Education Perspectives

EP 20 Allison Sloan Special Education Teacher and Administrator of Kentucky Teachers In the Know

October 26, 2023 Liza Holland Season 1 Episode 20
Education Perspectives
EP 20 Allison Sloan Special Education Teacher and Administrator of Kentucky Teachers In the Know
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Show Notes Transcript

PODCAST EPISODE 20

Allison Slone

Special Education Teacher

Administrator of Kentucky Teachers In the Know

Quote of the Podcast – 

“I’d rather scream! Silence is a crying shame.”

Introduction of Guest BIO – 

Alliso Slone has been a special education teacher since January of 1999 in the Rowan County School System. She is also the administrator and founder of Kentucky Teachers In The Know and KYREADS (provides professional learning to teachers about dyslexia). She was the first active teacher in Kentucky to ever serve on The Kentucky Board of Education as an ex Officio non-voting member. I am married to Jason Slone (23 years) with two children, Jayden (21) and Will (16).

Interview

Agents of Change: Leaders/Innovators

  • 30,000 ft. view – Why do we, as a society invest in education?
  • What drew you to education?
  • What do you love about what you do?
  • The retention and recruitment of teachers, 
  • Teacher leadership from the classroom
  • Advocacy, dyslexia, celebrating people’s accomplishments.
  • Tell us a story or favorite memory about your work in education.
  • What are the biggest challenges or obstacles you face?
  • What would you like decision makers to know?

Podcast/book shoutouts

Kentucky Teachers in the Know

My friends and fellow teachers have a Facebook group where they share major discounts on products for the home and classroom. It’s called “Home and School Online Deals.” 

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Commissioner Jason Glass whose last day is this week. I was part of the Board that hired Dr. Glass. I was a strong advocate for him and he has not disappointed. I appreciate that he was willing to say the hard things but the right things even knowing it would ultimately cost him his job. That’s integrity at its finest and I am honored to have splayed a small part in his time and work in Kentucky. He did the right things for our children.

Support the show

Education Perspectives is edited by Shashank P athttps://www.fiverr.com/saiinovation?source=inbox

Intro and Outro by Dynamix Productions

Liza Holland [00:00:02]:

Welcome to education perspectives. I am your host, Liza Holland. This is a podcast that explores the role of education in our society from a variety of lenses. Education needs to evolve to meet the needs of today and the future. A Solving such huge issues requires understanding. Join me as we begin to explore the many of education. Allison Sloan has been a special education teacher since January of 1999 in the Rowan County School System. A She is also the administrator and founder of Kentucky Teachers in the Know and KY Reads, which provides professional learning to teachers about dyslexia.

Liza Holland [00:00:44]:

A She was the 1st active teacher in Kentucky to ever serve on the Kentucky board of education as an ex officio nonvoting member. A She is married to Jason Stone for 23 years and has 2 children, Jaden, 21, and Will, 16. We welcome Alison to education perspectives. So, Alison Sloan, so very glad to have you here on education perspectives. Welcome.

Allison Slone [00:01:10]:

Thank you. I appreciate it. I'm glad to be here.

Liza Holland [00:01:14]:

Well, again, so so great to have you, and we'll kick you off with the the big question. A 30,000 foot view. Why do you think that we, as a society, invest in education?

Allison Slone [00:01:26]:

Because, a knowledge is power, and knowledge is growth, and knowledge is becoming what you want to be in this world and what we need in this So I think we invest in education because we know that in order for our society to thrive, a In order for it to grow and to continue figuring out the world around us, we have to have an educated society so that we cannot just learn the things that we a learn in school while we're there, but that we can learn how to learn. And I think that's the most important part of education is learning how

Liza Holland [00:02:01]:

to learn. Isn't that the truth? That's a great answer. A So you are now involved in education in a multiple different ways. Mhmm. What drew you to education in the 1st place?

Allison Slone [00:02:11]:

A I'm gonna give you one of those answers that so many teachers give you, but I've always wanted to be a teacher. I never had desire to be anything other than that. A As a child growing up, I was one of those little girls that played school with her stuffed animals and her doll babies, and I taught them how to read and write and do all of those things. And then as I got a little older, my dad married a lady who was a 2nd grade teacher. And so that just continued the inspiration. A I I watched her. I worked in her classroom. As I got older, I developed lessons even for her summer school kids, and she would take me with her, and I could teach children in small groups.

Allison Slone [00:02:47]:

A I got to do her bulletin boards and, you know, she she really, really encouraged and inspired me as an educator. And then as a senior in high school, she I think she got a little worried. Maybe she'd encourage me too much, and I started finding pamphlets for pharmacy school around the house. And I was like, no. I don't want to do this. And she was like, but I'm so afraid I I may have just made you want to be a teacher. No. My heart is a teacher.

Allison Slone [00:03:08]:

That's exactly what I've always wanted to be and why I'm here because my heart is still a teacher.

Liza Holland [00:03:13]:

You know, I think so many people in education, they really do have that calling. And it's a gift. It's a gift a to our society that you're willing to share that with students. So

Allison Slone [00:03:24]:

You too.

