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I was born in the era of 1960s, during that time the old school system do not permit inclusiveness in the main stream school. Different schools were setup for different abilities of students, i.e. schools for disabled, schools for low abilities, schools for intellectual disabled. I have studied in a SAP school for both primary (Pei Chun Public School) and secondary school (Catholic High School), the abilities of the students in these schools are almost homogenous, most of them were able to learn and understand the teaching at the same pace, there were extremely rare cases of students with special needs.
In general, the perception for the schools during that time was having students with special abilities will cause an extra burden on the teachers, i.e. the teachers need to use extra strategies, extra resources and time to handle these students, and the pace of the learning will be affected too. Therefore, if any of the students were found unsuitable for the main stream, they will be transferred to the schools that were able to service their needs. Even though this old system has its merit, but many students and parents felt that they were labeled and discriminated from the society.
Personally, as a student, I also felt that students with special needs should be transfer to a special school to do their learning. In the special schools, these students will be learning at the same rate, same content as their peers, they will not be pressure to perform as good as their peers in the main stream.
Own Personal pedagogy about inclusiveness in classroom on the content taught in this course
The idea of inclusiveness in Singapore came about 2004, when the Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong in the first inauguration speech urged our society to integrate people with disabilities into the mainstream society, starting with the integration of students with disabilities into the mainstream school. To-date, more and more students with mild special needs or disabilities are put in the mainstream schools studying together with the regular students. Teachers played a very important role in creating a learning environment that include varied learners, such as students with special needs. As mentioned by Bloom (1956), learning has 6 different stages, i.e. knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. With that in mind, it is important that different pedagogies should be employed for the 6 different stages. Therefore, effective teachers should develop their own personal pedagogy based on their belief, values and perceptions to handle the varied learners, I am not an exception.
Personal beliefs and values about knowledge, society, education, and politics help to sharp teaching beliefs (Kagan, 1992). E.g., if a teacher believes that different type of students will have different type of ability to learn and vice versa, this belief will be reflected in methodology and teaching style. Differences in students should be seen as norm rather than exception. My personal belief is that each student is unique but yet they can be grouped into a group with certain similar abilities. I need to differentiate my instructions on these different groups of students.
Values are ideals that guide or one's personal conduct, interaction with others, and involvement in one's career. Values also help someone to distinguish what is right from wrong. According to Cecile Peterkin (2005), teaching values is an important part of being parent, however teachers can also play a part to teach students about values. Values such as Honesty, Courage, Peace ability, Self-reliance and Potential, Self-Discipline and Moderation, Fidelity and Chastity, Loyalty and Fidelity, Respect, Love, Unselfishness and Sensitivity, Kindness and Friendliness, Justice and Mercy, help to make the society safe and workable. My personal values that are developed by my own are not much different from the above. In addition, I consciously need to teach my students about values through leading by example and also take the time to explain to them. Students may develop values different from what I taught them, however, they will do so with a solid foundation, and with a basis of comparison. My actions can make a difference in the students' life at present and future.
Profile of my preferred class
Even though as a teacher, one is not supposed to choose and pick his or her form class based on the students' ability, but in reality this is not the case. Many times, some of the teachers are given the favor to choose the better class with high abilities students, some not so lucky ones will be given the tasks to handle the low ability class. But generally, most of the teachers will be given a class with mixed ability students, e.g. 35 percent low-ability, 55 percent middle ability and 10 per cent high ability students. As observed, each student is unique by nature and a classroom may contain students with differences. Some of these differences are remarkable, such as an outstanding talent in art or mathematics, or a disability such as handicapped. Some are not so obvious and harder to detect, such as a disability of autism and low IQ.
As for me, after working 2 years as contract teacher, I still prefer to take up a challenging class such as a foundation class or pull out class where all the students are with low ability. No doubt, the class may be a low ability class, but I still have to build a class profile for my class. Having a class profile allows the teacher, the school management to be able to see easily the different demographics of students who form the class. For e.g., I had created a class profile with students having learning disabilities, health impairments, hearing impairment, dyslexia, ADHD, broken family, single-mother family, low self esteem.
