Changing Things Around

For years, I have been blogging on education–or at least trying to keep up with what’s going on and sharing what I’ve learned.  For years, I’ve had two education-oriented sites: this one and another at called Eleanore’s Ramblings.  I’ve tried blogs for critiques on children’s books and other topics, and I found that I cannot maintain so many sites.  So  I basically stopped blogging altogether, except for a post here or there.

Part of stopping the blogging experience has had to do with a relatively mild depression, that came on me after various surgeries, each of which brought my activity level lower and lower.  Part of the stop was because of the malfunctioning computers or internet services over the years.  Another part was that I was simply overwhelmed by both the amount of information on education–good and bad–and government policies related to education that have been terribly depressing as well as irritating.  For example, I had high hopes for Arne Duncan when he became Secretary of Education on President Obama’s cabinet.  I had gotten the idea that he had a solid education background, and knew what he was talking about.  Later, I learned that his knowledge of education came from a summer study he did for a project at Yale(?) as an undergraduate, and that he had neither classroom nor educational experience related to education at all.  That accounted for some of the irrational topics he has discussed and the less rational projects he has supported and developed.

After a while, with the government clearly knowing less about education than the average houseplant, I lost interest in almost everything having to do with education in the US–and then outside the US.  So I realized that anything I had to say about education and learning would be of little or no help.  Once I moved to the Caribbean where my husband had accepted a position in a medical school, and I saw the mess that education is here (on a smaller scale but just as ridiculous and very corrupt), I lost all interest in the subject I studied through hundreds of graduate education credits from good universities, and which yielded me both a Master of Arts in Education and a doctorate in Educational Psychology.  The doctorate was not in the precise area I wanted to study, but that’s another story…

Anyway, I lost the will to do much about writing about education in any form.  Every now and then, I would get a serious energy surge, but truly, I had given up.  After all, what do I have to say that is of any importance to teaching and learning?  I am no longer an active teacher at any level–neither K-12 nor postsecondary level.  I am months away from official retirement–although I’ve been unofficially retired for almost ten years.  I used to keep up with new theories and techniques only to learn that the internet search engines–even the specialized educational and psychological databases–were concentrating on the past five years, and that special parameters needed to be entered to go back further.  Over and over I saw “new” theories of learning or “new” methodologies that I had already cycled through at least twice in 40 years.  And I began to wonder if there was a point to anything having to do with education.

Thus I came across the main reasons for my reluctance to blog on education and learning issues.

At one time, I was a computer programmer,working for major companies in the greater NYC area.  I was good at what I did, and knew every quirk of different models in the same hardware series of mainframes by IBM and DEC.  I knew that on one machine my code would have to have an extra line while on another that line would cause a program crash.  I knew the best logic to use on various machines for the most efficient results–and in different programming languages.  But over the years, although logic is still logic and works across all platforms, I got behind.  I would put off learning the quirks of a newer version of a programming language for a few months, only to learn when I returned to it that I had to start over because the internal circuitry acted just a little differently, or the language had been “upgraded.”  Before long, I was so far behind that I could no longer keep up with all the changes because I would have to start too far back and work forward–or suffer the consequences of wondering what the heck a new command meant or how it could be most efficiently used.

The reason for the programming explanation is that I had started this particular blog when I understood how to design the page and add new “buttons” or specific functions.  Each time I went to update the layout or change the format, I found I had less and less that I could do on my own, and I was unable to afford someone to help me create a site the way I wanted to.

Next, I wanted to add webinars to this site, but then reality hit.  Who wants to look at an old lady giving brief lectures and slotting in a diagram or picture here and there?  Besides, I hate make-up and the idea of having to return to putting it on every day was rather off-putting.  What I really need is someone to help me put a good site together for very little money, and people who do that–inexpensively–are almost impossible to come by.  As for finding someone here in the middle of the Caribbean–well, actually on the very edge of the Caribbean as our eastern-most coast borders on the Atlantic Ocean–is more difficult because the technology here is so far behind the times that I’ll never get what I want no matter how much I pay.  And money is still an issue.