Liza Holland [00:03:24]:

So that's a great segue into I know that you are a special education teacher. Yes. What do you absolutely love about what you

Allison Slone [00:03:32]:

do? What do I absolutely love about what I do? 1st and foremost are the students to see their growth, to see them learning, to see them become what they want to become, to see them Learn how to learn because that's the ultimate gift, as I said earlier, is is leaving and sending them out into the world with the ability a of knowing how to find information and how to ask questions and how to question the things around them that, you know, they want to change. I think that's something that I try to instill in my children is you don't have to accept it the way it is and that there's a right way and a wrong way to change the world around you and and how to go about doing that. A But it's also the other educators, which is what I've kinda found in the last 10 years of my career is, you know, the seeing other educators a Learn how to deal with my students and how to teach my students and how to modify and change their a Not only their teaching and their instruction in the classroom, but their frame of mind around how children learn differently. That's always such a plus. A And and when I see that in another teacher and when they come to me and they were and they've changed the way they look at how the lesson's supposed to go to meet the needs of my students, a That's when I have a great day because then I've not only taught students, but I've taught other adults how to help my

Liza Holland [00:04:48]:

students. Oh, that is marvelous. A And I can see that moment just being incredibly rewarding. That is so neat. Well, you a also are involved. You are the, the founder of a Facebook group that I have come to know and love. Although I'm not a teacher, I follow it fairly religiously. It's called Kentucky teachers in the know, and a huge part of the discussion online among educators has a lot a to do with the retention and recruitment of teachers.

Liza Holland [00:05:20]:

Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to start the group, what you hope to get out of it?

Allison Slone [00:05:24]:

A Sure. I'd love to. So a lot of people think because it's my group, Kentucky Teaching, that was started right around the time that the discussion around our pension and the lack for lack of better words, the fight before our pension started. So a lot of people just seem to assume that that's why I started the group, but it really wasn't. I actually started a month or two before that discussion kinda a Hit the fan for lack of better words. I became bigger in teacher leadership and got involved in a lot more things outside of my classroom just by chain of events Pretty much, and I started seeing the world of things available for teachers, resources, conferences, camaraderie between teachers in that leadership world that I realized a Teachers are in their classrooms every day, and they're doing their jobs, but they don't always know about all the things going on in the education world around them. A So I really was just trying to tag a bunch of teachers on Facebook one day in a post about a conference coming up because I wanted them to know about it, and Facebook wouldn't let me do that. I kept saying there's too many people.

Allison Slone [00:06:18]:

A So I thought I'll just start a small group for, you know, my couple 100 teacher friends that I know in the state of hot conferences and resources and things that I'm learning about in my adventures as a teacher leader, and then the pension crisis happened. And so I started sharing information about that, a People started messaged me. Can I add my friend to the group? They really need to know about this. Can I add this? And within about 4 or 5 months, we were at 10,000 members a Because it was such a it was a time when teachers were craving more information, and it just it was it was really the perfect storm as far a being able to grow the group that was not my intentions when I started it to be the administrator to a group of now 27,000 plus educators a And legislators and media personnel and all kinds of decision makers in the education world are are members of this group now, a Administrator, superintendents, lots of various people, stakeholders in the education world. That was my goal in the beginning, but on a much smaller scale, of course. I never dreamed in a 1000000 years this would happen, but it is it has opened doors to many possibilities and many avenues, not just for my a but for educators as well. And I hear stories from people all the time of, you know, that I found my job through Kentucky teachers in the know, or I learned about this through a The site or it helps me get through this, you know, battle that I was having, you know, crisis in my career or whatever. But it's you know? And and we've done lots of, a You know, we do conferences now.

Allison Slone [00:07:42]:

We put on our own conference every year and and just various things. We help educators, and we raise money for people in need that are in the education world. And when, like, disasters, like the flooding and the tornadoes happen, we did a lot of fundraising around that. A So we've we've tried to continue to grow it, not as far as numbers, and that's always great. We love when we get new members, but to grow it as far as how we a view the necessity of the group and what we wanted to be able to do for our educators. We're always looking for how can we do more and how can we do better for our teachers.

Liza Holland [00:08:13]:

A Well, that's really bringing more and more value to it, so that is a great way to continue to grow. I love that a whole lifelong leadership piece, and I need to put in there. I'm so very glad to hear that you've got legislators and administrators and whatnot. A Because as someone who comes to education from the outside Mhmm. The discussions around pink slipping. A Yes. Absolutely. Bold me over.

Liza Holland [00:08:41]:

Because for any of you in the audience that don't know, at at least the standard practice here in Kentucky is come April, any teachers that don't already have tenure are at risk of being pink slip, which means they're at risk of being let go. And oftentimes, they don't even know if they're going to have a job come August. A Mhmm. And who wants to stay in that kind of profession? Holy goodness. And that seems like a system a that we really ought to change given the recruitment and retention type situation.

Allison Slone [00:09:16]:

That is definitely one of the barriers a to retaining teachers and recruiting them because, like you said, nobody wants to think that every year, they're gonna, you know, possibly lose their job and have to look for a new position, and that happens in many districts, not all of them. The district I happen to be in is it's not a normal practice, and it hasn't been in the 24 years a been here. It's happened occasionally, but usually there's more to the story or there's something else going on. But some districts make it you absolutely will be pink slipped Every year until your tenured, it's just a a practice. And I've been given lots of various reasons. Sometimes I understand, especially in the larger districts, I've been told it's because that a They have to wait till then what the funding is allocation's gonna be for the next year because some of the teachers that have been put in other positions may have to go back to the classroom, a Which means they have to have positions open for them because they do have tenure. So, you know, there's understandably some small reasons, but I think that's a Very small reasons, and I'm not sure that that means an entire district should have that blanket policy of pink slipping every single year until someone's tenured.

