"Why not let people differ about their answers to the great mysteries of the Universe? Let each seek one's own way to the highest, to one's own sense of supreme loyalty in life, one's ideal of life. Let each philosophy, each world-view bring forth its truth and beauty to a larger perspective, that people may grow in vision, stature and dedication." -Algernon Black

Working with Diverse Students

  1. My experience working with a diverse student population
  2. Different approaches to learning
  3. Providing for individual differences
  4. Meeting the diverse needs of students

1. My experience working with a diverse student population
Completing my practicum experience and student teaching at Phoebus High School has taught me valuable lessons about working with a diverse population of about one hundred students. The school racial demographic based on most recent survey identifies the student population at 70% African American, 27% Caucasian, 2% Hispanic, and the remainder unidentified with a fairly even gender split. In my own classroom I experience similar numbers though I range from a 100% African American class to a Caucasian majority in another. My classes are also made up of a number of at-risk students. Students I consider to be "at-risk" fall into the following categories that I have experienced: Multiple suspensions, repeating, teen pregnancy/mother, or come from a home of a single-parent, abuse, or education below the level of a high school diploma.

My classes are made up of students grouped into three different tracking levels: average, honors, and gifted. Approximately one to two students in each class has been diagnosed with a disability that impedes learning. The majority of my students receiving services for a disability have been diagnosed with AD/HD. Several other students have also been diagnosed with a mood disorder, OCD, or physical handicaps.

2. Different approaches to learning
During my student teaching I have experienced a variety of different preferences and approaches for student learning. Many of my students are visual learners while others are more successful with reading a document, article, or textbook. While some thrive on new technology, a handful would give anything to just have a worksheet. The expression of ideas and thoughts is also extremely diverse. Some students prefer to engage in discussions like a seminar. Others would rather write their ideas and display their understanding in journal activities or essays. Yet another group learns best when they are drawing, cutting and pasting, or building some form of artistic project. Finally, using a variety of classroom arrangements demonstrated that students have a wide-range of success with independent, paired, and group work.

Because students differ in their approaches to learning I do my best to provide a variety of activities and lessons that meet those individual differences. During a unit on the Interwar Period students learned from diverse strategies. For students that succeed with writing, there were journaling activities and an essay portion of the final assessment. Students that prefer discussion had opportunities to do so through a Think-Pair-Share and 3-2-1 activity. I also implemented a number of teaching strategies in the form of a concept formation lesson and an inquiry lesson. To tap into the artistic ability of my students I had them create foldable charts to identify causes and effects of the Great Depression. Aside from the strategies already mentioned, there was also a balance between individual, paired, and group work. Lastly, the unit integrated a number of different resources including primary documents, contemporary articles, the textbook, and technology.


3. Providing individual differences in the classroom
One of my greatest challenges was providing individual instruction to a student I never met. One of my students was diagnosed with a heart condition that prevented her from attending any afternoon classes, including my own. The student was taught by a homebound teacher who received assignments and resources from me. It was a positive experience being able to tailor the needs of a student. The greatest challenge was teaching a student who could not participate in group work or be present for instruction. To help the student succeed required that I provide class notes, and as many resources as possible whether they be an image, a primary document, or a clip from United Streaming.

Individual differences are also required within the classroom. Trying to challenge each student without causing frustration in a class of twenty students is not an easy task. As stated earlier I do my best to vary activities over the course of a unit and within day-to-day lessons. The widest range in ability among my students is centered on their reading. A lack of vocabulary can make many articles and primary documents difficult for students to read and analyze. To assist students during an inquiry lesson on the French Revolution, I created a data set of documents along with an alternative set for students that might struggle with the the reading level.

Inquiry Lesson plan Wnukowski.pdf

4. Meeting the diverse needs of my students
I have learned that students bring a coterie of diverse needs to the classroom that I cannot always meet on my own. As a professional teacher I recognize my role of a teacher sometimes requires that I take a step back and direct students to seek help from other personnel. During my student teaching I have gone to parents, coaches, Marine JROTC instructors, and other staff members to help students. I find that students that are "at-risk" require services from counselors that I cannot provide. I am always available to listen to my students regardless of the issue or problem, but when their needs are beyond my capabilities, I send them to the proper support, or find out where they should be seeking help. Lastly, my students with disabilities need more than just a general education teacher, they deserve a staff of dedicated people. When remediation strategies are not working or there is an issue that I cannot resolve on my own, I typically contact the student's case manager for assistance. Schools are not places for individuality. Successfully teaching students requires teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation from the entire school community.