Ms. H's Teaching Portfolio

Rooted in the study of Social Geography & History, I believe learning happens in a vortex of space, place and time!

First Day of My Final Year in UNBC’s School of Education!

Joining all the kiddos out there, posing for the “mandatory” 1st day of school photo 🙂

It is hard to believe that year one is done and year two has begun!

Year one was no easy feat! The days were long and hard, and it was a constant challenge to juggle my three kids’ school and extracurriculars with my own schooling, as well as working as an uncertified teacher on call, but I did it!! We all survived and, although the days were long, the year flew by!

I am sure this second year is going to be just as challenging, if not more challenging (with two long practicums, coursework, and final assignments), and go by just as fast! This time, however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

With only T-minus eight months until graduation day, there is not only light at the end of the tunnel, but opportunity! As a certified teacher, I will have the opportunity to get my own classroom; to bid on a continuing contract; to say goodbye to student life and hello to solely working/professional life!

I am so, so, so looking forward to May 2022…to juggling one less thing and wearing one less hat! But, until then, I better buckle in and hold on tight because these next eight months are gonna be wild!!

Third & Fourth Semesters in the Books!!

Phew, that was a tough four months! The Spring and Summer intersessions were no joke! They were super condensed and left little (to no) room for anything (or anyone) outside of the program!

Thankfully, I adore my Quesnel BEd peeps! They made the group projects bearable (LOL), helped me maintain some semblance of sanity, and kept me accountable to the many independent tasks that could have been put on the back burner in favour of enjoying the lovely spring and summer weather 😉

And, thankfully, I had my family and friends outside the program who understood, were patient, and gave me the time and space I needed to get my assignments done! They could have disowned me, but instead they offered me amazing support, encouragement, and love! I could not be any luckier to be surrounded by the people that I am!!

Now, to enjoy every minute that is left of summer…it may only be a few weeks, but I will make the most of it with the people that I love and who are there for me on this journey!

Spending some much needed time with family & friends!
Soaking in Summer!!

EDUC 336 Reflection #4 – ADHD, ODD, Conduct Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Depression & Brian Injuries 

Introduction

I found this week’s assigned readings and viewings extremely beneficial and highly relevant to teaching in today’s dynamic classrooms.  I wish I had the base knowledge offered within these resources prior to beginning my career as an uncertified teacher.  Sadly, I did not receive any training (nor was I directed to such resources) and, therefore, was not fully equipped to support students with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD), anxiety disorders, depression, or brain injuries.  My only saving grace was my extensive experience with children (having been an empathetic and nurturing mother of three), which gave me the ability to get down to children’s levels and walk them through their emotions, feelings, and behaviours.  

My previous experience with children helped me gain student attention, aided in de-escalating heightened behaviours and feelings, and guided me when I needed to “sit in the muck” with a student until they were ready to get up and carry on.  However, as discussed in this week’s resources, children with ADHD, ODD, CD, anxiety disorders, depression, and brain injuries struggle above and beyond most children when it comes to executive function and managing feelings, emotions, and behaviours, which often leads to the magnification (or spiraling) of feelings, emotions, and behaviours.  Thus, despite my experience with children, there have been times when I did not know what to do or how to help a student because I was never adequately informed or trained to meet the needs of specific diagnoses.  It is with this lack of knowledge and training that I now act as a sponge and reflect upon this week’s resources!

ADHD

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder results from differences in the brain and The Understood Team (2022) does a great job synthesizing and summarizing the causes and effects of these differences.  The Team outlines how areas of the brain involved in executive functioning take longer to develop in people with ADHD; how ADHD effects women and girls just as often as men and boys; and how ADHD is genetic and tends to run in families.  The Team details the struggles that go along with ADHD, particularly around executive functioning: paying attention, self-control, sitting still, following directions, managing emotions, getting and staying organized, setting priorities, managing time, planning, remembering information long enough to use it, and shifting focus from one thing to another; but also the strengths, outlining how individuals are able to focus intently on things they find interesting and are “outside-the-box-thinkers” that (with the right support) thrive in school and in life.  

I appreciate The Understood Team’s emphasis on ADHD not being about laziness or lack of discipline, noting that “people with ADHD are often trying as hard as they can to focus and keep their impulses in check.”  As I have witnessed, and as the Team points out, fidgets, movement breaks, frequent reminders, subtle cues, reward systems, and medication are particularly helpful in managing symptoms and helping students focus and be successful in the classroom.  The evolving nature of ADHD was also evident in the Team’s article: “ADHD doesn’t just go away as people get older.  Most of the time, hyperactivity and impulsivity lessen or disappear by the teen years or a little longer.  But trouble with focus usually continues.”  They also highlight the myth of the “ADHD kid”: “the stereotype of kids with ADHD is that they’re always in motion, they’re impulsive and hyperactive, and that they act out at home and at school.  But some people with ADHD never have those symptoms [and] only struggle with focus” (2022).  

The additional video links on Understood’s website illuminate what it is like to be a child with ADHD—children saying it is like living in “la la land” with “so many distractions that make it hard to focus on the teacher and instruction”; one boy speaks of how it is “impossible to stay on task when his brain is always in overdrive”; another tells of how it helps to “doodle, fidget, or go for a lap around the school once in a while”; and another says “it’s like I can’t think, like I don’t even have a brain when I need to know what needs done first, second, third, or where I put things, where things were left, or where they need to go!”  These glimpses can help teachers better understand and meet the needs of students with ADHD.  With understanding and knowledge, we can provide structure and routine; we can ensure students have time to practice; we can break big jobs into small tasks; we can have ample patience and give students time and encouragement; we can build in movement and develop individual strategies to get, keep, and re-gain student attention (eye contact proximity, reminders, and/or cues).

CADDRA’s (2021) infographic is another wonderful resource to consult, utilize, and disseminate to ensure that there is adequate ADHD awareness, knowledge, and consideration in our classrooms.  CHADD’s Tips for Teachers Video Series (2022) is an additional place to start, especially when thinking about how to differentiate student work for productivity, learning, and student success; how to make accommodations for students with ADHD in the classroom and what intervention may be appropriate; and how to create a positive dialogue with parents of students with ADHD.

ODD & CD

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) are disruptive behaviour disorders that often get confused with ADHD (Morin, 2022).  Prior to this week, I do not recall reading about or hearing the terms ODD or CD.  As such, I was highly interested in Morin’s article and what she had to say about disruptive behaviour disorders in general:

All kids act up and act out from time to time. It’s normal to test limits to see when no really means no. Most kids have angry outbursts and sometimes use aggression to solve problems. These things are part of growing up and learning to be independent. Most kids learn that refusing to listen to a parent, throwing tantrums and hitting people have consequences. But some kids act angry, defiant and aggressive in spite of the consequences. If this behavior is severe and continues for six months or more, it can be a sign of disruptive behavior disorder.