Liza Holland [00:10:21]:

Well, I honestly cannot believe that anybody who wants to retain teachers can think that that's a good policy.

Allison Slone [00:10:28]:

I agree. You you can't

Liza Holland [00:10:30]:

tell that the I'm I'm a little passionate about this particular area, but tell me a little bit more about that kind of whole retention and recruitment of teachers. What do you think that teachers are looking for now if we really want a to try to add to the teaching profession and make sure that we have enough teachers, you know, to work with our students. What do you think we need to do?

Allison Slone [00:10:53]:

A I think first and foremost, and I I think that's it's been leading to this, is teachers want a voice. And not just teachers, a assistants or bus drivers or cooks or custodians. They wanna have a voice in their profession and what they have to do every day. And and, yes, and in some jobs, a You don't necessarily have a voice. You go to your job. You get told what you're doing. You have a set of expectations, and you meet those. But a normal job is not necessarily always a profession, a And we've got to start viewing every single person that works in our school system from the bus driver to the teacher in the classroom as a professional a and an educator because we could not absolutely do anything in our schools without every one of those positions that are available.

Allison Slone [00:11:33]:

We can't have school if the bus drivers aren't bringing the kids to us. A We can't fee if we can't feed the children, we're not having school. You know, it takes all of us together. So we've got to start viewing it as a profession, and we've got to start listening to people a And not just making decisions based on what we think is best for all those people in that position, but letting them have a say and letting them be heard in that. A And I think that's where you've seen this shift is, like I mentioned earlier, knowledge is power. And in the last, a I would say 7 to 8 years, maybe a little longer. Teachers have been getting more involved outside the classroom. Teacher leadership became an an a thing, and that's where, you know, we started learning about all of those things that are going on outside our classroom.

Allison Slone [00:12:15]:

Because what we do as educators is we walk in the school poll every day. We lock the doors behind us to the outside world. We walk in our classroom. We literally lock the door again behind us in the classroom, and we do our job. A But our profession requires so much more than what we do behind that closed door. And so as a Teachers, instructional assistants, and superintendents, and principals, and people started learning more about what was going on outside those doors a that impact what's happening inside those doors with policy, with decisions made at the state level, decisions made at the federal level, a Even decisions made in the office down the hallway by their principal and other people. That knowledge, the more we know, a The more powerful we are in that we know now what's going on, and we wanna have a say in it, and we understand better. A So that knowledge is power.

Allison Slone [00:13:06]:

And so, therefore, when you're not feeling like you're being heard and you don't feel like you're being given a chance to have a voice in what your profession should look like, what your daily task should look like, then you start looking at other avenues. A You start looking at other things that you can do that will give you that feeling of being a a professional, a feeling of being heard, a And being respected and valued. So the top reasons that we can't get teachers a To go to school, we're having less and less people going to college to even become teachers. And I tell people this all the time. As a matter of fact, I just I wrote a big post about it the other day. A What other profession are the future people of that profession watching them 5 days a week from 8 in the morning till 3:30 in the afternoon a Do the job that they someday want to do or may want to do. Children are not sitting in a doctor's office every day of their life growing up watching doctors. They're not sitting in an auto auto shop a watching mechanics work on cars every single day of their life.

Allison Slone [00:14:06]:

But they're sitting in our classrooms. They see how we're being treated by other students. They see how we're being treated by administration. They see a They see all of the tasks that we're supposed to do and implement every day, and then they see us going to the meetings after this the school day ends. A They see us at the football games. They see us at the dances. They see all of these things, and they see the frustration. A They see the teachers that are tired.

Allison Slone [00:14:30]:

They see that and they think, I don't know that I wanna do that. So that's what we're hearing. I teach at a high school level, and that's what I hear from a lot of students at the high school level is I don't wanna have to do what you have to do every day, and you don't get paid enough for that. A You know? So that brings in the next thing. So it's how not being listened to is the 3rd biggest reason how we're being treated, the more and more being asked of us, But we're not being compensated for it. And then student behavior, you know, it was increasing before COVID, a But after COVID, student behavior is not well. Students are not well. They're not well mentally.

Allison Slone [00:15:05]:

There's a lot of trauma in their lives that we didn't have necessarily our generation didn't growing up. Many, many children do not have that family dynamic a that taught them the things our parents and grandparents taught us. So all of those things those people taught us, we're now being expected to teach. A And they're putting all of that more and more hats on the teachers. Well, you need to teach them life skills. You need to dress appropriately so they learn how to dress appropriately when they go out a the real world. Do you need to learn how teach them how to speak? Do you need to teach them how to do this? Those are things

Liza Holland [00:15:38]:

my family

Allison Slone [00:15:38]:

taught me. Mhmm. And my teachers taught me content. I didn't expect them to be the ones to teach me how to be an adult, but we're we're having to teach them everything, plus help them learn to deal with the trauma and the mental health issues that they're bringing with them to school, and it's starting at much and much younger age. And our teachers are being physically assaulted, verbally threatened. It's happening more and more all the time, and the students see that. So, again, you go back to they're seeing the teachers being treated that way, a And they don't wanna grow up and do that. So until we can get that under control, that's a whole other issue.

Allison Slone [00:16:13]:

But we're also when you put all of that together a And you think about all of that. Some of us like myself, I'm still a teacher. Like I said, my heart is a teacher heart. I am a teacher, a And I'm so far invested. There's, you know, what else am I gonna do at this point even if I wanted to? But with that said, now that I know more a And that knowledge is power. I realize I need to be compensated for what I'm doing. It's no longer just I'm meant to be a teacher, so I'm gonna go be a teacher. I don't care that I'm not paid what I probably should be because I love my job.

