Sunday, 10 May 2015

Closing the Gap

Differentiation and celebration of diversity are essential factors in making Mathematics worthwhile for all. Differentiation is a teaching skill that is essential in providing an effective Mathematics program, one that would reach many students with various backgrounds and exceptionalities. Although there are several factors that can potentially can impact student learning and achievement; Gender, LD/Exceptionalities, Culture, Language Barriers and Socioeconomic environments, it is our role as responsible facilitators of learning to identify potential barriers and to respond appropriately and effectively. My Personal Mission Statement: I believe my role as an educator is to motivate, challenge and inspire those within my classroom, within the school environment and reach those who influence our students outside of the walls of our schools. To continue my own path of professional learning so that I am able to recognize and respond to the individual needs of all my students to ensure achievement levels in learning and living. As I read through the various topics on supporting our diverse population of learners I recognized a few common threads. • Knowing your learner – recognizing the needs of your students (early intervention) • Ongoing reflection – are your strategies working? Is your classroom environment meeting the needs of your students? • Truly believing in the abilities and potential and value of each of your students (this should be whole school community belief from Administration to the Custodian) • Proactive collaboration – with all educational partners both within and outside the school (i.e. family and community supports) It takes a village! I am presently working in a school with an extremely diverse population. Many of our students are new Canadians with language challenges, children of families from single family homes or living instead with extended family member due to a variety of issues. Many of our families are struggling to make ends meet and some of our students have all of those challenges and more. Although I have not had the privilege yet to teach math to these students I believe the following tool will help me in future practice to respond to the needs of my students. So how can we help? Action Plan 1. Who is this child? Be that teacher who truly believes in that child! I am sure we all remember “that” teacher. They knew who you were….really. They recognized things that were going on in your life that you brought into the classroom. They responded in such a way to make you feel valued, safe and respected. They knew your family. Maybe not in a “coming to Sunday dinner” way, but they created communication path that included the people that were important to you. What are the challenges? i.e. motivation, attendance, nutrition, self-esteem, level of parent education 2. Who can I talk to? Where can I find resources? Are there other educators involved, previous teachers, CYW’s, SERTS and community programs? 3. What are the interests of this child? What do the parents do for a living, what types of math do they do at their job? (Making those connections and involving parents as “educators”). 4. What can I do inside and outside of my classroom? • Provide a climate of mutual respect • Have high expectations for ALL students regardless of challenges. • Provide food through a school breakfast program • Have students involved as much as they can in their school community (they can make a difference!) • Homework clubs • Connect with Brother and Sister Programs • Form support groups for high risk students • Praise all accomplishments to build self-esteem • Provide a safe and positive learning environment with many resources and manipulatives to with. • Provide differentiated tasks and choices in activities • Set realistic goals and hold high expectations • Provide parents with support on how to help their children at home. I.e. If Mom is a cashier; provide activities or problem solving that relates to skills required for that job. • “Ethno mathematics” – creating a math environment that provides a variety of activities that build upon student cultures and everyday realities. Make math real to them. 5. Connect with parents – providing feedback on how strategies are working in the classroom but asking how the support at home is progressing. Providing that positive feedback to the home supporters as well. Value their support! “Low-income parents can complement preschool learning and help to provide a strong math foundation that their children will need in the future. Empowering these parents by offering explicit instructions for how they can take skills developed in the workplace home could go a long way in closing the math achievement gap. Low-income parents may have the tools. They just need more information about how to use them.” Barrett, Ben; North America, Ed Central” 6. Ongoing reflection of your own practice – Are things working, does the student see the value in these supports. What changes if any need to be made to continue moving forward?

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