The Story: An Engaging Teacher
As you walk into Ms. Jackson’s class, her pronounced teaching style hits you almost immediately. Her classroom is beautiful, and with something unique covering nearly every inch of wall space, you can’t help but feel excited and motivated. The bell rings, and Ms. Jackson instantly jumps to her feet, anxious to launch into a rich class discussion. In last night’s reading assignment, the students learned that Brutus, Cassius, and others had stabbed Julius Caesar! The discussion always leads to an incredible opportunity for her students to make predictions which turns into a week’s-long chance to practice making predictions and citing evidence from the text to support them. As expected, the rich discussion was enthralling and engaging to all of the students, except Danny. As usual, Danny paid attention for the first ten minutes then fell asleep. As the bell rang, Ms. Jackson quickly scrawled tonight’s homework assignment on the previously blank chalkboard as the students left in a buzz of excitement.
The Context: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Ms. Jackson is a creative teacher, and her personal style plays itself out in her classroom. This is good because her classroom feels natural, and the children thrive on her approach. However, it can’t be expected that her natural style will work for all of her students and, in Danny’s case, it isn’t. Ms. Jackson could easily interpret Danny as a child that doesn’t like English class or hates Shakespeare, but in reality, his needs aren’t being met. This fact does not mean that Ms. Jackson’s class isn’t of the highest quality; it only means that her learning environment isn’t meeting Danny’s needs.
The Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates the involvement of a general education teacher in a child’s IEP. The purpose behind this mandate is because each teacher, their classroom, and the needs a child may demonstrate in their environment are different. Danny is a visual learner and may also have auditory processing needs. These needs may not be present in science class where Danny’s teacher uses graphics, movies, and other visual aids to present all content, but in English, where Ms. Jackson seldom writes a note on the chalkboard, it is disabling to Danny.
The Point: Individualized Support is Necessary
To support Danny, Ms. Jackson needs to consider an accommodation designed to empower him around his need. She needs to recognize the limitations of her natural style and, without changing their effectiveness, find a way to support the individual(s) that need something different.
The Story Continues: Perfect Classrooms May Still Need Individualized Support
At lunch, Ms. Jackson reflects with her colleagues, where she mentions how Danny is the only child in the class who doesn’t engage in conversations. Mr. Clarke, Danny’s science teacher, says, “that’s odd; Danny is one of my best students.” Through the conversation, the team discovers that Danny seems to respond well to Mr. Clarke’s visual style. This realization causes Ms. Jackson to reflect that she seldom includes any visuals during her class conversations. While her room is very visually stimulating, her lessons are quite the opposite. Ms. Jackson realizes that she needs to add some visual elements to her conversations. She begins using character maps, timelines, and other appropriate visual aids as accommodations to support Danny and other visual learners in her classroom.
Be Action Driven: Things To Do
- Think about your classroom. Do you have any struggling students? It is important to realize that this doesn’t mean that you’ve established a poor learning environment. Instead, this environment may be working against the needs of a specific student. Overcoming this struggle is where accommodations and modifications come into play. Remember, as we discussed in this video, they are the tools that empower a student around their needs. What needs is a child showing in your room? Log into Accomods now and begin exploring ways to empower them around those needs!
- When you find an accommodation that works, be sure to share it with your colleagues who may also have the same student. Sharing this insight is especially important if the child has an IEP! That’s why every teacher’s input is included in an IEP meeting. Be sure to share!