"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."

-Maya Angelou

The Diversity of the Student Populations With Whom I Worked With During Student TeachingDJ Montague 2.jpg
During student teaching, I had the opportunity to work with a very diverse group of students. I was placed in a fourth grade classroom at DJ Montague Elementary School, which is a part of the Williamsburg-James City County School System. DJ Montague is a Title 1 school and recently received and award for being a Title 1 distinguished school. In regards to diversity, DJ Montague is a diverse school where 35.7% of students are minority students. In addition, 30.39% of students receive free lunch and 7.42% receive reduced lunch. The school itself is also diverse. 64.3% of students are Caucasian while 35.7% are considered to be minority students. A break down of students by race, ethnicity, and gender can be found here.

My classroom was a very diverse place. I had 21 students. Four of my students had IEPs for special education services. Of those four students, one student also received services for speech, while another student received speech services as well as occupational therapy services. Two of my students had speech IEPs; however, one student became referral only and stopped going to speech therapy while the other student went through full eligibility testing. I also had a student who had an eye condition called retinoschisis. While this student seemed like a normal student, he needed specific accommodations in class to be able to read and write without difficulty. I had students with 504 plans who needed accommodations in the classroom like sitting close to the front of the classroom. I also had six students who participated in the Visions program at DJ Montague. They receive gifted education services for either mathematics, language arts, or both.

How Students Differed in Their Experiences and Approaches to Learning and How I Provided for Individual Differences
My students in my classroom all had different learning styes and approaches to learning and I believe that as a teacher it is my responsibility to try to find ways to attend to all different types of learning throughout a unit. Some of my students were visual learners while others needed to move around to learn about specific concepts. I found that some students needed to think out loud about specific concepts while others needed certain accommodations to work through a test. For example, some student's IEP stated that they had to have their test read to them. Throughout the year, it was determined that one student needed to read their benchmark tests to another adult to be able to work through the questions and ideas.

In order to provide for differences, I used different tactics to help students understand what they were learning throughout the unit. I tried to give students notes about what we were learning. This gave students who needed strong visuals, a reference to always refer back to when studying. In order to gauge the auditory learners, I always discussed concepts we were focusing on in a unit. I also tried to give students a chance to talk about concepts with their table mates. For example, during reading, I tried to give students plenty of times to turn and talk with a partner about what we were reading. I also tried to engage auditory learners by using BrainPop. It gave a concrete way to end a lesson and to give students a different way to learn the content. In addition, I used hands on activities to engage learners. It gave students an opportunity to discuss concepts and to see them in action. For example, I used hands on activities in my science unit to help students understand electricity and magnetism. Finally, I used activities like a decimal race to get students moving while learning. As shown in my teaching skills section, students had to do sky punches after they were done sorting. This not only incorporated movement but also added in discussions and collaborative learning.

How I Built a Positive Rapport with and Among Students, Fostering an Environment that Values and Encourages Respect for Diversity
Throughout my time as a student teacher, I tried to build positive relationships with my students and with my cooperating by always being friendly and showing that I cared by helping students. I also tried to take an interest in their lives by listening to what they wanted to tell me. I had a new student start around the same time I started student teaching. I had the opportunity to get to know my student on a deeper basis by completing a 2 by 10 assignment. I talked with my student for 2 minutes for 10 consecutive days. Because of his pull out schedule, my days were not consecutive, but I did talk with my student for 10 days. Based on this opportunity, I believe that my student felt more comfortable with me. I noticed that he was much more open with me after this encounter and I believe that it made him feel like he was a part of our classroom.
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My Magnificent Mustang to one of my students.

I also tried to build an environment of respect. I wanted my students to understand that I respected them and their concerns and that I expected the same in return. There were plenty of times when a student would have a question or would want to respond to a question, but was interrupted by other students talking when they were not supposed to be talking. I would stop the student and tell him or her to wait until everyone was ready. I believe that little instances like this show students that I care and that I have standards within my classroom.

Finally, I used some of my cooperating teacher's and the school's positive recognition policies to recognize good student behavior. For example, my cooperating teacher had a ticket policy set up in her classroom to recognize positive student behavior. She would give tickets out randomly for students who helped her or helped each other. She would also give tickets out to groups of students who worked well together and won an activity in class. In addition, DJ Montague had a system set up called Magnificent Mustangs. In this system, teachers recognize magnificent behavior throughout the week. They then turn in the sheet to the guidance counselor who announces those mustangs on the morning news. At the end of each month, the school calls all of the mustangs for that month to take a group picture that is displayed in the hallway near the office. During my time at DJ Montague, I gave a mustang away to a student who decided to help me during indoor recess. He did not know what to do since we were stuck inside and I asked him to help me. He set up a writing activity and helped me explain it to the class by holding up the materials. At the end of the day he helped by cleaning off the white board as well. The next day, I told my cooperating teacher what had happened and she told me to fill out a form. He citizenship was then recognized on the morning news.

How I Collaborated with Learning or Behavioral Specialists, Families, and/or Related Service Personnel to Meet the Diverse Needs of My Students

Throughout my time student teaching, I had the opportunity to collaborate with different specialists to help service my students. One specialist that I saw on a daily basis was the special education paraprofessional. She worked with my four special education students in my classroom twice a day, once during math and once during writing. At the end of writing, she pulled my students for reading. This paraprofessional was especially rewarding to work with because she knew exactly what the students needed. She came in ready to work and help the students without giving them the answers. In addition, even though I was not a certified teacher, she still respected me as a teacher. When she came into the room, I would explain to her what we were doing. When she was unsure of something, she would ask me. She was always willing to help me pass out and collect papers and would even help other struggling students in the classroom. The relationship that my cooperating teacher and I had built with her made my time as a student teacher very rewarding.

My students also went to see other specialists and I had the chance to work with them to understand how my students were doing. Some of my students went to the speech specialist throughout the week. She was also a case worker for one of my students who was going through eligibility during this time. During this time, my student was constantly being pulled out and observed. She always set a schedule by placing slips on my cooperating teacher's desk. She was open with how the students were doing. I was able to talk with her about how my students were interacting with her when they visited and worked with her.

Some of my students also worked with the math and reading specialists to enhance and develop their SOL test taking skills. Some students were pulled every day for math to work on specific content skills, like rounding or converting, while other students were pulled every other day. The reading specialists worked on how to look in a passage to find the answers for specific SOL questions. While I did not ask them every day what they were working on, I did inquire about particular students that I felt were struggling. I asked the math specialist to work with one student on converting and use the steps that I gave my students. I also talked with the reading specialist about a student who was having trouble comprehending a text. She discussed her concerns and I knew what to look for with that student when I had him in class.

Overall, I had the opportunity to work with and discuss my students' needs with many different professionals in the building. I was able to understand what my students' needed through what these professionals observed. Working with all of these professionals was very rewarding and I believe that going in to my own classroom, I will be more prepared to collaborate with other professionals in the building.