Standard 1: Learner Development

 

The teacher understands cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and physical areas of student development.

 

I was drawn to teaching students with low-incidence disabilities because of a

deep interest in social justice.  What continually surprises and fascinates me about 

the profession is the scope and breadth of what students learn every day.  During my 

student teaching placement in a functional skills classroom, I have worked with 

students on basic literacy skills, sexual harassment, anger management, and 

researching a favorite animal, all in the same day.  I love discovering the different 

needs and abilities of every student in order to direct their studies.  

Effective Special Educators need to know a lot about each student in order to 

create instruction.  Individualized instruction is essential.  Curriculum-based 

measures are a start but special educators, especially those working with students 

who have low-incidence disabilities, must also learn about their students’ health 

needs, family dynamics, emotional, and mental health.  Collaboration is essential for 

creating challenging instruction for these students.  

During my student teaching experience, I worked with parents, past and 

current teachers, paraprofessionals, speech-language pathologists, school 

counselors, and other staff to learn about the students I was in charge of creating 

instruction for.  I could not have created challenging instruction without input from 

multiple sources.  

For example, I worked with a bright Sophomore named Samuel (name has 

been changed) to create challenging material that would engage his interest in 

animal science.  Samuel is served in Special Education as SLD and I had input and 

cooperation from multiple individuals to figure out what he can do and what he 

struggles with.  First, I conducted a CBM with Samuel where he was asked to read 

from a list of survival vocabulary.  This task proved extremely difficult and he often 

stopped to ask me questions such as, “Is that an “n” or a “u”?”  Next, I looked at the 

work he struggled with from his other classes.  I discovered that in World 

Civilizations and English, he had a hefty pile of unfinished work.  All of the work 

involved lengthy amounts of writing.  I also observed Samuel in English class and 

saw how difficult it was for him to copy from the board.  Every time he had to look 

up from his paper he became lost.  After gathering this information, I created 

instruction on animals that would draw on Samuel’s strengths.  He watched videos

and listened to me reading articles aloud (article 1 and article 2.)  When giving answers,

I always acted as his scribe which allowed him the freedom to pay attention to the material and 

utilize his excellent memory for fact recall without becoming bogged down by 

reading or writing.  

The COACH interview process allowed me to reach out to parents in order to 

gain their valuable insight.  I worked closely with the parents of Dawson (name has been changed), a

junior in my student teaching placement. Through a COACH interview, I was able to develop 

personalized instruction for this student.  Having an in-depth discussion with Dawson’s parents

allowed me to discover a side of his personality that I had never seen before.  During the interview, I

discovered that Dawson loves maps, especially Google Maps.  After our interview, I made sure to

use maps to interest him in work in our Functional Skills classroom and make meaningful

connections between school and home activities.  

I also discovered that Dawson’s parents were concerned about his perceived 

lack of interest in using money.  At the interview, we worked out a new plan to 

encourage him to make purchases.  In the past, they had tried to interest him in 

spending by taking him to stores to make purchases with birthday money.  These 

open-ended shopping trips would result in the student losing interest and not 

making a purchase.  Instead, they agreed to try making him responsible for 

purchasing a small amount of personal care needs, like soap and shampoo, that way 

he could practice money skills with a set list of necessary items.  This new goal 

supported their desire to prepare Dawson for supported living outside of their 

home after high school.

For me, working with students who have low-incidence disabilities is always 

fascinating and intellectually rigorous.  I love that the instructional needs of the 

students necessitate a holistic approach on the part of the teacher.  Every student is 

always unique but working in Special Education gives me the opportunity to design 

individualized instruction for all of the students in my class.