Professional Issues: Inclusive Education and Differentiated Instruction

M.Allen.Issues

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Accommodations

I found Chapter 17, “Is the Practice of Providing Accommodations to Children in Special Education a Good Idea?” of Taking Sides by Dennis Evans, a broad, rather vague and particularly uninspiring discussion regarding special education. While accommodations for students with disabilities seems to be an area of recurrent discussion and re-evaluation, I do not believe the issue is whether or not accommodations are a “good idea”, but rather, we, as educators should be focused on WHAT accommodations are best suited for our students and HOW best me might go about implementation. According to MaryAnn Byrnes, “an accommodation is an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability” (Evans, 2008, p. 317). Not only is it our legal obligation, but also our moral imperative to provide an equitable learning environment and opportunities for all students.

After comparing the arguments for and against accommodations and whether or not the enable to disable students, I believe the key is providing “appropriate” accommodations (Evans, 2008, p.318). Implementing Individualized Education Plans and varying degrees of accommodations depends completely on context and the unique situation of each student. To save time, or make assignments easier, teachers sometimes disservice students by providing indiscriminate modifications to assignments or tests that can prevent students from taking responsibility for their own learning, teach students to circumvent knowledge acquisition and reinforce negative habits or behaviors.

Accommodations must be continuously evaluated so as not to “alter the essential purpose of an assignment or assessment” (Evans, 2008, p. 319). At the same time, as a future educator, I intend to do my best to provide for the needs of every student to ensure that my classroom is a place where all students have equitable access to learning, feel comfortable, challenged and known.

character, moral and religious education

As a future English teacher, I will be guiding my students through various texts and works and together we will regularly be defining and redefining what it means to be human beings. How ironic it would be to study a novel and not discuss “character” development. Literature is the study of the human condition, the search for meaning and connection, and so the literature my high school students study will undoubtedly have direct correlations to character, morals, and religion. We will dive deeply into our texts to explore and discover who we are as people, how and what we construct to be true or right, as well as our purpose.

I understand and agree with Nel Noddings statement that as a teacher, I should not provide specific answer to these questions but rather facilitate deep thinking and reflection (Noddings, 2006, p.250). Certainly it is unconstitutional and an abuse of my power and role as a teacher “to proselytize” or “attempt to convert” or convince students of any particular religious views (Noddings, 2006, p.250). As foundational and formative as my faith is to the person that I am and the perspectives I have, I hope to model Christ to my students by investing in and respecting them, and affirming their worth by getting to know them as individuals and encouraging their potential.

In addition to modeling my morals and values which are rooted in the life and example of Jesus Christ, I do believe it that as a teacher, I have the opportunity and responsibility to promote citizenship which is nothing without morals such as equity, respect and honesty, or the sensitivity and competence to converse and interact with all people. Many argue that it is the job of parents, the place for such development is in the home not the school to teach and encourage such behavior but teachers who cannot engage these aspects of their students’ lives do not provide a holistic education. I do not wish to be a teacher who offers mere book knowledge and a grade at the top of essays.

Reference:

Nodding, N. (2006). Critical lessons: What our schools should teach.  New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press

Professional Issues: “What Motivates You?”

Today, I started reading chapter one of Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach by Nel Noddings, and I am hooked. I love the conversational, informal, informative and thought-provoking style of this book.  Reading took me longer than usual because I was busy writing reflections and notes to my future-teaching-self! The chapter begins with a discussion on motivation, different theories, accompanying attitudes and questions teachers should be asking students such as “What motivates you?” (Noddings, 2006, p.23). When it comes to my pedagogical stance, I believe I am neither a progressive who embraces the full autonomy of students, only working with student interests and motives, nor do I completely belong to the more classical tradition where because I am the teacher, I believe I know best and operate under the assumption that students do not have properly developed motivations, nor do they actually know what they need or what interests them (Noddings, p.11). At least currently, I feel suited to more of a middle-road approach, where I do have authority and some insight that my students may not yet posses, but that students are given choices, and their needs and interests are connected to material—motivation “guided toward a worthwhile end” (Noddings, p.17).

I think I was schooled in a more classic tradition until college where I was pleasantly surprised to find I was trusted and challenged to take responsibility for my education, to be an independent thinker, to push boundaries. When creating my own high school classroom culture, when navigating motivation and student interests, I think it would be easier and more natural to limit my students and run a classroom the way classrooms were run when I was in high school. However that way is not what I believe to be in the best interests of students, so I will continually need to be reflecting and evaluating my attitudes and efforts in order to promote a classroom that is more student-centered.  School is often a system where students learn how to earn approval and avoid consequences—work is done to get a certain grade, or simply to pass, students give teachers the answers teachers are looking for, and all can be accomplished systematically with little heart, passion or genuine learning. Like Noddings writes, “much schoolwork can be done with half a mind, and little learning is then accomplished” (Noddings, p. 21). Perpetuating this type of school experience is unexceptable.

I understand and accept that not every student I have in class will love literature and some may struggle or “perform” poorly, and I want to assure my students that that is okay, however, I want to urge my students not to be what Maslow refers to as “human impersonators” (Noddings, p.15). I want them to be spontaneous, original, and creative thinkers who ask questions and search deeply for meaning and connection. My working definition of success for my future English students hinges on my ability to connect literature to the interests, hopes and fears of students, to journey with them into a deeper understanding of who we are as complex individuals and as a collective group. If I am able to do this, I don’t see how students will be able to avoid becoming absorbed in the curriculum nor will I ever need to manipulate extrinsic motivations to provide reason and meaning for what I am teaching.

Reference:

Nodding, N. (2006). Critical lessons: What our schools should teach.  New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press