Morin, 2022

What Morin had to say about ODD and CD, in particular, was also interesting: “There are two main disruptive behavior disorders—conduct disorder (CD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). They’re different from each other, although kids with CD may also have ODD” (Morin, 2022).  Morin states that “Conduct disorder is a serious condition that typically isn’t diagnosed until the teenage years”; she goes on to say that it is “believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors.”  Signs of CD include causing harm and hurting other people; lying without feeling bad about it; threatening behavior toward others (fighting, bullying, and emotional abuse); stealing and destroying things; refusing to follow rules or laws; and an overall disrespect or disregard for other people’s rights or feelings (Morin, 2022).  This is different from ODD, which typically shows up before age 8 and includes the following signs: being uncooperative on purpose; not following the rules; arguing, even about small and unimportant things; and an overall irritable and negative attitude (Morin, 2022).

Looking back on my three years of teaching, I can think of several students who fit the description of ODD, and perhaps one that fit the description of CD.  However, as Morin points out, I probably mis-diagnosed these students as having ADHD: 

Kids with ADHD can have problems following the rules and may be easily frustrated and angry, but those are just some of the many symptoms. The way the brain works in kids with ADHD makes it harder for them to stay still and to control impulsive behavior. The brain matures more slowly in kids with ADHD than in kids without. Kids with ADHD may also have lower levels of the brain chemicals that help regulate mood and movement. The result of these differences in brain development may look like disruptive behavior issues. But not all kids with ADHD have an ongoing pattern of negative behavior. Kids with ADHD may react to their environment and get upset. But kids with disruptive behavior disorder seem to be looking for arguments and ways to break rules and rebel.

Morin, 2022

Armed with this information, I am now aware and understand the differences and similarities between CD, ODD, and ADHD and will be better at distinguishing and helping students who struggle with behaviour in the classroom.

Anxiety & Depression Disorders

Anxiety and depression seem to be more prevalent in schools today than ever before, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19.  As such, it is crucial that teachers make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders and arm themselves with the knowledge and tools to help students cope and find treatment.  According to Anxiety Canada: “As educators, increasing your awareness of the impact of anxiety is important for supporting your students and yourself” (2022).  Knowing what to look for and how to address anxiety is an essential part of a teaching:

Students spend between 25-30 hours or more in school each week. As teacher or administrative staff, you’re in a position to play an essential role in identifying and assisting students with unwanted anxiety. The first step is to become educated about what anxiety disorders look like in students within the classroom setting. Anxiety specialist have identified that when a child or teen experiences anxiety more often (e.g. most days, and for months at a time), and more intensely than other peers of the same age, it is more likely that the student has an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Canada, 2022

Here, Anxiety Canada reminds us that some anxiety is normal and healthy, but too much is unhealthy and can be indicative of an anxiety disorder.  Anxiety Canada also points out that anxiety is often obvious—giving an example of a young student who cries and clings to his mother’s leg daily for months, or the student who has lost her sibling to suicide and now withdraws from others, skips class, and has difficulty concentrating—but it can also be invisible: “not necessarily noted by the busy teacher”—giving an example of the student who is performing below their capacity, is late to school most days, and is reluctant to read out loud in class, or the child who is known as the “dream student” but, unbeknownst to the teacher, spends upwards of six hours daily doing homework to perfection, has trouble sleeping due to fear of failure, and refuses to engage in non-educational activities for fear it will rob her of essential learning opportunities (2022).  

Anxiety Canada urges teachers to consult the school counselor or principal if they suspect a student is experiencing excessive, intense, or disruptive symptoms of anxiety that interferes with attendance, completing assignments, joining social, athletic, or recreational clubs, learning, making friends, or participating in class.  Once a consultation has been completed, scheduling a meeting with the student and/or their family is recommended; this allows one to gather more information and provide resources.  Knowing this process, and the steps one should follow, relieves the burden of not knowing what to do or how to handle situations involving students with anxiety.  I also appreciated Anxiety Canada’s “Caretoons” and will be incorporating them into future Health Education classes as a way to introduce mental health topics, help students recognize anxiety in their lives, teach them coping techniques, and help them realize that it is ok to ask for help.

Like anxiety (where some is ‘normal’ and healthy), it is ‘normal’ for students to sometimes feel sad, down, or to be in a bad mood; however, if such feelings last for extended periods of time, a student could be suffering from depression: “a low mood that lasts for more than a few weeks and makes it hard for a child to function at school, with friends or in their daily lives can be a sign of depression” (Kelty Mental Health, 2022).  According to Kelty Mental Health (2022), depression is a mood disorder characterized by sad, irritable feelings that last longer than a few weeks and includes the following signs and symptoms: negative thinking, changes in appetite or sleep, and loss of enjoyment in activities (2022).  Kelty Mental Health says that there is no one single cause of depression; rather, it is often due to a combination of genetics, environmental factors, psychological vulnerability, comorbidities, stressors, and biology.  More importantly, though, is that depression is a treatable condition and educators are uniquely situated to observe and intervene when depression is suspected.  Helping students seek treatment is a top priority and I am thankful for the advice offered by Kelty Mental Health.

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries range in severity depending on the area of the brain that was damaged.  I know, from personal experience with an adult who suffered a severe frontal lobe brain injury, that the road to recovery is a difficult and lengthy process.  For students, and their teachers, this road can be particularly challenging.  According to Bowen (2008), “Students who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) return to the school setting with a range of cognitive, psychological, and physical deficits that can significantly affect their academic functioning” (Abstract).  I witnessed first-hand how difficult this return to the classroom can be when a young adolescent in our community suffered a TBI and spent months in hospital before gradually returning to school—a few hours at a time, with modified workload, until full days were realized.  Still, adaptations were necessary (preferential seating near the teacher to help with focus, reduced workload, frequent reminders, one on one support with directions, etc.).  This example aligns with what Bowen outlines in his article:

Children with frontal lobe injury typically experience greater difficulty with executive function, which includes attentional processes, self-regulation, goal setting, initiating, and inhibiting behavior. Many behavior and social problems observed in children with TBI are related to executive functioning. They may also have problems with organization—planning, prioritizing, analyzing tasks, and completing a sequence of activities. Cognitive impairments can include memory problems, slowed information processing, and language disturbances. Memory impairment (recalling and retaining information) is one of the most common deficits associated with pediatric TBI

2008, Common Sequelae of TBI.

Understanding and anticipating the challenges of brain injuries and how they present in students and in the classroom is important and can help us, as teachers, structure our classrooms and environments, make necessary accommodations, seek out available resources and services, and adopt specialized teaching strategies that are beneficial to students with brain injuries.  “Although some children with brain injury experience persistent cognitive and behavioral changes, when provided appropriate resources and strategies, all students can reach maximum potential” (Bowen, 2008, Summary).

Summary

Teachers—both new and old, service and pre-service—stand to benefit from this week’s assigned readings and viewings, and many of the resources (websites and infographics) are valuable resources that can be shared with families of students (both with and without said disorders) to help spread knowledge and awareness of the strengths and stretches of students with ADHD, ODD, CD, anxiety disorders, depression, and brain injuries. 

