Life Skills with Shari Pierce — A Career Special Educator Presents Her Proven Handbook

Ross Romano: [00:00:00] Welcome, everybody, to another episode of the Authority Podcast here on the BE Podcast Network. Really a pleasure to have you with us again. Thank you so much for being here. My guest today is Shari Pierce. Shari received her bachelor's in special education from New York University and a master's in learning disabilities from Teachers College at Columbia University, and she was a special educator for the Yonkers New York Public Schools.

for 33 years. For most of that time, Shari taught middle and high schoolers with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities and enjoyed finding innovative ways to work with her students and their families. Shari is the author of a new book called Life Skills, a handbook for parents and teachers of the intellectually disabled.

Shari, welcome to the Authority.

Shari Pierce: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ross Romano: It is my pleasure to have you and I think our listeners will really enjoy hearing from you and your perspectives. And along that line, I wanted to start with a little bit of an overview of your career and I [00:01:00] introduced it a little bit very briefly in my intro. But, yeah, I'd love to have you talk a little bit about the different roles you served in as an educator and the students you worked with.

Shari Pierce: Well, I was, as you said, an educator for 33 years. For 23 of those years, I worked with middle and high schoolers with intellectual disabilities in Yonkers, my hometown. And I grew up as the sibling of somebody with developmental disabilities, so I decided at a very young age, eight to be exact, that this was the field I wanted to go into, and I was very fortunate to be able to do that.

I always had that desire to work with children and families with special needs.

Ross Romano: Are there for our listeners who may be teachers or maybe parents of children and they're trying to they're listening to the beginning of our conversation and just trying to determine how [00:02:00] exactly going to relate to them and the kids in their lives. Are there, when you think about.

Your students and who you wrote about in the book and the students you worked with particular names or diagnoses of the intellectual disabilities that most commonly come up just to contextualize it. I think for listeners who are trying to determine if this is like what they're what they're working with.

Shari Pierce: Sure. In most years, about a third to a quarter of my students had Down syndrome, a number of students with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, but those students with those disabilities aren't necessarily intellectually disabled or not, and not necessarily in the moderate to severe range. All of my students were in the moderate to severe range of students with speech issues.

All different kinds of issues that put them together in one class where the [00:03:00] IQs, which are really not the best determinant of where a child's going to go in the future, but for the most part, the children in my class were tested at. The moderate to severe, so IQs in the 40 to 55 range. But middle and high schoolers who, who fell into, who were intellectually disabled, but in the book also, I just want to say that a lot of the information that I put out works for those who have more mild disabilities, or even some students who are not on the spectrum or who are not disabled, but ideas that might work in helping those children reach their potential.

Ross Romano: So I'm curious, one of the things that is so critical. is how we approach expectation setting, right? And certainly talked about in the book you reference I think various circumstances and incidents over [00:04:00] the years, from the time when brother was a child, right? To, of course, present day and students today, and hopefully some of the ways in which these things are approached a little better now, but there's, of course the need to be able to have open and honest dialogue between educators and parents and understanding some of the challenges that are present and being realistic around that, but also not diminishing expectations and being ambitious around that.

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Ross Romano: I'm wondering to start cause I, there's probably a little more to this than just one discussion point. It's a big topic, but to start I guess, what is your experience been at, I would say students own perceptions of the expectations of them, especially as corresponds to their age, right?

So As a teacher, you're [00:05:00] working primarily with middle and high school students. So students who have been part of the school system for a certain number of years probably have absorbed a lot of. whatever they believe the expectations of them are right in the way they've been treated and but perhaps outside of work maybe you've also had exposure to kids who are younger, who maybe haven't absorbed some of that yet, but I'm wondering what you observed and how that illustrates how critical it is that we are really thoughtful and mindful about how we not only communicate expectations, but how we act and understand that kids pick up on how adults are treating them.

Shari Pierce: That's a very good point. And you alluded to my brother. Now, my brother has developmental disabilities and my parents had a very difficult time with all of this information at the beginning. And part of that was exacerbated by professionals. And this is in the early 1970s, to give it a timeline, who were so negative [00:06:00] about it.

