I came across this quote at some point during my college experience. I instantly fell in love with it. I very much liked the idea of continuing through life without letting something outside your control get in the way. I just didn’t know how relevant this quote was, how much it actually described me.
Like the bumble bee, I didn’t know about the external obstacles that were always before me. I just kept going. Pushing through the awkwardness and the insecurities. Doing the best I could to work with the irritations and annoyances that cropped up.
I’ve shared about my theoretical preparation for teaching, how assignments in various classrooms mostly focused on making observations instead of having a direct role. But there was an aspect of my education classes that truly resonated with m, and that was diving into a special education course. How fitting: the person who needed but didn’t utilize the school’s special education program (because she didn’t know she belonged in this group) finding it valuable that these resources are available.
My general idea of what special education meant barely scratched the surface. The part of this course that stood out was being introduced to the concept of making accommodations and modifications for students.
I saw the value in making accommodations. It was quite clear to me that teaching styles aren’t one size fits all. Students learn in different ways. They comprehend material at different paces. So if needed, changes should be made in how students are assessed. Resources should be available to assist in completing assignments if they are needed. If a child has trouble seeing, for instance, giving him glasses is not viewed as an unfair advantage. They are a necessary accommodation to allow the child to perform in class and live his life. It should be similar for students with sensory processing needs.
In class we discussed hypothetical scenarios of allowing students to take a test orally if they were better at explaining themselves that way. Or allowing more time for a test. I don’t recall seeing a real example of an individualized education plan (IEP). I just remember reminders that when I’m developing lesson plans, I’d have to indicate how I plan to meet student needs.
I didn’t realize how much I could have benefited from some of these adjustments when I was in grade school.
Adjusting the expectations and standards of an assignment might have helped me, so I could focus on developing on my trajectory rather than trying to meet the pace of everyone else.
But in my case, these ideas weren’t discussed with teachers. The need for assignment modifications weren’t addressed, so I struggled to keep up. Maybe I wasn’t as far back as I felt, but I do know not being able to perform at the same level as others yet being expected to had a negative impact on my self-confidence. (I shared about this here.)
As I reflected on my classroom experiences, I realized that there was at least one clear example of when I received an accommodation. It was an impromptu decision, but one that had a tremendous impact on me. In fourth grade we were sharing journal entries with the class. I tried to share at the front of the room, but I froze and began crying, fleeing to the bathroom to calm down. And when I returned, my teacher allowed me to read from the back of the room, while my classmates continued looking straight ahead. It was a small change, but it enabled me to share without having to endure everyone staring at me. (You can read the full entry here.)
That accommodation didn’t alter the assignment requirements. I still shared verbally with the rest of the class. I still turned in my written piece, responding to the same writing prompt as everyone else. The only difference was with a slight adjustment in the classroom environment. Being away from the staring eyes allowed me to share without an extra dose of nervousness.