Articles

My Learning Journal – Spec Ed Part 1

ENTRY 1 – Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

This is my first entry into my Learning Journal for the Special Education – Part 1 Additional Qualification course that I am taking online via Queen’s University. Yahoo! Here, I have been asked to look forward at the final task and choose between two options for the culminating assignment. After reading about the choices, I have chosen to complete Task B: Transition Plan.

Why Task B: Transition Plan?

I have selected the transition plan because, as a secondary science teacher, I feel that I will benefit most from this assignment as I will be able to better understand how I can help students with exceptional abilities plan and transition into the next grade or post secondary education. It is easy enough to say “You have to work hard and study”, but actually developing and creating a transition plan will better enable me to suggest and implement strategies that can help both the student, their family and future educators who they may come into contact with. I think this will especially help with grade 12 students.

The best part about this? I can change my mind later! This task was designed to help guide my focus throughout the course. I am super pumped to start this learning journey! 🙌

ENTRY 2 – Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Record 3 things that you have learned from each reading:

An Introduction to Special Education in Ontario

  1. I learned what the acronym IPRC actually stands for: Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC). Silly, I know!
  2. I learned that Ontario’s Education Act or Bill 182 was implemented as recently as 1980. It blows my mind that an act so important and crucial as this was only developed and enforced in my lifetime!
  3. Finally, I learned that “In the 2014/2015 school year (the most recent figures available) more than 178,500 students were identified by an IPRC as exceptional pupils.”

Questions and Answers Parents May Have Regarding Special Education

  1. This article provided me with a link to a very useful guide on creating/developing IEPs. I am familiar with accessing and following IEPs, but have never created one from scratch. I think this will be a useful resource for the future!
  2. I also learned that both a parent and/or principal can request an initial IPRC. I was under the impression this was mostly done by classroom teachers, so this is good to know.
  3. Finally, I learned that there is an alternative to the OSSD, the Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) and those students with special needs can request these if they leave school before fully completing their OSSD.

Essential Advice for the Teaching Profession

  1. This reading really put my teaching practice into perspective. All of the various strands and links between them made me realize the various connections between our duties and responsibilities and the expectations of us as teachers
  2. After reading through this article, I know have a better understanding about the ethical obligations of educating professionals
  3. I am a visual learner so all the brain maps/concept maps in this reading are very appealing and help me get the ‘big picture’. I am definitely saving this for future reference!

ENTRY 3 – Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Five main points that I took away from the readings are:

  1. The analogy of the butterfly and the learning of children literally blew my mind. So true and inspiring!
  2. Bill 82 was a crucial step by the government to place the responsibility for children with special needs in the hands of the boards of education
  3. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was only implemented in 1982 (I was 4 years old!)
  4. “A special education program is defined as an educational program that is based on and modified by the results of a continuous assessment and evaluation of the pupil and that includes a plan (now referred to as an Individual Education Plan) containing specific objectives and an outline of the educational services that meets the needs of the exceptional pupil”
  5. It was interesting to learn how different provinces refer to exceptional students i.e. those with special needs, exceptional, gifted, etc.

After reading through my school boards annual special education plan, three topics that I want to learn more about include:

1.The Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) Process

2. Individual Education Plans – the development and implementation

3. Categories and Definitions of Exceptionalities

ENTRY 4 – Monday October 8th, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Today I am well underway with module 2. As part of the Human Rights section for this module, I was asked to “review the Ethical Standards of the Teaching Profession and the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession from the Ontario College of TeachersWhen put into practice, how do they relate to the information in this document: Human Rights Law and Policy in Ontario?” They relate in that as a teacher, you are expected to treat all students equally, with both dignity and respect, despite any disabilities that may affect them.We know from a historical perspective, school boards and individual schools were able to refuse certain students based on their disabilities, whereas now that is not tolerated. It is a teacher’s duty to not only act professionally, but to have an ethical obligation to teach and treat all students equally, especially those students with exceptionalities.

Indigenous Awareness

For the next section of module 2, I was asked to review two articles:

Aboriginal Perspectives, A Guide to the Teacher’s Toolkit

Teaching Resources and Strategies for Elementary and Secondary Classrooms

What resonated with me was the fact that not only are these strategies great for using in classrooms with indigenous students, but they are also great to incorporate into any classroom for that matter, increasing awareness for the Metis, Inuit and aboriginal peoples of Canada.

