Education – No Place for White Towers- An Exercise in Meeting Students Halfway on All Levels.

When I signed up for the November 7th Professional Workshop in Dover,

The DSEA Professional Development Workshop “Supporting Diverse Learners in Career and Technical Education Coursework: Creating a Universal Design for Learning Classroom,

I had no idea what the length of that title would mean for me.  A crazy night of down pouring rain, the trek to Dover was long, and a bit depressing on my way there unable to find a way to become dry, and rushing from school to be on time –

but, I found some exciting information, that (me being not a good candidate for attending classes in the evening) – that was truly beneficial to all educators and anyone that has a presence within a classroom.

Starting out with the talk by Temple Grandin, helped set the tone of what success can look like from a diverse population of learners.

Headed to Chicago for the IWCA Conference, I always, no matter the location, tried to create a Workshop that provided attendees with something they can take them with them and use, something that goes beyond hearing individuals present.  I felt this way with this particular workshop.  Why?

The number of resources given were VERY in tune with personalizing the needs and interests of students that have specific needs – whether with disabilities, above average and even those we consider “average” – I like the resources that addressed the needs Dr. Tillson, the lead speaker of this particular workshop, provided.  Meeting Mr. Dale Matusevich, Education Associate at the Department of Education of Delaware, helped facilitate this workshop as well as the information provided.  I find many local educators, local being those educators so busy that they often do not have the time to explore and discover the many representatives in the Department of Education, and discover what is possible and what exists to close the gap of separation between alienating students to the best possible education they can receive.  Workshops as this one, do in fact, help bridge a divide long held by educators who often cannot afford the time to learn of such tools to assist in the massive undertaking needed to meet the needs of their students every single day.  The trick is finding better ways of letting effective methods, procedures, and ideas (and ones that actually relate to the needs of educators) to bridge gaps between Departments of Education across the United States, and be made available and easily available to educators.

I saw it in the faces of the educators in attendance at this particular workshop, the long days, hours and amount of personal energy given and trying to add to their effectiveness by night when stacks of assignments, lesson plans, and tasks awaited them.  This is the life of an educator, but it did feel this particular workshop and list of resources made a tremendous effort to provide ideas that were meant to bridge gaps between what often are considered theories handed down from an Ivory Tower, to be implemented, 

A student inventory sheet, a Positive Personal Profile, the difference between accommodation and modifications (with a guide of suggestions for these),

Accommodation – How material is presented.

Modification – How a standard can be changed to assist the student.

tips for collaborative teaching, a communication/work styles quick profile, the Career Development Conceptual Framework developed by Dr. Tillson, as well as two specific profiles provided of students.  The Universal Design for Learning emerges to show a wide depth of how so many needs fit under an umbrella of professional development.  The specific profiles of the sample students provided show specific disabilities in a case study that we, educators and attendees from levels of Elementary Schools to High Schools, could talk through and identify strategies that work for all students, not defined by a disability but by a different way of learning, and overcoming the challenge meeting so many needs in one class in one day on the part of being an educator.

A realization set in as well from this informative night.  If in fact we want to improve education, a collaborative partnership has to occur, meaning, administrators, Department of Education advocates and members, educators, need to walk the walk beside each other, be in constant contact with the very students we want to inspire day in and day out.  I have a vision of a program where rotations of administrators, State Education members, and educators share the classroom and then share the very talks that occur – and all of these parties know the names, personalities, and strategies that work for particular students. That seemed to happen through this workshop in theory, and I wanted to see this happen more in practice.

Personalization is everything.  I felt this always as an educator, I know students strive for this – in and out of the classroom- and I do see educators and some administrators that make this a part of their daily mantra and walk the walk of personalization with students.  For them there is no ivory tower with these individuals, and it keeps students vested in the long term goal of education.  yet, there are so many that evade the calls of what students need every day, personalization, no matter your position, no matter your role, students depend on cheerleaders for their success every step of the way.  I certainly learned this as an educator in rural, urban, private, and international locations. I learned an educator is someone that rolls up their sleeves, feels what students feel, and experiences what students experience.  Also, the time is needed to be able to have these experiences, and educators should be found in the roles of all levels of education, from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the office, to the legislative levels.  All needs to share the classroom time if all have an interest in education among students, not above students.  The collaboration experience needs to be something experienced and allotted for not just within a school but within Educational member’s offices and the classroom. 

I remember the idea of a charter school in New York that rotated the principal in the classroom, as a instructor, 2 days per week.  Except I thought, this model should be be public schools, not just private or charter schools.  It makes sense to the student and the teacher, and I can see it would be another version of hands on education that works and is effective.  I learned this simply from a large population thinking a librarian position is one for a quiet and easy position.  I feel I am NOT doing my job if my job is quiet and easy, once knowing the stress and work an average educator goes through a day?- a Media Specialist Librarian should make available EVERY POSSIBLE RESOURCE without being asked to make this success in the classroom possible and reduce that stress.  Proactive and not expecting things to come to him/her have always made the difference.

In looking back and reviewing the tenets of this workshop several weeks later, I find myself appreciating the specific questions, strategies, and lessons that a variety of instructors present were providing their students to show them they could be amazing in the future that awaited them.  From instructors that utilized CTE skills – thanks to Dr. Carolyn Cohee – to entice and attract students to the realms of social media, (check out announcements by students here, – I also love that Woodbridge High has a news/announcement production team as well for the school)  – to analyzing the document we were given to identify the types of stairs in a house, to how to construct the different types of stairs in a house, students need the chance to build on top of the ideas they are given.  I think the same can apply to educators/administrators/legislators/advocates/.  

Yet another takeaway were the tools listed below:

Read & Write for Google Chrome

Job Accommodation Network

Amy Pleet-Odle – Learning Expectations

Guide to Career and Technical Education’s Special Populations in North Carolina

Teaching Transition Skills – Inclusive Schools

Included With the End in Mind

In ending, I LOVE,  L   O   V    E  the tenets of this podcast – expressed here – and why learning every single year is so important, and how Humanities play a part in that learning and lead to STEM and STEAM, and ultimately, success for students.


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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