Student Teaching Reflection 1

Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

It is essential that schools cultivate a community of trust and respect so all students feel welcomed and supported throughout the school day. In every classroom, teachers incorporate research-based teaching methods to promote a supportive learning community where students needs are acknowledged and fulfilled. Students frequently participate in a cooperative learning environment. Cooperative learning helps students figure out how to work together, support each other’s learning, and reflect on their individual learning (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 32). Teachers who incorporate cooperative learning are also fostering a supportive learning environment. Beesley & Aptorp’s research concluded that additional benefits of cooperative learning include increased academic and socioemotional achievement, higher self-esteem, and decreased feelings of isolation in school (as cited in Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 46).

Before beginning my student teaching experience, I had not considered how cooperative learning operates in a Kindergarten classroom. I also had not thought about how the basic skills needed during cooperative learning also help a teacher ensure students feel like a significant member of the classroom. I quickly discovered there are a few unique qualities about Kindergarten. Kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student, how to participate in academic activities, and how to engage in social interactions. The foundation of cooperative learning is built during Kindergarten as students focus on fundamental life skills like respect, sharing, being kind, and helping others.

As displayed in the picture on the left, my mentor teacher incorporates social skills as part of the students’ learning goals. These skills support a positive classroom culture. Learning social skills helps students’ transition throughout the school day, interact with their peers, and provide assistance to each other during lessons. There is a constant reminder that everyone should practice kindness, caring, and sharing. This focus helps students remember how to cooperate with each other as they line up for recess or inquire about each other’s work. Eventually these skills will aid students as they participate in cooperative learning activities.

Throughout the next few months, a teaching goal of mine is to incorporate more cooperative learning opportunities in addition to social skills learning goals. I think more group-oriented learning tasks will be a great time for students to discover how their developing social skills are utilized during academic activities. A stronger learning environment will be built as students gain confidence working with each other.

Reference

Dean, C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Autumn Field Experience Reflection

Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

Teaching goes beyond helping students acquire knowledge and skills. Teachers also use their professional judgment to assess students’ emotional and physical health. These two factors often influence a student’s ability to learn, their confidence, and their sense of security. Creating a community of trust includes the teacher building relationships with students by learning about their interests and personalities.

evidence2
Figure 1 – Washington State DSHS Guide

Figure 1 is a reminder that child abuse and neglect can occur within any group of people. A child’s safety and well-being is a basic human right, so reports made to CPS help ensure children live in safe environments. In 2006, over 78,000 CPS reports were made in Washington. CPS conducted a further investigation in just under less than half of those reports.

Child abuse and neglect is difficult for teachers to think about, yet it is critical to be aware of abuse signs and know how to talk with students if the issue arises. Teachers should regularly review their school district’s policy on reporting child abuse and neglect. In the event reporting is necessary, it is best to be prepared about the appropriate resources and procedures.

At the beginning of the school year, my mentor teacher had made about five CPS reports concerning child abuse and neglect during her eight years of teaching. I visited her class in mid-November and she was preparing to make her third CPS report this school year. In two of the situations this year, the children reported an issue to her that caused concern to find out more information. In the third situation she observed a drastic change in the child’s personality and mood. She has reported physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. The protocol at her elementary school is that the student talks with the school counselor after a potential issue is discovered. By the end of the school day, the teacher and the school counselor notify the principal that a report will be made. The school counselor is generally present when the teacher calls CPS.

While is it distressing my mentor teacher has already made three CPS reports this year, I think it is because her students feel truly comfortable in her classroom. They know she cares about them, which is why they trust her with sensitive information about their personal lives. She allows them the opportunity to express themselves and share stories. She has so many high need students that I think she should try to schedule a regular time for quick check-ins to ensure she is meeting with everyone. There is a 10-minute block when students return from recess before going to either P.E. or music. It has been challenging for her to use that time academically, so that might be an opportunity to meet with students individually.

Teachers start building the classroom’s learning environment beginning with their first interaction with students. The teacher-student relationship is essential for earning students trust and motivating them to excel academically. The school community balances academic growth as well as emotional and physical development.

Reference

Washington State Department of Health and Social Services – Children’s Administration. (2010). Protecting the abused and neglected child – A guide for recognizing and reporting child abuse (DSHS – 22-163).

 

Inclusion of Students with Special Needs

American federal laws and society values have contributed to an increase in students with special needs working alongside their peers in general education classrooms. When students with special needs are included in the general education classroom, all students learn that everyone has special abilities and some people need more help than others. I think inclusion of students who receive special education services leads to a more accepting school culture and other students strive to assist anyone who needs help. After reading more about this topic, it is evident some people worry about accommodations being fair for everyone and whether or not inclusion is beneficial.

Byrnes (2008) explains that an accommodation is a modification to an activity or setting to remove the barrier preventing the person with a disability from achievement and access. Byrnes analyzes how appropriate adjustments do not make an assignment or lesson easier for students, but rather provides equal access that other students experience in a learning environment (Evans, 2008, p. 319). I thought Byrnes provided thorough support for accommodating students with special needs since the purpose to them when it is needed and does not interfere with what is being tested.

Kauffman, McGee, and Brigham (2008) argue that inclusion often prevents students with disabilities from being properly challenged or enabling the students to rely on the accommodations. Further, there is concern over whether students with special needs are receiving an appropriate education that aligns with their disability (Evans, 2008, p. 329). I think these are valid arguments, but instead of implying all students with special needs should not be included, it is better to remind teachers to think about individual student’s situations. Making generalizations about how special education inclusion is applied erroneously across the country adds to any negative connotation. It is also ignoring the school’s that have implemented a good approach. People who oppose the inclusion should ask successful schools about their program to learn what is recommended to ensure all students are being properly assessed and accommodated.

I think it is often difficult for people who have not needed an accommodation in life to understand that the purpose is to make the task equitable, not easier. I support the inclusion of students with special needs working in the general education classroom when the resource team makes that recommendation. I think when children work with a diversity of students then it is an opportunity for life lessons that might not occur otherwise. As long as everyone is achieving what they are capable of doing, the inclusion of students with disabilities should not be considered a distraction in the general education classroom. Instead, inclusion should be viewed as an asset because everyone is learning material and lessons they might not have been exposed to in another environment.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.