A little boy who was just having some developmental delays. He was just delayed. Certainly he needed special education, but when my mother, for instance, said do you think he might be able to learn to go up and down the stairs properly? He was going, he wasn't going reciprocally at that point. And instead of saying, yes, certainly he will do that soon.

Or we can talk to a physical therapist about that. The answer was, oh, you can't expect him to ever do that. And my mother trying to make a little joke just because I think she was so nervous in that meeting because parents meeting with teachers and other professionals can be very intimidating, tried to make a little joke about well I'm sure he'll be able to do it by high school, and that attempted humor was met with, Oh, I don't think he'll ever go to high school.

He was five. And And that really put my mother off to dealing with professionals for many years. And I think, so we as educators have to be so cognizant that [00:07:00] when we're talking to parents, we're talking to people who have children that they love and care for and constantly worry about. And our words have a great deal of impact as far as talking about expectations.

In my classroom, sometimes there were parents and students who were a little bit surprised at the level of independence I wanted children to have. Sometimes parents would come in for a meeting, and I'd say, well, let's talk a little bit about home. And I might say, tell me, What chores your child does at home.

And a lot of times parents would say, Oh, chores. He can't do any chores. He can just about do anything in the house. I do everything for him. And then we talk about that. The fact that no matter what level a child is at, he needs responsibilities in the classroom at home. And I can teach you, as a teacher, I can teach you, the parent, ways to find chores that are doable, ways to [00:08:00] give your child a little bit more independence and autonomy and make him more of a fully functioning member of the household just as he's a child.

fully functioning member of my classroom. Expectations really become very important. I think there are, you have the opposite and also where somebody will look at a child, especially a child who maybe looks not so disabled. And they have expectations for that child that the child can't meet, and that becomes very frustrating also, and we have to work on that balance.

There's always that balance of trying to find what's most realistic.

Ross Romano: Yeah, I mean, I think it's just so important to remind ourselves and be mindful of the fact that children and adults of all ages and all varying whether they have an intellectual disability or not are observant and are, and do absorb things around them, even [00:09:00] if they're a child who can't articulate all of that, right, they feel it and and this, idea of expectations comes up a lot on the show here with respect to various things, respect to educational equity, right?

And unconscious biases and certainly students in special education and all learners you know, sometimes just the young kids and some of the pressure that's put on them to learn certain skills at such a young age and how quickly they begin to develop. a perception of themselves as less capable than their peers.

And how that can crystallize and just kind of carry with them forever, way beyond the point when it's relevant. And you know, as you reference the need for kids to have those responsibilities that it makes a big difference to them when they're given those opportunities because what it communicates to them is that this adult believes they can do it, right?

They might try, they might struggle a little bit, [00:10:00] they might fail a couple times before they get it right. But it's saying, no, I think you can do this, so give it a shot, right? And that applies. You know, that applies to all kids at all developmental stages. You know, my, my son is three now. And when we go to school in the morning, he wants to put on his own shoes and it takes him a long time to put on his shoes compared to how quickly I could put them on.

Right. And some days I'm like, I think we just gotta get out the door here, but it, I had to let him do it and learn how to do it and try and show, yeah I know you can do this. Okay. Go ahead and do it. That's important, right? That's important to kids development, and if we don't give them those opportunities, and particularly in this case, talking about, yeah, kids who may be a little older, and it may be easier to just do it yourself, or just assume that it's something that's out of their reach, it doesn't give them the opportunity to learn, and then to change what they believe about [00:11:00] themselves.

Shari Pierce: We've, we were very fortunate where the last place that I taught and I was there for 23 years that the administration understood my class, and they allowed them to get involved in a lot of school wide things also because I wanted the children to understand that you're not just a member of my classroom.

You're a member of the school. And even children who could not read, for instance, were able to take part in, oh, the Thanksgiving food drive, where they could separate out all the cans from all the boxes and see that they were a vital member of the school. And yes, I, all of the adults. could have done it in half the time or so, but it was vitally important that the children get involved and yes, and feel valuable and feel a part of things.

