Sunday, June 23, 2013

Focusing on Teaching

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”  -  Robert Frost

            When researching education and its approaches or strategies, one might be overwhelmed.  What do best-practices actually mean?  Although researchers strive to remove ambiguity from their research, data, for the most part, reinforces the researcher’s theory or approach.  As an educator, how does this affect your teaching and classroom’s environment?  In this endeavor to propel to integrate technology into K-12 curricula and classrooms, how do educators focus their teaching?

            At the end of the 2012 – 2013 school year (the 4th 9 weeks), my students started using their learning disability as their excuse for not learning the material and meeting expectations.  My students began quoting their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) modifications and accommodations.  Instead, they wanted to complete simple worksheets and stop implementing their reading, research, and writing skills.   They believed that because they received various levels of special education services, each one of them was entitled to pass Resource English due to their disabilities and because it was a special education class.  In my search for redirecting my students, I asked myself, “Is it wrong for a special education student to fail a Resource class?  And, when does his or her disability provide a student free passage?”  James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”  As an educator, what behaviors were my students imitating?

            In refocusing my teaching, there were some key elements that I must not overlook in my journey to becoming a top notch master educator.  The key elements are reflection of students’ performance, reflection of my performance, identify specifically what the I need students to learn from each lesson, and the students’ product to demonstrate higher Bloom’s Taxonomy.

            My students and I had a “Real Talk” discussion about their purpose for coming to school, the lack of or benefits for coming to my classroom, and the level of expectations.  We discussed the differences of being lazy verses their learning disabilities and why their accommodations, disabilities, and modifications are not excuses for them to use to get over in life.

            In my final reflection of focusing my teaching, I wonder if the special education services hinder students.  I concur with anyone who states that students who are multi-disabled, moderately to severely intellectually disabled, will benefit from special education services.  But, I am speaking of the students who are developmentally delayed and have difficulty catching up with their peers academically.  And, is the current implementation of Resource classrooms and Inclusion benefiting those students or embarrassing them and causing them to be bullied?  These are few questions that districts, administrators, and educators need to answer when designing the structure of the classrooms or implementing Common Core Standards.  The bottom line is that Special Education should never be an afterthought when educating any generations.


  1. "We discussed the differences of being lazy verses their learning disabilities and why their accommodations, disabilities, and modifications are not excuses for them to use to get over in life." I think that is a key most people need to realize. Students are just like everyone else and they need to be honest with themselves. Recently an ex-student helped me for pushing her so hard because now she's breezing through her English class. What a great thing to hear!

  2. I think it is awesome that you were still pushing your students so hard at the end of the school year. It is as much of a struggle for teachers to keep working hard as it is for the students.

  3. Thanks for sharing your reflection with us. The end of the year is such a hard time to keep motivated. I think the students need us-their special ed teacher. They need us to have those "heart to heart" talks. They need us to be in their corner and give them a safe place so they can be open.

    I think the challenge is how to measure these special students. It's so disheartening to have a student not do well on these state wide standardized tests because they don't understand the tricky questions that are given. They have the skills but don't get what is being asked.

  4. I believe in being honest with students. They and their parents need to be educated on a few things about the category of Learning Disabled. #1) First of all what we (all the students) are is average to above average intelligence. No one who comes into my class for services is stupid or unintelligent. If there were no discrepancy between intelligence and performance they would not be allowed to receive my services. I take the time to explain this to all my students. I give them the tools and the verbiage to help them address their peers when having conversations about going into the resource room. My students understand that their testing shows them as intelligent and capable and they certainly know that I believe they are intelligent and capable. #2) Coming to my class is a privilege. I have three separate teaching degrees including a masters. I also have several certifications in different statistically proven intervention curricula, strategies, and programs. #3) I teach grade level standards in my classroom and then help my students develop methods and strategies to help them meet those standards. I do not "dummy down" my curriculum nor my expectations. #4) I have yet to meet a student who hasn't accepted the challenges I presented and risen to meet the challenge. #5) I am learning disabled myself. Having had ADHD and speech impediments as a child. Therefore if I can be successful in academics (having graduated from three different universities with honors) then so can they. #6) What I truly think hinders most LD students progress is their self esteem. I give them many, many, many opportunities to be successful and I show them again and again how their hard work and perseverance is paying off. I consistently and purposefully tell them and show them how much I care about them and believe in them. They soon learn their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to adapt and make the changes they need to be successful. Their success breeds more success. I have had so many students not only pass state assessments but also test out of special education services as well. #7) I show my students that we are all human. I make mistakes every single day. It is okay to do so. As a matter of fact it is imperative to do so, because if I am not making mistakes and finding ways to correct them then I am not learning. #8) Everyone on this planet was put here with special gifts, talents, personality quirks, and struggles, all arranged in such a way as to make them completely unique from anyone else. Therefore every person has something to offer to someone else. Every person Learning Disabled or not has something that will benefit someone else. It is our moral obligation to figure out what it is I have to give and to go and share that with the world. #9) The only thing that can hold you back is you. You have to choose. #10) I love my students no matter what and I will never, never give up on them even when they are trying to give up on themselves.

    1. Thank you for your honesty. I believe you really do teach from your heart. And, thank you for making excellence the standard and not a goal.