Allison Slone [00:16:44]:

That sounds great. And it's wonderful. And there are still lots of us that feel that way. A But, again, we have the knowledge now that it could be different, and we shouldn't be different. It should be different for us, and we are not being compensated the way that we should be. So you have a lot of children now that look at that and they say, I can take my knowledge, and I love science. I'm gonna go over here and be a chemist, and I'm gonna make way more money than you are as a teacher. I'm gonna go work in the the bourbon industry, and I'm gonna make a lot more money than you are as a teacher.

Allison Slone [00:17:14]:

A So we've got to realize that none of those other things are possible without our teachers. Yeah. So until we value our teachers and and when I say teachers, I really should educators. I try to do that because it's everyone in our building. Until we value all educators and all people working with our children, We're gonna have we do have a crisis on our hands because not only are they not coming into the profession, they're leaving at astronomical rates. A So when people are leaving at astronomical rates and you don't have enough people going into it behind them to fill those positions, then you have hundreds and sometimes thousands of unfilled positions in our state, and we're a month almost 2 months into the school year, and there are a lot of teaching positions that have not been filled.

Liza Holland [00:17:54]:

A Well and I think that the entirety of the system needs a real reality check. You know, I look at a Teachers like yourself who've been in the classroom for years years, they basically are there's no career path a For people who are directly in contact in teaching in the classroom. And so finding new ways to be able to compensate teacher leadership outside of the classroom, compensate those that are taking the leadership in professional development, helping PLCs, a and doing what you're doing as far as helping to grow the camaraderie within the profession. A Those are systems that can change, and our leaders need to take serious looks at that because you all are professionals. And, you know, their answer a seems to have been, oh, we're just gonna give them every little tiny resource and micromanage them to death. And that's like the opposite of what teachers need.

Allison Slone [00:18:55]:

A Exactly. Exa and you hit on a very good point. So many times in our profession, we've started hearing the talk of compensating teachers more based on what they do. A So we need math teachers more because we're not getting math teachers, so we're gonna pay them more. Or we need special education teachers, so we're gonna pay them more. Or, a Hey. Let's compensate teachers to have the best test scores. Those are not the way to compensate teachers because then you just start combating teachers against teachers.

Allison Slone [00:19:22]:

A You know, because if I find out this the math teacher got hired with a $10,000 bonus because we really need to fill that math position, and I get that. A But then I'm over here, and I'm being beat black and blue by a student every day because I have a child that cannot regulate themselves because they're not figured that out yet. A Then why am I not getting the extra $10,000? So you you're causing you're pitting people against each other, and that's not okay. But what you can do is a if you want to start paying people based on their value, and their value may be that they are leading PLCs for this for their team for that year, a Then they should be compensated more for doing that extra leadership task, or you give them and find ways for teachers to be leaders. You've got someone and you see some kind of talent in them for leadership, but by myself, I don't have I have special education degree. I have a special education bachelor's degree, a education master's degree and a special education rank one because I also didn't have someone in my university who really guided me well a To get something because at that time, I didn't think I wanted to do anything outside the classroom. But now here I am, I'm 24 years into it, and I do wish I had something else, and I see my path as a teacher leader, but that still doesn't mean I necessarily wanna be a an administrator or a counselor or something like that. A But there's various other ways that I am being a teacher leader, and I'm doing lots of things that are in leadership roles, but I'm not getting paid anything for that.

Allison Slone [00:20:46]:

A That's not okay either. You know? Many of them are my choice, and that's that's on me. But there's there's ways to value and use the skills of your educators. We are doing more and more in some districts. I think several districts are getting on board with using our own people to provide professional learning. Mhmm. We a lots of professionals in our own districts that are so well educated and so good at what they do on various levels and in various different topics. A So we're using those people more to provide the professional learning that we're requiring in our districts, but we're also not paying them anymore for that in many ways.

Liza Holland [00:21:20]:

I have to give a shout out to Fayette County Public Schools. I'm recently, came on board as a communications consultant with them, with their department of innovation, a And they are actually doing that in their deeper learning initiative, and they are elevating people. And I was at a meeting last week where they were doing asset mapping a With the original teachers, okay. What can you do and what can you offer that your administrators may not even know about? Mhmm. And I thought, what a wonderful whole way to start that visioning. And yeah. And they I don't it's probably grant funding that won't come back again, but they are upsetting all the teachers for that, and I just think that that's a great step forward, so I have to give them a shout out.

Allison Slone [00:22:01]:

We have to start changing the mindset as well. There's still kind of an old school mindset around school of that those in administration are the leaders a And everyone else is below them, and there's a chain of command. And there's a you have to follow, and and you need to stay in your lane kind of mentality, and there's a mentality of and not all of them. There are some don't get me here. There are many wonderful administrators across our state, but there are still a lot of people a in those administrative roles that want to push the people down below them because they're fearful. It's the only thing I can figure out as they're fearful that it will make them look like they're not doing their job. A If someone below them, a teacher or an instructional assistant or someone is is playing in a leadership role or is doing things or sharing ideas a that are different than maybe the way it's been done, then they want they don't like that. And that's why a lot of those teacher leaders and people get to the point where they don't speak up a Because they dug in.

