Saturday, March 10, 2007

March Madness II

Question 2: Describe training and/or experiences you have had that best qualify you to work effectively with students who have special learning needs such as learning disabilities or attention deficits.
I have had the pleasure of working with a diverse and wonderful population of students. Over the course of the past five years, I have had an abundance of professional experiences which have helped me develop as an effective teacher for students who have special needs. Whether as a tutor, counselor, teacher’s assistant, or classroom instructor, each of my experiences has added another dimension to my teaching and honed skills that I have come to value and cherish.
My intention into being an educator began as a part-time tutor in the academic support center at Antioch College. Through all four years of my studies, I tutored and aided students who were transitioning to become successful in college courses. I think one of the greatest gifts I possess as an educator is patience. My tenacity and fortitude led me to become a successful tutor on campus. After graduation, I became a counselor for students and parents who had been abused. These students faced a myriad of learning and social challenges. I worked with counselors and special education teachers to help them rise above and work with their disabilities. Facilitating and witnessing their academic victories remain part of my inspiration to being a professor.
By far the most rewarding and experiential aspect that has influenced my ability to work with students with special needs has evolved from being a classroom teacher. I have several classes that are devoted to struggling readers as well as students who have an array of learning disabilities. Although my training and education have given me a great foundation for working with these students, I have found that forming personal relationships, observing, and showing care and patience for students who may learn differently is the strongest tool in my toolbox for helping every student be successful.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

March Madness

Well Spring break has finally arrived. I have been applying to jobs. I was particular struck by how easy it is to find fun looking jobs that do not involve teaching middle school students. I have been writing lots of cover letters and I just finished an essay to a community college in Maryland. Here is one question they asked:
Question 1: Describe what you believe are the two or three most important aspects of a college developmental reading course or program.

Throughout the theoretical debates on why Johnny can or can’t read, brain-based research has given educators clues that can aid in the development of reading. The debates, however, will continue to rage on and so will the cries from the students whose lives are impacted and potentials limited by the inability to attain college-ready reading and writing skills. There are three aspects that I believe are crucial to the foundation of a developmental reading course or program: individualized instruction, the promotion of metacognition, and the development of active reading strategies.
While this may be sound cliché, there is truth to the rationalization that each student is unique and learns differently. These differences are critical to the development of student success in reading. By developing individualized education plans and goals for each student, educators can unlock the keys to each student’s achievement. Student assessments and assignments should be tailor-made to fit the complexities of every students’ weakness and strength. Although collaborative learning is highly important and should be used as an instructional strategy, the exceptionality of each student should be at the vanguard of each educator’s selection of course materials, strategy, and assignment.
As mentioned previously, brain-based research has given instructors some powerful tools to aid in the on-going struggle of facilitating the success of developing readers. The promotion of metacognition is an important aspect to every reading program. Reading is a multi-faceted mental process; a process in which even proficient readers are often unaware of the complexities entailed. By modeling and giving students a structured way of deciphering the meaning of a text, students begin to think about their thinking and unravel their own unique reading and learning voice. In addition, if educators design a program where students are monitoring their own progress (by giving prompt and direct feedback on assessments and assignments), students will have a greater chance of achieving true metacognition. Additionally, students need to be made aware of strategies that good readers often use. The practice, modeling, and assessment of active-reading strategies are also an essential part of reading courses and program.
Each of these strategies is an important part in helping students who are at a developmental stage in their learning. Nonetheless, no matter what method employed, being a supportive and adaptive instructor is also vital to success.