Sunday, October 3, 2010

Adapting

The thing about teaching is that there is no magic formula, there is no easy answer, and what works in one situation might not work in another. When I was a new teacher, people gave me a lot of advice that was helpful but it was really challenging for me to meet the specific needs of a specific group of students. Now, as a more experienced teacher, well, it is still really challenging, but I have some idea about how important it is to adapt.

This year I would refer to my class as all of the following: Where the Wild Things Are, Land of the Lost, Survivor, Area 51, and the Bermuda Triangle. The art teacher said to me the other day, "You have one of the strangest groups of children I've ever worked with. I tried to picture them as the adults they might grow into, but I just couldn't do it." I was watching third grade recess and I noticed one of my students spent the entire time hitting the tether ball alone. Another one was repeatedly spinning in a circle. Another one was digging alone. Another one was just staring at the wall.

I was watching my class at the third through fifth grade assembly. The teachers turned on some dance music and as I looked around the auditorium almost every class felt too cool to dance. They were all kind of standing there. Not my class. Those kids danced with no awareness of those around them. They ran into each other and didn't seem to notice when the music stopped. That is just who they are. They dance to the beat of a different drum.

I have learned that this group of students is not auditory at all. Even if they are silent and looking at me when I am speaking they retain nothing spoken to them. I write everything in the smartboard and they physically demonstrate what they are supposed to do.

I have to speak in a soft, whisper tone with them because if my voice is louder these kids start humming and making noises and they seem to be unaware they are doing these things.

I have to focus my kids for morning routine. I have always had my class come quietly in and start doing morning work independently. For the first time, I have to gather my kids up front and focus them on the tasks of turning in papers and folders, unstacking chairs, and writing to the morning prompt.

I have to set the kids up for the next subject before we leave the room. When they transition to work time I have to have all 23 of them stand behind their desks check to make sure the correct supplies are out. "Do you have two sharp pencils, your reading book, and your reading journal out?" Then they all sit down and push their chairs under their desks.

I pass out every paper prior to lessons and give instructions away from desks.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's definitely on my short test to see if an education discussion is worthwhile:
- if it lumps all teachers, schools, or students in one group
- if the discussion doesn't involve any current classroom teachers
- if it says "reform" but everything mostly looks the same

...then it's probably safe to ignore whoever's talking.

Lsquared said...

Wow. That is an interesting mix. Sounds like something on the autism spectrum maybe--and to have more than just a couple of kids like that in a class at once--that's a really unusual thing. It sounds like you're doing some really smart things to connect with them, and get them to learn.