I know there are “bundles” that I can buy and persons that I can hire from GoDaddy, where this site resides, even though I use WordPress.  I know that there are old books available on getting WordPress up and running in stunning and useful ways, but technology does not wait for an old woman to read up and practice.  Thus, it will take a while for me to get this site–as well as the sister professional site–up and running.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because this site will take me forever to make it into what I want it to be–to be a place to learn and exchange information, to host small webinars, to discuss innovative and “tried and true” teaching methods and techniques, to argue about new theories… But I will continue to work on that even as I resume blogging on this site.  I have made the decision to blog here once a week, on issues that relate not only to teachers, but also to parents/caregivers, education specialists in emotional and behavioral problems, various learning disabilities including reading problems, and, of course, autistic spectrum disorders.  Although I want to do as much as possible for free, the maintenance of this site will not be inexpensive, and I will monitize it with relevant books and teaching aids, as well as specialized workshops for schools, organizations, and care-givers.  Most of those will probably be on my professional site, .  However, I want to keep as much free information and resources on this site as possible.

Please take the time to send me your ideas for what you would like to hear me blog about, as well as what you would like to see on my professional site.  All comments are welcome, even if I do not get back to you right away.  Appropriate responses will be added to the comments section, whether entered directly or through the contact form.

Next week I’ll be back with a blog post, as I will be writing here once a week.  I haven’t yet decided on a day, as I have been keeping myself very busy with new hobbies–I’m learning to draw and have progressed from sickly stick figures to decent drawing of subjects during the past five weeks; I finally got that DSLR camera  I’ve been asking my husband to give me as a gift for the past ten or fifteen years and am learning to use both the camera and its assortment of lenses, all of which need thorough learning to use properly and keep the images from blurring because of my hand tremors; I have started a business specializing in foundation garments that help us older adults stand a little straighter or look a bit thinner, along with dietary supplements that can help memory, weight loss, diabetes control (along with prescribed medications, of course), and other general health issues.  So I am keeping busy and finding myself with too few hours in the day to learn everything I want to explore, keep up with education news, keep up with news in general, and still find time to cook and eat.

So once a week–that will be the release parameter for this blog.  But I will make it worth your while if you come back to read it.  Nothing will be frivolous; techniques will be for immediate implementation (although for many suggestions you need to know that your own time will be needed to understand and implement it right, with the understanding that the first attempt will undoubtedly fail, or the set-up will take more time than you want to  spend, etc.–nothing good comes without some effort), theories will be explained for their benefits to the classroom and when and why to use different elements, inclusion techniques for special education students will be discussed, guest bloggers will be invited to contribute their knowledge, etc.

Please come back toward the middle of next week (about May 13, 2015) to check what’s new.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you…without you and your input, this little experiment in exchange of information regarding education and learning cannot succeed.

One last thing: Last month, I took my gajillionth class in writing at WordPress’ Bloggers U.  It was not a blogging course.  It was a course to develop writing skills. My posts can be found at a page called Eleanore’s Ramblings at and it will be dedicated to my progress in learning to write.  If you need ideas for yourself or your students–at any grade or postsecondary level–this is a decent place to start.  I will try to update any assignment where I failed to do so at the time with the prompt for the post as well as the “twist” that the facilitator wanted us to attempt. University level students who want to learn something about general writing are welcome to read the past twenty-something posts of assignments for that class as well as my continuing struggle with becoming a better writer.  I originally started taking such classes–usually paying big bucks to take them (this one was free and is offered at least twice a year) to help me report sensitively on special education students and clients being tested for learning problems.  Clinical reports are usually so–well, so clinical.  They generally consist of nothing but dull, insensitive, and largely head-ache producing facts; I wanted mine to have meaning while providing the same information in a readable format that could be understood by anyone who needed to read them. Before taking a number of writing classes, I would struggle for hours writing a single progress report on a single student to express what I wanted to say in a way that was positively structured and readable, including the negative behaviors or regressions without making the child sound like a basket case or sociopath.  Trying to write up 15 of such reports at the end of a week left me with little sleep, and the last reports were grumpier than I wanted them to be (so I never wrote the reports in the same order).  The classes have helped me to be able to say what I need to say about a child with reasonable efficiency and speed, and without sounding like a police report.  If you can’t take a formal class in writing for one reason or another, at least take the time to look at the prompts and twists, and the resulting “story.”  You will also learn far more about me than I ever thought I could share honestly with people I don’t know.  But that was part of the deal about taking the course and learning to write better.