And and that was a really great authentic way for them to to do that.

Ross Romano: Yeah, the authenticity point, right, there's a [00:12:00] chapter about that as well, and it relates to this, right, it's about keeping it real at home in the classroom, but giving kids real things to work on, to try used examples like dishwashing and actually, watching the real dishes versus play dishes and you know, activities like that.

But I think that certainly relates to this fact of they know the difference. They know when they have a real authentic task and they're helping with a real chore or doing an actual academic assignment versus something that's just. Kind of meant to keep them busy, but yeah, can you even talk a little bit more about some examples of what those things might look like at home and in the classroom and the difference between an authentic assignment that is beneficial and the opposite, which is not exactly helpful.

Shari Pierce: I talked to parents a lot of times, as I've said about asking this child do chores at home and. We talk to parents about [00:13:00] ways to find authentic things for the child to do at home. A lot of kids like to help out in the kitchen, and there's nothing, and I said this in the book, there's nothing more basic than food.

And, but a lot of parents get very nervous with a child lurking around the kitchen, and there's knives, and there's things to spill, and everybody's in a hurry. And sometimes even, it's laughable, even the simplest thing, where your child wants to mix the pancake batter and you're sure he's going to get it all over the place.

It sounds too simple to say until you say it to someone who goes, Oh my goodness, that's a great idea. And that is get a bigger bowl, get a huge bowl so that things aren't going all over the place and the child can still do it. It's much more authentic than having him sit with a play set next to you pretend to stir the batter, stir the real thing.

You're nervous about the stove, which is certainly a real understandable thing is certainly with some children more than others. So have your child make the salad. Have him put the Ritz crackers out on a [00:14:00] plate. Is he learning patterns in school? Great. Give him some cheese and some bits of ham and have him put cheese on some, ham on some, ham and cheese on some.

Put it in a pattern. It tastes the same no matter what. And how proud would a child be to bring out that plate of even a simple hors d'oeuvre and say, I did it myself. And I've talked also about authentic activities in the classroom, certainly not every activity of every minute, I mean, there are worksheets, there are things that have to be done to take care of city and state regulations, but there are so many things to do.

One of the greatest things about working where I worked was the freedom that I had, and doing things, and I did give an example of a picnic. You can have a picnic with your students. Now, somebody who doesn't understand the group might see you having a picnic and go, Oh, look at them. They're not working today.

But if you are an effective educator, [00:15:00] learning to be a more effective educator, you know that picnic, You talked about it. You maybe made a tally or a graph as to what kind of sandwiches you were going to make. Maybe you were able to walk to the store and buy the ingredients and count out the money, make a budget.

Maybe you had to go to the principal and ask permission to have a picnic. So there's your social skills and your eye contact and you're staying to the topic. Maybe you had to check the weather report online or in the newspaper. to see which day would be a good picnic day. And those are all authentic activities that lead up to another authentic activity.

And it's real. It's not reading a book, not, certainly not that I'm against reading books. I love books, but it's not just reading a story about people going on a picnic or having a word problem about, well, what if you needed X number of loaves of bread to make sandwiches. It's doing all of those things and enjoying it, and certainly that [00:16:00] helps children make different connections.

It gives a sense of belonging. Maybe you're going to invite another class to come along as well. There's so many things that you can do for this picnic that may look to somebody like a day at the beach, but it's not. It's authentic learning that has meaning.

Ross Romano: Yeah. What about one of the things that comes up when we're doing any of these things, whether they're authentic and sometimes new and challenging tasks or or just living day to day is emotions, right? And kids have a lot of emotions and big and sometimes hard to understand, hard to manage, hard to control.

What does it kind of look like just to help them through that?

Shari Pierce: Emotions are a huge deal, no matter who you're dealing with. And as adults, we have all of those emotions, too. I think every adult can identify with getting upset with their boss or with a [00:17:00] family member. And we've just learned. That it is too expensive to have our emotions flowing out all over the place all the time.