ENTRY 5 – Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

As part of module 2,we have been asked to connect and collaborate with a colleague on the course – sounds fun! I reached out to a fellow science teacher and she agreed to work together.After watching the 2 videos, these are the strategies we brainstormed:

  1. Hey Politicians! We need to decrease the funding gap so that proper support can be provided. Need to make better learning environments (i.e.clean water), introduce more resources to improve attainment and increase graduation rates
  2. Indigenous Education – need to educate teaching staff and support staff to Aboriginal ways and needs (no more ignorance). Remove stereotypes and stigmas,same as with special needs students
  3. Incorporate Indigenous students into mainstream curriculum and regular boards of education (if so desired). Is this too controversial?
  4. Promote a Dialogue – encourage discussions between parents and students and strengthen the trilogy between parent, student and teacher. Involve administration as often as possible. Is the school meeting your child’s needs?
  5. Abandon a ‘one size fits all’ mentality – All students are unique no matter what their religious, cultural or intellectual/behavioral/developmental background.

ENTRY 6 – Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

After doing my readings, the elements that these 4 documents have in common include:

  • The need for dignity, equity and respect throughout all classrooms and for all students, no matter what their ability
  • The importance for differentiated instructional strategies in schools
  • One size does not fit all – in order to accommodate students needs, a diverse range of teaching styles and modifications and curriculum adaptations are needed, especially for students with special needs

I absolutely loved the images provided! I have totally saved these for future reference

After looking at the images, the examples convey the message that equity and inclusion benefit students with learning difficulties because they stress one key theme: removing barriers. If we ensure that all students are on an even playing field, then there are no barriers to learning.

ENTRY 7 – Monday, October 15th, 2018

With your partner, present 5 strategies related to special education that can help solve some of the issues faced by Indigenous students in Ontario…

5 Strategies:

  1. Hey Politicians! We need to decrease the funding gap so that proper support can be provided. Need to make better learning environments (i.e.clean water), introduce more resources to improve attainment and increase graduation rates
  2. Indigenous Education – need to educate teaching staff and support staff to Aboriginal ways and needs (no more ignorance). Remove stereotypes and stigmas,same as with special needs students
  3. Incorporate Indigenous students into mainstream curriculum and regular boards of education (if so desired). Is this too controversial?
  4. Promote a Dialogue – encourage discussions between parents and students and strengthen the trilogy between parent, student and teacher. Involve administration as often as possible. Is the school meeting your child’s needs? Advocate for your child! Many aboriginal adults are uneducated themselves
  5. Abandon a ‘one size fits all’ mentality – All students are unique no matter what their religious, cultural or intellectual/behavioral/developmental background.

ENTRY 8 – Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Module 3 – Section 1 – My Observation (from my secondary LTO last year)

Danny has an IEP and has been diagnosed with autism and in some classes, he can be confrontational with his teachers. In grade 9 applied science, he prefers to sit alone at the back of the classroom and does not like collaborating with his peers nor does he participate in class discussions. He rushes through his class work and just wants to get things ‘done’ and his assessments show this. Danny understands where photosynthesis occurs in plants and why plants are important for the environment, but when he completes an activity about the word equation for photosynthesis, he often confuses the products and reactants. He also fails to connect photosynthesis with cellular respiration and how they are related/the opposite of each other.

Category Observation
Knowledge and Understanding Danny understands where photosynthesis occurs in plants, but when he completes an activity about the word equation for photosynthesis, he often confuses the products and reactants
Thinking Danny fails to connect photosynthesis with cellular respiration and how they are related/the opposite of each other.
Communication Danny does not like collaborating with his peers nor does he participate in class discussions.
Application Danny understands where photosynthesis occurs in plants and why plants are important for the environment
Behavioural/Emotional Danny is on the autism spectrum. He doesn’t like to interact with his peers, nor does he participate in class discussions. He rushes through his work and often doesn’t apply himself to his best ability. He is often confrontational with some teachers.

In what category do most of your observations fall?

Most of my observations fall under the knowledge/understanding and behavioural/emotional categories. This make sense as for this particular student, their reading comprehension was often negatively affected by behavior and attitude towards learning.

ENTRY 9 – Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Today I read through an interesting article on developing student profiles. Here are my thoughts:

  • What do these assessments, combined with your observations, tell you about your student? They provide us with the ‘bigger’ picture which includes all data from the past and present which is key in developing a plan for the future!
  • How will that influence your practice? Using this information will definitely influence my practice and allow me to modify teaching and learning strategies
  • At what point do you contact the student’s parents/guardians? I would reach out if I had any questions or concerns at any point, including before they even step into my classroom

ENTRY 10 – Friday, October 19th, 2018

While working as a FT secondary science teacher last year with a local board, I consulted and collaborated with several members. My in-school team included:

  • Head of Special Education
  • Special Education Resource Teachers (SERTs)
  • Educational assistants (EAs)
  • Social worker
  • Student Success Teacher
  • Child and youth counselor
  • Guidance counselors
  • Fellow teachers/colleagues
  • Administration
  • I may also link with external professionals such as educational psychologists, etc.