References

Anxiety Canada. (2022). Educator Resources. Accessed August 2, 2022, from 

Bowen, J. M. (2008, July 25). Preventing School Failure. Classroom Interventions for Students with Traumatic Brain Injuries. brainline. https://www.brainline.org/article/classroom-interventions-students-traumatic-brain-injuries

CADDRA. (2021). Talking About ADHD. [Infographic].  

https://www.caddra.ca/wp-content/uploads/Copy-of-ADHD-Language-Guide-Infographic_DEC2021_CADDRA.pdf

CHADD. (2022). Teacher Training & Video Series. Tips for Teachers Video Series. Accessed August 2, 2002 at https://chadd.org/for-educators/teacher-training-video-series/

Kelty Mental Health. (2022). Depression and Depressive Disorders. Accessed August 2, 2022, from https://keltymentalhealth.ca/depression

Morin, A. (2022). The difference between disruptive behaviour disorders and ADHD. Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/the-difference-between-disruptive-behavior-disorders-and-adhd

The Understood Team. (2022). “What is ADHD?” Understood. Accessed August 2, 2022, from https://www.understood.org/en/articles/what-is-adhd

EDUC 400 Reflection #3: Robust Vocabulary Instruction

This week’s assigned podcast, ERRR #062. Margaret McKeown on Robust Vocabulary Instruction (Lovell, 2022), combined with the assigned reading, “Chapter 6: Assessing and Maintaining New Vocabulary” (Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 2013), solidified how important it is for teachers to provide students with strategically delivered and robust vocabulary instruction that goes beyond the typical word-definition instruction seen in most classrooms.  Beck, McKeown, and Kucan argue that “school vocabulary instruction tends to be dull, rather than the sort that might instigate student’s interest and awareness of words” (2013, p. 13).  The authors go on to say that “becoming interested and aware of words is not a likely outcome of the way instruction is typically handled, which is to have students look up a definition in a dictionary or glossary” (2013, p. 13).  If teachers want students to take an interest in words, and become keenly aware of their meaning and uses, they need to ensure that their vocabulary instruction rich, lively, and engaging.  Margaret McKeown, and Bringing Words to Life, can help teachers do just this!

According to McKeown, vocabulary is the basis of all communication and should form the basis of all instruction (Lovell, 2022).  As alluded to earlier, such instruction cannot be focused on definitions alone; rather, it must be robust and vigorous enough to help students with reading comprehension, be both contextual and definitional, provide students with multiple exposures and opportunities to experience words, and be interactive, engaging, and fun (Lovell, 2022).  If teachers focus on the definitions of words, students will lose out on contextual knowledge and be left with a shallow (versus deep) knowledge of words (Lovell, 2022).  McKeown’s robust approach piques students’ interest and curiosity of words and their relation to other words and helps them “own” words (2013, p. 14).  When students come to “own” words, they become part of their vocabulary repertoires and can continually be drawn upon in conversation and in writing—both inside and outside the classroom (on the playground, at home, on the sporting field, etc.)—which is the ultimate goal!

McKeown and colleagues, in Bringing Words to Life (Chapter 4 and Chapter 5), and McKeown, in the ERRR #062podcast, outline how this goal can be reached via a fairly straightforward instructional sequence.  Day one generally involves reading a text that contains six to ten “Tier 2” target words, followed by a discussion of the words (i.e. meaning of the words in the text as well as other ways the words could be used).  Days two, three, and four include verbal and visual review of target words, along with several engaging vocabulary activities: examples and non-examples, word associations, generating situations, contexts and examples, sentence stems and other writing situations, returning to story contexts, and bringing in previously learned target words.  Day five consists of an assessment, often modelled after one or two of the week’s vocabulary exercises.  McKeown stresses, in both Bringing Words to Life and in the ERRR podcast, that assessment can come in many forms, need not be overly complex, and is dependent on purpose:

A key concept here is that many different kinds of activities can serve as assessments. What undergirds a decision on the kind of assessment to be presented is the goal of learning. If you want to know whether students have learned words deeply, that will signal a different kind of assessment than if you want to whether students can recall a brief association to a word.

Beck et. al., 2013, p. 115

McKeown also stresses that learning be continual and not end at the assessment:

[T]he assessment should not be thought of as closing the door on learning a word. Students need to continue their interactions with words across a semester or school year. The more opportunities students have to think about and use the words that they are learning, the more elaborate their mental representations of the words will be. […] This includes attention both within and beyond the classroom.

Beck et. al., 2013, p. 103

McKeown provides several great suggestions to ensure that learning is continual, including: having dedicated wall space to display all learned vocabulary words; creating classroom reference resources that serve as an ongoing record of the words being learned and include word meanings and sample uses for words (i.e. a classroom dictionary and/or set of index cards, as well as individual vocabulary notebooks for older students); incorporating words into new situations and new texts; and extensions beyond the classroom (i.e. “Word Wizard” and “In the Media” challenges).  All of these suggestions help solidify students’ vocabulary repertoires while reinforcing the enjoyment of words.   

After this week, I urge teachers to take a good hard look at their vocabulary instruction and question whether what they are doing is robust enough.  If one is even remotely unsure, she/he/they should read Bringing Words to Life and listen to the ERRR #062 podcast.  There is much to take away from these resources that will greatly enrich one’s vocabulary instruction.  All students deserve robust vocabularies.  As such, all teachers must provide explicit and robust vocabulary instruction.

References

Beck, I., M.G, McKeown, and L. Kucan. (2013). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. The Guildford Press, New York, NY.

Lovell, Ollie. (2022, February 1).  ERRR #062. Margaret McKeown on Robust Vocabulary Instruction. [Podcast]. Retrieved August 2, 2022 from https://www.ollielovell.com/errr/margaretmckeown-vocab/

EDUC 400 Reflection #2: Lesson Planning for an Integrated, Cross-Curricular Unit

This week’s assigned readings, Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction (Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 2013) and The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in all Subjects and Grades(Hochman and Wexler, 2017), are extremely resourceful and lend themselves well to lesson planning in general, and integrated and cross-curricular unit planning in particular.  These books are not only helpful in Language Arts (as most would assume when they hear the words vocabulary and writing) but for all subjects in British Columbia’s redesigned curriculum.  If in doubt, all you have to do is look at my group’s integrated, cross-curricular unit— “Our Canoe Story”—and see that both resources were crucial to its planning.  Many of the books’ activity suggestions make up the backbone of our lessons, especially my English Language Arts/Drama lessons, which I titled: “Explicit Vocabulary Instruction & Reinforced Teaching via Vocab Games, Stories & Skits.”

Vocabulary is absolutely essential: “a rich vocabulary supports learning about the world, encountering new ideas, [and] enjoying the beauty of language” (Beck et. al., 2013).  As such, we knew that our integrated unit needed to begin with vocabulary instruction.  Students come from various backgrounds and hold a wide range of background knowledge, so it is important that we (as teachers) do our best to “level the playing field.”  Explicit vocabulary instruction has the power to do this; it has the power to take an individual from knowing nothing about a concept, topic, or (in our case) activity (i.e. canoeing), to knowing a great deal.  This was the goal of my series of lessons: 

In this section of the unit, which is spread over seven afternoon blocks (1 – 1.5 hours in length), students will be introduced to, and work toward mastery of, vocabulary specific to the activity of canoeing. Explicit vocabulary instruction will be provided and students will partake in several vocabulary activities/games that will reinforce prior teaching, allow for ample retrieval practice and repeated exposure, and strengthen students’ depth and breadth of vocabulary knowledge. Several stories will be read throughout the second week and students will create concept maps and skits based off of these books. Skits will be rehearsed during the last block and performed around the campfire during the overnight field trip.

