By Teachers, For Teachers
As classroom teachers, one of the biggest challenges that we face is to meet the needs of all of our students. While we try our best to differentiate education, we know that the range of abilities in our classroom sometimes makes that quite difficult. The fact is, while we may be able to create a few different lessons that will appeal to the different abilities of our students, we will never be able to fully meet the needs of all students at every given moment. As we strive to create an inclusive classroom, a classroom where all students (even the disabled ones) are able to learn alongside of their peers, we are creating a place where everyone will feel and be successful. However, sometimes we may do things that can hinder the success of all students. Here are five things you should NOT do in an inclusive classroom.
The last thing that you want to do is have your students sitting in their seats for the entire school day. You need to rethink the traditional classroom setup and come up with a unique seating arrangement that will meet the needs of all learners. This may mean that you have to purchase standup desks or use exercise balls for seats. You must keep in mind that not all students learn their best when they are seated at their desks, so changing up your seating arrangement (and figuring how each student learns best) is your best way to meet the needs of all learners.
Have you been doing the same thing in your classroom for years? If so, then you may need to start re-evaluating your teaching methods. Take some time to really look at what you are doing, and if it is working for you. Ask yourself, “Is this serving my students the way that I first intended it to?” If you can’t see it, then sometimes asking someone else to take a look at your teaching methods can help. An outside view can give you another perception. Try inviting a fellow teacher to take a look at you methods and see what they think.
As much as your IEPs may feel like the biggest inconvenience, it is a necessity and must be completed. It should also be referred to often. Many teachers don’t realize the benefit of an IEP. They are there to guide you and help the student. Use this document to help you throughout the year, don’t just keep it in your files.
The field of education continues to grow and so should you. There will always be a new strategy or technique to learn. As the world of inclusion continues to grow, keeping up with the latest research and best practices will only help you get better as a teacher. It will also help your students to succeed. It’s important to take the time and keep on top of the latest in special education, as well as general education.
As tempting as it may be to change your curriculum to suit the needs of your students, don’t change it too much. Creating an inclusive classroom means being able to find a balance. That also means you need to have the ability to adapt your curriculum without having a student feel singled out that there may have been changes made specifically for them. Many students who have a wide range of disabilities are still able to learn the same content as their general education peers. Instead of making it known that you are changing the curriculum to adapt to their needs, try and present the material differently for all students. For example, if you find that a lot of students (general and inclusive students) in the class are having a hard time getting into reading, then give them the option of reading on a tablet. These little changes that you adapt for all students will help the inclusive students feel more generalized, and like they are part of the whole class.
Even the most dedicated teachers may mistakes like the ones listed above. However, understanding the pitfalls that will make your inclusive classroom not run smoothly will only create an environment where it can run smoothly.
Do you have any tips of pieces of advice for inclusive classroom teachers? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. We would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.