(Written December 2013 for ECS200)
I believe every student learns differently and that teachers need to be accommodating of these differences in how they teach, recognizing that students need to be taught equitably, not equally.
Students differ greatly from learner to learner in how they engage, in how they retain information, and in how they respond to teachers’ methods. As the psychologist Bronfenbrenner studied, students are influenced by their environments and social systems and therefore attain information in different ways be it through experience, reading, hearing, or what have you. Moreover, students are raised differently which affects the way they piece concepts and information together; parents may be authoritative and coach them using positive reinforcements while other parents may be permissive, lacking any type of guidance at all, leaving the child to be an independent learner. What is more, some students, like those who were raised among First Nation peoples, could possibly be oral learners, while some are visual, and others could be hands-on learners. Then there are students who may have birth defects or syndromes like Fatal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder that effect their attention span, their interpersonal skills, and their ability to plan or predict. Another example of students that may require accommodation are the students who are labelled as “gifted” because they excel at amazing rates. As I have experienced during my time with the Go Girls! program, dynamic differences can be found even among a group of seven young girls. Teachers need to understand that no one student is like another.
Instructions given by teachers need to fit and reflect the students’ learning styles and abilities. Teachers need to understand what tools and resources are available for their use so they have more options as to how they can help and challenge their exceptional learners. Some teachers use media to connect and engage their students; some using Google Docs, Facebook, blog pages, Twitter, and more. Other teachers could refer to resources discussing “The Adaptive Dimension” Saskatchewan Education came up with in 1992 which “is the concept of making adjustments … to accommodate diversity in student learning needs”. Resources on “Differentiated Instruction” is also great for how to give instructions to exceptional learners as it looks at meeting not only the needs of the students but also their interests. Furthermore, educators should be able to think on their feet, as I discovered with Go Girls! When students do not respond to an activity as anticipated, teachers should change the rules to encourage them to be inclusive which makes the activity more challenging. Finally, information and directions from the teacher should always be said concisely and repeatedly for students with disorders like FASD as mentioned above who have difficulties understanding the task the first time announced or for students who struggle with auditory instructions and require repetition to properly store the information to memory.
Teaching, lastly, needs to be about constant development because students are growing and resources are expanding. Going through the history of education, it is obvious that teaching methods have altered dramatically, as in the case of residential schools in Canada; teaching once consisted of corporal punishment but now consists of patience and discussion. I say patience and discussion because, with the Go Girl! program, I found I had girls who were rather disruptive during the session, distracting the other girls. I talked to the disruptive girls and, with them, found solutions to help them get engaged as a solution. Lastly, teaching needs to be inclusive so all students, including exceptional learners as well as students who have fallen under the “unfavourable outcomes” outlined by psychologist Erikson, are grasping concepts and ideas that will be built on for years afterwards which is essential to them as individuals in society. Most importantly, teaching needs to be fair towards all students, acting with equity not equality.
(Written September 2014 for ECS 300)
An effective teacher creates an environment that students are not only comfortable in but are excited to enter and engage in. Such an environment is not necessarily all tables-and-chairs arrangements but rather how the teacher exudes their enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject(s) for which they are teaching. Excitement is contagious, so when the teacher is excited, the students get excited and when the students are excited they are eager to discover and take in all that they can. But for students to feel comfortable in a classroom they also have to feel included. Every student is different in their skills, abilities, and learning styles. Effective teachers assess their students’ skills, abilities, and styles and work adamantly so that the students are not taught with equality but with equity thus insuring students feel valued and free to share within the classroom.
Moreover, a positive environment is created by a teacher who is confident, outgoing, and caring. When a teacher is confident about what they are teaching they are able to teach using different methods and approaches until students are also confident in it. With confidence also comes a sure voice, one that projects across the room with precision and clarity which helps students form clear pictures, definitions, and connections in their minds as they listen. Alongside confidence, an effective teacher should be outgoing because they need to be able to make relationships with their students. A vocal, outgoing teacher is not afraid to approach a student, encourage them, and be supportive for them. An outgoing teacher is available to every student as well as excited to connect with them. Students who know their teachers care about them as an individual are more likely to excel because they know that someone other than themselves want the best for their future. A teacher should not be there merely to teach but also to mentor.