In this overview, I mention ‘explicit vocabulary instruction’, ‘vocabulary activities/games’, ample ‘retrieval practice’, and ‘repeated exposure’—all things recommended and endorsed by Beck et. al.: “the operative principle for vocabulary instruction is that it be robust: vigorous, strong, and powerful in effect.  A robust approach to vocabulary involves directly explaining the meanings of words along with thought-provoking, playful, and interactive follow-up” (p. 3); adding that “multiple encounters are required before a word is really known” (p. 83).

During my first lesson, “Our Canoe Story: Vocabulary & Sentence Stems”, students are asked to perform a canoe vocabulary self-assessment intended to help them (and the teacher) assess prior knowledge.  This assessment was adapted from a chart in Bringing Words to Life, “Chapter 1: Rationale for Robust Vocabulary Instruction” (p. 18).  Upon completion of the self-assessment (attached for reference), the teacher walks students through a PowerPoint that discusses each vocabulary word, complete with a student friendly definition, example, and picture (also attached for reference). Beck et., al. continuously emphasize the importance of student friendly definitions and examples throughout “Chapter 4: Bringing Vocabulary into the Earliest Grades” and “Chapter 5: Instructional Sequences for Later Grades.”  The use of a vocabulary notebook is encouraged (Beck et., al., p. 96), which is why I chose to provide students with a “Canoe Story Journal”, complete with student friendly definitions and sentence stems for each vocabulary word.

Over the course of my lessons (and the unit), words are re-visited multiple times to help students successfully navigate unit concepts.  Students receive explicit instruction on sentence stems (which I alluded to earlier) and are asked to complete a sentence stem for each vocabulary word.  Sentence stems are another activity highly touted in Bringing Words to Life (Chapter 1, pp. 14-15; Chapter 4; Chapter 5) and in TWR (pp. 40-41).  Having students write about the words they are learning is key and using the contractions: becausebut, and so (highlighted in TWR) are favoured since they “reinforce crucial vocabulary […] while simultaneously familiarizing students with complex syntax that rarely appears in conversation” (Wexler, 2022).  These contractions “require students to think analytically” and “engage in far more specific and focused thinking than just asking them to respond to an open-ended question” (Hochman & Wexler, 2017, p. 40).  Vocabulary games are another favoured way of reinforcing vocabulary, which is why I created my second lesson: “Vocab Games – Matching, Charades & Jeopardy”, where students work in pairs to create “Canoe Vocabulary Memory Match” and participate in “Canoe Vocabulary Charades” and “Canoe Jeopardy”, both of which involve unit vocabulary.  Beck et., al. highly recommend taking advantage of games and they mention Jeopardy in Chapter 1 (p. 15).  The “Vocab Games” in my lessons are intended to solidify vocabulary knowledge and make learning the vocabulary fun and lively: “students need to develop an interest in and awareness of words in order to adequately build their vocabulary repertoires” (Beck et., al., p. 14).  

In my third lesson, “Canoe Story Read Aloud & Modeling Story Concept Mapping”, the teacher reads aloud the short, illustrated children’s book, “me and you and the red canoe” by Jean E. Pendziwol.  Following the read-aloud, the teacher draws attention to the book’s use of unit vocabulary and models how to build a concept map for the story.  In later blocks, students read stories and create concept maps of their own, which they use to make skits (to be performed at the overnight canoe trip).  Bringing Words to Life advocates strongly for using story to help build the depth and breadth of student vocabulary, specifically at our targeted grade level (i.e. 6-7): “the vocabulary work at upper grade levels can also be more rooted to a text and dealt with in a way that both teaches the words and brings enriched understanding to the text” (Beck et., al., p. 94).  

All in all, it is safe to say that this week’s assigned readings were crucial to the development of “Our Canoe Story”—especially my lessons on “Explicit Vocabulary Instruction & Reinforced Teaching via Vocab Games, Stories & Skits.”  I highly recommend adding both Bringing Words to Life and TWR in your teaching arsenal—for lesson planning in general, and integrated and cross-curricular unit planning in particular.

Supplementary Material from my Lessons

Sample of “Our Canoe Story – Assessing Prior Vocabulary Knowledge” assessment chart:

Example of student friendly definition, with example and visual depicting the vocabulary word (note: a non-example should be discussed but was not included on PowerPoint slides for fear students would hold onto incorrect information instead of correct information):

Sentence Stems:

Examples of the Sentence Stems I included in the “Canoe Story Journal”:

References

Beck, I., M.G, McKeown, and L. Kucan. (2013). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. The Guildford Press, New York, NY.

Hochman, J., and N. Wexler. (2017). The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in all Subjects and Grades. Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Brand, San Francisco, CA.

Wexler, N. (2022). “When Language Prevents Kids From Succeeding At Math.” Retrieved July 20, 2022 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliewexler/2022/06/21/when-language-prevents-kids-from-succeeding-at-math/?sh=2b68339e623d

EDUC 336 Reflection #3 – F.A.S.D, A.S.D. & Down Syndrome: People First

Phew, that was a lot to take in and is a lot to synthesize and reflect upon in a few double-spaced pages!  I took forty-five pages of notes—yes, 45—so I was like: “How am I going to tie all of this together?”; “How do I articulate and reflect my thoughts on all of these different sources?”  Thankfully, there was a distinct theme that stood out above the rest and which was evident in every single source; it kept popping up throughout the one hundred, seventy-three minutes and ninety-five seconds of audio-video (yes, I counted), and I could see that it boiled down to one important fact: individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (F.A.S.D), Autism Spectrum Disorder (A.S.D.), and Down Syndrome are, first and foremost, P.E.O.P.L.E!!  

As such, we must think of, and treat, these individuals as people—not as a disorder; not as a disease; not as a victim “suffering from” or “living with” this or that; not as someone who is ill and in need of a “cure” or “fixing”—rather, as a wholly unique person with his/her/their own strengths, struggles, interests, and abilities…just like everyone else!  Only when we treat individuals with F.A.S.D, A.S.D, and Down Syndrome as people can we begin to successfully address the second critical theme within the sources—that is, providing adequate and appropriate support (without stigma) to individuals and families.  We need a strength-based approach, one that focuses on what individuals and families can do, not what they cannot do—on the positives, on what they bring to the table, and what we can learn from them!

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – FASD

FASD is a lifelong disability that affects cognitive function (PreventionInstitute1, 2018).  All the disorders covered this week are lifelong disabilities that affect cognitive function; FASD, however, is the only one that is preventable (i.e. by mothers abstaining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy).  This brings with it a whole other set of judgements: not only do individuals with FASD battle to be seen as people first, but so do their mothers (who are often seen as addicts and users rather than as mothers).  This is where FASD education is critical: society needs to be educated and aware that there are many underlying factors facing mothers of individuals with FASD and judging them is not the least bit helpful—they already judge and blame themselves harshly (Calgary Herald, 2019).  Many women do not know they are pregnant until three months into their pregnancy and thus consume alcohol without knowing the risk to their unborn children (PreventionInstitute1, 2018 and 2020); many others are battling life’s challenges with little support from the people and community around them (Calgary Herald, 2019).  

