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Suzie
Dalien writes, in her article Inclusion Classroom Defined, the
word inclusion means “the action or state of including or being included within
a group or structure,” which means that every child has the right to
participate in school activities, while the school has a duty to accept the
child despite handicaps, limitations or other special needs. She notes, when
schools have an open inclusion policy, children with special needs are given
the same advantages as the other children, with an emphasis placed upon full
participation in school activities. Suzie Dalien also points out, this helps to
build social skills, self-esteem and
gives all children the same status, regardless of individual needs. Inclusion
to me, however, is not just a focus on those with learning disabilities or
other special needs, it is also about being an effective teacher for all
students. Inclusion is creating an environment for all students to learn in a
way that helps them understand the material being presented to them. In order
for myself to be an effective and inclusive teacher for my students in the
future I have reflected on my time this past semester in my Graduate Studies as
a Masters of Arts in Teaching Elementary and Special Education student.

This
semester I have learned a lot about myself as a student. My professors in my
classes all had very different ways of teaching. Not all of my professors this
semester varied their styles of teaching, which made learning some of the
materials very difficult. I had some professors that provided visual, auditory
and kinesthetic techniques into each class, as well as a professor who solely
lectured for the duration of the class. I decided to choose this topic because,
as teachers, we need to be aware of the learning styles of all students and how
to accommodate these learning styles to promote success for all students. Before
we can look at how to teach one discipline we must examine how to teach in
general. We cannot create specific learning strategies for one subject until we
have an idea of how our students learn.

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One
of my professors is the Director of Special Services in the school district she
works in. She noted that as an educator and an administrator she never wants to
see teachers just stand in front of their students and talk at them for the
duration of the class. In her course she incorporates the strategies she is
teaching to provide interactive examples on how to implement varied styles of
teaching. For example, when discussing the Jigsaw concept of learning, she had
us read a section of an article in groups, take notes, and then report it to a
new group and listen to what the information they gathered from their section
of the article. She also taught about using graphic organizers and how to
incorporate them into our lessons. She then provided us with the opportunity to
read a section in an article and complete the various graphic organizers she
provided for us. She presented us with strategies and then gave us the
opportunity to use these strategies ourselves. As a future educator I think it
is important to understand what it means to be an inclusive and effective
teacher. I need to be aware of the most effective ways to reach all of my
students.

Every
student learns differently. As discussed in class, Howard Gardner identified
seven distinct intelligences. There are visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic,
musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical
learners, and they will all be present in my future classroom. Gardner’s theory
has emerged from recent cognitive research and “documents the extent to
which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember,
perform, and understand in different ways,” according to Gardner (Lane, C
2008). According to this theory, “we are all able to know the world
through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation,
musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an
understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where
individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called
profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are
invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and
progress in various domains (Lane, C. 2008).”  Gardner says that these differences
“challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the
same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices
to test student learning (Lane, C. 2008). Gardner also argues that students
learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students
– and perhaps the society as a whole – would be better served if disciplines
could be presented in a number of ways and learning could be assessed through a
variety of means (Lane, C. 2008).

Keeping
Howard Gardner’s seven distinct intelligences in mind when creating my lessons,
it is important to include strategies that are conducive to all learning
styles, as not all learners are linguistic learners, for example. I know that I
am a visual-spatial and bodily-kinesthetic learner and require visual aids and
hands-on activities to fully understand the material being presented to me.
Being aware of the learning styles of my students will help ensure that they
can comprehend the material that is being presented, rather than getting lost.
I do not fully comprehend material that is being presented, solely, in a
lecture format. I get lost and distracted and walk away with no new knowledge
because I am not fully engaged when being lectured. When professors lecture for
the duration of the class I feel like Lionel and Lucy from Charlie

Brown,
where their teacher can be heard saying “Wah wa-wah wah.”

 

To advocate for myself as
a student I will approach the professors about adding more visuals to their
lectures, or provide detailed feedback, when asked to do so, throughout the
semester. I appreciate when a professor provides PowerPoint slides to follow
along with the lecture and this allows me to follow along, stay engaged, and
record notes. Sometimes, however, even with providing the information about my
learning style right away, they still do not change their teaching. When this
is the case I will limit my distractions in the classroom, such as, putting
away my phone, and only having the online readings or agendas available on my
computer. Lectured style teaching still makes it difficult for me to learn and
I tend to get though the course by just completing the required readings and
the assignments. I don’t always come away from the class lectures with new
information because all I hear is “Wah wa-wah wah.”

