Kristi YoungEduc 205Classroom Profile Essay12/7/10 Whitney Elementary School is a pretty rough school although you might not notice atfirst glance. This 475student school serves 51 special education students and about 155 ELL kidsfrom 19 different countries. The students are mostly low income and many come from hardbackgrounds with varying family characteristics; 92% of these children receive free or reducedprice lunches. As I observed a P.E class one day it tore at my heart when they teacher told methat many of them enjoyed this time so much because they may not own a ball or get to playoutside at home. Like many schools they do the best they can and seem under-funded but thenagain who isn’t underfunded these days? They do have the advantage of some great communityoutreach programs based right at their school to help point the kids in the right direction. I had the privilege to observe Stacey Hammar’s class for 12 hours. I’m fortunate to haveprior experience in schools and with this population and felt like I had some advantages as far asbeing able to assess their situation as well as the teaching techniques used. I learned many thingswhile I was there and I feel like I might have a few helpful points as well. The students needswould be deemed mild/moderate though I saw a couple who might function pretty well in anmore immerged setting as well as one who might later be better served by a more extendedresource setting. The whole school takes a positive behavioral support approach with discipline. Physicalcontact is not tolerated at any level and in spite of some externalizing disorders which do causethe occasional disruption in Ms. Hammar’s class; her students are treated with the sameexpectations as the general population. The entire school uses a green/yellow/red light system
which seems to be very effective for most of the kids. There are a couple who just don’t have thecognitive reasoning to understand why a recess may be taken away and so differentconsequences are implemented for these students. I was intrigued by this class as they seemed todo very well in some areas such as using total communication for one little guy who is hearingimpaired and also affected by Down syndrome. He has some residual hearing and benefits fromthe use of hearing aids and also utilizes visual, verbal, and physical means of communication andhe does use sign language but it is my understanding that he tends to rely on it so much that theyreally want to emphasize other avenues while he is still young. There are areas where I felt improvement could be made by the district and the staff.Staff training for one seems to be in order; we tend to get into a routine and know what worksand what is easy though it may not be the best choice in the long run. I saw need forimprovement in the way the staff sometimes addresses the students as well as their redirectiontechniques. For one student in particular there tends to be quite a bit of “man handling” andphysical prompting that will not be of any use to him as he grows older and gets bigger. Somenon physical redirection could be used I think quite well with him and he seems to rely on beingable to provoke his aides to picking him up and repositioning him or reminding him to stay in hischair by use by the aide placing her feet on either side of him when she faces him at the table. Ialso saw that perhaps some more positive language could be used. I didn’t think I had beenuniquely trained but I have seen the benefits of saying things like “let’s not” instead of “don’t!”for example. The entire class receives a great deal of direct instruction. This is great and really helpsthe students. With the changing atmosphere in special education I think that in the future if notimmediately all of these students could see a great deal a benefit from some more extensive
mainstreaming. The only time that they get to be with their peers is at lunch (where they sit attheir own table), at recess, and at P.E. and/or music. From seeing how well students of allabilities can do in a general ed classroom from our videos in class I was genuinely surprised towalk into a program with so much potential for that and not see it happening. I feel like perhapswith a couple more sets of hands; co-teaching could be a very effective teaching strategy. Ms.Hammar is a flexible and creative teacher who knows her stuff. She has a lot to offer otherteachers as well as the general student population. The students as a class receive occupational therapy as a related service from a verygifted professional. I have never observed OT in a larger group setting before and was delightedto see it implemented in such fun and effective ways. Some of the kids have pervasivedevelopmental disorders which can be quite limiting and the OT seems to really push thatcomfort zone for them and encourage interaction and sensory stimuli. The routine is reliable butalso active enough that no 2 sessions are the same. There are many opportunities for the kids towork on both academic and various motor and social skills in this setting in sort of a functionalcurriculum. I was lucky enough to come into this class at a time when parent teacher evaluations werebeing conducted and IEPs were being revised. I saw a lot of collaboration between the teacher,the aides, and attempts were made to involve the parents. Given the basic demographics of theschool it seemed to hold true in this population that engaging their parents was not always aneasy task. As pure speculation I wonder what a program offering some more formal supports toall families as a whole that have children affected by various impairments. It would be asensitivity training of sorts and focus on empowerment. I would be interested to see the
correlation between the learned helplessness of the student and their parents’ before and aftersuch a program. In conclusion and back on subject I like that self regulation seems to be a goal of theschool as a whole and it seems that the school has a positive community atmosphere. This schooldespite district underfunding that affects all school and the makeup of the entire studentpopulation with such diverse backgrounds seems to have everything going for it with unlimitedpotential. The staff is all hard working and seems willing to seek further training so I see noreason why the district could not successfully address some of the issues afore mentioned if it isfound to be needed. As stated I believe that all of the students in this class would benefit fromsome time with their peers in a mainstream classroom as varying intensities of course perhapsthrough the use of tiered assignments much like what is already used in Ms. Hammar’s roombut of course in a more diverse setting. Whitney has a strong program with a lot of room to grow.