Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Financial Aid Process

By Jodi Okun

It may be hard to imagine, but your child will be a college student before you know it. You’re not on your own when faced with the bill, however. Financial aid makes up the difference between college costs and what your family can afford to pay. More than half of the students currently enrolled in college receive some sort of financial aid.

Paying for a college education is no small undertaking. There are many questions to consider: what will it cost, how much can you save, how much can you and your family afford to pay, how much will you need to borrow, and what scholarships are available to you? Not sure where to start? Here’s an overview:

  • Find out what college will cost: The price tag depends on the college and when you plan to attend. The cost calculator located on each college web site will help you estimate college costs whether you plan to start in one year or ten.
  • See if you are saving enough: The College Board Savings Calculator will show you how compound interest helps you make the most of what you save, now and in the future.
  • Estimate your share: Before you apply for aid, first determine what you can afford to pay based on family income, savings and other financial holdings. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculator on will provide an estimate.
  • Search for scholarships: Scholarships or grants are one of the best sources of aid because they don’t have to be repaid. Find scholarships as well as loan and internship opportunities with Scholarship Search websites such as and
  • Apply for aid and loans: Know your financial aid and loan options. Both are a part of most students’ complete aid package, so it’s important to understand the differences in the financial aid and educational loans available to you.
  • Compare your aid awards: Each college awards financial aid differently. One may give more grant money, another more loans. I can help you compare your aid awards and make sense of the numbers.
Jodi is the founder of College Financial Aid Consultants where she works closely with students and their families to successfully navigate the financial aid process. Jodi not only helps identify grants, loans and scholarships available to students, but also helps submit the multitude of forms associated with obtaining them. Jodi also works at Occidental College in their Financial Aid office as a Financial Aid Consultant.

This year Jodi began the #CollegeCash live twitter seminar held every Thursday from 10:00-11:00 pm EST. Each week participants include industry professionals, students, parents and teachers coming together to share information. The live twitter seminar covers all topics within the college prep process and many financial aid tips. 

You can follow Jodi on Twitter or on Facebook

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Do I Do With the Big Kid?: Reflections on Teacher Aides and Consultant Teachers

