“5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.”
Healthy and safe learning environments are required in order for students feel welcomed and protected at school. A teacher having knowledge of reporting child abuse, youth violence, and neglect will assist in managing a safe space for students. Being observant and alert to student behavior in the classroom and with parents will help schools care and provide for student needs. Having a clear understanding of the reporting process within the school and state is important information for a teacher to have.
The following screenshot from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (2010) depicts the importance of reporting Child Abuse and Neglect.
If abuse is happening in the home it is imperative to report and protect students from further harm. Teachers are observing and monitoring students throughout the day and can be the initiators of getting students the help they need. The article points out that making a report can be beneficial to parents, allowing them to learn, better care for and protect their children.
The educator I observed explained that she has never needed to report child abuse or neglect for the students she was working with. She is a relatively new teacher, being in her 2nd year of teaching. She was aware of the process of reporting at her school through detailed training as a new employee. When it comes time for reporting, the staff member notifies the principal and the school counselor who documents and reports the behavior to Child Protective Services. Teachers can create classrooms of trust by fostering relationships with each student. Understanding where a student comes from, their families, personality traits, and interests will portray care and kindness where students feel appreciated and welcomed as an important member of the class. Having this foundational relationship will allow sensitive information to be shared easier if the time comes.
Reporting child abuse, youth violence, and neglect is a critical skill teachers need to foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. Students need to feel protected in their learning spaces. Schools need to have effective procedures and methods of reporting to provide care for students experiencing abuse. If these procedures are not in place, teachers should advocate to have school wide policies so all faculty can work to create a safe environment and prevent any future harm.
Washington State Department of Social & Health Services. (2010). Protecing the Abused & Neglected Child: A Guide for Recognizing & Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect.
Although this topic doesn’t revolve around the main theme of Special Education, I believe it still relates to grouping students based on their abilities and developmental levels. The debate over tracking and leveling comes down to students having the possibility of feeling isolated into groups. Tom Loveless (1998) argues that there is not enough research to back the points regarding discrimination of students being labeled as underachievers. This method of teaching actually helps students and gets them to the next level, teaching them appropriate material that is not overwhelmingly challenging. Jeannie Oakes (1999) writes that tracking groups actually works to isolate students that harms students academic image. Students are assumed that have all the same learning capabilities based on their tracking group.
I can see the benefit of having students together, working on similar material that is appropriate for them. These groups should be regularly assessed and flexible enough for students to move in and out of different groups. There is always the fear of isolation and separation with our classes which is something to avoid. There is a right way to handle ability tracking without allowing those feelings of entitlement and poor self worth. “Grouping is a more flexible, less permanent arrangement of students that takes into account factors in addition to ability, such as motivation, interests, instructional levels, and student efforts.” (Renzulli and Reis, 1991) The difference between tracking and grouping should be distinguished so students do not feel like they are identified at a certain level. These groupings can be helpful and effective to challenge student thinking and learning.
Renzulli and Reis. (1991) The Reform Movement and the Quiet Crisis in Gifted Education. Gifted Child Quarterly. (35, 26-35)
Religion and family values will always be a controversial topic. The range of religious and cultural backgrounds students come from is huge. They are personal morals that affect the way families carry out their lives. There is bound to be conflict and that can be seen in regards to religion in school. McConnell (1995) argues that students should have the right to worship and pray in school. The First Amendment guarantees their right to practice religion in school and their freedom of religion has transformed to freedom from religion. Gaylor (1995) says religious actions were never banned from the schools but rather not institutionally taught. Religion is a private affair and all students have the right to hold their own values but forcing religion on students is not the correct method. Neutrality is key so all students feel welcome and accepted.
Both authors bring up important concepts on this controversial topic. I would side more with Gaylor’s argument of being accepting of all religions without tying them in to educational material. When prayer becomes involved into public education, separation and conflict . “Religion is private, and schools are public, so it is appropriate that the two should not mix. To introduce religion in our public schools builds walls between children who may not have been aware . . . “ (Gaylor, 1995) We want to keep kids on the same level so everyone has a right to learn. Accepting differences is crucial in schools so all feel welcome. We still should be careful around family values of religion so not to divide our students based on their beliefs.
