hope is to share what I've discovered through my odd assortment of experiences (oh boy...its been odd, but in a wondrous way) and help them reach their potential through the use of brain-based learning. I'm literally in love with learning and that's what this blog is all about. I hope to use this tool, and some other forms of social media (especially Pinterest! HOLY CRAP PINTEREST IS FUN!!!...pardon me, I digress) to reach as many people as I can.

Why do it? Over the last 17 years I've watched moms, dads, and the children they love, struggle. As the father of two amazing children with disabilities, as a teacher, as a learner...I've struggled too. I don't want you to have to re-invent the wheel. I want you to know what I know. The knowledge I've acquired has been hard fought, and thankfully it has been an incredible blessing to my family. All I can hope is that it can be a blessing to yours as well. Visit often...I guarantee you'll LEARN A LOT!!!

How to Make Your Child FAILURE-PROOF!

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Thomas A. Edison 

There are countless ways that learning can be derailed, but none is as insidious and long lasting as mis-interpreting failure. I'm a dad of four amazing kids. Each has climbed to amazing heights, yet each and every one has also stumbled and fallen. That's life. There is nothing wrong with messing up. There is nothing wrong with coming up short. This is nothing wrong with flat out FAILURE! The hard part is that as a parent, you don't want them to suffer through it, or do you? Actually, you want them to fall (although not ALL the time...and please no broken bones), because that is when your child will learn something to pick themselves back up and soldier on!

Parents & The Brain: Wondertwin Powers Activate!!!

The brain is capable of so much! Telekinesis, telepathy, mind control...wait I'm thinking Star Wars. Still the brain actually is extremely powerful. I'm a self-described neuro-geek. I've really dedicated myself to studying neuroscience and education. It just makes so much sense to me. Parents and educators are in the business of brains. We are focused on helping others (children or students) learn, preferably to their fullest potential. The marriage of neuroscience and education is fairly new, with new and amazing discoveries made possible because of advances in technology. Yet, what works in regards to learning isn't new. We are just gaining greater understanding of "why" it works so well, and that understanding can help us decide what best fits OUR learners.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Learning from Failure and Modeling Greatness (from a sports perspective)

Failure is not a bad thing. Take into consideration that failure is a huge factor in guiding our actions. Our brains are constantly taking in information, processing it, and then making decisions based on that information. Failure, if perceived as a learning opportunity, will play a paramount role in guiding our actions. Think about this. Half of us learned not to touch a hot stove when mom (repeatedly and FRANTICALLY in my case) told us not to do it. The other half of hurt a lot didn't it?

Just as we learn through failure, we also learn a great deal through the modeling of success. Trust me when I say that one of the greatest tools in the arsenal of educators is modeling. We could spend an eternity talking (and most do), but when we model achievement, it is easier for the brain to learn. You're already familiar with this. You tell a kid something a thousand times and just HOPE they remember, yet let them watch you do something (especially a bad habit) and they'll imitate things you hoped they never would! The same holds true for imitating the greatness of others (I always thought Teddy Roosevelt was really cool...yes I'm a nerd for saying that). For those of you trying to get your kids focused on imitating greatness, modeling is a great way to get the point across. Here is a short article on an NBA player that crafted his entire career on imitating the greatness of those that came before him. There truly is nothing new under the sun, you just need to go learn it. =)

Kobe Bryant: Studying (keyword STUDYING) Film and Imitating Greatness

Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Help Your Kids Remember What They Read & CRAZY Fun with Sightwords!!! A 2 for 1 special!

This is a great three step process that trains your brain to hit the "save" button and increase comprehension.
Enjoy these 3 Steps to Increase Reading Comprehension!

And for those with youngens just learning to read, try...

Want to have some serious fun with sight words? You've got to try sight word twister. Perfect for kids Pre-k through 3rd grade on so many levels. Just mixing in the kinesthetic movement is enough, but taking something like sightwords (which can really be tuned out by some learners) and making it this fun GUARANTEES learning! Some brain-based practices at their best! Try your hand (and feet) at Sight Word Twister!!!

My Family of Wise Learners: My Inspiration

So, someone asked me the other day about what sparked this crazy interest I have in neuroscience, and as a result, now sparks this equally nutty desire to share, share, share, through WiseLearners (cute name right?). Well...I've always been fascinated by this amazing brain resting comfortably between our ears ever since I was a kid. That was the initial spark...but the kindling? That has been my family, especially my kiddos. Tracy and I served as foster parents for eight years. Serving children with severe emotional, physical and mental disabilities. Both of our children that we adopted through foster care have FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). In a nutshell, this is permanent brain damage caused by a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. If you think I was driven to learn about the brain before, being blessed these two children pushed me to a whole new extreme.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How to Become a MEDIOCRE TEACHER in Ten Easy Steps!!!