And a lot of our students haven't yet learned that. And we are there to help them regulate their emotions, to understand what they're going through. I think a lot of times, just as you do with a young child, you take a look. As much as you can we're all human and sometimes it's just you need to stop that crying right now because we're going into a quiet place and you need to stop.

For a lot of other things, we learn to say, wait a minute, I've had him out to five different stores and we haven't stopped for a break. And that's why this is going on. Or at school, wait a minute, his best friend is absent today and he was promised he was going to play with him at recess and that's why he's refusing to do any work right now.

And that doesn't mean that there might not be consequences, but that you can approach that child from a different place just [00:18:00] as if Somebody in my life who did not have a disability was being very short with me. I could react by getting short right back. Or I could say, wait a minute, is something bothering you?

Oh, I remember your mom's been sick. Come on, let's sit down and talk about it or sit down and not talk about it. And that's. Respect. And I think when we work with children and respect their emotions, it's not a foolproof system. But if I had a foolproof system that would really be something that's But we really try to work with looking at why children are doing what they're doing and to practice controlling those emotions when the emotions aren't running high.

You know, the time to teach your child not to run ahead of you at the mall is not when you're at the mall and there's nine million people around. The time to do that is when things are quiet and practice with them. The time to work on what are you going to do if somebody [00:19:00] calls you a bad word. is not right after it happened.

You're going to have to deal with it then anyway, but to talk about it in advance and to role play and to try as much as you can to see where that child's coming from and how you can help them regulate their emotions. You're there as a helper, not as a punisher, not as somebody to give consequences that may come, but you're really there to help them deal with the overwhelming feelings that they often have.

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Ross Romano: Do you have thoughts on how the adults in these situations can kind of manage and express their emotion, right? Because that comes up to your teacher, and this could be any teacher really, but you know, a teacher in a circumstance, you have, high high hopes and belief in your kids.

And then there's going to be times when inevitably you're disappointed with how something turned out, or as a parent, you're going to have times when you're feeling frustrated or even angry and about how things [00:20:00] are going and that but you need to be mindful of that, manage that and communicate and convey it in a way that's constructive.

What have you learned in that regard?

Shari Pierce: It's a process. It's a very difficult thing. I know at home, even in the classroom, I think sometimes it's harder to deal with your own children and sometimes even your own students than it is for others. You get so emotionally involved. And if you're a special educator, a lot of times, as I did, you had the same students for quite a long time.

So you get to know them and their families very well. You learn as time goes on, first of all, not to take a lot of the emotional stuff so personally. I know as a new teacher, the first time a child looks at you and says that he hates you or you're something or other, it's hurtful. And I think as adults, it's okay to say to a child, yes, you hurt my feelings.

That makes me feel sad when you talk to me like that. But you also have to be mindful that. [00:21:00] A lot of times it's not personal. It's a child who is just having trouble expressing himself or herself, but it is challenging, and at home, I think when you're out in the community, parents have a particularly difficult time with their child, especially a child who's intellectually disabled and who is not very young.

You know, when your three year old has a tantrum out in the world, it could be frustrating, of course, but the rest of society kind of looks and goes, Oh, yes, he's three. I've been there, too. This will pass. When your 14 year old is having a tantrum at the store, the first thing that happens is the parents get embarrassed.

And that's a difficult thing, and it really takes a lot of practice working with professionals. I always tell parents if something's going on at home, I'm not asking you to tell me every secret you have going on in your home, but please come to me, come to my staff, come [00:22:00] to other teachers you feel comfortable with in the building, because we can help.

We can give you some strategies to help things maybe, not all the time, no guarantees, but maybe not happen. or for you to better deal with it and because it is difficult for parents and teachers it's not that teachers are immune to this, to deal with those over the top things, and they always happen at the craziest times.

It's always when for a teacher. You're getting ready for an observation and all of a sudden the fight breaks out in the room or as a parent, someone's coming over to visit and things are getting out of hand. And it really takes a lot of patience and self talk and experience and a good social network for yourself.