Gaylor, A. L. (1995). “The Case Against School Prayer.” The Freedom from Religious Education Inc.
One of the learning families I want to summarize from this course is the process of inductive teaching. Constructing ideas and concepts from the students themselves provides meaning and engagement. This method of teaching can be scary to some teachers as there is not a direct goal or path when working with students. Generating ideas from the students is a great way to get their minds thinking and brainstorming. The next step is focusing on one topic to promote deep thinking and comprehension. “One is focusing the investigation, helping the students concentrate on a domain (an area of inquiry) they can master, without constricting them so much that they can’t use their full abilities to generate ideas.” ( Calhoun, Joyce, & Weil, 2015, p 42) Giving students the freedom to choose their own domains allows them to collectively pull together a meaningful topic where they can be most successful.
Another social learning method is role playing. Students are able to develop social skills, investigate social issues, and develop empathy when working with one another. By putting themselves in different simulated roles, they can discover their own values and how best to work with others. “It explores how values drive behavior and raises student consciousness about the role of values in their lives.” (Calhoun, Joyce, & Weil, 2015, p 258) Students can begin to figure out how to interact cooperatively with others and respectfully disagree when conflict arises. Humans are inherently social and giving students the time and space to develop these skills with provide them with long term benefits.
Calhoun, E., Weil, M., & Joyce, B. (2015). Models of Teaching. (9th ed.) Boston: Pearson.
Students learn more than academics when they enter a classroom. They learn lifelong skills such as how to function in a group and work productively with others. The role of the teacher is to facilitate this process and act as a role model that students learn from. Teaching with integrity is key when working with students for them to learn by example. One of the Six Priorities of Affective Education is “Establishing a climate of trust.” Session 7- Learner Centered In order to do this, the teacher must act honestly and thoughtfully with students so they feel emotionally safe and comfortable. Only then will they truly open up, voice their full opinions, and feel accepted as a learner in the classroom. Students pick up how teachers act, even when they see them outside of the classroom, so living an honest, moral life is important for students to learn.
Children and youth are socially intelligent and understand when they are being truly listened to and heard. A teacher cannot fake these interactions and their relationships with students highly depend on their honesty and kindness. “Students know when their teachers are committed to their psychomotor, cognitive, and affective learning, and they can tell when their teachers genuinely care about them and are trustworthy, honest, and respectful.” (Lumpkin, 2008, p. 47) These are morals and virtues all teachers want to instill in their classrooms, creating life-long learners that contribute to a prosperous society. The teacher-student relationship is so important in shaping attitudes towards education and observing teacher values is how students make sense of the learning world.
Lumpkin, A., (2008). Teachers as Role Models, Teaching Character and Moral Virtues. JOPERD 79: 2, 45-49.
Students come to school with sets of values they may not be able to identify themselves but will show when they work with their peers. Problem solving, cooperation, and collaboration are all developed in the classroom. As they interact with one another, they discover the roles they will play with one another. Utilizing role playing activities gives students a chance to practice social skills as well as discover what is important to their lives. “It explores how values drive behavior and raises student consciousness about the role of values in their lives and those of others. A direct effect is greater understanding about and empathy with differences in values as people interact.” (Calhoun, Weil, & Joyce, 2015, p. 258). Students figure out how to cooperate with one another and overcome obstacles. They begin to learn how to operate in a group and how best they can use their strengths.
In the kindergarten class I work in, we have a weekly “class meeting” where we sit down and discuss any issues that need to be addressed. The teacher writes down student problems or concerns on a paper flip chart and discusses each one by one (see image below). Students practice listening to one another and find ways to peacefully solve problems. They are held accountable to the solutions and are referenced back to them if needed. As the solutions come directly from the students, they carry more weight and have greater impact then the teacher simply telling them what they need to do. Students work with one another in class meetings, examine what’s important to them, and learn lifelong social skills they will use in future grades.
Calhoun, E., Weil, M., & Joyce, B. (2015). Models of Teaching. (9th ed.) Boston: Pearson.