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Is Every Teacher a Special Needs Teacher?

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Introduction

PORTFOLIO ENTRY 1 EVERY TEACHER IS A SPECIAL NEEDS TEACHER Many acknowledge the work of teachers to be socially and economically important, yet the work of teachers is also very complex. As I have learned this year, teaching is not just about teaching a subject, having good classroom control or attaining good examination results. There are also wider moral and social purposes to be considered. As Dayton notes, teachers cannot limit their work to the classroom only, leaving the larger setting and purposes of schooling to be determined by others. They must take active responsibility for the goals to which they are committed to, and for the social setting in which these goals appear.1 The term 'integration' is sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'inclusion'. However Ainscow has noted that integration tends to involve the school making a limited number of changes while inclusion, though incorporating many of the principles of integration, places more emphasis on the necessity for schools to examine their current policy and implement changes in order to meet the needs of all their pupils.2 The goal of inclusion is not to erase differences but to enable all students to belong within an educational community without prejudice.3 This, it is argued will breakdown the barriers which exist and lead to all children being valued equally. In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards the inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools. Inclusion is now part of Irish education legislation. ...read more.

Middle

and equality with respect to maximum access and participation in school.6 It promotes collaboration and collegiality with the learning support teachers and members of staff. The school in general is characterised by diversity. As well as having many extremely capable and bright students there are also students with general and specific learning difficulties and some with physical impairments. There are learning support classes for English, Irish and Maths but outside of these disciplines, all classes are mixed ability. Teaching religion and history meant that all my classes this year have been mixed ability classes. From the outset I have needed to cater for a variety of educational needs. At the beginning of the year, when I was making out my initial seating plan for my 1A religion class, it never occurred to me to take into consideration those who may have a visual and hearing impairment. I placed a girl called Carolyn in the back row of the class and thought nothing more of it until she came up to me at the end of class and told me that she was deaf in her left ear (see appendix 1). I immediately asked her did she want to move but she said that she would be ok. I got the impression that she wanted to be treated like any other student and did not wish for any special attention. I felt sorry for her and therefore agreed to let her stay in the back row and made sure again that she was comfortable with the decision. ...read more.

Conclusion

It has been important however to do this in a very discreet way which has not at all times been possible. I have tried to vary my methodologies in a way that enhances student learning. This has not always been easy but has most definitely been worthwhile. Carolyn's story is successful and inspiring and I am grateful to her for what I have learned. While each student is different, I believe that in the future I may be able to expand on and adapt some of the strategies and approaches that I have employed with Carolyn. I will continue to research, reflect and engage in dialogue with my peers. I will also continue to develop my teaching skills in order that I might foster a classroom climate where each student can feel they 'belong'. 1 Dayton, Michael J., (2000) 'Partnership as a model in the formation of public policy: A study in relation to the Irish second level education system 1992-1999', Theses (M.Comm.)-NUI, 2000 at Department of Government, UCC. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, p.38. 2 Ainscow, Mel, (1994) Special Needs in the Classroom: A teacher education guide. London: Kingsley Publishers, p.11. 3 Irish National Teachers' Organisation (2000) Proceedings of Special Education Conference, Maynooth 2000. Dublin: INTO, p.22. 4 Provisions of the EPSEN Act 2004 (www.nda.ie) accessed 08/01/08 5 I understand that this "exclusion" policy has changed and that all classes are now mixed ability. 6 Christ King Girls' Secondary School Mission Statement (www.christkingschool.com) accessed 21/01/08 7 Westwood, Peter, (2003) Commonsense Methods for Children with special Educational Needs: Strategies for the Regular Classroom. London: Routledge Falmer, p.48. ?? ?? ?? ?? 4 ...read more.

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