If we continue to treat individuals with FASD and their mothers as “problems” (rather than as people), we make it harder for them to find support—leaving them too ashamed to seek and access the help and support they need to become the best people they can be.  We all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves; people with FASD and mothers of FASD children are no different!  Instead of judging and seeing individuals with FASD (and their mothers) as disruptions to society, we must educate ourselves, promote dignity and respect, and build understanding—into FASD campaigns (PreventionInstitute1, 2020); into our classrooms and approaches to teaching and learning (POPFASD, 2019); and into our language, attitudes, and behaviours (PreventionInstitute1, 2018 and 2020; POPFASD, 2019).  Adverse outcomes can be mitigated with positive supports and individuals and families can succeed!

Autism Spectrum Disorder – ASD

Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental condition that affects cognitive function (POPARD, 2022).  As with FASD, the resources on ASD stress the importance of a strengths-based approach—one that does not make assumptions, but rather focuses on the uniqueness of each autistic individual and the strengths they bring to the world around them:

Autism is often described using a diagnostic-driven, deficit-based framework. However, autism is much more than a collection of impairments! When viewed from a strength-based perspective, autism can be understood as an essential part of an individual’s identity (POPARD, 2022).  

This concept is highlighted beautifully in Five Questions about Autism (Mass General Giving, 2018) and You Can’t Ask That: Autism (CBC News Network, n.d.), wherein autistic individuals answer questions and give their input on what it is like to have Autism.  The overall consensus was this: “yes, it is often hard being autistic, but I would not change it for the world!”  Those interviewed had the same wants and needs as everyone else: to be seen as a person; to be loved, included, and respected; to feel a sense of belonging; to do what they enjoy and have opportunities to shine; to have their own voices and not be judged; and, most of all, to be understood (Mass General Giving, 2018).  With the adequate support, autistic individuals can have all of this.  And, with all of this, they will learn and thrive!

Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal condition associated with chromosome 21, with three different types identified: Trisomy 21, Translocation, and Mosaicism (Canadian Down Syndrome Society, 2022).  Like FASD and ASD, the resources on Down Syndrome stress that:

No matter which type of Down syndrome [a] child has, the effects of the extra genetic material will be unique to them. They will have their own strengths, likes, dislikes, talents, personality and temperament. Think of [them] first as a child. Down syndrome is just part of who they are (Canadian Down Syndrome Society, 2022).  

The Society stresses how important it is that we see the ability in individuals with Down Syndrome, rather than the disability.  They urge us to talk and learn from those who are different than ourselves; to be respectful and kind; to use person-first language; and, above all, to remember that a person is not “suffering” from Down syndrome—they like and do many of the same things as everyone else!

The message is clear and the evidence concrete: individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (F.A.S.D), Autism Spectrum Disorder (A.S.D.), and Down Syndrome are, first and foremost, P.E.O.P.L.E deserving of our support and respect, capable of living and thriving just like everyone else!

Together in education,

Ms. H

References

Amazing Things Project. (2017, Apr. 9). Amazing Things Happen! [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezv85LMFx2E

Calgary Herald. (2019, Apr. 24). Frank talk on the stigma of FASD at a Vancouver shelter. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hKwQQXj2lk

Canadian Down Syndrome Society. (2022). “About Down Syndrome.” [Website – Article]. Retrieved July 22, 2022 from https://cdss.ca/resources/general-information/

CBC News Network. (n.d.). You Can’t Ask That. Season 1, Episode 4: Autism. [Video]. CBC Gem. https://gem.cbc.ca/media/you-cant-ask-that/s01

POPARD. (2022). “Autism and Autistic Traits: A Strengths-Based Perspective.” [Handout]. https://autismoutreach.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Popard-Handout-Autism-and-Autistic-Traits.pdf

Mass General Giving. (2018, Apr. 9). “Five Questions about Autism.” [Video]. YouTube. 

POPFASD. (2019). FASD Through a Variety of Lenses – Episode 03 – James Reynolds. [Podcast]. https://www.fasdoutreach.ca/resources/all/f/fasd-through-variety-lenses-e03-reynolds?c=fasd-through-variety-lenses

PreventionInstitute1. (2018, Dec. 11). FASD Realities and Possibilities: The Myles Himmelreich Story. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B81BNRyrHCg

PreventionInstitute1. (2020, Nov. 4).  FASD – Let’s Change the Conversation: Challenge the Stigma. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb5A6eR_0XU

EDUC 336 Reflection #2: F.A.T. City Critical Review

Over the past thirty years, societies in general, and educators in particular, have made great gains in understanding and helping students who struggle to learn in the classroom.  Many gains are thanks to science and advancements in our scientific knowledge of the human brain and how it functions and processes information.  Understanding what is actually happening in the brains of struggling learners allows us to better help them learn—be that through different approaches and/or with additional supports.  Many other gains are thanks to inclusion and advancements in our societal attitudes and behaviours toward individuals with learning challenges.  Our values, beliefs, and preconceived notions affect our understanding and our willingness to help those who struggle.  A positive attitude, coupled with the belief that all students are worthy and capable of learning, empowers us to meet the needs of struggling learners.  How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop (Lavoie, 1989) reveals just how important science, scientific knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours are to understanding and helping students with learning disabilities succeed—in the classroom and in life.

I begin with a discussion of the latter (attitudes and behaviours) because how we, collectively and individually, think about and speak of students with learning exceptionalities is critical.  Language has the power to help or to hurt: “the language we use creates us and defines the world we live in.  The words we use also make a difference to how people see themselves, and how they exist in our world.  Words are powerful!” (Moore, 2016, p. 39).  Throughout The F.A.T. City Workshop, Richard Lavoie (director), shows just how important language is to supporting students with learning disabilities.  The film begins with Lavoie discussing and defining exclusion, arguing that “when we talk about disabled children, we talk about what he is not, rather than about what he is!”  Unfortunately, over thirty years later, this is often still the case.  Collectively, we are getting better at highlighting the positives while we seek out adaptations and modifications, but many individuals still focus on what needs “fixing” in the child.

During much of the film, I was like “wow, Lavoie is addressing concepts and using language far ahead of his time!”  But there were instances, specifically when he outlined his criteria for designating the “learning disabled child”—that is, the ones left after you take away the “mentally impaired and retarded,” the emotionally “disturbed,” the physically disabled, deaf, and blind, and those who had been denied an opportunity to learn—where his language revealed his time.  It is not that he was trying to be exclusive, but from today’s standpoint (where the words “retarded” and “disturbed” are socially unacceptable terms) his language affected how I received his message.  I had to adjust my lens and account for societal shifts in language before I could see that Lavoie whole-heartedly cared about, and was advocating for, the inclusion of children with disabilities.  He was doing his best to draw attention toward accentuating the positives; not dwelling on what learning-disabled children cannot do but instead on what they CAN do!

