Letters: Learning to Learn
Educators must pay attention to the disabilities they can see, as well as those they can't.
"The Advantage of Disadvantage: Teachers with Disabilities Are Not a Handicap" (September 2007) immediately caught my attention. I realize it is important to discuss the lives of people who are physically disabled, but it is equally important to discuss those whose disabilities are hidden.
In third grade, I was diagnosed with a learning disability in language processing. Similar to the teachers in the article, I am able to relate to students with learning difficulties. I have always had to work harder and deal with much more in school than my peers, both academically and socially. Special education students (as well as all children) do not necessarily understand the importance of being unique and who they are; they need to learn that there is nothing wrong with them.
I learned how to compensate with success in other areas. I wanted to use what I learned to help students be successful. I am in my second year of graduate school, studying to be an elementary school educator. Even though the required work takes me longer to complete, it does not mean I cannot succeed in a career I am passionate about.
In order to help children become successful, educators should be informed on the many issues of special education -- especially that hidden disabilities are as important to understand as those that educators can see.
The story on the Alaskan school district ("Northern Lights: These Schools Literally Leave No Child Behind," September 2007) was especially satisfying. At the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I introduced and taught creative studies in both education and business master's programs for seventeen years. The academic focus of my teaching was based on the work of E. Paul Torrance, a leading international authority on creative studies.
In the article, it was clear that enlightened educators were bringing about curriculum and instruction Torrance tried to promote to the powers that be and to establish officially the system of creative teaching and learning that was finding favor with teachers all over the world. Much of the reform in educational practices that is surfacing independent of the bureaucratic establishment reflects the Torrance basics for education described in his publication The Incubation Model of Teaching.
Although a later start time and a longer day sound nice ("Alternative Schedules: A New School Day Dawns," September 2007), in reality they change very little. My school has been starting at 9 A.M. for two years now, and the only change is that children are milling around the campus longer in the morning. Parents still drop their kids off at 6:30 and 7:00 A.M. as they leave for work, so there is no benefit for the students.
Kids are still going to bed at midnight or later, and the later end time (3:30 P.M.) keeps us from doing the after-school tutoring and other activities we used to do. Students are actually more spent by the end of the day, with teachers not far behind. As far as No Child Left Untested goes, there have been no gains at all.
NCLB and Parents
Why is NCLB insisting on holding schools accountable for student attendance and dropouts ("NCLB: Law and Evolution," September 2007)? Shouldn't that be the parents' job? If parents aren't around, we provide before-school and after-school care, breakfast, and lunch. If students come to school without supplies, like the outrageously priced No. 2 pencil and paper, teachers provide them. If students have emotional issues, we provide counseling. Let's not forget our ancillary purpose: If students are uneducated, we provide education.
I would think the very least NCLB could hold parents accountable for is getting their children to school -- perhaps even on time?
Regarding ""Film Flammed: Some Teachers Get Flak for Showing Flicks"" (September 2007): So what, exactly, is wrong with a "credible, legitimate opposing view?" If Al Gore's film can't stand up to opposition, it's not much of an argument. As teachers, we dare not be threatened by students who want to think, school boards that require us to be politically balanced, or parents who wish to question what we teach.
If you are right, logical argument is no threat. If you are only biased, argument may threaten you, but only if you have a weak position. I've been questioned before by parents and administrators, and I've welcomed their inquiries and even their objections every time. It makes me a better teacher.