In response to @betsysalt

This blog is in response to a post written by @betsysalt- who called on teachers to place people over pedagogy, or at least to have people centred pedagogy. For my own peace of mind, I wanted to make sure I could answer her questions. What follows is her questions and my responses- this is the original post here:

http://betsysalt.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/what-i-wish-teacher-bloggers-would-write-about-more/

How you engage a severely autistic child in your classroom?

Engaging a severely autistic child is about understanding their own very specific needs, which may be random and be very different to the needs of the rest of the class- this can include direct instruction to aid understanding the situation/task, or linking aspects of learning to their own passion in order to engage them in why the task is necessary. It’s important to recognise the importance of questioning, that ‘why’ maybe necessary to begin a task- down to the detail of the exercise which might be beyond other learners and well beyond the level of understanding required.

How do you cope with a child who refuses to learn, no matter how engaging your lesson, or effective your pedagogy?

Refusal to learn can be the embodiment of systemic past experience of failure- these learners need confidence in their own abilities and praise in any achievement no matter how small. In a wider context, refusal to learn is often routed in home issues, which need to be sensitively explored with expert guidance. It is always worth assessing if the child has a barrier to learning, such as dyslexia, which can make the most able child feel inadequate. Communication, and pastoral support is the avenue for redress.

How do you teach a child who can’t read, or perhaps can’t write, in history? In science?

A lack of literacy skills can be accommodated by encouraging verbal skills of peer or pair work, where children support each other in shared goals. For example, one child can draw the science experiment whilst the other writes labels. In history, one can create the time line, whilst the other creates date cards. Long term support can be put in place though praise, and careful planning for actual inclusion of all abilities, which can be assisted through the targeted use of TAs and a focus on the use of key words.

When school is the only safe place, how do you ensure children learn despite their internal and external wounds?

A safe place doesn’t insure a happy learner. A safe place can mean a learner who knows they are accepted, will act out their frustrations and distress as they have no other place to do so. Learning here can be difficult, but allocating responsibility can achieve some results, as can placing the children in a nurturing environment with others in similar situations, for part, or the whole of the school day. Some of our learners deal with more before the age of 16 that most adults do in their whole lives, and this will affect them and their outcomes. School becomes a cushion to absorb some of this frustration, and pedagogy become secondary to practical pastoral care.

When a child has no English how do you include them?

A child with no English will benefit from having an in school buddy- who can look out for them at playtime and in class. In addition to this, vocabulary cards are also a useful tool. As children get older, dictionaries can be useful tools for emergencies- however, immersion in English will lead to the fastest uptake of language and they should be encouraged to ask questions in English. At FE we would encourage these learners to take up ESOL to aid language acquisition,

How do you make the curriculum relevant to a Somali child?

Somali children come from a community where family is prioritised and so it is important to bear this in mind when teaching these learners. Engagement with family and community is key, as is buy-in to the importance of the end product of education, which is the same with all learners. The emphasis of positive role models they see as relevant, regarding hard work, such as Mo Farah, might be worth considering. However, this is a potentially tricky relationship, where communication and perseverance on the part of the school is key.

People over pedagogy every time. If you don’t know your learners they won’t fulfil their potential. If you don’t know what their potential is, you can’t push them to reach it.

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