At
the present time I am not a teacher, however, I am using my experiences as a
student to acquire the knowledge to create a classroom that would allow all of
my future students the opportunity to succeed. Being aware of my own learning
style will remind me to create diverse and differentiated lessons that will
reach all of my future students. I know that because I do not learn well by
just being lectured to, I cannot stand in front of my future classroom and
lecture to them. I will need to provide lessons that incorporate activities and
strategies for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. I have also learned
that in order to be an effective teacher I must be clear and specific with my
expectations. My future students will not be able to read my mind, they cannot
not look into a crystal ball, as shown in the meme below, and see what I want
them to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must be explicit and
tell my future students exactly what it is that I expect from them in their
work. I must provide my students with clear assignment descriptions and
opportunities to ask questions about the assignments. When giving assignments,
I have learned, that I must make the directions easy to understand and provide
my future students with examples of what I will be looking for. I had a
professor this semester who was not always clear with their expectations for
assignments which led to confusion among the class. Not having the expectations
clearly stated out prior to the start of the assignment, for me, made it
difficult to understand what exactly it was I was supposed to be doing. To
alleviate confusion for and take learner responsibility, I would ask for
clarification on the assignments in order to be success in the class. Having
the clear instructions and expectations provided by the professor prior to the
start of the assignments would have drastically reduced confusion for me and
the other students in the class. Providing my future students with examples and
clear expectations from the start of each assignment will ensure that they are
successful and meet the expectations of the assignments.

Throughout
this semester, we have discussed that every student learns differently and to
reach all of our students, we need to create an inclusive classroom environment.
We discussed that creating an inclusive environment for general education
teachers is difficult because general education teachers lack the training in
teaching special education. However, being a future Special Educator, I can
take the strategies I learn from this course, as well as my other Graduate
courses and create an effective and inclusive classroom. With the proper
training and education

In
The College of New Jersey course SPED 501, Learning and Behavior Problems of
Children and Youth with Disabilities, Dr. Jerry Petroff wrote in a
presentation, that it is important to recognize the diversity of learners. He
wrote in order to recognize the diversity of learners, we must expect
variability among our students and use tools of curriculum and instructional
design to meet ALL of their needs. In this class we also discussed what it
meant to be average. We were asked to think about what an “average student”
might be, and how we would teach to this student.

Dr.
Petroff then showed a TEDx Talk by Todd Rose on The Myth of Average. Todd Rose
noted in his TEDx talk that if we taught to the average student, we would never
reach all of our students. He used the example of the Airforce and their
dilemma on designing a functioning cockpit, to note that average is not most
people. It was discussed in this course that we cannot teach to the average
student because when we do this, we are not reaching enough of our students.
Todd Rose noted that we need to design to the edges of our students learning
profiles in order to nurture the potential of our students. Todd Rose also
pointed out in his TEDx Talk that if you design your learning environment on
average, odds are you designed these environments for no one. We are creating
environments for our students that are destroying their talent because our
gifted students get bored in our classes and weaknesses in learning for other
students make it harder for us to see and nurture these student’s talents.

We
assume that all of our students are reading at grade average, Todd Rose noted
that this is in fact, not true. He points out, for example, that the student
who is gifted in science will struggle because the text books assume that they
are reading at grade level. For this gifted student it turns science class into
a reading test and the student then loses interest because they cannot read the
textbook. Todd Rose noted that we have access to a variety of technology to use
in our classroom that goes beyond the text book.  He also states, we have a chance to use this
technology to create learning environments that are so flexible that they truly
can nurture the potential of every individual. The technology of textbooks does
not allow for anything other than average. Newer technology (iPads, computers,
etc.) allows us as educators to go beyond average, but Todd Rose notes, that we
do not let it. Todd Rose tells us, as educators, that we must ban the average
and teach to the edges (of the students’ learning profiles), in order for all
students to be as successful as they possibly can be.

When
watching this TEDx talk it allowed me to stop and think about the various
components of technology I can incorporate into my future classroom. There are
many different Augmentative Communication Devices that can be provided to my
future students if they cannot speak on their own. For those who cannot hear or
have difficulty with reading comprehension audio books are available. Students
are now provided with Chromebooks or iPads for academic use. I will be able to
provide digital notes for the students who have a hard time with hand-writing.
A lot of these resources are free or can be paid for through the school to use
the technology to help nurture the potential of all of my suture students.

