learning disabilities

Cheri - DAMASCUS, Maryland
Entered on August 15, 2008

In class I saw the tail end of a video by Mr. Richard Levoie. I truly enjoyed his analogy about “poker chips” in relation to self esteem and how parents and educators should always give positive feedback to children. Because each time we give positive constrictive feedback we give more chips/self esteem and if we even give one negative comment to a child we will take away too many chips.

Prior to becoming an educator in 2007 I was a federal employee for over 6 years; I had a secure, high paying, very comfortable job with my own office. I believed it was my calling to be an educator and contribute to my community. In my experience I believe it would be beneficial for students with learning disabilities to be integrated as much as possible in the general class room and receive accommodation. All classes should have co-teaching one special educational teacher and one general educator teacher working together. Also parents and educators must collaborate with each other for the best interest of the student.

How I put my words into practice every day at the start of class I stand at the front door of my classroom and greet each of my students (for example, “hi”, “nice shirt”, “I missed you yesterday when you were absent, are you ok?”, “how is your foot now?”, “ready for the prom this weekend?”, “ how was your camp trip?” etc.) so if the student had a bad day because of another teacher putting him/her down or for any other reason, my students will feel that in my class they are welcome and they are in a happy and safe learning environment.

My role as an educator is to give as many poker chips as possible to each and every one of my students everyday by making a personal connection with each student and showing them I truly care. Cheering someone else up and making a difference in their life is the biggest reward I can ever have. Last year I made sure I was available for my students every working day during lunch and after school for help with their assignments, questions, or if they just wanted to stop by and talk to me about something personal that was bothering them. By showing my students that I was there for them I believe I gave my students a sense of security.

If we do not capitalize on the strengths of individuals with disabilities, instead of them becoming contributors to society, they will become an even greater burden on society. Whether society likes it or not, individuals with disabilities are not going away to some deserted island. They are a part of our everyday life and we cannot turn our back on them and say they are someone else’s problem. The best remedy is to give them the tools they need to succeed and to give them accommodations which may mean only a little extra time to get the task done.

I make sure to include all my students with disability as much as possible during class. For example I know that Kenny is a student with autism and he does not like to stand and present in front of the class, but he does a nice job creating a PowerPoint presentation, so instead of having him stand in front of the class, I show the class how well Kenny has done on this assignment. Another way is to give accommodations to students without making it noticeable to the entire class. For example, Kenny needs frequently sensory breaks so instead of my announcing it in front of the entire class “Kenny can go and take a sensory break”, I simply say, “Kenny, can you go to front office and get some paper clips for me?” To not make it obvious, I would ask other students to do similar tasks.

Yesterday for the first time I really noticed the words of a song that I have heard many times in the past, but did not listen to the words. It’s by Christina Aguilera; the lyrics say, “I am beautiful… no matter what they say…words can’t bring me down… I am beautiful in every single way.” I believe this song is stating the same message as Mr. Levoie. Modeling Mr. Levoie’s theory of how each child should fee every day. My job as an educator is to show empathy and unconditional regard at all times to all my students. And give to my students more then I take away by giving more opportunity for the students with disability to learn and find out what they excel in and capitalize on it. I am also a mother and my actions towards my own daughter’s education is how I will treat other people’s children in my class and how I will value their education.