Allison Slone [00:22:56]:

They don't feel valued. They don't feel heard, and then they're basically told their idea is not any good because someone else it's about credit and all this. Always give credit where credit is due. If it was my idea, great. If it was somebody else's idea, then I want you to get the credit. I want you to be told what a wonderful idea that is because a That's how you grow leaders is you have to value what they bring to the table because if you don't, then they stop bringing stuff to the table, and that's not okay.

Liza Holland [00:23:30]:

A And they're also not going to be as engaged in wanting to be the best teachers that they can be. And so a I find it very sad with these protectionist leaders that they don't realize that if you empower and encourage your a People that are under you, they will make you look good. They will make you look so much better, and and that's what a great leader does. A So yeah. No. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Allison Slone [00:23:59]:

It's very sad, and I think that's just that comes as kinda like culture in 1 school. A It is culture within a school, culture within a district, culture within a state that we it's just it takes time. It takes a time, and it takes more and more people willing to speak up even if it means going against the grain, even if it means possibly getting a little backlash and a pushback. A We have to continue, and and I've had that pushback. I know what that feels like. And so when people come to me and they'll say, oh, I can't I can't do that. I'm parade, you know, this and that. I'm like, but you you have to.

Allison Slone [00:24:31]:

You have to push a little bit sometimes, and and it's okay. And if you will hit brick walls when I hit brick walls, it just means I gotta find another way around that wall. You know? It it can be done, but you have to just the you just have to carry on, and and it takes time.

Liza Holland [00:24:45]:

A You know, and it is worth pointing out to those that are fearful that part of our system that really needs to change for students a Is that culture of fear has gotta go away, and that culture of fear of failure a has got to go away because what employers need today are folks that can try, fail, readjust, reiterate, a and move forward. And, frankly, we're preparing them for jobs that don't even exist yet. So it's no longer about content. It's about process and ability to think and ability to handle it when some obstacle comes in front of them, and you are modeling that for your students with what you're doing. And so

Allison Slone [00:25:30]:

Thank you.

Liza Holland [00:25:31]:

I, for 1, am so proud of you.

Allison Slone [00:25:33]:

Oh, thank you. Appreciate that.

Liza Holland [00:25:36]:

Getting back to your students a little bit, you a Mentioned in your notes and whatnot a little bit about dyslexia. My husband actually suffered from dyslexia, so I would love to, to hear what you

Allison Slone [00:25:45]:

have to say about that. A Sure. So as a special ed teacher, sadly, will admit that several years of my beginning in my profession, I was told that it didn't really exist. It wasn't real. This is this is the the fight in the the due and medical world on dyslexia has caused a lot of this. When my son was in 1st grade as a teacher, I noticed he was struggling, and and we started seeing lots of behavioral things happening because of the struggle. And the more a He started into getting homework and having to bring home the, you know, the infamous read 5 minutes a night and document it on a piece of paper a Or the here's the first 5 spelling words, you know, the spelling list that started coming home. What should have been a 10 minute, 15 minute Sing in our home became 2 3 hours of complete meltdowns.

Allison Slone [00:26:33]:

So as a mama and as a teacher, I knew something wasn't okay. A So we started talking to people. I really didn't know what it was because I was a special ed teacher. I I felt like it wasn't autism, but I did see sensory stuff going on. A Just different things. So we went to our family doctor, and she sent us to have an evaluation done. And she put lots of different things on there. Did not have dyslexia on the list of things that a None of us.

Allison Slone [00:26:57]:

It wasn't even in our realm of thinking, but we went to the Weiskopf Center in Louisville, and the lady the psychologist a Interviewed us for a little while, my husband and I, and then she worked with our son for a couple of hours. And then she brought us back in, and she said, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. And she looked at me and she said, a Everything you told me about your child, I knew before I met him what it was. She said I had no doubt what it was. She said because you know your kid. A And I thought, I don't even know what it is. Like, why how could you know from what I said? I have no idea. And she said, your son is profoundly dyslexic.

Allison Slone [00:27:29]:

And I just I mean, I was a I was in tears. I was bawling because I had been told that wasn't a real thing, and I knew just enough to know that I felt like we were gonna hit brick walls. A There are those brick walls in education again. And and so I became warrior mommy, started learning as much as I could. He we got him evaluated school to see if he qualified for special education services, which he did not, but he did get a five zero four plan for some, you know, modifications and accommodations and stuff. But then, started, you know, a Me being me. This was before Kentucky teachers in the know. I'm on social media.

Allison Slone [00:27:59]:

I'm looking up groups. You know? And I found decoding dyslexia. I was meeting had a meeting coming up soon in Northern Kentucky, and I thought it's a bunch of moms and children with dyslexia. I wanna go to this meeting. So my husband and I drove about a couple hours and just, a Went to a meeting to random people, and this is a little small group. And knowing what I know now, I understand how they felt. They kinda was shocked that this person just drove out of nowhere to come find out more. A And that led me to meeting people and talking to people and getting involved in things and finding out that, I believe at the time representative Wueschner was in Kentucky, and she was had worked on a bill for dyslexia.

Allison Slone [00:28:33]:

She was fighting to get more legislation on dyslexia. So I just kept building on that. A Started going to to, like, teacher conferences and presenting what little bit I knew about dyslexia. And it was basically, here are the signs and symptoms because I want you as a teacher to be able to see what it is a And recognize it in your classroom. And here are just some little things you could do that will help these children. So I met a lady there who, used to be was one of the teachers of the year many years before, and she literally came up to me afterwards, and she was like her name's Sarah. She was like, you have to do this, and you have to do this, and you have to do a And so that led to lots of other wonderful things. But then I, found out we were getting a new commissioner at the time, which was doctor Pruett.