I asked parents a lot of times, what are you doing? To take care of you when things get so crazy and so out of hand. Do you have date night with your significant other? Or do you have friends that you can get away [00:23:00] for a little while and just breathe and be yourself for teachers? Do you have colleagues in the building who can help you through things?

Do you have support outside? Because. Everybody really needs that, that support and taking care of children, especially those with disabilities, though not exclusively, really is the village all coming together.

Ross Romano: Yeah. So Sherry we've talked about kind of the importance of authenticity and managing emotions and some of those, is there anything like more broadly sort of looking at the classroom and I think looking at. Maybe common practice and particularly common ineffective practice anything else that's really important to highlight as far as what really works, what really doesn't some things that all educators should pay close attention to.

Shari Pierce: Sure. A lot of what I did in my classroom, and I had a huge learning curve over many years [00:24:00] is to try to keep things authentic, positive, real, to get out there and do things that have meaning. To not forget the social aspects of things, to not forget giving children responsibility. So even in a case where you're doing something that's more, looks like more traditional learning, you're maybe going to talk about the solar system and show a video.

I had oftentimes reminded the other adults who worked with me because that becomes a whole issue also. There are usually aides and other adults working in classrooms with children with such special needs to give the children as much responsibility as possible, to have them help others, to really have a classroom where everybody felt like they belonged, that they had a part in things.

I had a when I started teaching this group, I asked years ago what the curriculum was, what I had to [00:25:00] follow. And No one had an answer. There was no curriculum written for this group, and after I panicked, I said, wait a minute. This is the greatest thing that could have happened, because I will write the curriculum, and and certainly I modified it over many years, but we did so many things that had meaning.

We did cooking through the alphabet, where we cooked every week, and we did a play. Every year, which was something that a lot of people thought that this population couldn't do. And certainly I had the children who were non verbal, or children who could not read, but we did plays. We did all kinds of things that made the class feel like a family.

And and one of the other things, not directly in the classroom, and the reason I wrote the book the, in the fashion that I did, was we involved the families as much as we possibly could. A lot of communication with the families, and and that made a huge [00:26:00] difference.

Ross Romano: Yeah. Are there well the communication with the families is really important. What, what does that, what should that look like, I guess, in, in practice and what are the important things I believe for educators to make sure that they are prioritizing in their communication with the parents, what are some things for parents to to know that they should ask about and pursue information around.

Shari Pierce: In Yonkers, and I suppose it's this way in a lot of districts, I would often find out who my new students would be around May or June for the, for that September, and the first, and when that happens, I would invite the parents in, start right from the beginning with giving them a positive picture of who you are and of what the class is, and so I'd invite parents in, ask them all kinds of questions, Ask things that certainly when you're talking to parents the first time, you want to keep things very [00:27:00] smooth.

But the fact is, you do have to ask some difficult questions about how much help the child might need in the bathroom, or how they react to certain things, how they react to loud noises. Every every teacher needs a warning about who's going to absolutely have a, terrible time the first time that the fire drill goes off, but I'd also ask parents, show me a picture of your child.

Certainly it helps me because I don't know the child and I want to know who's getting off the bus the first day, but it disarms parents into feeling that you really want to know this child, that you want to really be a part of their lives because there's no mistaking if you are teaching a child. From 830 to three o'clock every day, there is a good chance that you are with that child more waking hours than the family is, and you are going to be a part of.

the child's life, a part of the family's life. I made sure to invite parents for every, I had an open door policy [00:28:00] outside of them having to sign in and check in with the main office. There was, they could come and visit me anytime and it I was afraid to do that at first as a newer teacher. And I grew to I had to grow through this, that it really was okay and that parents appreciated that open access and just knowing the child was okay.

I, did a newsletter every Monday and you know, I've had people say to me, Oh my goodness, a newsletter every Monday. That sounds like an awful lot of work, but it really wasn't. It became a habit and it became a good habit and I enjoyed it a great deal because a lot of my students could not say what they were doing in school.

