Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

In Curb cut theory applied to education from Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson talks about how curb cuts have benefited more people than just wheelchair users. Then he asks,

“Might this curb cut theory also apply to educational practices? Might interventions we use with our struggling learners benefit every child in a school?”

My husband and I have argued about this for many years. When I talked about having IEP meetings to meet the needs of my students, he always asked why isn’t the school meeting the needs of all of the students? I didn’t have an answer for him then or now.

I was so excited when Universal Design for Learning(UDL) came out because this was something that all teachers could use for all students. But the problem I see over the years is that teachers are coming up with excuses about why they can’t/won’t use this strategy.

During my graduate courses that I teach, I’m requiring that all of my students use UDL when planning their lessons.

I hope with practice that more and more of my students (the teachers) will make this a habit. Instead of having to make a conscious decision to meet the needs of all students, it becomes ingrained and done naturally.

Growing up, I saw too many students expected to fit the cookie cutter mold. Those who didn’t fit the mold, was either ridiculed or ignored. Teachers weren’t surprised when these students failed and focused only on the ones who fit the mold.  There were times that I struggled and felt bad about myself because I felt like I was the only one struggling. This meant that I wasn’t like everyone else and was afraid that the teacher might ignore or bring attention to my differences.

When I became a teacher, I was shocked to see many of my colleagues continuing this practice. I saw students in general education classes whose self concept plummeted when they didn’t fit the norm. I couldn’t be involved because I was a special education teacher and it was hard to watch this from the sidelines.

I don’t think that teachers plan on being this way but many are teaching the way they were taught. It is time to stop teaching that way and teaching the way we wish we were taught.

We shouldn’t just be meeting the needs of special education students. We should be meeting the needs of all of the students and if we aren’t trying, then someone needs to stop and ask why.

What do you do in your classroom to meet everyone’s needs? Please share.


Dana Steele said...

Here lies the truth. I am not meeting the needs of all of my students. It is something that plagues me everyday. As an elementary specialist, I see my students for 25-40 minutes per week. This does not allow for me to engage in the indepth instruction that I long to do. Eventhough I repeatedly chant the mantra - "Quality before quantity!", I still find myself in a race to get material covered. After two weeks, even I am bored over doing the same content. I want to do more. I have many proven strategies at my fingertips. However, I struggle to implement properly due to various constraints and limitations. Not an excuse. simply a fact.

This is how I believe instruction should be. I am a firm believer in Understanding by Design. Coupled with Danielsons' Instructional Framework, they provide an encompassing foundation for any pedagogical or methodology of instruction to be intensive, comprehensive, standard driven, structured, empirical, quantitative and qualitative. Together, UdL and Danielson leave little room for errors and lapses in accountability. Adding to this the application of the Curb cut theory, educators can not help but to provide more comprehensive instruction. The question is how can all of this delivered effectively within the restraints that many teachers face - time, resources, technology, training, institutional, district and administrative support? Whether we like it or not, "NCLB" should be the norm and not simply a goal. Every child should receive a quality, comprehensive, appropriate education that prepares them to be successful global citizens. Because when you really think about it, that's what every educator wants for ALL of their students.

So I don't quite understand how instructional practices are routinely reserved for a certain set of students. Why are intervention services and strategies provided as reactive necessities to individuals who have demonstrated a proven, documented need when it is the foundational philosophy of differentiated instruction? How much more successful our students would be if complete instructional resources were provided - not based upon budgets, debates of necessity and proven, documented need. But the sheer premise that all students are endowed with the inalienable right to an excellent, academically appropriate individualized learning career that indubitably prepares them to be successful, global citizens in any endeavor of his or her choosing.

Since when did meeting everyone's needs become a debate and when is it going to become a norm?

Pat Hensley said...

@Dana Steele Very well said!! I agree with your last statement wholeheartedly!! Thank you for sharing!