Allison Slone [00:29:12]:

A And I went to a preacher committee meeting that he was gonna be speaking at, and I don't think he'd been here 10 days if he'd been here that long. Bless his heart. A And so he spoke, and my whole goal being there was to meet him, you know, and to say, what are you gonna do about dyslexia at Kentucky? And he was, like, out the door. Like, he spoke and was out the door. And so I ran him down. We like to joke about it now, but I ran him down in a hotel. So we we tell the lovely jokes about that. And I introduced myself, And I had been taught in my teacher leadership world, you know, your elevators.

Allison Slone [00:29:40]:

Bill, you got 2 minutes. What are you gonna say? And I said, I'm so and so, and here's what I'm I'm a mom. I'm a teacher, and I wanna know what you're gonna do about dyslexia. And he laughed and he said, I don't think I got off the airplane in Kentucky before someone said, what are you gonna do about program reviews, and what are you gonna do about dyslexia? And I said, well, good. And I handed him my number, and I said, then call me. And he called me just a few days later, and he I was a teacher in my pleasure on my planning period, and he scheduled a conference call with me. And he said, I have been asked so many questions about dyslexia, and I don't know how to answer them because I don't know enough about a myself. He says, I'm gonna ask you the questions.

Allison Slone [00:30:15]:

Can you give me the answers? And then that way, I'll your answers will become my answers when people ask me about it. Well, a I was just starting in teacher leadership world, and you talk about powerful. That was powerful. And and so he asked me, and I was even honest with him. I said, I don't even know a whole lot So we devised a plan, a bunch of us mamas and teachers, of how we wanted to put together. We knew just enough about policy at that time a that a task force to put together, because I know you can't change policy overnight. And I know that we didn't know enough and we didn't have the data to really be able to back fighting for it. A But I'd researched enough to know that we'd had task force on other things in the past and that maybe that's what we could do.

Allison Slone [00:30:55]:

So we'd put together a plan to come back and ask a Doctor improvement to do that. And before we could even get our plan together to ask him, he was calling me and asking me if I would be on a dyslexia task force. So we did that for a year. It was an amazing a and we put together a plan, basically, and ask a big old document. He said, ask for it all. He said, you know, you're not gonna get it all, but ask for it all. And then we will do what we can do, but shoot for the stars. And that meant a lot.

Allison Slone [00:31:18]:

You know, I was still learning him and learning who he was and then still learning what a commissioner of education was. A I didn't know a whole lot at that time. So the last 10 years of my life have been really fast and furious and learning a lot about teacher world. But we did. We took a Our recommendations, and doctor Pruitt and his team of people at Kentucky Department of Ed basically turned that into legislation a and presented it and went back then to doctor Wuschner and a lot of or representative Wuschner and a lot of people, and we started then really fighting to get laws changed. A We still have the best, and we're still working on it, but it's it's come a long way, and there's toolkits. Dyslexia is is a house hold and a classroom word now where it wasn't before, and no one is really saying is it real or it isn't real anymore. We're saying what are we gonna do about it? A And that's a huge difference.

Allison Slone [00:32:06]:

And then we're realizing too that it's a huge difference. It's huge. And we realized in the process of all this that the way we were teaching reading a Wasn't good for most students. You know? We'd gone through this whole world of whole language that if you just expose them to it, they're gonna learn how to read. A And that's how I was taught as a special ed teacher to teach reading, just expose them to it. I had no phonetics training. I had no phonology training. None of that.

Allison Slone [00:32:32]:

A And I am supposed to be working with the most difficult and children with the biggest deficits in reading, and I don't know how to teach them how to read. A So then we start looking at all that, and the department of ed starts doing that. And we start talking to people in other states who have really hit a Reading instruction hard, and then we start learning about the science of reading. So now in Kentucky, we kind of shifted not really changed our focus on dyslexia, but really a Shifted into how do we change how we teach reading in our schools? And that will help a lot of our children whether they ever know they have dyslexia or not. A This will change the lot of children's work because literacy general for all children was not well in Kentucky. So now thousands and thousands of earth teachers are being taught a about the science of reading and going back to the 5 big components of literacy instruction and not just thinking we immerse them in the words, and they're gonna learn how to do it. So we're really starting with that k three and teaching teachers how to teach reading, and I think that's going to be just a Astronomical. I can't wait.

Allison Slone [00:33:36]:

It'll take a while for us to see the the changes, but I think 10 to 15 years from now, we're gonna start seeing such a difference in reading and and children's ability to be literate and to go out in the world because if they can't breathe, they can't do anything

Liza Holland [00:33:50]:

Exactly.

Allison Slone [00:33:50]:

To the best of their ability. You know? A But it's amazing to watch these children as they learn and they grow. And and my son is now a junior, so we've come a long way, and and he's doing great. He still doesn't like school, but, you know, that's that's funny. But, you know, we've just we've come a long way. So, yeah, that's that was my big thing. We did develop a group called Kentucky Reads. A A bunch of us did that we go around and we prevent or present to teachers at conferences, and I've been hired by schools to come in a And to talk about dyslexia, and and then we had a we that was my 1st Facebook group.

Allison Slone [00:34:22]:

And Kentucky reason, we don't post a whole lot of it anymore because we're kinda to the point a Now that our goal has been met, the teachers know about it. They are aware of it. They know the signs and symptoms. They still reach out sometimes and say, I've got this kid. And I really think they may have dyslexia. Who do I connect with, and then what do I need to look for? So that's always a good moment when we can help connect them to people.

