Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: On & 4 Purpose

Thank you to Lori Konopasek, Dean of Students, for writing today's blog.

This is Mrs. Konopasek's artwork - a giraffe.
I am not much of an artist; basically, only my mother appreciates my art.  I am not even sure if my handiwork made it on the refrigerator for display for very long when I was a child.  Even though I am lacking in artistic skill, I still enjoy art and design.  I love visiting independent art stores, and decorating my first home is a great memory. 

A bigger scope of design that we can appreciate is in our relationship to God.  God designed us on purpose and for a purpose.  This is the very first principle of Appropriate Independence, the guiding philosophy of Shepherds.  It is also the title of a first-year class at Shepherds College.  We are God’s masterpiece; we are His artistic work and design.  In the class, my co-teacher Mrs. Cyr and I want to help students gain an understanding of God’s design for their lives.  The fact that God has a plan for them and designed each student with a disability is a powerful and empowering concept.

I asked students about what being designed on and for a purpose means to them.  Here are some student answers:

“I was made on purpose by God.  He created me for a reason and for a special purpose in mind.”

“He made me just the way he wanted me.”

“I am to help other people.”

“God made me to do a job for him.”

“I was made by God because God loves me.”

“I have a place in life, and God made me to talk about him.”

“I was made for a reason.”

Here are some staff responses:

“I will always be loved by God and can be used by Him.”

“I am not a mistake.  He guides me to complete that purpose and gives me wisdom, strength, and grace to fulfill that purpose.  He delights in using me to accomplish it.”

“I have value.”

“God made each of us the way He wanted and gave us each a special job to do.”

“I am reminded of God’s sovereignty, unique design, and desire to use me for His glory.”

“God orchestrates my life.  I don’t have to worry because His love is a masterpiece.”

When I consider these responses, I see the recognition of God and His plans.  God’s intentional design gives confidence and focus.  This is not about us, but instead about being used by Him to fulfill His plan.  This is design and art that I can certainly value and appreciate!   It is more than refrigerator worthy!

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Tale of Two Shoppers

Thank you to Joe DeCiccio, Res Life Faculty, for writing today's blog.

Growing up, I remember shopping with my mom. 

I really enjoyed shopping with her. We would inevitably go down the cookie or chip aisle, and I would easily be able to coax some goodie out of her. We would go aisle to aisle, and I could see her deciding what she wanted. We may have had a conversation while shopping about what we wanted for dinner. We would roam the store for an hour or so and then make our way to the registers with a heaping shopping cart full of food. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like a meal plan for the week or a comprehensive shopping list. I do remember Mom making multiple dinners to cater to our varied taste buds or nothing at all; we would pick our own dinners. I also remember extra trips to the store during the week to pick up things we needed and may have forgotten or run out of.

The next story I want to tell you about is a bit different. This story takes place in central Oregon, where I lived for a couple years. My wife, son, and I happened to live about an hour and forty-five minutes from town. Trips to town included grocery shopping, doctor visits, dinner, bank trips, and anything else we needed in town at the time. The day turned into a nine or ten hour expedition. Therefore, we would do our best to make the trip as efficient and infrequent as possible. We would generally go every two weeks if we could hold out that long. As far as grocery shopping was involved, we would plan ahead: we would make a monthly meal plan and a comprehensive grocery list which had to include toiletries (forgetting the toilet paper would be unthinkable!), cleaners, and clothes. We had a strict budget, as we were living on a small salary. We would walk into the store, divide, and conquer, adhering strictly to the grocery list of course. 

I have had the benefit in my life to see two different perspectives on how to manage the daily living skills that accompany food. As a Daily Living Skills teacher, I now have the opportunity to teach the benefit and pitfalls of both. I am very passionate about the success of my students and have seen the problems that arise if they do not master the areas of menu planning and grocery shopping. Therefore, we have spent a good deal of time teaching these valuable skills in class and training during the week when we are actually planning meals and grocery shopping for residential life.

The first thing the students learn is how to select a healthy meal. They learn about the food groups and how to create or pick a balanced meal that includes all of the food groups. They next learn how to take an inventory of the kitchen. They use a worksheet that has all of the typical items kept, and they count each item to figure out how many will be needed. After creating a meal plan and taking inventory, a student is taught how to make a grocery list. They are presented a template that includes the item, cost, aisle of the item, brand and quantity. Some of those categories are irrelevant for the item, but the students are able to read and use them nonetheless.

After the planning side is accomplished, the students learn how to navigate a grocery store. They learn where to locate items and ask for help if they cannot find something. They pick up etiquette pointers such as not blocking the aisles or talking on the cell phone at the register. Our goal for the students is to get through the store without driving other customers bonkers, and to find everything they need at the best price. How amazing is it that a college-age man/woman is able to look for the best price-per-ounce? 