Are you tired of doing your best? Is the satisfaction you gain from your effort to be a good, or even great teacher, weighing down? This was a great article I read on that I shared with a few teacher friends a bit ago. I was reminded of it today, by my friend Mike Monroe, so I thought why not share it here with you.

You may be thinking "Angel, I'm not a teacher. I have other areas of mediocrity to focus on."
Stop selling yourself short! Aim high...errr....I mean LOW! These lowered expectations are within your reach! Educators aren't the only teachers. Please remember that as a parent you are your child's FIRST and most INFLUENTIAL teacher (this part is absolutely true BTW...the rest is meant for giggles, but this statement is the truth)!

So, if you are looking to take it to the next level and waste every possible learning opportunity, enjoy this simple and short guide on how to be as unproductive as possible!

How To Be A Mediocre Teacher!!!

Just to state again, you truly are your child's first and most influential teacher. I hope this guide helps illustrate that we do sometimes innadvertently work against our best intentions (nobody really wants to be they?). With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I hope you get a kick out of this article and it helps you avoid many of these pitfalls. =)

pic courtesy of Peter Huys via creative commons

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Awesome Dad Cheat Sheet!

If only we were handed an owners manual as fathers. I've been on this ride FOUR times as a parent to my own children, and an additional SIX rounds as a foster parent, and I can attest to the fact that there will always be room to improve and better oneself. At no point in life do you ever stand still and claim to have arrived. It just doesn't ever happen. We are CONSTANTLY learning...hence, why I love learning.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Does Your Brain Work?

The science behind the inner workings of your ol'noggin can be pretty complicated, but this short video does a wonderful job of explaining it in a simple way. Now if you want to get the MOST out of this video, make sure to show it to your kids! Just sharing the concept of neuroplasticity (how your brain is changeable AND moldable) has been shown to have a positive impact on learners! So check out the video below with your kids. You'll probably all learn something new! =)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Discover YOUR Personality Type! Get to Know Yourself Better!

Just how well do you know yourself or your kids? It may sound odd, but there is always more to know. This post is by request (yes I do requests). I was speaking to a friend earlier today. She is getting ready to graduate high school and she told me something I've heard hundreds of times from kids (and adults) when they ponder higher education...
"I don't know what I want to do with my life!" which I responded

Her statement inspired me to share a little about Personality Types (your gonna love them), which are based upon the theoretical works of Carl G. Jung, a pioneer in psychology. If you take a few minutes to take this Jung style (no relation to Gangnam Style) personality test, you'll be amazed at what you can discover about yourself. What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What career suits me best? What career should I avoid at all costs? Relationships, friendships, career path,'s as if you are reading an incredibly accurate horoscope, or a biography about yourself.

Now, there are many free ones available on the internet (if a site says to pay, you must stay away), but the one I posted below was incredibly short (4 questions), straight to the point, and best of all, FREE! You can do an internet search and find many others, but the results from this one were just as accurate (I've taken a ton of these). Just to stretch out the fun, once you have your personality type, do an internet search for that particular type and you will come across a ton of websites that go into endless detail. If you don't want to search, just click here. You can even learn about famous people that shared your personality type. I'm an ENFJ just like Sean Connery, Abraham Lincoln (Vampire Hunter...I couldn't resist), and King David...pretty cool eh?

So NO excuses! Find our what your personality type is! Out of the 8 suggestions it gave me, I've worked in 6 of the fields and loved every minute. Figure out what YOUR dream job just might be! =)
Jung Personality Test (short and sweet)

If you have small children, I am linking a Jung Personality Test for Kids. You answer the questions for them (sorry...way more than 4), but I found this extremely helpful. It gave me a ton of additional insight into my own children, including ways that they learn best. In fact, it really made me reflect on how we offer our oldest son feedback. Our youngest kids are tough as nails (seriously, they chew up nails and spit out quarters...true story), but my son Lawson has a real gentle soul. These test results offered some simple suggestions to convey our needed corrections, without having him perceive himself to be buried in criticism. Try it out. There is nothing more powerful than an empowered parent!