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Supporting All Members of our Community


Supporting All Members of our Community

Posted on March 30, 2015

6 Comments

Sam Morgan - NCDB Program Director

On March 11th, Gail Leslie and I hosted a drop in webinar for new state deaf-blind project staff. In this current grant cycle (2013-2018), approximately 18 projects have added new staff in key roles, serving as Director, Coordinator, Educational Consultant or Family Specialist.  Some in this group have a history with the project but are in new positions with new demands.  Others joined at the start of the grant cycle and some have occupied positions for only a few months.  Nearly a third of this new staff is also new to state deaf blind project work.  Given the small size of our project community, this number has significant implications for all of us in deaf-blindness as we move towards operating as a network in the provision of our technical assistance and implementation of practice. 

These webinars provide an opportunity for new project staff to meet others and provides us, at NCDB, with a sense of the support needs within projects.  This month’s webinar included participants from eight states.  The discussion of the group coalesced around a set of issues that are recognizable to anyone who works in the deaf-blind network: completing the APR, collecting census data effectively, prioritizing grant activities, and system problems related to low incidence populations.  Even though new, this group was not short on perceptive observations.  The newest member of our network honed in on two large issues in our field, early identification and interveners.   

The nature of the comments and questions of the participants made me think, aren't we all, in some ways, new to the deaf-blind network? While the new project staff has certain areas where they need to gain knowledge, all of us in the network have a new set of demands around effective collaboration across a dispersed and diverse national network.  While we have made significant strides as a network in our collaborative work together we need to intensify our relationships and grow our network.  There are still many questions to address:

How can we structure our TA in a tiered model that helps us provide more effective services leading to lasting change?

What do implementation stages look like in an area of low incidence like the deaf-blind network?

While individuals who are new to projects or who are in new roles have specific areas of need for support, they in some ways might be better equipped to embrace new ways of providing technical assistance, something we all are wrestling with.  They do not have to let go of old ways of doing things and can embrace new things more easily.  When I look back over 20 years of involvement in deaf-blindness, I find myself referring to the old to understand the new, and think it may make it harder for me to adopt new ways of work when it is overshadowed by my thinking about the old. 

NCDB will work towards a set of supports for new staff, including drop-in webinars, online resources, and mentoring.  However the most important and significant support we can all offer them is including them in our collaborations and sharing knowledge.  I know that one reason I have stayed in the community for 20 plus years is the support and learning I have gathered through collaborative activities and the relationships built through that work.

6 Comments

Michael, I think I was you about 23 years ago or so...smiles. I know how challenging it can be to "be dropped or handed" a new db project and not have the connections with others across the nation. In many previous years, we had regional discussions and more face-to-face opportunities to build those relationships and we could support each other with tools and share each others knowledge. Since we have changed to more technology based relationship building --smiles, I think it becomes a greater challenge to share our knowledge with other has we transition from "seasoned leaders" to "energized leaders"--that transition can be so difficult but worthwhile. I think it would be great if each Project could share Top Ten TIPS to help a new project director/coordinator. A few from me (smile): 1) Reports will come and go like the db child count and APR, but know there are some shortcuts so ask those folks how to plan for those reports; 2) Many of us have developed our TA Tools for grant management, and for providing technical assistance, so don't be afraid to ask either via email or phone--we love to share without cost; 3) always remember each state is so different because of the agency that has the federal deaf-blind grant, for example, I am located within a DOE and have many other hats that I wear, but those hats connect very nicely with db grant goals; 4) educate, educate, educate yourself about deaf-blindness and all of the effective practices that have been around for years--NCDB has many resources that can support you with those efforts; and 5) laugh often, because really from my seasoned experience, many times we are still talking the same things as we did back in 1992--more access to general education, a more effective transition plan for students so when they do graduate they are happy, successful, individuals that can give back to their communities, early identification and early intervention for these children so they can be successful in school, and last but most important --it is the question I ask every team, all the time--does this child who is deaf-blind have an effective and meaningful communication system? Many times that answer is still no---so, let's hope your generation will solve that problem....smiles. Call or email me anytime if you just need to talk, because some of us seasoned folks do that ----smiles.

Teresa Coonts

Posted May 15, 2015 by Teresa Coonts

Chris,
Great thoughts. I think for so many of us who have been a part of the DB network for a significant number of years we take this understanding for granted and can see the trajectory of our development. Your point is valid for all of us I think, as we all need to be reminded of how we have worked together, or not, over the years and how that has led us to where we are now as a network. Where we were, where we are, where we need to go as a network is an understanding we can build in the network.

Sam Morgan

Posted Apr 14, 2015 by Sam Morgan

Thanks for this thoughtful post, Sam. These are incredibly valuable considerations for supporting effective transition of the network given the huge number of new project staff.

One thing I would like to briefly add, as new project staff myself, is the importance of providing the new members of the network with some perspective on network history and the narrative of where the network has been, where those who have been in it for a long time think it is (or should be) going, and how the relationship with and guidance from OSEP has changed over the years. My own access to this information over the past few years has been critical in supporting my own transition into the network, particularly when it comes to an understanding the relationship of state/regional project to state/regional project, as well as state/regional project to NCDB, in collaborative efforts, shared resources, and models for provision of tiered TA. This is a big topic, of course, but I wonder how sharing history and perspective could promote more effective communication between the established and seasoned leaders, and the new members of the community. From the angle of generational influences, it would also seem to fulfill the more subtle outcome of supporting a relationship of mutual respect and understanding of roles between the great leaders, and the emerging ones.

Thanks again and looking forward to participating in this important TWG.

Christopher Russell

Posted Apr 13, 2015 by Christopher Russell

Michael,
Your comments sent me scurrying looking for things that have been developed to address some of these issues. I think that a lot of the knowledge on effective project management is housed within individual projects and rests with people who have been involved with projects for a long time. But, as Sam points out, we are all in new territory as we evolve into a more networked approach to sharing and building knowledge. You are a perfect expression of the issues that projects are facing as new staff arrive. It would be great to hear how others have been passed details of project management or are passing those details along as we move in and out of projects. What is being shared about TA, evaluation, and the projects place in both the national and state systems? What is critical for people to know if they are new to the DB Community of TA projects?

Gail Leslie

Posted Apr 2, 2015 by Gail Leslie

Michael,
Thanks so much for your comments. I think you are right many of us have been in it for a significant amount of time and we assume the nuts and bolts of running a project, evaluation, reporting, TA provision etc. This is a topic worthy of some conversation and maybe something we could capture. There are many pieces here so lets talk and get some definition.

Sam Morgan

Posted Apr 2, 2015 by Sam Morgan

Good Morning Sam and thank you for the post.

I have certainly felt supported by the NCDB folks and look forward to learning more. In my case, the TA I needed, (and continue to need?), is a step-by-step guide regarding how the get a project off the ground. I suspect my situation may be somewhat unique, but I walked into an office with little information regarding what had previously been done and where the project needed to go. I've often felt like I landed in a new country...I didn't know the language, the lingo, the acronyms, the players, the issues, etc. While the challenge has been stimulating and interesting, a "How To" manual or a "Deafblindness Projects for Dummies" might have been helpful.

I want to emphasize that everyone has been gracious and helpful, I just feel we sometimes fail to realize what a critical role presupposition plays in effective communication. Thanks again, Michael

Michael Norman

Posted Apr 1, 2015 by Michael Norman

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