Until next time,

Dr. Ellie, Ed.D.


I’m Ba-ack!

This post is an explanation of my absence, and a preview to anticipated changes over the next several months.  Read on…

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything.  A few days ago, when I tried to enter a new post, I discovered it had disappeared.  All I could think about was years’ worth of data down the tubes.  Quite a bit of activity involving this site occurred during the past several months, it turns out, which collectively resulted in the site “going away” temporarily.  No, I didn’t miss any payments; and no, I didn’t accidentally wreck it myself. Here’s what happened.

Recently, this site was to be updated by someone, a professional site developer and marketing person who also happens to be a relative. Instead of being updated, the site was basically destroyed.  My suspicion is that the updater was less familiar with the site configuration than she believed herself to be.  Unfortunately, she did not want to admit this and made the classic “young person’s” mistake of not backing up the site before “updating” it.  I was afraid I would need to start all over again.  However, between WordPress and GoDaddy (where I host this site), enough backup information was available from the last successful post on this site that everything was restored.  (Hooray for WordPress and GoDaddy!!)  From now on, all changes will be done by me, regardless of my limited computing skills. Both companies offer plenty of resources and certified web site developers that, if I get frustrated, professional help is available.

Another reason for no activity here: a month or two ago, a serious illness knocked the wind out of my sails, leaving me unable to work much on the computer at all, much less at almost anything else.  Although I still have more “off” days than “on” ones, I’ve made the decision to concentrate on my blogs and the distribution of information related to education, and stop worrying about consulting.  There will be some changes to the way the site looks as well as the way the site operates.  However, the information will be as up to date as possible, and I hope to reach not only education professionals, but also parents and other professionals who work with children.  Features I hope to add include webinars and recorded videos targeted at learning problems and behavioral issues.  There will be guest blogging professionals, both in text and visual media.  Links to related reading and other materials and resources will be increased for your convenience.  These changes will take place gradually, so don’t expect everything at once.  As I said, I’m no longer a professional computing person, and it will take some time to get everything up to speed.  But updating this site will be as much a learning experience for me as a way to share what I know, especially about special education and behavioral issues.

So please bear with me as this site gradually develops into something more useful to all of us.  Thanks for your patience with me and support for the posts to date.  Without your readership, this blog would have folded long ago.

Watch for the changes!

Mostly, watch for my next posts that might be important to you and your students or offspring.


Dangerous Speakers

It’s been another long time since I’ve blogged at all. Here’s something that I simply cannot ignore. It’s a post I shared on Facebook, so anyone following me there will remember reading it. Right now I’m a bit too bogged down to do more than share an experience I wrote about elsewhere. It deals with seminars that are presented by people who do not know their topic–in this case, special education in general and dyslexia in particular. Sadly, out of perhaps 50 or 60 attendees, 2 were “just parents” (who were the intended audience to start with) and the rest were equally diviided between practicing teachers (some of whom I recognized and know they are talented teachers struggling with special needs children in their own classes) and pre-service teachers who are anxious to learn more about dyslexia. Well, you can figure out the rest of the problem. I’m also going to post this on my other blog site to widen the audience. This is really a sad situation that is becoming sadder. If you want to read about any chatter from my Facebook friends related to this, I believe I publically shared my observations; hopefully you can see the responses as well. I’m Dr.EllieM on Facebook, and have a page called EMiller Education Consulting. Feel free to comment here or on the other venues. Right now, I’m not in the States; I’m in the new country of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. Sint Maarten is the Dutch half of the island; St. Martin is the French half (If you ask a St. Martiner their nationality, you will always get “French.”).

Again, this is the start of a whole new phase for me. I will be using the educational system in Sint Maarten as an example of what politics can do to education in a country with a total population of roughly 50,000. And yes, that’s tens of thousands.