Lavoie advocates by walking participants through simulations, wherein he takes on his society’s bias—that learning disabled students are “lazy and dumb”; that they are unmotivated and don’t try hard enough; that they set out to “ruin classes and plans”; and that they are distractable and have low attention spans—all in the hope that participants would experience what it was like to be a learning-disabled child.   As I watched, I found myself cringing—the behaviours and language stemming for the bias were hurtful and demoralizing.  Sadly, this behaviour and language (fueled by the same underlying bias) is still evident in our schools today.  Some of what was said and done throughout the film’s simulations were, to a less blatant extent, said and done in several classrooms I observed during my observational practicum (the “lost-cause” attitude toward students, sarcasm, rhetorical questions, anxiety-inducing pressure, students being put on the spot/ridiculed when answering questions and/or reading aloud).  As a TTOC, I have overseen demoralizing behaviour and overheard hurtful language coming out of students’ mouths, as well as out of the mouths of teachers, support workers, administrators, and parents.  Said individuals would benefit from being put through the same simulations as the group in the film—perhaps at our district’s next professional development day!  Maybe then they would realize just how difficult it is to struggle with learning and understand that children with exceptionalities are capable of learning—they just need our support.  Collectively, we need to have the mindset that, “unless I presume competence in all people, I am the one who is disabled” (Moore, 2016, p. 34).  The slogan at the end of the film hit the nail on the head: “Learning Disabilities: The real challenge is educating those who don’t have one!” 

Moving to science and scientific knowledge, I was impressed with much of the information that Lavoie was giving participants regarding children with learning difficulties and anxiety (how it inhibits their learning and causes them to withdraw); processing (how the pace of the class is too fast and does not allow for adequate processing time, thus creating distractable students who disengage because they cannot keep up); risk-taking (how negative feedback without positive reinforcement kills risk-taking); perception (how everyone can see but not everyone can perceive and therefore asking a student to “look harder” or “try harder” is not the solution, explicit teaching is); motivation (how no student is motivated to do badly—all students want to do well but motivation only allows us to perform to the best of our ability); explicit teaching (how struggling students need direct instruction from experienced teachers and cannot be expected to “go in a corner and teach themselves”); reading comprehension (how it is a very complicated task that requires explicit instruction; we cannot assume that if a student understands every word in a passage that they will understand what the passage is saying—teachers must teach vocabulary and ensure that students have the necessary background knowledge to understand what they are reading); oral expression (how students with learning challenges often have dyssomnia—the tip of the tongue phenomena that makes word-finding difficult—as a result of the brain’s storage and retrieval system not functioning optimally, making speaking a cognitive task rather than an associative task); reading and decoding (how children who struggle to decode words spend so much energy decoding that they cannot comprehend or understand the content they are reading).  So many good points, each backed by current science and discussed in our program thus far.  

There was one part in the film, however, that did not jive with what we have learned and is not in line with current scientific research—that is, the information on auditory and visual capabilities.  Lavoie talks about how a learning disabled child will often come up to the teacher after receiving a worksheet and say: “I don’t understand this”; to which the teacher replies, “the instructions are right there, read them”; to which the student replies, “I did, but I still don’t understand what to do”; to which the teacher replies, “just read it, it’s all right there”; and this goes on until the teacher gets frustrated and finally tells the student what the instructions say; to which the student goes, “oh, ok” and sets off to do the work.  Lavoie claims that “these kids need to hear instructions first in order to understand what they are supposed to do!”  In an attempt to solidify his point, Lavoie walks participants through a “Can you translate this story?” activity, wherein they are asked to silently read a passage full of mis-spelled words.  When asked to translate the story, the participants are unable to do so.  Lavoie then reads the passage aloud, giving participants the information through their ears rather than through their eyes.  When asked to translate the story for the second time, the participants are able to do so.

The activity was intended to help participants relate to being an auditory (vs. visual) learner and Lavoie used it as grounds to argue that “you could have a learning-disabled student read something over and over again and they would not get it unless given some sort of auditory input.”  He went on to argue that, for this reason, auditory learners should have books on tape rather than in print.  The problem though, is that the passage participants were asked to read was incomprehensible—full of spelling mistakes and written the way a person who struggled to read would speak:

Won supporter dime wonder fodder over coat tree washer ladle bouy heroes wall king onus pompus from witty window hot chat 

Andy foulder chair retreat end tucker window ratcher end chapter dun.
Dentist popper campus trolling buy
“CHEESES PRICED!!” setee “husband shopping dun much hair treat?”
“donner buster got” sadist sun, George, “I canatoll ally idea nitwit ma window ratcher” 

Denis fodder loss distemper and tucker swish unpadded ladle judge tillers canvas ore 

Mural: Donor chapped on chair retreats. 

The activity had nothing to do with visual vs. auditory processing and everything to do with decoding.  Getting it through their ears (versus their eyes) is not the solution; rather, the solution is to learn how to decode words fluently and accurately enough to read and understand the passage as it is written:

Once upon a time walking on his property was a little boy he was walking on his Fathers farm with a little hatchet 

And he found a cherry tree and took a little hatchet and chopped it down. Then his father came strolling by. 

“Jesus Christ!!” said he “Whose been chopping down my cherry tree?”
“Don’t….” said his son, George. “ I cannot tell a lie I did it with my little hatchet”
Then his father lost his temper , and took a switch and paddled little George till his can was sore 

Moral: Do not cut down Cheery Trees 

The Simple View of Reading (from Gough, P. & Tunmer, W., 1986) tells us that reading comprehension is dependent upon word recognition x language comprehension:

Reading ability depends on both the lower level building blocks that drive printed-word recognition, including knowledge of sounds, syllables, letters, and meaningful parts of words, and the higher level aspects of language important for comprehension, including word meanings, phrases, sentences, and discourse (Moats, 2020, p. 2).

Scarborough’s Rope (in Moats, 2020, p. 15) clearly shows that proficient reading is dependent upon BOTH language comprehension (background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, literacy knowledge) AND word recognition (phonological awareness, decoding, sight recognition of familiar words).  Skilled reading—fluent execution and coordination of word recognition and text comprehension—comes when language comprehension is increasingly strategic and word recognition is increasingly automatic.  So, contrary to what Lavoie claimed, visual capability is not the problem and auditory support not the sole solution.  The problem is unskilled reading and the solution lies in getting behind the “Science of Reading” movement and putting it into practice!

Together in education,

Ms. H

References

Moats, L.C. (2020). Speech to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Moore, Shelley. (2016). One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion

Rosen, P. (Producer), Lavoie, R. D. (Director), Eagle Hill School Outreach., Peter Rosen Productions, & PBS Video. (1989).  How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop. [Motion Picture].  YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3UNdbxk3xs

EDUC 400 Reflection #1: How to Assist Students who Struggle with Math in the Early Years

In this week’s assigned readings, a number of valid points were addressed, and several strategies offered, to assist students who struggle with mathematics in the early years (and beyond).  In the article, “When Language Prevents Kids From Succeeding At Math,” Wexler (2022) makes a number of valid points, many of which were addressed thoroughly in EDUC 397, and which we continue to address in this course.  The first point worth noting is how “students who don’t read well or lack crucial vocabulary often face unnecessary obstacles—not just in reading but also in math.”  When a student struggles with oral language comprehension, their ability to understand math problems is stemmed.  Simply put: “if you can’t read a math problem, you can’t solve it.  And even if you can read it—or listen to someone else read it—if you don’t have the vocabulary you need to understand it, you’re also out of luck” (Wexler, 2022).  

