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Meeting Students Where They Are

November 3, 2015 / by Geneviève DeBose

Tch Laureate Team

This is the first in Geneviève DeBose's Getting Better Together series, Meeting Students Where They Are. Geneviève and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

Do you provide unique seating for students who may need something other than that hard chair in which to learn? Do you gather around the table with colleagues to look closely at every student's IEP, ask questions, and share strategies so you can best meet each student’s needs? Do you differentiate worksheets so that some have sentence starters and word banks for the students who may need them?

Do you utilize the paraprofessionals in the room so that more students have support from an adult when they need it? Do you ask families what works best for their children? Do you ask students what works best for them? Do you allow students who struggle with writing their responses to use keyboards and computers to type them instead?

If someone had asked me these questions in the past, I would have answered yes to a few of them, but definitely not all of them. I'm in my twelfth year of teaching and I've always taught students with diverse needs. I recognize and fully accept that we learn in diverse ways, we process information uniquely, and that each of our brains and bodies are distinct and create meaning in their own ways. While I've always known this, I don’t think I've done the best job of meeting the needs of my diverse learners.

This year, I've set the goal to get better at meeting my students where they are and uniquely supporting them to get to where they want to go. It's also incredibly fitting that I have more students with exceptional needs than I ever have before: 34% of our seventh grade students have been classified as students with special needs, and 13% are currently classified as English Language Learners. The theme for our classroom this year is "We are Continual Learners." My students and I are working to learn as much as we can about the world, about each other, and about ourselves. Through the texts we read, the guest speakers we engage with, the fieldwork that takes us out of the building to learn, and our own exploration, we have set the goal to never stop learning.

How fitting that this year I'm a Teaching Channel Laureate, working to get better together with the support of my laureate and Teaching Channel community, my school colleagues, and teachers across the world. I hope you'll travel with me on this journey as I learn new strategies to support my students, implement them, and reflect on the process. I hope you'll engage with me to help me meet the needs of my students with learning disabilities, ADHD, mood disorders, speech or language impairment, emotional disturbance, and autism. I'll share my process through blogs, #TchLIVE Twitter chats (I'm leading one on Nov. 19th - stay tuned for more info), videos, and hopefully student-created reflections.

We've all had – or have even been – that student who just doesn't "get it" the way a teacher teaches it. This year is about reducing the amount of those students in my classroom. I want all of my scholar activists to "get it" because they've engaged in their learning in a way that works for them. It definitely won't be easy, but I know we'll learn more and get better as a result.

Topics: Professional Learning, Class Culture, Differentiation, Engagement

Geneviève DeBose

Written by Geneviève DeBose

Geneviève is an educator, artist, and activist who has taught middle school for over a decade. She is a proud National Board Certified Teacher and U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow. Geneviève strongly believes that education is a tool for social justice and empowerment, and that learning experiences for children should be culturally relevant, student-centered, and interactive. She started her teaching career as a 1999 Teach for America corps member and currently serves as a commissioner on the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Geneviève is a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists in New York City. Connect with Geneviève on Twitter: @GenevieveDeBose.

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