Friday, 17 June 2016

Best practice and co-educators by Dyslexia Toby  © 2016
 Is it so hard to understand those who need to learn in a different way!

Teaching in general is a very difficult but rewarding profession. The biggest problem facing existing staff is the lack of opportunities to upskill, and if we are to get on top of learning needs this is essential! In the UK they have introduced this very important addition to the skill set in teacher training and not before time. We still need to make this the case in many other countries around the globe. These new teacher/trainers have an uphill task as is! Early expectations from others and indeed themselves is to hit the ground running. The big fear is lack of support and acceptance of these new energetic vibrant thinkers and their ideas. Many see them as a hindrance or threat! They should be both embraced for all their good will and great ideas and nurtured to ensure they remain enthusiastic and buoyant. Teaching will heap enough pressure on them as is!
Walking into a new school with little knowledge of the pupil’s needs and possible hostile environment gives the new teacher little time to take stock, catch their breath or indeed reflect.
This is also evident in learning resource centres or specialist schools. Most up to now have been self-taught. Knowledge is power and it’s very important that new teachers are both eased in and encouraged, both in and outside of inclusive teaching environments!
The adage is a ratio of one in ten children have an individual learning need, however recent research in the UK has pointed to an increase… we were aware greater numbers but didn’t want to take heed of it. The big worry is that governments will try to change the parameters to address the numbers rather than offer actual support! The big problem is that some experienced teachers don’t see this as a problem and some are reluctant to retrain. The new recruits will get quickly absorbed into this way of thinking if we don’t take care and endorse both their thinking and methods of approach.
Understanding of this area is paramount if we wish to make learning truly inclusive.
Where has the increase come from? Many children that wouldn’t have been considered as having a learning need have been failed by society and successive governments. Socio-economic reasons also have their part to play.
Best practice
If we are to ensure best practice we don’t just need to look at successful teaching. We need to look at poor practice and see why this is failing. Many teachers are propped up by other teachers within a course. I have witnessed this first hand during my years as a teacher.
As we know, the curriculum is wide and students can excel in some subject areas giving them a variation in scores. This can also have a variant where more than one teacher is teaching a subject or a particular year of the program. Many parents have mentioned to me about the change in their children from year to year and it’s not the child or school that changes (that’s a constant), the teacher does (that’s a variable)!
Many believe that those working in this area have qualified as something special whereas for the most, as mentioned, it’s themselves that have up skilled. These staff are rare and we need more, however we now have a greater understanding and should be able to think on a much wider plane when it comes to teacher training. We need to put new teachers into schools that are non-confrontational for the first few years to help build their confidence and allow their new techniques to flourish and cascade to others.
Then they will be ready to be deployed in schools that are operating below par! They are so often used as cannon fodder in troubled schools where no one wants to teach. This is a dog chasing its tail as many get disillusioned and either emigrate or leave the profession altogether.
Assessment and awareness
The teacher is not the only issue here… good support, modern thinking and adequate resources are key ingredients. Changing exam structures to continual assessment does not address those students disaffected with school. It’s a myth! This puts unnecessary pressure on both resources and teachers. Reducing class sizes would also allow this to flourish and we would see far greater exam successes.
The Curriculum needs to be embraced by all. Results are driven by like minded people.
A broad look at all subjects for each child needs to be looked at and understood. Why is the Geography or Art teacher raving about a pupil that’s being condemned as a no hope by the English teacher?
The curriculum should be both available and achievable for all students within the learning environment.
Assessment should be fit for purpose. It’s so important to look at the needs of each student both now, previously and in the future. Many view this as a hot potato and try to dissuade difficult students from signing up to the school. Few take into account valuable information gleaned by their previous schools.
Information should be available to all, including supply teachers! These are often the forgotten few…just like newbies, they have to know all the background of the pupils and hit the ground running. The last school I taught at used to have group/course folders with all the individual students’ information and stages of teaching/curriculum within.
All of this helps to nourish and grow a better learning environment.
Specialist Areas
Encourage both the deployment and re-training of support staff! This is to be both admired and valued. Don’t let staff take up the role simply because they chose the short straw or they see it as an easy option. This is a vocation and needs to be taught with both heart and humanity. It’s seen by many as costly and of little worth, we have to change this mind set!
I would love to hear from teachers who have qualified having also been there themselves as a learner with a learning need. I indeed qualified to teach off the back of a real struggle with both educators and the system myself, so I could give an opportunity to those who had been let down by the system in the past. Resource needs to be beneficial and measured for success. We need also to consider resourcing at academic age and not chronological ages!
Teaching in an environment where all students feel included is so rewarding and stimulating for the educator. Be mindful of individual students and how vulnerable they can be. For example many with dyspraxia or dyslexia will die a thousand deaths if they are asked to read out loud. On the other hand they don’t want to be smothered. Many children feel resource carries a stigma and yet we support all students in one way or another, be it academics in Art and Crafts or non-academics in English and Maths. We need to embrace those that have varying learning styles and teach the benefits of their individuality and creativity to others. We all need each other to survive this life!
Different styles
It really isn’t horses for courses!
Students learn at a varying pace and style… many excel in some subjects, few excel in all areas of study.
It’s up to teachers to measure learning minute by minute and adjust if needs be. Students don’t just switch off or drift off! Lack of stimulation or being unable to understand is the key to most switching off. Even the workload should and can be varied!
Simple things like time tabling lessons. Why do schools have back to back Maths or English lessons and business or another language? How do children with processing cope with that? Simple… they don’t!
Every student needs to have time to reflect, process and go again, so why not English, Art then Maths? That way we get a chance to clear our mind in the creative subjects and the academics don’t become bored. Win win!
Parents are vulnerable
Don’t forget the parents. There are two issues here. One… they might have had a bad experience in school themselves and are maybe not academic or two… they are academic and cannot see why their child don’t understand all of the subjects they’re being taught.
Many don’t turn up for parent evenings for fear of embarrassment or simply it brings back bad memories! Learning needs can run through families. This should be monitored.
The above should also be taken into consideration when issuing homework. There’s not always someone at home that can understand the work at hand (new mathematical methods).

Nb If your child is starting a new school make sure the provision is there before you register them.

NB. This information is from personal experience and research and also partly sourced through the work of others.  It is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia and to offer helpful advice in related areas.   Dyslexia Toby  © 2016