In
The College of New Jersey course SPED 612, Curriculum and Methods for Students
with Mild Disabilities, Professor Linda Attanasio asked us to create a
Philosophy of Inclusion. This assignment asked us to think about our ideas of
inclusion and how we will implement these ideas in our future classrooms. My
Philosophy of Inclusion is as followed:

I believe that every student has the right to a
full education in a safe and inclusive school where they are given the
opportunity to grow emotionally, physically, socially and intellectually
regardless of their uniqueness and their background. I believe that every
student has the capacity to be successful not only in school but also in life;
every individual has a gift and a contribution to offer to his/her community. A
teacher’s role is to help students to find their gift so that they become
confident and thriving individuals.

It is the responsibility of the school and
school’s staff to provide a conducive and welcoming learning environment. The
foundation of a good school is respect. A safe and comfortable school
environment is ensured with no bullying, the inclusion of restorative justice
and obtaining a community of care. I strongly believe that respect is a two-way
street. The adults of a school are the role models and they need to respect the
students in order to receive it back. When the element of respect is present in
a school, the students have a good learning and social environment and the
staff will enjoy going to work every day.

In my future classroom, my main goal for my
students is for them to have the opportunity to succeed to their full
potential. I believe that every student has the capacity to progress and
flourish regardless of their differences. When teachers come across a student
who is not doing well in a subject, it is the teacher’s responsibility to find
the cause of this. It could be a learning disability, a personal issue or the
student is just not engaged in the lessons. Whatever the case may be, the
teacher needs to find a technique that will help the student continue their
studies successfully.

Educators should have high expectations for their
students. Teachers need to show confidence in their students, because if they
do not, then the students will not have self-confidence. Without
self-confidence, I believe students do not progress to their full potential.
They will second guess themselves and lose determination. It is important that
we help our students dream and conquer their dreams. Many times, all they need
is that extra push and support to get them to where they want to be.

When walking into my classroom, everyone should
feel welcomed into a class community. Respect for one another and the
environment we find ourselves in is the focal component that will keep all the
pieces of the puzzle together. Leading by example is the best thing teachers
can do for our students. As teachers, we need to take into consideration the
interests, the diversity and efforts that our students demonstrate. We need to
promote equity, a desire and passion to learn and explore and engage in the
knowledge that is out in the world. However, educators need to bear in mind
that our students are very unique and diverse and that includes the way in
which they learn. Thus, as a teacher, I will incorporate various methods and
styles of teaching. By including these various teaching methods, students will
be able to learn with their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

Being an educator is about taking your students
for whom they are and finding their way of learning so that they may find what
their contribution to the community and society will be.

I’ve
decided to include my Philosophy of Inclusion in this essay because I think it
really highlights what I hope my classroom will be like for my students. I aim
for an inclusive and effective learning environment for my students. I
incorporate ideas of learning, community and success within my philosophy. By
aiming to incorporate various methods and styles of teaching I will be able to
provide all students with the information for my class in a way that they will
all understand. If a student has a question about an assignment or something we
are discussing I cannot explain the answer in the exact same way I presented
the information the first time.

If my future student does
not understand I need to come up with another way to present the information to
them, so they can comprehend the material. By explaining the information, the
exact same way, just as the meme describes above, my future student will still
be confused and will not have an answer to their question.

In
my Philosophy of inclusion above I write, “I believe that every student has the right to a full education in a safe
and inclusive school where they are given the opportunity to grow emotionally,
physically, socially and intellectually regardless of their uniqueness and
their background. I believe that every student has the capacity to be
successful not only in school but also in life; every individual has a gift and
a contribution to offer to his/her community. A teacher’s role is to help
students to find their gift so that they become confident and thriving
individuals.” I mention this as a part of my philosophy because, as we
discussed differentiation in class, the idea that all children deserve the same
status regardless of their needs is an idea that resonates strongly with me. I
do agree with the notion that an inclusive classroom is not the most
appropriate setting for all students with learning needs, however, I also agree
that where it is appropriate, every student has the right to a full education
in a safe and inclusive school where they are given the opportunity to grow
emotionally, physically, socially and intellectually regardless of their
uniqueness and their background. 

Many
of my Graduate classes, thus far, have provided me with the necessary tools to
write this philosophy. I have used my own experiences in my classes to create
an over-all goal that I hope provides a classroom where my students will be
successful. My courses have provided
me with a tool box full of knowledge about how to be the best teacher I can
possibly be for my students. My experiences in my Graduate classes this
semester have helped shape my definition of being an inclusive and effective
teacher. I hope to provide my students with a learning environment where they
can thrive. 

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