So when mom said, what'd you do in school today? nothing, or you got to talk about what was served in the school cafeteria, which is fine, but not about what they were doing in the classroom. So at least with a newsletter, a parent can look and say, Hey, it says here you learned about dinosaurs today and you learned a dinosaur song.

Can [00:29:00] you sing that for me? And now the child knows, wait a minute, mom is, and dad are part of my school life too. And it makes a very positive difference. And also very practically speaking, when you do have to call home with. something that's not completely positive. The child's had a tantrum or something's gone wrong.

You have a relationship there that's already based on trust and honesty. So when you do have to call and say, look, Johnny's had a really tough day. He had a tantrum and he hit another child and I have to have the other parents in. And one of those very messy situations. You're starting from a place of honesty.

And when the parent sees the phone call is coming from the school, from you, they're more willing to answer and hear you out. And quite honestly, if you, as the teacher being a human teacher, makes a mistake somewhere along the way, because we all do, you have a relationship based on trust with parents, and that goes a long way for [00:30:00] parents.

The first thing that I say is please trust us. That and know that we want the very best for your child as you do. Please communicate. Please don't wait until annual review time in the spring to say, you know what? This has been a terrible year and I don't think my child's learned anything. Tell me that in October.

Don't tell me that the second day of school because you need to give me a chance, but be honest, bring your frustrations, tell us what's going on at home to the extent that you're comfortable because the bottom line with everything is that we all want to help your child be the best that he or she can be.

And on that path, we want to help the parents also deal with their children in a way where everybody is learning and growing and not getting too frustrated.

Ross Romano: But yeah, I, yeah, that whole topic is so critical to have a. An ongoing dialogue to have it be proactive, to have [00:31:00] routine things and positive things and the challenging things all being communicated, it just changes the way that all parties feel about it and respond to it. Right? You know, if I'm a parent and the only times I'm ever hearing from my child's teacher when something's wrong I'm just not going to feel good about anything I'm hearing, right?

And then it's going to make me more frustrated about the whole situation. And even if I might logically know, okay, this is important information. It's important for me to know about this so that I can support my child. It gets to the point where it's, I just, I don't want to hear it. It's all negative.

And I'm tuning it out versus if I actually hear something, the four days a week when everything's good. And then I also hear something the one day when something was wrong. I just have a much different. response to that. And I just have [00:32:00] a different perspective on the teacher's level of caring and understanding the well rounded dynamics of the progress my child is making, that it's not all bad and all of those things.

And You know, that goes back to the emotions that we feel about it, and also our energy level and ability to do what we need to do on a daily basis when it is challenging feeling that it's hopeful too, and that it's, and that there's progress being made. Sherry I wanted to go back to, I'm really interested in in how we learn and how we pick up information and learn how to be effective. And I was just curious, and I read in the introduction You know, well, we've talked about, of course, you having lifelong experience personally with intellectual disabilities and what that looks like, and then having had 30 plus years of professional direct professional experience, [00:33:00] and also having you know, high level academic training with the bachelors and a master's from.

You know, high quality universities. I'm wondering if there's things that over the time you reflected on and that you realized you could really only learn from experience or that you found. Even that maybe your experience was different from what was taught when you were going through university.

Shari Pierce: I had the great good fortune to go to two excellent universities and to get all kinds of practice and hands on experiences and I'm very grateful to both NYU and NTC. However, your It all starts when you set foot in the classroom, and you need both. You need the pedagogy, you need the background in education and how children's minds work child development, you need all of that.

But, it all starts when [00:34:00] you set foot in a classroom, and I'll tell you briefly, the first day that I was teaching, I was very excited, very nervous, very green. And I had I was just starting my master's, but I had my bachelor's degree, and I had a day planned out for the children to rival all other first days for children anywhere.

They were getting to know you activities and academic activities and every type of activity for a excellent first day. And we did. Every activity that I had planned, it was great, the only problem was we finished absolutely everything on my list and it was 11 a. m. We had not had lunch yet, but when we did have lunch, there were still about two and a half hours left where I had no idea what to do because I had not yet mastered scheduling.

