Reflection on Inclusive Learning Environments

1744 words (7 pages) Essay in Teaching

23/09/19 Teaching Reference this

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During the weeks of 3 and 4, from the semester start date, I had the opportunity to interview two amazing professionals within the education setting. Both women taught and showed me that it is important to find ways to ensure that the students learn how to function and respect others in a class that has such a diversity of culture. Being exposed to this variety of experience and background can create tolerance, and a mutual respect in the classroom that will later transcribe into the students’ future and could also improve their academics, attitudes, and overall performance in school and other extracurricular activities.

Background Statement                       While interviewing my two professionals I learned a lot about how to have an inclusive environment within the daycare setting. One of my professionals is a center director and the other is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher. Both have been in the field of education for ten plus years, and I was curious how they created an inclusive environment and classrooms. The center director has children with special needs/disabilities in her building, and she expressed ways on how to include special needs students. The Pre-K teacher has a mix of student within her classroom. From what I gathered from the interview, is that all the children interact with each other no matter if they have special needs or disabilities. Children receive chances to learn from each other, by either observing or interacting with children of the same age, and being exposed to a variety of challenging activities such as a ten-minute challenge to find various materials within the classroom or books with a higher reading level by using the Flesh-Kincaid Scale.

Key Inclusivity and Diversity Issues in Educational Settings    When I interviewed the center director, I asked her if there were any diversity issues that she faces within her center or even classrooms for that matter. One major challenge that my interviewee has experienced is the lack of ability to communicate in the student(s) native language. Majority of the students did not speak and had little to no English language exposure. This became arduous because our school does not have bilingual support and these students were placed in a general education classroom without any support from teachers. Even though the teacher did her best by trying to relate with books and small word phrases in their native tongue, it was not helping the students in their learning.                                                                                                   Two ways that we as educators can try to address these issues is trying to learn the language. In most cases, Spanish will be the language that most will use; instead, of English and I encourage the ones who struggle with English, to use it more. We learn from each other, so no one feels left out of the conversations about the job. There should be more diversity training than we receive. According to, (Katz, J.H. & Miller, F.A. 2016), there should be a practice to establish a common language by using a set of behaviors that we all should be using.                             A second way is to use sign language to help communicate with students. Sign language can support receptive language development, and support visual, auditory and kinesthetic skills. While I was student teaching, I saw a teacher utilizing this strategy. She told me that children learn through what they see and do and by teaching and using ASL; teachers are capturing the whole child. The only barrier with teaching sign language to a multilingual class is first having the class understand what the teacher is trying to say. To overcome this barrier the teacher must project words in Spanish, English, or ASL at the front of the room then proceed to go through words to demonstrate the sign for that particular word. Today’s students are diverse and multifaceted learners and using sign language can promote faster academic achievement within the classroom to overcome language barriers.

Strategies for Inclusive Learning Environments                    To have an inclusive learning environment I think center directors and teachers need to be purposeful about what they are modeling for their students and colleagues. This will then help implement modeling daily, and teachers will then feel more self-assured that they are having a positive and encouraging impact on their students and colleagues by demonstrating this strategy. Monica Brown (2007), states “inclusive classrooms recognize students learn in different ways and have valuable perspectives to bring to the content being learned.” The teachers implement various instruction to their students, one being the use of modeling. According to Hart (2009), “The needs of English language learners (ELLs) who also may contend with learning and emotional disabilities present challenges that are only beginning to be addressed.” This statement brings to mind that we are just now doing enough to help these students. With modeling, I feel like more ELL students will have a better chance of succeeding in school. They use modeling by different centers within their classroom. The teachers provide visual (books and signs), auditory (sign language), kinesthetic (dance or wobbly chairs) and tactile (blocks and Velcro board). The teachers create a setting where modeling is implemented and used this strategy, little at a time as to not to overwhelm the students. When teachers talk about diversity, they incorporate their students and their families.

Another strategy that I observed was the implementation of universal design for learning (UDL). I thought this was an amazing concept that the teachers were implementing. I only saw this in elementary schools and not daycare/learning centers. UDL is an approach to curriculum planning and mapping. Our curriculum at Kindercare Learning Center focus’ more on research-based standards and assessments as well as developmental domains. Our curriculum book states that we focus on language and literacy assessment, executive function, social and emotional development, physical development and wellness, cognitive development, and creative expression. For assessment we use Brigance testing, which aligns to the Ohio Common Core. It also helps our teachers to identify delays if any, giftedness or needs for outside inclusion services.

Strategies that Respect Students from Diverse Backgrounds

“Views about learning have changed with the demographic changes over the past several decades, and these changing views have influenced the teachers teach and what students do in their classrooms” (Brown 2007). Strategies that I noticed a teacher implement to show that she values and respects diversity is by making a concerted effort to stop and consider the students, the environment, the curriculum, and the expectations. The teacher also always creates a safe space for students to know that it is okay to share. The teacher makes sure to change where is needed, so that each student can experience the instruction as intended. For example, she will not use stories or test questions that may be biased against students. She will, instead, seek out text that will speak to everyone in the room. The teacher’s make sure to include a library that has an array of literary background. Books about different cultures, families, and education. This shows students how diverse their classroom can be. Language differences are embraced, and students are encouraged to explain and enlighten others in the room when they discover new explanations, words, or expressions that they all need to know. Teaching and talking about hard topics to students at a young age, helps students to accept difference and personalities because there is no bias created there. In my opinion, for teachers to be able to implement and practice these classroom strategies, the teachers need a strong support system, this is where the center directors come in to play. As educators, we must continue to be diverse and grow and include our student’s individual differences within the classroom setting. This will help our students have confidence in who they are. It will prepare them for other aspects of society that things are not one-sided.

Conclusions or “Big Ideas”

My experience was quite rewarding. Since I am not a classroom teacher, I was really impressed how the teachers implemented a wide variety of curriculum and support to teach their students. From these interviews, I also learned that teachers and paraprofessionals need support from the administrators. A support administrator can make all the difference in the success of a teacher or even inclusion by focusing on children and their families. I feel that the pre-k teacher that I interviewed created a more inclusive environment for her students. She is creates a safe space for her students and makes sure they can read and freely ask questions when needed. The strategies that I will employ as a result of what the interviewees told me is creating an inclusive learning environments. I learned through these interviews as well as being in classrooms that children learn from the unintended example of modeling and the behavior that adults set as they do from the learning center that are planned through the instruction of the teacher. I believe that this is true because students are looking up to adults and what the teacher does in the classroom; students are modeling and following that behavior.

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