EDSP 6644 BLOG 2 Principles of HOPE

EDSP 6644     BLOG 2         Principles of HOPE

HOPE PRINCIPLE: “O” “Offer an organized and challenging curriculum”

O2—Offer appropriate challenge in the content area–Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt curricula that are standards driven so students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.

My focus as a high school teacher who works primarily with students who have a learning disability, is often centered on helping each student to know their strengths, understand what they have difficulties with, and to be able to articulate and access the type of support they require to engage in the general education setting. Often, these accommodations may be to address reading, math, or written language or behavioral needs and may or may not include the use of assistive technology. At times, I find that students have a tendency to rely on accommodations that may have been put into their IEP in earlier grades, when in reality they have “outgrown” the need for a specific support. In my thirty years as a special education teacher, I have found that among my greatest delights are experiences of watching students “re-frame” the way they view themselves—learning that they are more capable than they had previously believed. This transformation within—derived from “self-acceptance”–can have a dramatic and positive impact on promoting social acceptance by their peers.

In a recent discussion post, one of my colleagues articulated some very good questions: How do you give your students a more realistic view of their abilities? How do you help them see what they are truly capable of and what they still need work on? How do you keep students motivated to grow and improve when they are so focused on what they can’t do?

Even after my years in the classroom, I continue to wrestle with these very questions and find that the “answers” are never as “cut and dried” as I might like. Instead they are often as “individual” as my students. For example, last year one of my students –who has a disability in math–wanted to take Chemistry and signed up for it during registration. His mom called me within the first few days of school and was very concerned that he would not be able to handle the course. The solution we arrived at (based on discussion with the student and teacher) was to arrange for the option of a Pass/Fail grade. When we offer this option, we always include that if the student is able to achieve the level of a letter grade by the end of the course—the student may select the grade they prefer. Often, the presence of the “safety net” gives the student the extra courage to exceed everyone’s expectations. This particular student ended up with a C-/D+ (with accommodations) and was very pleased with his experience and what he had learned.

Another classic example of the safety net I encounter with my 11th graders pertains to state testing. If as a 10th grader a student has reached a Level 2 status in their area of need (which counts as “passing” if addressed in their IEP)—but their score is only a few points away from a Level 3–I will present the student with the option of taking the test again. For some—the experience of retaking the test is so stressful that they opt to not retest. Other students, knowing that they have already attained what is required for graduation in terms of state standards, make the decision to try to raise their score. This is especially appealing for students who may only qualify in one area such as writing, for example. If they have already scored at a Level 3 in Reading and Math and are only a few points away in Writing, a raised score could result in earning a Certificate of Academic Achievement versus a Certificate of Individual Achievement.

Although I always inform students and their families of the various options available to them–based upon their IEP goals–solutions to many of the problems students encounter in the school setting are dependent upon what the student feels comfortable with.

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