Liza Holland [00:34:41]:

What an amazing advocacy journey. A

Allison Slone [00:34:44]:

And, really, it won't have it made to happen. It just it just happened. Yeah.

Liza Holland [00:34:49]:

And, you know, I love that it came from you as a mom and you as a teacher because those 2 different perspectives really, really can help a To move things forward, I was very involved in PTA. That's kind that was my entry point to education. And so many parents that I met a Had some sort of a challenge that they couldn't get over, then they didn't feel like they were being heard and that sort of thing. And so I spent a lot of time teaching about advocacy and how the system works and all that kind of stuff. And so that was just so inspiring to me. Way to go.

Allison Slone [00:35:25]:

A Well and, you know, as a teacher of children with special needs is one thing. I always felt like I had a big heart for those children, and I and I really tried to help the parents understand. But when I became a mother of a child with a special need, it completely changed my perspective. You know? And and I wasn't. A That was great before as far as my children were concerned, but to understand it from a parent's point of view. So now when I'm in those meetings, a Always, 100% of the time, always when I meet a new parent, say, hey. My kid has dyslexia. My kid has sensory processing disorder.

Allison Slone [00:35:58]:

My kid has ADHD. A I live and breathe at school with your child all day, and I go home with my own kid and live and breathe what you're breathing at home every day. A So I get you. I get you not from a teacher perspective. I get you from a mama perspective. And so please know that I see it from your point of view as well. And it changes the you could see the just a The air just flow out of them then. They they just they feel more comfortable.

Allison Slone [00:36:21]:

They realize that I'm not there as that other adult that seems to know more than them. A And so I I try to coach other adults into the vet that are in the meeting as well is that the parent knows they're the expert on their kid. A We're the expert on how to help their kid while they're at school or the expert on the content, but they are the expert on their child. A And and we have to make them feel just like we wanna feel valued, they have to feel valued as well.

Liza Holland [00:36:45]:

You know, you keep giving me chills in during these discussions. That's really a But, I mean, it is so it is. And especially, you know, so many of the parents that I worked with on you know, that had kids with special needs, a They don't fit into the system as it's designed. And, you know, even if you go to the absolute best schools Mhmm. A You know, the ones that have the great scores and all this kind of stuff, those kids, you can't approach it the same way. The system doesn't work for them that way, and it needs It needs to be modified. Oh, that's so cool. You've already told me lots of great stories, but tell me, do you have a favorite memory about your work in education?

Allison Slone [00:37:23]:

A Oh goodness. There's so many, and sometimes they'll just pop at random times. And then I can't think of them when I wanted to I'll tell you one from that was recent that still just really tugs at my heart, and I've shared this with lots of people. I have you know, I'm at the high school level now. So I've been at all the levels. A I was middle school the most, and I thought I would start there and and go there till I died probably. But I didn't, and that's okay. Because now that I've seen all different levels, It's giving me a new perspective, and I kinda like that too.

Allison Slone [00:37:51]:

But high school level's different in that they're like little adults. They still want a sticker if they're, you know, if they've done something good. They love to get a smelly sticker, and just great, but they sometimes come with adult problems and adult worlds that they live in, when we still look at them as being children. A And we forget that sometimes. So I was I was at school 1 morning, and I just found out that a former student of mine passed away from a drug overdose. A I had heard this situation, but I didn't know who it was. And so just before walking into my 1st period class, I found out who it was. A And I always wait outside my classroom, and I greet my children at the door.

Allison Slone [00:38:25]:

And they sometimes will stand and talk to me because they have about 10 minutes between bells to kinda a walk around and and visit with their friends and stuff, and they'll sometimes stop and talk. And and I have a student who had also gone through some problems with drugs, a Drug abuse, selling drugs, those kind of things, and and had gone through some therapies and stuff and has is doing amazing, a Doing absolutely amazing. I'm so proud of this child, but they recognized I was upset. I was trying to hold it in. I'm trying my best not to let it show. You know? A And this child came up to me, and he said as if I was okay. And and I said, I'm not okay. And I said, thank you for recognizing that.

Allison Slone [00:39:00]:

And I said, I just found out that a A former student of mine, one of my very first students, had passed away from a drug overdose. And this child looked at me and he said, miss Sloan, he said, a I know how you're feeling. He said, when I was in therapy, I met a lot of people that were going through what I went through. He said, but they didn't all make it. A He said, so I lost a lot of people that I had just made friends with. He said to the same thing that you've experienced. He says, well, I don't have that feels. A And when that was powerful enough to know that he'd been through some really adult level things, he then looked at me and he said, miss Song, you've always got me.

Allison Slone [00:39:34]:

He said, today, I've got you. Oh, lord. I said, well, if I wasn't crying already, I am now. And he just smiled, and he hugged me and went on to class, a But he checked on me several times throughout the day just to see if I was okay. And then I saw his mom a couple of days later, and I said, I have to tell you what he did. A And she said, you don't have to tell me. He came home and told me that he had you that day. So I was like, oh, okay.

Allison Slone [00:39:57]:

Now I'm crying again. But those are the moments that those are the moments. You know, it's not always about the content. It's not always about whether they figured out you know, figured out that math equation or they know about, a You know, wells in the ocean or that they figured out how to spell that hard work because I still can't spell well either, and that's okay. But it's that that going back to learning how to learn. A Yes. And he had learned something that in his world was compassion, and he gave it back. A And and, you know, and in him doing that, I learned that my children, my students, who I still very much call my children, a We're adults in a lot of ways, and and they had sometimes experienced things that in my 47 years, I had never experienced.

