Standard 2: Learning Differences
The teacher understand individual leaner difference and cultural and linguistic diversity.
I was fortunate to begin my teaching experience in another country. Now, I can fully
appreciate the difficulty of communicating in a second language. I often recall the experiences I
had teaching overseas when I think about creating instruction for students who have similar
experiences in the United States. As an ELL instructor in Gaithersburg, Maryland, I taught students
from a variety of linguistic backgrounds. Adapting lessons for a wide scope of linguistic diversity
lead me to create lessons teaching English that relied on relatively little language. This experience
contributed to my interest in Special Education because I liked the intellectual challenge of creating
lessons for diverse groups of students with very different strengths.
One of the most powerful concepts we discussed during my beginning classes at Westminster
was the difference between equality and equity. As we studied it, equality means that everyone
gets the same things but the results are not always equal. Equity, by contrast, means that
everyone gets the same access, no matter how many different supports are needed to reach
that same expected level of participation. Holding high expectations of all students is one way
to show equity in education. This is one point where Special Education and social justice clearly
intersect. By understanding students as individual learners with different needs and abilities,
Special Educators can create equitable learning experiences.
During my teaching experiences, I have used COACH interviews to inform my instruction
so that I can create instruction based on individual students’ strengths and needs. The first
interview I conducted was with the mother of John (name has been changed), a high school
senior with Down Syndrome. From this interview, I learned that her main goal for her student
was to expand his communication. Her son has only received hearing aids two years prior to
our interview and had not seen a SLP since that date. His speech was limited and only
intelligible to those close to him. Additionally, John also used a very limited amount of ASL but
had not shown interest in it during lessons.
In addition to creating a plan to seek out SL services through the school, we also
investigated Proloquo2Go. John’s mother told me that his favorite thing is his iPad and she
really wanted him to have the option to use it for communication. I customized Proloquo2Go on
his iPad by taking photographs of people and places in the school that were part of his daily
routine. Then, I worked one-on-one with John to model and teach ways to use the program. I
communicated with his teachers and paraprofessionals so that they could continue to work with
John when I was no longer in the classroom.
Experiencing school communities in different countries has given me deep
appreciation for cultural diversity in education. In addition to teaching and traveling in Thailand,
I took a trip with the Westminster School of Education to Guatemala. During the trip, we visited
I will bring these experiences with me to my future classrooms. When possible, I will
draw on parents’ expert knowledge of their children to create meaningful instruction for them.
Holding high expectations for all students does not mean that every student must complete the
same assignments. Instead, I will use a variety of measurements and information gathering
protocols to learn who my students are in order to know what they can do and what they struggle