Saturday, April 28, 2012

Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach

Students Achievement Best Practices in Small Group Setting

 By Elena Leonido, Special Education Teacher

student achievement best practices include teaching to learn, setting expectations, and providing consistent and ongoing reinforcement.
image courtesy of
Teaching to Learn:

“I don’t want to do work!!!” and a loud ohhhh!!!! filled the whole fourth grade room, after one kid dropped his book on the  floor, threw his chair and stood still. The general education teacher was furious and sent that kid to the principal’s office. Shocked and tongue tied, I wanted to cry in disappointment. I believe I was sad both for the teacher and for the child. It was my first year teaching in America but definitely not my first in teaching profession. After a whole day of teaching, a big question was circling in my mind: “How can I help these kids?”

At first , I looked back at my 15 years of teaching, back in the country where poverty is high and but the regard for education is high too .I remembered my students from the Home Study Program who walked and swim to cross the river and walk again to get to a simple school building. These kids still want to do school work after a long hours of walking and drying their clothes and walk again everyday to get to a teacher and learn something.

I convinced myself that kids are the same everywhere. That these kids are in school because they want to learn too. After several days I found myself teaching in small group and “Johhny” was one of them sitting and waiting for whatever I have to say.

Expectations :

“Do you know that you are so lucky to be American students?”I asked and all of them looked at me with a question on their faces. Then I described how are they different from other kids of their age in some other countries. I explained how  lucky they are to have all the resources provided for their education. The school buses, materials, hard bound books, materials and not to mention their teachers. That taking all of these for granted does not make any sense at all.That I expect them to believe that they can help not only themselves but other kids in some other time, if they get a good education. That they need to give their  best shot in whatever we do in that small group to learn.

Consistent and ongoing reinforcement:

Since then, I challenged my group of students including Johnny to look for their awesomeness. To empower themselves by believing they are too blessed to be upset, too smart to be left behind and too good to be ugly. Before I start my lesson I ask this question.” What made your day today?” “What can you do to improve yourself?”I prepare  interesting activities that can move their cognitive, and psychomotor domain and most importantly at the end of each lesson I touch their affective domain by letting them feel that they can do it. We usually sing the lines of the song that says ‘Give me all best shot !!! “ Yes, yes, yes, yes “when they encounter challenging question from me.

Learning To Teach:

“When I grow up, I will be a teacher and I will help kids in your country, Ms. Leonid.o” A voice from a child beside me echoing in my ear, while I was getting all the assignments that my kids completed in that small group .I was certain that was the most sincere remarks that I have ever heard from a kid in my teaching years. Yes, it came from Johnny’s mouth and believe it or not I had goose bump all over me.

I praised Johnny immediately and reassured him that he will make  a good teacher and teach students like him.

Reality check ? Yes, kids are the same everywhere. Reassurance, motivation and support and empowerment still work with them. Adults should give them chance to discover themselves and blossom. Like an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly.


Still the hope of the future!!!

Ma. Elena Leonido
Special Education Teacher
Norfolk Public Schools
Virginia ,USA
(After grading, planning and teaching, I continue to learn by taking up professional courses and trainings and continue to teach students no matter what their circumstances are)

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