And as the years went on, certainly I got better at it, but it was a very humbling experience that first day to realize that I was now standing in front of, at that [00:35:00] time, second, third, and fourth graders, and I had just run out of everything at 11 a. m. So, I laugh about it now, certainly I did not laugh that day, but you learn.

Just so much being on your feet and having different experiences. I don't remember having such an emphasis on getting involved with families in my formal education. And that became a huge thing for me. Also, feeling that the school and the system would take care of everything for you was something I had to overcome, and I loved teaching in Yonkers.

I'm a Yonkers girl and I was educated in Yonkers, but the school system is a typical urban system, and while I had a great experience there, I learned the first day I asked, and this is back in 1988, where are the materials that I need? And they said, we have no [00:36:00] materials for you. And you learn very quickly to become resourceful, to make up your own things, to talk to other people, to have that network, and it's a learning process.

And my vow to myself was not to not make mistakes, because that would be so unrealistic, but to try not to make the same mistakes.

Ross Romano: Right.

My, and you know, I also have the question on the opposite end of that, which I think is helpful and relevant to you know, particularly to parents, right? To understanding how and why the. To really pursue partnership with educators and helping to support their children and also can be important educators to really think about how they want to communicate these things.

But things that you had to learn academically, things that if you just went straight into the classroom and had never gotten your diplomas at, in higher ed, you [00:37:00] would have, the experience would not have been a substitute,

Shari Pierce: No I think one of the most valuable things was really learning child development learning best practices and teaching reading and mathematics. Some of those things I needed to tweak a bit for children who had brain injuries or who had addressed the intellectual disabilities themselves that maybe they could not learn things in the traditional way, but in order to change.

the traditional way, you first have to know the traditional ways. And so to understand best practices in teaching reading, I can do that with a group of children and then say, wait a minute, this child is not going to get phonics. He has difficulty with sound, with auditory perception, and I'm going to have to change things here, or I'm going to have to talk to the speech therapist in the building, but you need.

that foundation that you get from a good teacher [00:38:00] education program to be able to go into the classroom and start things. You need to know behavior modification even if you're going to go in and change things a bit to meet the needs of your group because we're always being flexible, we're always having to make some changes, but you still need that foundation and there's no substitute.

Just as there's no substitute for experience, there's no substitute for a good Basic education in the things that you most need.

Ross Romano: right? Yeah, excellent. So, Shari, as we're getting toward the end of our conversation here, I wanted to ask and give you the opportunity to give you a final kind of takeaway. So for parents and teachers of kids with intellectual disabilities, what do you want them to either remember or hear or take away?

You know, what's your kind of key message to them out of this?

Shari Pierce: My key message to my fellow educators [00:39:00] and to parents, first of all, is to breathe, to understand that what you are doing, whether it is educating children in a classroom or whether it is raising children with disabilities in your home, that you are doing something so important and so vital. and so difficult that you really do need to trust yourself to seek help where it's needed and for parents and teachers to understand that there's a very symbiotic relationship there that we need each other in order to do the best that we can for children.

And I would want everybody to to remember that we need each other and that We all want the best thing for children and we all want to be able to take care of ourselves in doing that.

Ross Romano: Excellent. So listeners, yeah, please do remember that. And also there's a lot more in this book than what we've [00:40:00] discussed. It's goes into great depth and detail for both educators and for parents. So if you're interested in picking up the book, Life Skills, you can find it on Amazon.

We will put the link to that. below in the show notes to where you can find it. Please also do subscribe to the Authority Podcast if you have not already for more author interviews coming every week here as we are getting into 2024. Should be an exciting year here on the show and visit bpodcast.

network to learn about all of our other 30 plus shows in the network. Sherry Pierce, thanks so much for being on the show.

Shari Pierce: It's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Creators and Guests

Ross Romano
Ross Romano
Co-founder of Be Podcast Network and CEO of September Strategies. Strategist, consultant, and performance coach.
Life Skills with Shari Pierce — A Career Special Educator Presents Her Proven Handbook