by Douglas W. Green, EdD

When I became principal in 1993, there were two classroom aides in my school and they were both in self-contained special education rooms where all of the students were classified and had individual education plans (IEPs). Thirteen years later the school had 28 classroom aides scattered throughout the school. Each class in grades K-2 had one as the classified kids were spread out in all of the classes. In grades 3-5 they were shared between two classes and each of these classes had an aide. In addition, there were special education teachers who worked with the classroom teachers to meet the needs of the kids with IEPs. This presented a new set of challenges for myself and the classroom teachers. I will explain some of the problems and give advice for administrators and teachers who face this issue.
As with many educational problems, this one is caused in part by some teacher preparation programs that do not deal with how to use support staff in the classroom. When you have an aide and perhaps a push-in support teacher, every lesson plan you make should include how to make effective use of your help. Otherwise you end up with people either standing around or relying on their own initiative, which may run counter to what you had in mind. The role of the other adults needs to be communicated before things start. This takes time, which is usually at a premium in most classrooms. In the case of the supporting teacher, it also needs to include joint planning so the contributions of both teachers can be combined for the maximum impact. In any case, the teachers need to agree on the game plan before the game begins. While aides should not be counted on to contribute to the plan, their input should be accepted if they offer it as they might have some good ideas to share.
For someone who is used to having a classroom all to themselves, this can be daunting. Consulting special education teachers with experience teaching their own classes may also feel frustrated, as they will have less opportunity to run with their own ideas. Initially, the classroom teacher and the support teacher(s) need to establish an understanding regarding who will make what kind of contributions. This can vary greatly. I have seen situations where the classroom teacher does all the planing, directs all the lessons, and the support teacher simply wanders about giving help to individuals and groups as needed. At the other end I have seen the classroom teacher and the support teacher take turns running the show. In any case, it is vital that both understand their individual roles regarding planning, presentation, and assessment.
As a principal, it was my job to hire aides and pair them with the teachers who where scheduled to have one. I some of the self-contained special education classes, there were multiple aides. Although I used my best judgement and worked very hard at the hiring process, there were many times when the personalities of the teacher and the aide didn’t fit. The same was often true when I paired classroom teachers and special education support teachers. It usually wasn’t hard to tell when a team wasn’t working well. It was usually the teachers who came to me with issues, but it wasn’t unusual for aides to do the same. In the case of teachers who weren’t working well as a team, I simply waited until the end of the year before making a move. With aides, however, I did make some moves in the middle of the year when I had two situations that were far less than ideal. I used the metaphor of the “forced marriage” to help me understand why failed partnerships were part of the deal.
I addition to giving the aide specific direction, a teacher needs to be willing to correct the aide if the person is not doing what they were asked to do or acting in an inappropriate manner. This can be difficult for a teacher who is not comfortable correcting another adult who they are supervising. Principals have specific training in supervision. Teachers generally do not, but they should. If a teacher sees that an aide is not doing what is expected, they must address it. Tact is key as the students need to see the relationship between the adults in the room as a model for their behavior. Something like “Mrs. X would you please do Y at this time, thanks so much” in a cheerful tone of voice should work. 
In some cases undesirable behavior needs to be addressed after the students leave. One issue that often comes up in the case of aide behavior is the use of a loud or sarcastic tone of voice. I think of “yelling” as throwing gas on a fire. It often just makes things worse in terms of student behavior. If yelling worked there wouldn’t be any discipline problems. When you correct an aide for undesirable behavior, you need to be as specific as possible about what the person did, and what you expect them to do. This can be done with a kind tone of voice, but it needs to come across as a serious request. At the same time, the teacher should document the incident in case it happens again and in the event it continues. 
Worst case, the aide may have to be fired. This is something that few teachers and many administrators have the stomach for, but it needs to happen if it is in the best interests of the students. The teacher needs to let the principal know early on that a given aide may not be cut out for the job. By tipping off the principal regarding an aide’s behavior, the principal can be on the lookout for such behavior. Direct observation by the principal is the best way to get things moving in terms of a process that may lead to termination if efforts to help are ineffective. If the principal isn’t willing to take action. then the teacher needs to persevere in the effort to change behavior. 
In some cases an aide may be critical of a teacher. If this happens in front of students, it must be addressed and documented as soon as the students leave. If it happens in front of the principal, the teacher needs to let the aide know that trust has been broken and needs to be rebuilt if their relationship is to prosper in the interests of the children. It is possible, however, for an aide to be critical in a constructive manner in private. If this happens the teacher should reflect on the input and thank the aide for their attempt to help. 
During my 30-year career as an administrator I was involved in disciplinary action much more with support staff than with teaching staff. Some aides are amazing and naturals at helping teachers and students. Some can learn to be effective with professional help. Others are probably best looking for work somewhere else where their talents fit better with the job. In all cases they are low paid, usually get good health benefits, and work the school calendar and only six hours a day. For some this is attractive. For others, the low pay is something that is bothersome. I would also advise principals to use aide openings to make their staff more diverse. In my district it was difficult to attract non-white teachers. This was not the case, however, when hiring aides.

Dr. Douglas W. Green, EdD has been an educator since 1970. After teaching chemistry, physics, and computer science, he became an administrator for the next 30 years with experience at the secondary, central office, and elementary levels. He also taught a number of leadership courses for The State University of New York at Cortland and Binghamton University, and authored over 300 articles in computer magazines and educational journals. In 2006 he gave up his job as an elementary principal to care for his wife who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. After her death in March of 2009 he decided to see how he could use his expertise to help busy educators and parents hone their skills and knowledge. Be sure to check his book summaries and net nuggets at for daily, bite-sized self development.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Doctoral Confessions: Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

By Will Deyamport, III

This blog post is the start of a series titled: Doctoral Confessions. I started the series to share mine as well as the stories of other current doctoral students in addition to those brave souls who have graduated. There is so much that admissions counselors, professors, and advisors don't tell you. Hopefully, this series will tell the good, the bad, and the ugly about pursuing a doctorate. As the founder of this blog, I will share my story first.

I started my doctoral program in July 2009 with the plan of leading an education-focused non-profit organization. I was excited, focused, and ready to kick some tail.

A year into the program, my career interests changed. I was no longer interested in working with young people; I wanted to be a part of the digital revolution. So I took a quarter off from school to see if earning my doctorate was still the best move to make. I, mean, I hadn't come across anyone working in digital media who had their doctorate and let's be honest, I was 36, unemployed, and needed to make some career moves. As fate would have it, I began an internship with JT O'Donnell - Career Expert and Founder of Careeralism. My work with her taught me that I could merge my interests in education with digital media, so I enrolled in school the next quarter.