Liza Holland [00:40:40]:

A

Allison Slone [00:40:40]:

Yeah. That was eye opening for me. I thought I gotta remember that, that sometimes they're experiencing things that I had never experienced, a And that was a powerful moment for me. So we both learned a lot from each other that day. It's a matter of something that was a conversation that lasted maybe a minute. A

Liza Holland [00:40:56]:

But will have lifelong impact. That's just you you gave me chills

Allison Slone [00:41:00]:

again. Yeah. And then I also told his mother, if he'd be busy if you're not to look at my house because I would silly one, but, you know, she's very well alerted that he would probably be at my

Liza Holland [00:41:08]:

house. Well, you know, that speaks to the power of relationships, and that's when the real learning happens is when you have a relationship with a student to where they can trust you and they feel like you have their back And that they wanna have your back. Yeah. I mean, there's just so much right about that story.

Allison Slone [00:41:26]:

There is. And, you know, and I want teachers to also understand that it's okay that if you can't build that relationship with children. There have been in my 24 years of teaching children that I just could not. And and some of those still haunt me to this day, a But I also have to remind myself that it's okay to say, I can't, but let's find the other adult that can. Let's make sure there's someone this child a can't feel comfortable with, you know, and and try every avenue. And then there will still be some children at the end of the day that just don't bond with people and just don't for whatever reason, but it doesn't mean you give up. Yes. And, again, it might not be you, a But it might be someone else.

Allison Slone [00:42:05]:

And sometimes as teachers, that's hard. You know? Because I've got children this year I didn't have last year, but I knew them. So, you know, today, I got a text from one of my coworkers, a They said so and so wants me to come speak to them. And I was like, a little heartbroken. I was like, they're in my room right now. Why don't they wanna talk to me? You know? But then I have to remember they've already bonded with that person, and that's something we're gonna work on through the year. So it's okay to sometimes we feel like failures when we can't get to all of them, but there's a lot of them, a And we just have to try. And if you can make the difference in 2 or 3 lives, then that's 2 or 3 lives that you

Liza Holland [00:42:37]:

made the difference in. Absolutely. And planting the seed makes a big difference, and the other thing is that having multiple adults in their lives is a good thing. So I think about I mean, I'm empty nesting right now, and I found myself kind of going, well, my daughter's calling my husband about, You know, some things with the veterinary world and whatnot, and I'm just like, well, she's not calling me. And then I had to check myself and say, well, wait a second. A That's so cool that she has a strong relationship with her dad, and she has things that he can help to support her with. So, yeah, I feel that pain, but, but I agree with you. I think that it's it back to that, it takes a village.

Liza Holland [00:43:16]:

You know? It may not be you. It may be You know, for my son, it happened to be the PE teacher in elementary school that really helped him to turn a corner on a challenge that he had. And, you know

Allison Slone [00:43:27]:

I got a new student not used last year, and I noticed on there talking about transition stuff and what they wanted to be as an adult. A the child to put custodian. And I was like, okay. That's great. Absolutely. Nothing wrong with wanting to be a custodian, but I just there was something about it, and so I started asking questions. A This child had been through the foster care system. And in another school, the custodian had been the contractor since had reminded them of someone in their biological family.

Allison Slone [00:43:52]:

A And so that inspired them to want to someday be a custodian. So, you know, it can we're all educators in our own way in our buildings, and that's what we've gotta remember too.

Liza Holland [00:44:02]:

Isn't that the truth? Well, jeez, Allison, I could speak to you all day, but we are coming, coming hard on our, 30 to 40 minutes here. A But I would love to, as a final question, ask what would you like decision makers to know? 1 or 2 things.

Allison Slone [00:44:17]:

A I think that I want decision makers because there's lots of decision makers. And in some ways, we are decision makers as well. And so I think I want decision makers to know that a They are important and they are valued, but they are not the only voice in what we do every day and that we have to listen to all the voices a in all the ideas to come to a consensus on what's best for our children. And sometimes what's best for our students a Means we have to take care and do what's best for the

Liza Holland [00:44:47]:

educators Mhmm.

Allison Slone [00:44:48]:

Because we're the ones taking care of the students. So I think it's knowing that a They're important. Their voice is important, but they're not the only voice, and we've gotta listen to all of them.

Liza Holland [00:44:57]:

That is a fantastic answer to that question. A And I appreciate your time so very, very much, and thank you for all you're doing in support of of the students with dyslexia in reading initiatives and Kentucky teachers in the know, and and good on you for all of this great work that you're sharing with the world.

Allison Slone [00:45:16]:

I appreciate that so much, and I appreciate you doing this. And I've noticed the list of people you've been talking to and and some of the podcast and some great people, so I appreciate you letting their voices be

Liza Holland [00:45:26]:

heard. Awesome. In that case, maybe you'll post it on Kentucky Teachers in the Know. That'd be I'd love to have our listeners.

Allison Slone [00:45:33]:

I will definitely do that.

Liza Holland [00:45:36]:

Well, thank you so very much.

Allison Slone [00:45:38]:

Thank you, and have a wonderful evening.

Liza Holland [00:45:40]:

A Thank you so much for listening to this episode of education perspectives. Feel free to share your thoughts on our Facebook page. Let us know which education perspectives you would like to hear or share. Please subscribe and share with your friends.