is the value and commitment to serve EVERY student to raise the bar and to close the gap.
Whether it is for students in the Special Education program or within the English as an Additional Language program or even those coming from any background, they are all given the commitment of high expectations and deep learning opportunities.
Moving from the first two weeks of the fundamental changes in education to focusing on learning partnerships to now Deep Learning Tasks- is one action step to help move schools forward in achieving such a shift in educational practices.
Seeing that the Change Process begins with- “Fostering deep commitment to the moral imperative…” makes me think not all schools are ready for this. Moving from the USA to the international scene in education I’ve realized that many schools out there are only beginning to remove discrimination lines on their acceptance pages and really looking at “the how” in order to best serve and meet the needs of all children an ensuring qualified and trained educators are filling these positions.
Photo by Marvin Kuhn on Unsplash
Equality in my Classroom
Students who enter my classroom, whether it’s the tiny room at end of the hall or a “normal” size room, know that the learning expectations and workload remain similar to those of their other classes.
Whether it is during a “pull out” small class group or “push-in” co-taught large class group settings students know that we continually push to raise the bar and hold them accountable to high, but fair, expectations.
I ensure that students have a firm grasp and understanding of what the learning targets or outcomes are for the day and try to set up the learning experiences so that they are clear and easily followed. In the past, I have even had a student who’s Individualised Learning Plan (ILP) goal was to make connections to what she was learning to real-life examples, and if it wasn’t clear- she would then advocate for that until she fully understood the connection. How amazing would it be, if all educators out there- did just that for their students all. the. time.
Make all learning, deep learning, connected to real-life contexts
Deep learning experiences will take thoughtful and meaningful conversations in the planning stages to ensure the intended outcomes are achievable. Allowing students to choose over what they learn and how they learn it is a great step towards making deep learning experiences stick.
Whether it’s through stations or a simple choice board- like graphic organizers that allow students to choose different ways to learn about a particular concept, incorporating technology will only allow us to enhance these experiences and create better deep learning opportunities.
If we remember to bring technology in to enhance what we are doing and not start with it, I think it will long allow us to not only facilitate but serve as activators in these new and deep learning experiences.
Based on this week’s readings, I think I would shift my practice by attempting to have further conversations with my co-teachers on the ways to bring more deep learning experiences into our shared classroom space. Focus on the deep learning tasks and ways to reflect more with SAMR model and TPACK from week one to really see where we’re at and where we’d want to be. Ensuring that we are creating that student partnership and having them know that we are learning alongside them will be of value. So the students can see us designing and structuring the lessons tailored to their own unique learning styles and needs.
As stated in, A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning,
“In deep learning tasks, the goal is to develop new knowledge, through the integration of prior knowledge with ideas, information and concepts, into a wholly new product, concept, solution or content. In good deep learning tasks, students also go beyond creating new knowledge to doing something with it to using that new knowledge in the world.”
It is our job as educators to continually push for students to no longer memorize facts and details, when information is literally at their fingertips and a 2-second google away, but to get them to create new knowledge and then further apply it to new and real contexts. As a Special Educator, I am fully aware of the challenges many students will face- as the last step in acquiring new skills is to generalize it to new and unfamiliar contexts. But through focused design and meaningful planning and preparation mixed with repetition and confidence building the sky is the limit.
I’m confident that students entering my classroom grow in their confidence and start believing more in themselves and what they are capable of. We focus on strengths to then close their gaps. Reminding each other we learn from one another and that mistakes grow brains and everyone’s thoughts are valued. All students CAN and WILL learn is a reality in our class- where we learn to follow any negative self talk with the word- “yet” such as, “I can’t do this task… YET.” or “I don’t know how to do this task…YET.”
Photo by Frans Vledder on Unsplash
Self-awareness plays a key factor in our Special Education program and specialized classes. The ability to self-identify and clearly communicate strengths and weaknesses play a huge role in the development and lessons for our classes. Once goals are established we then focus on self-regulation skills and self-monitoring them. So every step of the way we are continually evaluating our learning experiences from class to class. Teaching kids to think about how they think is crucial. Understanding that everyone thinks differently, and that’s of value, is also important. Alongside with everyone learns at different rates or speeds and in different ways.
These concepts support our personalizing learning experiences since my role as their case manager and advocate is to ensure they know how to eventually become their own great advocate for their learning. Asking for accommodations, but first even knowing what accommodations are, what they consist of, and most importantly which ones help them learn the best.
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
I love sitting down with my students as we prep for their annual student-led ILP or SSP (similar to 504 plans) meeting and going through their accommodation lists and talking about whether or not they use it and find it helpful. There is nothing better than when a student can vocalize in their own words which accommodations they find useful and why as well as which ones don’t help them along with an explanation of why. It also is wonderful when highschool teachers will tell me or write to me about a student I once taught in middle school, and how they are now advocating for themselves and can confidently speak about themselves as learners.
I also hope to give my students the real experiences they crave while creating & using new knowledge in a world beyond our classroom where they can see the point of it all and truly develop a love for learning.
Teaching students to acknowledge and confront their own bias even when not invisible can be a challenging task. None the less when it is invisible. This can also stem across cultural barriers that can lead to students feeling isolated or even scared. As teachers, I think this is one area that proves challenging the more we celebrate our differences and teach tolerance. I am careful here about word choice, as wanting to teach acceptance I don’t think is the answer. Making sure as an educator I don’t bring in my own invisible biases in the classroom will take attention to my word choice that I don’t think I have been mindful of in the past. This lesson similar to our Mad Libs activities was a great way to show students the value of the words they choose and their own unique basis that go along with them.
Ethical Practice Focus Group
This past week I was asked to take part in one of my school’s audit groups, specifically around ‘ethical practices.’ It was a challenging one for me, as I am constantly asking questions and challenging policies and procedures to ensure that what we do, is “doing right by kids.” This small subcommittee had some great conversations around ethical and equitable practices within the faculty and staff and I was surprised how little was mentioned even amongst foster equitable learning environments for the students or centering the discussion around those who should continually be the center of educational discussions- the students. In the end, it allowed me to voice concerns and hear others’ points of view challenging my own invisible bias especially in terms of local vs. overseas hires, and simply the makeup of our student body being primarily an embassy-sponsored school in transition. It seems now more than ever questioning our meaningful learning environment and what that really looks like is of utmost importance.
Create the Reality that ALL Students Can & Will Learn
It starts with you…. so what will YOU do?