What information can these assessments provide?

Speech and language assessments: 

  • Providing assessments based on classroom
    observation, review of the Ontario Student
    Record, interviews with teachers, parents,
    other professionals involved, informal
    tasks, and formal testing according to the
    student’s needs
    • Providing teachers, parents and other
    participating professionals with an
    understanding of the student’s oral
    language and social communication needs
    as related to language learning, literacy
    development, behavior and general ability
    to participate in the classroom program.
    • Developing recommendations and
    programming suggestions resulting from
    observation and assessment in
    collaboration with teachers, other
    professionals involved, parents, and in
    some cases, the capable student
  • Often taken for granted, the ability to communicate effectively is essential to achieve and maintain quality of life. Speech, language and associated cognitive disorders can adversely affect academic performance, workforce integration, and social interaction. Treatments that speech-language pathologists are uniquely qualified to provide can help individuals with expressive and receptive language, articulation, fluency, voice, resonance and cognitive communication disorders (e.g., memory, organization, problem solving) reach their full communicative potential.Also of concern: individuals with untreated swallowing disorders can find themselves at risk of dehydration, malnutrition, and pulmonary compromise. Speech-language pathologists are trained to provide therapies that lead to improved swallowing safety, function, and independence.As a result, referral to speech-language pathology services ensures early identification and management of both communication and swallowing disorders, which in turn enables optimal social, academic, and vocational integration.
  • OSLA website

Psycho-educational assessments:

  • “A psychological assessment evaluates thinking, learning and behaviour. The assessment may include interviews, observation, testing and consultation with other professionals involved in your child’s care. Testing includes pencil and paper tasks, puzzles, drawing, and games. The assessment covers many skill areas, such as general intellectual level, language, memory and learning, problem solving, planning and organization, fine motor skills, visual spatial skills, and academic skills (reading, math, spelling and writing). It also includes an examination of behaviour and emotions.”
  • “A psychological assessment is helpful in identifying your child’s strengths and weaknesses and will lead to recommendations for both academic and behavioural intervention. By detecting problems, an assessment can be used to assist in planning your child’s school program, to identify needs for special services in school, and to help you access resources in your community.”
  • Sick Kids Website

ENTRY 11 – Monday, October 22nd, 2018

The place of occupational therapy in my board is via specialists who are trained in assessing students needs. This first starts with classroom teachers and special education staff. We are the front line staff for assessing student needs as some students will require modifications and adaptations, for example special chairs, computers, etc.

ENTRY 12 – Monday, October 29th, 2018

After comparing a student profile to an IEP I discovered the following:

  • Both documents contain a large amount of data, whether it be assessment data or external assessment results (i.e. psych ed, etc.)
  • Both documents are works in progress and can be updated continuously
  • The IEP lists specific strategies for accommodations/modification for a student whereas the student profile may or may not contain such information
  • I also think that IEPs may contain more sensitive/confidential information than a student profile

How can you reassure the parents of special needs students? How do you, as a teacher, ensure that students with special needs are not discriminated against?

I can try to ensure that students with special needs are not discriminated against by doing the following:

  • Promoting a positive school environment
  • Reinforcing positive attitudes/behaviours towards all students at the school, especially those with special needs
  • Letting special education/student success/counsellors know about the school climate and whether there are negative views of students with special needs

Accommodations versus Modifications

These were great articles to read as I didn’t feel very confident about explaining the difference/similarities between the two. Overall, accommodations DO NOT alter the provincial curriculum whereas modifications so as they actually modify the curriculum expectations.

ENTRY 13 – Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Differentiated instruction is “a teacher’s response to learners’ needs.”

To me, differentiated instruction is how a teacher’s respond to the diverse learning styles of his or her students. It could be by using various instructional techniques, ensuring they vary and accommodate visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners, by using a variety of engagement and collaboration techniques and more.

This will impact my teaching strategies greatly and every class will be altered slightly in order to cater to each unique students needs. Self-reflection on a daily basis will also help me tweak and modify my teaching strategies in order to better reach all students.