Wexler cites an instance where a student did not know what combine or before meant (and therefore probably struggled with other mathematical vocabulary) and whose lack of understanding was interfering with his ability to do assigned math.  I have often run into this problem while teaching and have dealt with countless students who could not solve math problems because they did not understand what was meant by the words combinesumproductquotienttotaldecreaseincreasededuct, and so forth.  Not knowing essential mathematical vocabulary completely halted the students’ ability to solve the math problems I was asking them to do.  As such, and as Wexler argues, it is crucial that we provide explicit teaching of the math vocabulary involved in the problems we expect our students to solve.  Just like in learning to read (where students should only be expected to read the “code” they have been explicitly taught), learning in mathematics must account for students’ prior knowledge and understanding of explicitly taught math vocabulary.

One strategy to help build students’ vocabulary, as outlined briefly in Wexler’s article and more substantially in The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in all Subjects and Grades (Hochman and Wexler, 2017), is to have students write about the mathematical concepts they are learning: “an effective approach for many students is to use explicit instruction that is embedded in whatever math content they’re learning, beginning at the sentence level to modulate the heavy cognitive burden writing imposes” (Wexler, 2022).  Sentences using the three contractions: becausebut, and so (highlighted in The Writing Revolution) are favoured because they “reinforce crucial vocabulary and math concepts while simultaneously familiarizing students with complex syntax that rarely appears in conversation” (Wexler, 2022).  Wexler leaves the reader with this: “it’s clear we need to remove whatever barriers to learning that we can.  And ensuring that kids can read and understand their math problems shouldn’t be all that difficult.”  I would add that it can be difficult, but it is absolutely essential if we want our students to succeed in math! 

Moving to the second reading of the week, “Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Intervention in the Elementary Grades” (IES, 2021), I found several more helpful strategies for math intervention and general instruction.  Despite it being an American publication, all recommendations can be applied in a northern B.C. classroom, including: 

  • Recommendation 1: Systemic Instruction (i.e., math instruction is provided systematically, instructional elements intentionally build students’ knowledge over time toward an identified learning outcome, reviewing and integrating previously and newly learned content is highlighted to maintain understanding of concepts and procedures, adequate verbal and visual supports for students to learn and understand new concepts and procedures is emphasized, as well as immediate and supportive feedback to students in order to address any misunderstandings).
  • Recommendation 2: Mathematical Language (i.e., as outlined by Wexler, routinely teaching mathematical vocabulary to build students’ understanding of the mathematics they are learning is key, in addition to using clear, concise, and correct mathematical language throughout lessons to reinforce students’ understanding of important mathematical vocabulary words, and supporting students in using mathematically precise language during verbal and written explanations of problem solving).
  • Recommendation 3: Representations (i.e., providing students with the concrete and semi-concrete representations that effectively represent the concept or procedure being covered, connecting concrete and semi-concrete representations to abstract representations, providing ample and meaningful opportunities for students to use representations to help solidify the use of representations as “thinking tools”, and revisiting concrete and semi-concrete representations periodically to reinforce and deepen understanding of mathematical ideas).
  • Recommendation 4: Number Lines (i.e., represent whole numbers, fractions, and decimals on a number line to build students’ understanding of numerical magnitude, compare numbers and determine their relative magnitude using a number line to help students understand quantity, and use the number line to build students’ understanding of the concepts underlying operations).
  • Recommendation 5: Word Problems (i.e., teach students to identify word problem types that include the same type of action or event, teach students a solution method for solving each problem type, expand students’ ability to identify relevant information in word problems by presenting problem information differently, teach vocabulary or language often in word problems to help students understand the problem, and include a mix of previously and newly learned problem types throughout intervention).
  • Recommendation 6: Timed Activities (i.e., identify already-learned topics for activities to support fluency, choose the activity and accompanying materials wisely and set clear expectations, ensure that students have an efficient strategy to use as they complete the timed activity, encourage and motivate students to work hard by having them chart their progress, and provide immediate feedback by asking students to correct errors using an efficient strategy).

The explanations and examples that accompany each recommendation are extremely beneficial and will greatly support my teaching practice.  And although I already use most of them, this article will help me work toward mastering each recommendation so that I can assist all the struggling math learners that come my way!  

References

Hochman, J., and N. Wexler. (2017). The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in all Subjects and Grades. Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Brand, San Francisco, CA.

IES: Institute of Education Sciences. (2021, March). Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Intervention in the Elementary Grades. U.S. Department of Education. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/PracticeGuide/WWC2021006-Math-PG.pdf

Wexler, N. (2022). “When Language Prevents Kids From Succeeding At Math.” Retrieved July 20, 2022 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliewexler/2022/06/21/when-language-prevents-kids-from-succeeding-at-math/?sh=2b68339e623d

EDUC 336 Reflection #1: The Road to Inclusion & Beyond

During the first week of Inclusive Education, it became apparent just how challenging the road to inclusion has been (Inclusion BC; BCTF 2020; Moore, 2016; Five Moore Minutes 2018-19).  There have been many potholes along the way and work still needs to be done to pave and smooth this complex road.  What became even more apparent, however, is that building this road has been for the greater good of ALL—not just for students with diverse needs and abilities:

All students benefit from inclusive education. Research has dispelled the notion that typical students “lose out” when students with disabilities and additional support needs are included in the regular classroom. Rather, research shows that all students do better both academically and socially when inclusive policies and teaching practices are followed (Inclusion BC).

Schools that were once exclusive, segregated, and integrated, are becoming more and more inclusive (Moore, 2016, Figure 1.2, p. 3).  We are in what Shelly Moore calls the “Inclusive Revolution”, where “inclusion describes the principle that all students are entitled to equitable access to learning, achievement, and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their education” (Five Moore Minutes, Episode 1).  But, as those working in schools and classrooms will attest, there is a significant gap between principle and practice, and we have a long way to go before inclusive principles actually align with inclusive practice.  Shelley Moore argues that:

Inclusion is not about integrating students by housing them into (or out of) forced containers of classrooms and schools. Inclusive Education is about providing opportunities with supports for all students to have access to, and contribute to, an education rich in content and experience with their peers. Period (2016, p. 17).

Inclusive education, therefore, is only successful if it is plannedmeaningfulpurposeful, and supported—which, woefully, is not always the case.