Now back in school I focused my coursework and research efforts on leadership in the digital age ,and on the educational applications in digital media. I landed another gig as the Chief Social Strategist for StrengthsFactors, and my very own blog was gaining traction. The course stage of my doctoral program ended, and that's when the hammer dropped...

The dissertation phase of the program was nothing like I had ever experienced in my life. I had walked away from the coursework phase with a 3.8 GPA, and praise from professors and outside industry executives who reviewed my PSSA's (assignments that required us to solve a real world problem within an organization). I entered the dissertation phase under the impression that I knew how to write clearly, succinctly, think critically, and present a cohesive idea. You know what I learned instead? Karma isn't a *****; it's a rewrite.

From October 2011 to February 2012 I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. It took me all of that time to get my topic and the design of my study approved by my mentor, my committee, and the school's reviewer. I was getting my tail handed to me, and I seriously thought about quitting. But the amount I owe in student loans and the point I was at in the program made quitting a non-issue. Finally, on February 23, 2012, my SMR (Scientific Merit Review) was approved, and I was cleared to apply for IRB approval.

No one told me about the hurdles/ approvals in the dissertation phase. I had no idea that it would take so much time, or that my study would have to be approved by so many people. Nor did I expect to to do so many drafts and revisions, but in the end my study was actually better.

On March 20, 2012, I received IRB approval to begin my study. I felt disbelief, happiness, fear, and hollow all at the same time. I start recruitment on Monday, and I am crossing my fingers that I get at least 10 teachers to sign on to be in my study. It has taken me 2 1/2 years and many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many drafts and revisions to get to this point. I am about six months from hopefully completing my dissertation. When my committee signs off on my defense, I am going to go outside and scream: I am Dr. Will! Trust me. I have earned it.

Will Deyamport, III, is an Ed.D. Candidate, a social media leader, and digital academic. His blog, PEOPLEGOGY, was born out of the idea to curate expert voices. In addition to his 11 years of experience in education, he has interned with the likes of Ingrid Stabb and J. T. O’Donnell. Currently, Will is working on his dissertation, which focuses on using Personal Learning Networks via Twitter to support the individual professional learning needs for teachers.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part VII (Big News!)

I waited all of February to hear back from the two colleges that I applied to: Union Institute and University and Michigan State University. The pros for Union were that the program was Interdisciplinary, meaning my focus and final project wasn't limited, and I knew someone already in the program who gave me the inside scoop. The pros for MSU was that it was half the cost of Union (ugg the cost!) and not as many credit hours (it was also a great program- very widely known). I was really happy with my two choices and I was confident in my applications.

The bad news is that I did not get into MSU. In the rejection letter, they referenced my less than average GRE scores and my proposed research area. I contemplated taking the GRE again, but the thought of spending another 5 hours on the brink of insanity with a good chance that I could actually do worse on the second try has influenced my decision to accept the rejection and move on.
The great news is that I was accepted to Union! I sent in my residency deposit and I've been receiving loads of communication about the residency, program, upcoming webinars, and meet-n-greets from program personnel.  I am so excited to be part of this program and I can't wait for the residency over the Summer. I attended my first virtual session last week and everyone seems so nice and supportive.
Now that I've gotten past this hurdle, it's time to focus on my studies. Look for a new series that highlights my quest for scholarships and grants (NOT going so well!), my research, and my learnings.

Have you ever been rejected from a program you applied to? Did you reapply and get in or just accept the rejection? 

Leah MacVie is a blogger, instructional designer, photographer, and former graphic and Web designer. In her spare time, she is focusing on DIY and informal learning. Sign up for her newsletter at and let her help you discover free tools that help you conquer!  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Dissertation in a Nutshell

Professional development at most K-12 schools across the country is generic, out-dated, and most-often delivered on a one-size-fits-all-basis. This top-down approach has very little meaning to teachers (Thompson, 2009). According to Minott (2010), “teachers are actively constructing their own work-related knowledge by interpreting events on the basis of existing knowledge, beliefs and dispositions and by learning from experiences” (p.327). That is to say teachers rely on their personal experiences to filter and make meaning of what they see and learn from within their environment. As such, professional development should not only take into account teachers’ prior knowledge, teachers should be given a choice in the kinds of professional development they receive (Thompson, 2009).

The purpose of my action research study is to determine the extent to which Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) will support the individual professional learning needs of teachers. Likewise, my study will establish the viability of using Twitter to build a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

This video is representative of how millions of teachers around the globe are using a PLN via Twitter for professional development.

Twitter in D123 from OLHD123 on Vimeo.