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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

How To Resourcefully Create A Climate Of Trust
Sharon Pettey-Taylor

“Education must not simply teach work, it must teach life”— W.E.B. DuBois

Nothing is more gratifying than embracing the professional wisdom of a colleague who has mastered the art of teaching and who joyously reaps the rewards of such fruitful labor each and every day. This commitment has now translated into many years of dedicated service. As a Special Education Specialist, Ms. Brenda Doldron of Boys and Girls High School, in Brooklyn, NY, continues to be supportive of beginning and experienced teachers alike. Without hesitation, she willingly participated in the following brief interview:

SPT: Ms. Doldron, it is a sheer delight to visit your resource room to sharpen my skills in conceptualizing how to approach meeting the diverse learning needs of all students. Just entering your learning environment reminds me of how important it is to “create a physical environment that engages all students.”  Your spacious, colorful, well-arranged resource room is reflective of ongoing learning and positive student interactions that support the process of teaching and learning.

In the words of our Principal, Mr. Bernard Gassaway, one of the realities that “students welcome [is] praise. They never tire of positive reinforcement. Students have a lot to say. They want to express themselves. While [students] want to share with adults how they perceive the world, adults are busy trying to interpret the world for them.” Fortunately, when students attend your classes in the resource room, you do listen –  as students openly share their views on a variety of compelling issues.

I have always felt that the Resource Room Model was highly effective in allowing students to process and experience the inter-curricular approach to learning, in a differentiated way. It is also an environment well-recognized for allowing students to set their own pace for increased understanding of various subject matters. I have also come to believe that trustful facilitation on the part of the teacher is essential to moving forward with the students. Am I correct in my thinking?

BD: Yes. I agree that this instructional model works very well for the simple reason that students connect with other students, with other subjects and with the teaching staff. The resource room, in actuality, gives the students a chance to look at a subject topic in its entirety. We often:

  • research the topic using the computer
  • share the content of the topic with other students
  • collaborate with varying ideas
  • have one-on-one conferences
  • work at a pace – not rushing through the assignment; and
  • spend more time in improving the writing process and vocabulary enhancement.

SPT: Do you find that your students appreciate the more individualized attention that you are able to provide?

BD: Yes. The students and I both appreciate the one-on-one chance to interact with each other. I find it boosts their confidence and helps them to become more productive. Due to the close and personal bond that is naturally created through this model, I am able to identify their strengths and areas of need with more accuracy. Not only are their academic concerns addressed but this helps in managing their emotional needs as well.
Also, an atmosphere of non-competitiveness is encouraged. Student behavior is aligned to focusing on the task at hand. For the most part, the resource room is designed to provide additional services in a small group setting -- preferably not to exceed 10-12 students per period.

SPT: What suggestions would you offer to the many beginning teachers determined to succeed in blending the academic and emotional development of special need students?

BD: I would first advise that beginning teachers get to know their students on a personal level. You may do this by giving students, in the first few days of the term, an evaluation e.g. a questionnaire, that enables teachers to get an overall picture of their students’ special needs and desires.
Beginning teachers can also compare the personality traits of their students and discover various attributes that they may share. For example, shyness, outspokenness or perhaps gifted talents such as singing, dancing, playing an instrument, writing, poetry, etc. It is essential to respect the “multiple intelligences” of your students, and in turn, you will receive their respect.

Initially, students will respond to teachers’ communication skills – tone of voice; ability to be objective; and particularly, avoiding favoritism of any kind. Being cognizant of students’ goals and expectations will go a long way in helping students to assume responsibility for themselves and for each other.

SPT: Ms. Doldron, I couldn’t help but notice at least ten attendance plaques awarded to you on an annual basis. That’s quite impressive! Do you think your students have indirectly benefited from your outstanding “Perfect Attendance?”

BD: In terms of modeling the behavior we expect our students to follow, I find it has served as a positive, motivational tool. I always let my students know that by achieving their high attendance goals, they will also receive recognition – such as, certificates and other tokens of acknowledgement and appreciation.

SPT: Ms. Doldron, that certainly corresponds with many of our Professional Teaching Standards “reflecting on our instructional successes to move our practice forward.” Thank you, again, for generously giving of your time, knowledge and experience in the flow of a very busy, fulfilling day in the resource room.

BD: It was my pleasure.

REFERENCES:

Gassaway, Bernard. Reflections of an Urban High School Principal. XenoGass ALG.
Jamaica, NY (2006).

Lambert, Sr. Ron B. The Human Element. Laronet Publications, Savannah, GA (2005).

Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning. Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning. Developing as a Professional. The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Many thanks to the students, staff and administration of Boys and Girls High School, Brooklyn, NY:
Bernard Gassaway, Principal
Christopher Smith, AP Organization
Carmen Walston, AP - English/Foreign Language Departments
Margaret McNeil-Rosado, Academy Director, Prep For Success Academy
Jennifer Prensky, Coordinator of Instructional Support Services

Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.

 

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