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Providing an Equal Education Opportunity to ALL (Week 11)

Providing an equal education opportunity for each and every student can be, to say the least, challenging. There are many different types of learners and many obstacles that may make it difficult to reach out to every student, every time. In any given public school around the United States you can encounter children with disabilities, (speech disabled, mentally retarded, Autistic, orthopedically and visually impaired etc…) multicultural children, students growing up in single parent homes, low-achieving or at risk students, as well as high achieving or gifted students. Taking a step back and letting the reality of this sink in—it can be overwhelming as a teacher to plan accordingly, to meet every student’s individual educational needs.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act all students, regardless of their leaning ability or cultural background are to be assessed through standardized testing their competency in core academic areas such as Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics and Science. This means that even children with severe disabilities and varying levels of academic achievement are to be tested and assessed by the same standards. I believe that, regardless of my personal opinions about the Act and its effectiveness on educating children, this is an Act implemented by each state and needs to be taken seriously. Bringing me to my next point—how can we as teachers provide all the necessary instruction for different children of academic levels and children with disabilities? In my opinion, the answer is partially through differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is not providing different content for different types of students. It is a way to provide individualized and specific instruction of the same content area to varying levels and types of students.  By definition, differentiated instruction is “based on the premise that all students differ in how they learn, their personal strengths and weaknesses, their backgrounds and their interests…when differentiating instruction, teachers adjust the curriculum and classroom instruction to fit the student’s preferences.” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 537)

I think that differentiated instruction is a very useful way to teach students in the classroom and make the lesson as engaging, stimulating, and effective as possible to every student. Differentiated instruction does not have to be something overly complicated…it could be something as simple as giving students a choice between a book about Bears vs. Lions based on their interest, or as intricate as classifying students by their multiple intelligences and let the musical children sing a song, the visual children draw a picture, or the kinesthetic children to make a skit based on the content of the lesson. Resources such as Constructivism: Multiple IntelligencesLearning and Succeeding in a Caring Environment are wonderful to find quick and easy ways to cater instruction to various students. These are but many available resources out there to make teaching and learning fun and effective. Whatever the way a teacher changes up their lesson, it is vital to make sure that they are aware of the differences in the classroom. As a teacher, having the knowledge that each child has their own unique educational needs is the first step in ensuring that children are receiving an equal educational opportunity.

Another aspect of providing equal educational opportunities has to do with children having disabilities. In the typical public school, there are usually classrooms dedicated to students with various learning disabilities that are separate from the “general education” classroom. These rooms often have specialized teachers and instructors trained in the psychology and ways to manage and educate children with mild to severe learning disabilities. In order for each student classified as learning disable to receive the best equal education, they often go through individualized education programs or IEPs that include long-range and short-range goals. IEPs specify exactly what the child’s needs are and are also considered the cornerstone of a school’s efforts to help students with disabilities. These individualized education plans are helpful both to the teachers of special needs students as well as the general education teachers that may have them in their classroom. (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 398) The term used for the integration of students with disabilities into “regular” classrooms is called inclusion. Inclusion is defined as “educating students with disabilities in regular classrooms in their neighborhood schools, with collaborative support services as needed.” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 536) For schools that practice inclusion as an educational method to include every type of student in one classroom, it is crucial that differentiated instruction is implemented, as described above. It would be nearly impossible to teach the same content the same way when there is such diversity, especially when it may involve children with orthopedic and visual impairments.

It is with that thought in mind that I have come to appreciate and desire professional collaboration between special education teachers and general teachers within the school setting. For me, I will not be trained specifically to teach disabled students. Although I do have a disable family member with Autism and am aware of the complications and difficulties that may arise on a personal level, I want to be able to know how to effectively handle such obstacles as a professional. I think that collaboration among teachers and administrators is vital to ensuring learning disabled students are receiving equal education both in inclusion and disabled classrooms. It is through such collaboration and professional developmental classes and information that I will be able to help all of my diverse students. Providing an equal education opportunity to every student is challenging, however I welcome the opportunity it will give me as an educator to step out of my own comfort zone and effectively teach many kinds of students. It is important to recognize that there are differences between students in any given classroom and be prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone is getting the chance to learn.

 

Resources & Websites

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

http://www.saskschools.ca/curr_content/constructivism/where/knoll/lap/latmultint.html

http://www.appomattox.k12.va.us/acps/attachments/6_6_12_dan_mulligan_handout.pdf

 

~ by hgluchow on .

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