ENTRY 14 – Friday, November 9th, 2018

After viewing Figure 9, it is obvious that the kinds of knowledge portrayed in the diagram do indeed align with the Standards of Practice and Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession as they both include a strong emphasis on professional knowledge and skills, a commitment to learning and linking with other professionals and educators.

ENTRY 15 – Tuesday, November  13th, 2018

Ways in which technology aligns with these considerations and ways in which it does not are as follows:

THE GOOD:

  • Technology increases accessibility – virtual platforms, animations, simulations and software have made learning more accessible than ever, especially at the rapid rate of development that technology is moving at
  • Technology – increases awareness – never have we lived at a time where students can see first-hand the devastation that climate change causes or understand how malaria is affecting the continent of Africa. Technology has exposed us to world-wide issues and has created great debates in classrooms

THE BAD:

  • Technology can intimidate – some students are intimidated or even afraid of using technology for learning. They may feel overwhelmed and anxious about trying new software or devices and may withdraw further from a task
  • Technology can alienate – while holistic education wants to bring people together,sometimes technology can separate them or isolate them in a way that disable collaboration and authentic partnerships. Devices can often distract or isolate learners unless used effectively in connecting students

ENTRY 16 – Wednesday, November  14th, 2018

What strategies do you use to ensure your students work cooperatively in groups and that there is flexibility?

Many students are afraid to contribute to class discussions for fear of being ridiculed and others suffer from learning disabilities or anxiety that prevents them from participating. To avoid this and to allow students with exceptionalities to comfortably participate, I have used Google hangouts, Google docs and online discussion boards to foster scientific discussions. With these assistive technologies, students may feel more confident in expressing their ideas and opinions, especially those that suffer with anxiety.  Google Slides has a fantastic Q&A feature that I enable during class presentations. The students access a question-based page associated with the presentation and can post questions, which the presenter can refer back to at the end of the presentation. My quieter students felt more empowered from behind a keyboard, and they actively shared ideas, made meaningful contributions and asked scientific questions confidently and comfortably. For my students anxious about speaking in front of others, the anonymity made them feel relaxed during such discussions. My more outgoing and confident speakers were also aided by technology since they had to take the time to type an answer, as opposed to just saying whatever popped into their heads, causing them to pause and reflect before typing.

ENTRY 17 – Friday, November 16th, 2018

How can authentic learning be effective with students with special needs?

  1. Inspire and motivate – use real world and practical applications to make learning relevant
  2. Include multiple modes of research and investigation – include different perspectives like online research, connecting and communicating with live people, libraries, etc.
  3. Promote self-reflection, evaluation and critical thinking skills – what can I do better next time, what worked and what didn’t work
  4. Promote positive collaboration and creativity – students can draw on each others strengths and talents
  5. Foster cross-curricular links – show how topics can relate to other subjects and support learning in them

ENTRY 17 – Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

5 strategies or ideas that resonate with me and would be useful in my practice include:

  1. Using a student’s previous and current assessment data to specify and verify the student’s needs and help instructional planning, and determining next steps
  2. Considering the student’s strengths and needs and his or her instructional level
  3. Allowing alternative methods for the student to demonstrate his or her achievement of expectations
  4. Critically analyzing a student’s accommodations and modifications on a regular basis to ensure they are the appropriate ones
  5. Looking at the ‘bigger picture’ and truly vetting whether a students needs modifications versus accommodations

ENTRY 18 – Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

  • Why is it not necessary to check the IEP box when your student is working on accommodated expectations?

At my last school, teachers were only directed to check the IEP box if curriculum expectations were modified. If students received curriculum accommodations, we did not check the IEP box. This is because those students with accommodations are still assessed on the same curriculum criteria as other non-exceptional students, and therefore do not need to assessed differently. Student with modified curriculum expectations will be assessed differently and therefore will have the IEP box checked on their report cards.

Why is it important to communicate regularly with parents/guardians? It is so important to keep parents in the loop of a students learning journey so that they can provide resources and supports at home to foster positive learning experiences. By providing parents with relevant input, they can become active participants in their child’s education. The same goes for reciprocal feedback – parents should be encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher with any comments or concerns in order to solve a problem before it snowballs into a bigger issue!

What forms of communication can you use? I like to use e-mail primarily, but sometimes a phone call is necessary in order to avoid confusion. I especially like to deliver ‘happy’ phone calls and e-mails with positive feedback about my students for a particular behaviour, assessment result, achievement, etc.

How do you keep track of communication with parents/guardians? I keep track of phone calls by documenting them in my mark book. E-mails are organized by subject/grade folders in my school e-mail account for easy reference.

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