So… Have to share this: As you know, I have been trying to understand the educational system here on Sint Maarten, specifically special education. I’ve been volunteering services in what in California would be called a non-public school–a privately run school supported by public education funds. Because of the public funding, the school I am “helping” has to follow all curricular work as set out by the government for fully public schools. Wow, am I learning a lot, but that’s not what I want to share. What I want to share sheds some light on why education here is so screwed up.
Last night, my neighbor and I attended (or maybe “visited” is the better word) a seminar on dyslexia in the Caribbean. The event, intended for parents, was populated with teachers and teachers-in-training here on the island. Only 2 parents were in the audience that filled the room so thoroughly that we ended up sitting on a table at the back of the room with several other attendees. (I was execting the tables to collapse at any moment, since there were about 8 of us sitting “Indian style” in two rows, as there was no floor space to stand.) The speaker claims to have taught special education for 20 years, and spent the summer island hopping to become an “expert” in dyslexia. Since schools are shut down during the six-week summer break, and since there were many islands visited, I can only surmise that the expertise was gained primarily from seminars. Deon, my neighbor, has a daughter who was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and other problems that contributed to her learning difficulties, and–since the special education services on the island are minimal (if you can call some of them services at all)–his children and their mother moved back to South Africa so that the daughter could reap the benefits of a real special education program. So Deon knows quite a bit about dyslexia, learning disabilities and difficulties, ADD/ADHD, etc. OK. That’s background info on him, and most of you already know mine. So here’s the story–a really sad one, if you ask me.
Within 5 minutes of listening to this dynamic speaker give her schpiel, Deon became very restless and stood up as well as he could next to the table. By then, I was already reviewing my notes on a child I’ve been observing. But he didn’t say anything about leaving, so I just kept organizing notes. Then I thought I misheard an explanation about dyslexic children being unable to translate a photograph into anything more than a two-dimentianal depiction. Since raising my hand to ask a question was impossible, I just blurted out, “Excuse me, I was writing and may have missed something. Are you still talking about dyslexia?” She responded, “Yes, that’s how dyslexic children see the world.” That was it. I thanked her for her response, apologized again for the interruption, closed my notebook and stuffed it in my purse, told Deon I needed to go out and have a smoke, if I could wade through the sea of seated educators/future educators. Deon said he had no further reason to stay, and would I mind going home? All I could do was feel grateful that I he, too, had had enough.
From almost the first sentence that came out of the speaker’s mouth, it was clear that she had no idea what she was talking about–not in her capacity of general special education teacher, and least of all in her “expertise” in dyslexia. In that first 5 minutes, more misinformation was delivered than even Fox News could spew. (Apologies to those who enjoy Fox News; I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Stewart, Colbert, and Maher critiquing their news items.) Yet, the teachers and pre-service teachers ate up every word, because 1) she was an outstanding and engaging presenter; and 2) the need by island educators for information on any special education is so great that they will lap up anything.
This is how Sint Maarten operates. That a total charlatan can misinform the very people who are responsible for helping children with special needs is an affront to education anywhere in the free world. The school system here–despite many wonderful and caring teachers who are limited in what they can do by a frigging script (!) that must be followed to the letter if the teachers want to continue teaching–scrapped the plan instituted by The Netherlands long before the Sint Maarten gained its independence on 10/10/10, and has yet to publish anything online that addresses policies, by-laws, objectives and goals, or even a solid vision statement. I personally went to an agency the other day to learn what its role is in special education placement, and was told that there is nothing in writing. When I asked for copies of the forms that are used for referral, I was told that each school had been sent 10 copies a year ago, and that I should procure one from them. When I asked how long a referral takes, I was told that REFERRALS ARE ONLY ACCEPTED IN NOVEMBER!!!!! A bit more discussion yielded the information that the department doesn’t have any real idea of what services it can actually provide and how decisions are made!!!
The Parliament last week finally passed a balanced budget. Any guesses where the money eventually came from? Had I mentioned previously that the Ministry of Education and Other Stuff could not provide an audit trail for where Dutch funds specifically earmarked for education had gone?
Is there any doubt about why I, even as an outsider, am so frustrated?
Feel free to make up your own mind about education–and specifically special education–in Sint Maarten. As for me, last night I decided that I will very shortly becvome a thorn in the side of this educational system. Time to brush off the old college political activist loafers. For better or worse, Everyone who has anything to do with schools on this island will know my name before I’m either kicked off the island or leave on my own. I am all about education. More, I am all about the education of children, especially those who have special needs–even if the need is merely for a little boost of self confidence.
Sint Maarten Ministry of Education (and other things), you stand warned.