Friday, October 21, 2016

Re-thinking My Teaching for Very Special Students

Line Study in Paint
I'm entering my 23rd year of teaching in a large urban school district, and I am reminded of the excitement and wonder of those first few years of teaching as a new teacher in the district. I'm in a new school this year, but it is a very special school. The students have a variety of needs that are beyond what can be addressed in a typical school. They are a part of a school that takes extra care to give them the real life experiences they will need in order to be contributing citizens in the community. Students learn how to interact with others and how to take care of themselves. They learn how to get to work by various modes of transportation and then they get to work (volunteer) at businesses such as Shoppers and Old Navy. This experience is invaluable for the students and their families.

My students have multiple disabilities ranging from physical, intellectual, cognitive, and social to emotional. Many students have autism and/or asperger syndrome. These challenges are at the forefront of everything I plan for my students. Everything from how you lay a pencil or marker on a table to accommodate a student's grip, to your voice quality and how you state a direction or phrase a question. How do you plan art activities for students who do not have well-developed gross or fine motor skills? Students who are non-verbal, deaf or hard or hearing, or legally blind? Differentiation is  not a negotiable with this group. Each student must be part of the planning for every lesson. 

Teaching art to this group of students is making me re-think methods of doing things, how I set-up my room, how I prep materials, how I state objectives, how I need to  modify tools, materials, or desktops to make every project accessible to every student. I think it is making me a better teacher. I know it is making me a happy teacher! I can feel the creativity and passion when I work with these students, and it is amazing.

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