As the year goes on, the hands-on practice grows. By second semester, they are taking over the meal planning for the dorms and gaining more independence at the grocery store. By second year, the students are doing all of the work themselves, with guidance. By third year, an element of budgeting has been added and the students are learning to plan and shop together with little to no help at all with a $50 budget for two people! 

Needless to say, independence means something different for each individual, and the expectations and goals for each student are different. But the hope would be that everyone who graduates would have the ability to plan healthy meals, take inventory, create a comprehensive grocery list and shop independently on a budget. For some parents and students, this may seem like an impossible goal, a hope that will never be fulfilled. But time and time again, we have seen that it is possible and should be expected.

Remember the two stories at the beginning? Which of the two shoppers do I want my students to be like? I want my students to be disciplined, organized, effective shoppers - like I had to be when I lived in Oregon. 

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Office: Of Banana Slicers & Other Small Things

Thank you to Cathy Harvey, Administrative Assistant, for writing today's blog.

My three sisters and I recently got together to swap stories and catch up on family news. It is always a great time filled with lots of love and laughter that ends too quickly, food and fellowship, and usually a gift exchange as we celebrate the colors and delights of each special occasion.

For this visit, a couple of my sisters couldn’t resist treating us to homemade delights and the odd and eccentric just for fun. One such oddity that brought howls of laughter as my sister read the reviews was a banana slicer—yes, a banana slicer.  My initial impression tagged it a ridiculous invention. How hard is it to simply grab a knife and slice a banana?  It takes all of 30 seconds, if that.  Prompt delivery to the Goodwill store came to mind.  I would rather clean a simple butter knife than all the slots in this piece of plastic. We were bent over in laughter, however, as my sister read rave reviews of the “marriage saving” device and critical complaints that it was curved in the wrong direction!

My youngest sister, who is editor of an inspirational quarterly for her church, wondered if there was a hidden lesson in there somewhere that she could springboard off of to use the hilarious reviews for a heart-tugging lesson. As we pondered what we could possibly glean from the silly slicer, we dared to come up with some positive characteristic of the little tool, and I began to think of the value of small things. 

For someone with arthritis, or recovering from a stroke and struggling with the use of their hands, it could, honestly, simplify their cutting effort. For children, it was 100% safe, eliminating the need to use a knife to slice a banana for morning cereal or an ice cream sundae dessert. It was dishwasher safe making it very easy to clean.  It had no sharp corners or edges. It was sized for any banana, large or small. And so on. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim it was a “marriage saver” as one viewer claimed, but it did have a place of usefulness, small and limited as its purpose was.

Life in the office has a number of seemingly small tasks and purposes too—none-the-less, important to the whole process of the running of a school. Things like keeping the office vacuumed, dumping the recycle bins, filling the copier with paper, shredding documents. 

What if…no one filled the copier with paper? We don’t have textbooks for our students; our instructors often write original material tailored to our students and make hundreds of copies a week for classes. What if no one ordered copier paper? What if no one emptied the recycle bins? What if no one ever vacuumed the dust, toner, staples and the hole punches off the carpet? What a mess we would have, and a dirty office to work in!  No day passes without such important tasks.

So, here’s to small things, small tasks, small tools—all pieces of the bigger picture for a greater good filling in the puzzle of what makes Shepherds College complete. Thanks to all our workers, residents, and student volunteers who take on little tasks that make a big difference in this small gem of a ministry in Union Grove, Wisconsin. So, yes, here’s to small things:  banana slicers, paper recyclers, and all!

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”              ~ Matthew 10:42

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

AiA Cafe: We're Open!

Thank you to Erin Luchterhand, Ai Academy Lead Instructor, for writing today's blog. 

The popularity of Starbucks and Caribou Coffee comes to Shepherds College!   

People love coffee and cafes, and they serve as a great avenue to teach our students.  Ai Academy has adopted the idea of serving others through the use of a student run café.  During weekly advising group meetings, Ai Academy sets up a café to allow students (and staff) the opportunity to get a snack, interact with each other, and relax for a few minutes.

There is a lot that goes into preparing for the café, but students do it wholeheartedly as they prepare for work.  First, we decide on a menu.  Second, we purchase supplies.  Third, we prepare snacks and drinks ahead of time and store them until the café opens.  Fourth, we set up shop!

We have found that the benefits of using the café as a method of teaching are three-fold.  It allows Ai Academy students to practice their kitchen measurement and food preparation...

 it allows students the opportunity to practice their money counting and cashier skills...

and it allows Ai Academy students to practice both professionalism in the work place and social skills.

The café has been a fun and helpful teaching tool for the Ai Academy students.  It has provided learning, practice, experience, and social opportunities for students and staff to interact.  While we may not be able to make a fancy latte with extra foam, we do make a pretty good Rice Krispy treat and hot chocolate!


Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.