With the class profile on hand, I can group my students in terms of their strengths and weakness, such as intelligence, ability, disability and then teach them ways to leverage on their strengths or to overcome their weakness.
Things to create as an inclusive learning environment in the 1st 2 weeks
According to Quek, Angel, Wong (2the 008), teachers whom are successful in creating an inclusive classroom both socially and academically, usually will use 2 approaches simultaneously, i.e. individual approach and whole class approach.
For the social inclusion aspect, I will work with students on both individual and whole class approach. At the individual level, these are things I will do.
First, I will make friend with the students and spend time in the recess or after school to know more about the student in school and at home. Second, I will try to work together with the student's parent to help and monitor the student, such as getting the parents to check the students' diary every night for homework. Third, I will spend more time with the students for counseling, giving feedback on his behavior and past results, and also to do a goal setting with him. Forth, I will try to explicit to teach student to acquire appropriate social skill, such as how to make new friends within and outside the classroom. Fifth, I will try to make the potential troublemaking student to sit in front, so to monitor him more closely and stop any inappropriate behavior as soon as possible. Finally, I will try not to forget to encourage each student to be more independence and self regulation in their school works.
At the classroom level, I will teach the whole class, the following:
To remind all students in the classroom to be responsible, to look after the well being and safety of all their classmates, e.g. no teasing of classmate who is handicapped.
To be more tolerance and respects for differences among the classmates, e.g. some of them may be slow in learning, sometimes teacher need to explain the concept again, those faster ones can continue doing their exercises.
To create opportunities for students to interact, teamwork and building relationship among them, i.e through group works or team sport play like playing soccer.
To give instruction to learn social and interpersonal skill among the students, like conflict management, turn taking, dealing with differences, like how to work with classmate who is having hearing problems.
To emphasis the important to help one and another, e.g. through the use of buddy system, peer tutors.
To explain to the students about special needs and to guide them to give peer support and management of students with special needs.
To set rules and routines in the beginning, and to give rewards and punishment if they are broken.
To be role model, and show the students the desired behavior, such as "when u see a teacher, u must greet."
To seize teaching moments when possible, to show the students what are the undesired behavior and teach them the correct behavior immediately.
Next, for the academic inclusion aspect, these are the strategies that I have learnt and will apply to my students, some of them not just for the first 2 weeks but also throughout the whole term or whole year:
As effective teacher, I will break down a concept or skill and teach them in phases. This allows the students to understand the concept or skill more easily. Also, I will ensure that the students understand the basic concept and skill thoroughly before moving on to more complex ones. Sometimes, I will try to model the skills taught in front of the students, e.g. teaching the students how to do a chest pass for basketball. As mentioned before, every student is unique with their own strength and weakness. Focusing on their strengths will increase the students' self esteem and motivation to success both academically and socially.
Next, to set student's individualized goal at the beginning of the term. Goals will base on their previous performance and ways to achieve them. Upon setting them, the teacher and student will work together to monitor them. As a teacher, I will give encouragement and feedback to the students not only on their academic performance but also on their academic improvement and social-emotional progress. There are times, I will try to use differentiate teaching methods for different group of students due to their differences in learning styles, abilities, such as using visual aids to some groups and verbal instruction to some.
In addition, using real world examples to aid in teaching also prove to be an effective tool. For e.g., to teach how to add and subtract money, I will always use the scenario of going to market with parents to buy fish, eggs, chicken using money. Also, I will use more cooperative learning activities as a strategy to enhance students' experiences to work as a team to achieve a common goal. As mentioned before, peer tutoring proved to be an effective strategy which was widely accepted by the students. One of the dimensions of meaningful learning is to teach others, by teaching other one get a chance to foster their own understand of a concept or skill.