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Chapter 3: Teaching Is Adapting to Student Diversity - page 15 / 16





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support at the expense of high academic and personal expectations for the student (Santrock, 2008).  Moreover, teachers should not simply do things on behalf of the student; instead, they should help the student create solutions that work for him or her.  Resilient students are not those who are protected by others, but rather those who can help protect themselves by seeking out the resources they need and devising effective plans for dealing with current and future stresses (Werner, 1995; Zimmerman & Arunkumar, 1994).  We saw Ms. Goldstein, our high school teacher, implement this strategy in her work with Tracy.  Ms. Goldstein became actively involved in Tracy’s life which made it clear that she cared about Tracy and saw her as important.  For example, she visited Tracy at home, shared her own writing with Tracy, and encouraged Tracy to call at her home in case of an emergency.  Ms. Goldstein also served as a model of the sort of success Tracy wanted for herself; that is, she was a highly trained, respected (if not well-paid) professional.  Ms. Goldstein also shared her own adolescent writings so that she served as a realistic standard of comparison for Tracy.  Ms. Goldstein held high expectations for Tracy; for example, she required that Tracy write in her journal daily and she tutored Tracy when Tracy’s work fell below expectations.  Ms. Goldstein also served as a source of emotional support by listening to Tracy’s problems as they arose and by “being on call” for her.  And finally, Ms. Goldstein did not simply “do” for Tracy; she helped Tracy “do” for herself; for example, Ms. Goldstein praised Tracy’s self-generated solutions to difficult problems, praised her resourcefulness, and arranged for Tracy to visit colleges so that Tracy could gather information and decide on a course of action for herself.

6.  Provide meaningful experiences that meet the needs of gifted students.  Many of the attempts to meet the needs of gifted students amount to little more than burdening them with busy work (Renzulli, 1986).  Meeting the educational needs of these students requires that teachers provide them with meaningful experiences -- experiences that are in their areas of talent and interest and that are challenging to them.  We saw several examples of this in Mr. Singh’s dealings with Gwen, the seventh grader who was gifted in science.  Mr. Singh suggested activities and books that Gwen would find interesting outside of school, he arranged for her to take high school classes in science, and even arranged a summer science internship at a local university for her.  In meeting Gwen’s educational needs, however, Mr. Singh did not lose sight of her personal needs.  He was careful to discuss all aspects of her educational program with Gwen and her family.  He wanted to be certain that his suggestions were consistent with the desires of everyone involved and that they enriched rather than disrupted Gwen’s life.  The personal and interpersonal needs of gifted students are often ignored as teachers and school administrators scramble to meet the students’ academic needs (Elliott et al., 2000), but as we will see in Chapter 5 academic and personal-social needs are highly related.

7.  Actively include students with cognitive (and other) disabilities in the life of the classroom. Inclusion refers to more than where a student with disabilities learns; it refers to the active involvement of the student in all phases of the life of the classroom (Odom et al., 1996).  Such inclusion only happens when teachers plan for it and work to implement the plan.  We saw a concrete example of this strategy when we visited Ms. Noonan’s preschool class.  Bethany, who was the 4-year-old with Down syndrome, was often left out of the play and other spontaneous activities of her fellow preschoolers.  Ms. Noonan was rightly concerned about this and so monitored Bethany’s behavior closely during free play.  In our example, Ms. Noonan engaged Bethany and a typically developing student in a joint drawing activity.  What was especially interesting about this example was that Ms. Noonan took advantage of a naturally occurring opportunity to foster this interaction.  Both children were already drawing, she merely brought them together in pursuit of a common goal.  Teachers who know their students well and monitor closely the activity of the classroom will find many such opportunities for encouraging interaction among students with and without disabilities.

8.  Collaborate with other professionals to meet the needs of exceptional students.   Teachers in regular education classrooms must work with other professionals to plan and provide an integrated educational experience for exceptional students, whether those students are gifted or have cognitive disabilities (Elliott et al., 2000).  No one teacher will have the expertise to meet all of the needs of such students.  We saw a nice example of this collaboration in Mr. Singh’s approach to his gifted student.  Mr. Singh did not attempt to do everything for Gwen by himself.  Instead, he enrolled her in high school classes and arranged a summer internship in a university physics lab for her.  He also relied on her family to provide additional, enriching experiences for Gwen.

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