Looking back on my own childhood, I was fortunate to have been educated (for the most part) in inclusive classrooms, alongside peers of varying and diverse ability.  I had the opportunity to learn from these peers and reaped the benefits of learning alongside them, including (but not limited to): a greater understanding and acceptance of difference; a broader perspective of knowledge, skills, and abilities; and exposure to a wealth of different ideas and approaches to life, love, and learning.  I am certain that my peers of diverse ability learned and benefited from being included and that they did better academically and socially in these inclusive settings than they would have in exclusive, segregated, or integrated ones.  A particular peer comes to mind when thinking about the benefits of inclusion.  This peer loved school and was a big part of the classroom and school community, thriving on friendship and being involved in academic and non-academic life.  To this day, this person thrives on community, friendship, and inclusion, and is often seen riding his bike to different jobs, venues, and events.  To think of a time when he was not welcome in a “regular” classroom is disheartening.  What would life have looked like for him if he had not been included amongst his peers?  I imagine a life not nearly as rich or full.  My peer is proof that “students with disabilities and additional support needs who have been educated in inclusive settings have significantly better life outcomes than students without this opportunity”, including “better social connections, increased community involvement, and greater earning potential” (Inclusion BC).

Fast forward to today and I see the same opportunities and benefits for my own children and their peers, as well as for the children I have had the privilege of teaching.  However, I also see the profound challenges plaguing our educational system: legislation that supports inclusion but does not actually provide the necessary support that will make meaningful and purposeful inclusion a reality (leaving many students with disabilities and additional support needs excluded rather than included); teachers that are supportive of inclusion but have no idea how to implement it because they lack the professional development that makes inclusion possible and/or they lack the resources and supports to make inclusion happen.  Teachers are not born equipped to aim for the “outside pins” (Moore, 2016, pp. 48-52)—they need explicit teaching to successfully throw on a curve and “hit” all the pins (i.e., students), especially those hardest to reach! Teachers need to be expressly taught how to be effective “sweeper vans”—ones that make necessary interventions and provide critical supports, but still keep students accountable.

Teachers are the head of the spear and need to be trained to reach ALL students—not just the “green ones” (Five Moore Minutes, Episode 3).  Teachers are the first line of attack as well as the first line of defense, and their ability to provide high quality Tier-1 supports is crucial.  Sadly, not every teacher is being educated to do so.  Fortunately, I am!  As a teacher in training, I am getting more and more prepared to go forth and do this hard but necessary work!  From a Tier-1 level, I plan to honor what I have learned this week (and in the weeks leading up to it) and vow to be cognizant of my language and not disable people with labels (Seale, 2019).  As the motto goes: “when you know better, you do better”, so I will do my best to adhere to these take-aways—each courtesy of the infamous Shelley Moore (2016):

  • “We are no longer living in the Industrial Revolution; this is the 21st century–where we need to value the strengths rather than the deficits in learning. Rather than finding out why students aren’t wavy, our job is now to find out what their pattern is. What do they bring? What can they contribute because of their diverse and unique expertise? For decades, we have been trying to take this ‘pattern’ out of our students, taking the special out of special education, the autistic out of autism, the language out of culture, and, especially, the Indigenous out of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children. This is not teaching to diversity. This is not inclusive. Teaching to diversity and inclusion is where we value the characteristics that are diverse, and not try to homogenize them” (p. 5).
  • “Alternate spaces are so important in bringing students back up who have fallen. But if the only reason students are finally receiving supports is because they fell in the first place, then we as an education system have to do better. We have to get these supports to kids before they fall” (p. 26).
  • “…supports need to be put in place universally, for all kids, regardless of category” (p. 27).
  • “The goal does not have to be 100% of the time, but it does mean that 100% of the time we are striving to be more inclusive. It is a journey, not a destination” (p. 29).
  • “…unless I presume competence in all people, I am the one who is disabled” (p. 34).
  • “Let’s stop fighting for class composition ratios, and instead advocate for supporting our compositions in all of their perfect diversity” (p. 47).
  • “We often forget that what helps one helps everyone, and it is exactly this idea that makes what we teach strategically more effective and efficient…” (p. 52).
  • “To be inclusive is to collect stories and be the detective seeking to understand the full story.  The more stories we have, the more we understand” (p. 75).
  • “…support is critical, and if we want inclusion to work, this is one of the biggest changes we can make in our classrooms and schools.  Supports designed for a few, but available for all” (p. 84). 

We are in this collectively and I cannot wait to make my classroom an inclusive place to learn!  

Together in education,

Ms. H

References

BCTF. (2020). Research: The landscape of inclusion: How teachers in British Columbia navigate inclusive education policy and practice. https://www.bctf.ca/whats-happening/news-details/2020/01/02/the-landscape-of-inclusion-how-teachers-in-british-columbia-navigate-inclusive-education-policy-and-practice

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2018, October 1). Episode 1: The Evolution of Inclusion. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQgXBhPh5Zo

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2018, November 5). Episode 2: Don’t Should on Me! [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeRNhz0nGts

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2018, December 3). Episode 3: The End of Average. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Krec84KwbHE&t=2s

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2019, January 7). Episode 4: Inclusion 2.0: Teaching to Diversity. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO3_UYaz1HE

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2019, February 4). Episode 5: The Infrastructure of Inclusion. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8iAQTneyXI

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2019, March 5). Episode 6: Decriminalizing Supports. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyqFcmUxHAw

Five Moore Minutes with Shelley Moore. (2019, April 1). Episode 7: Backwards Design. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLKHaNo98Ts&t=1s

Inclusion BC. (2022). Chapter 1: History, Definitions and Benefits of Inclusion. In Handbook on Inclusive Educationhttps://inclusionbc.org/our-resources/inclusive-education-handbook-chapter-1/#3

Moore, Shelley. (2016). One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion. Portage and Main Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Seale, Alyson. TEDx Talks. (2019, May 22). Purposeful Steps Away From Ableism. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhFVnlLnKjM

Summer Intensive Week

PG Campus

Ok, so I thought the last condensed week in Prince George flew by, but this one went by even faster!!  

Although the weather did not feel like summer (with rain everyday and temperatures similar to Spring’s Intensive week), we still managed to enjoy several interactive, outdoor, place-based learning opportunities…the epic scavenger hunt and trip to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park stood out above the rest! Those who know me know that (1) I am a bit competitive and (2) I love nature and taking photos of nature! So, this week felt like it was made for me! My fellow competitive Terrace teacher candidate, Shelley, and I sprinted the entire scavenger hunt, got drenched in the process, and came away with treats for being the “Jack Rabbits” of the group, lol! The opportunity to experience place by making a photo story of the Park was right up my ally, and I got a chance to photograph so many beautiful flowers, trees, fungi, bees, hornets, squirrels, and even one of UNBC’s resident moose!!

Place-based learning in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park
Reading about, and experiencing, Nature as Co-Teacher


And, I was so excited to meet and learn from the amazingly talented indigenous artist, Clayton Gauthier!!

Those who know me know that I have never considered myself an artist–it was something I always struggled with in school. But, with Clayton’s instruction and artistic philosophy, I came away with two pieces of art that I am proud to share, and which I can use to inspire future classrooms of learners–spreading the beauty of Clayton’s work and the indigenous techniques he employs.

Talo – Salmon
Datsan Cho – Raven

What a week it was for sure! Now, time to get down to business and complete the rest of the Summer Intersession…t-minus 4 weeks!!

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