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De-escalating Conflict in the Classroom

January 8, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Conflict is a necessary part of life.  It inevitably occurs in classrooms where groups of individuals, with varied needs and experiences, pursue shared and individual goals.  Successful classrooms are not “conflict free zones,” nor are they environments where every request, transition and interaction is a “battle of wills.”   The trick is to create an environment where conflict is strategic, fruitful and relatively rare.

The best way to promote constructive conflict is actually to avoid conflict whenever possible.  Learning from conflict takes patience and time, both of which are often limited resources in a classroom.  It’s important to pick your battles.  Avoiding conflict does not mean “turning the other cheek” or not holding young people up to expectations.  But there are myriad ways to address negative behavior that are non-confrontational and proactive. Read the rest of this entry →

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The flexible classroom: Helping students with mental health challenges to thrive

September 15, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Dennise Goldberg

About 10% of the school population — 9 to 13 million children — struggle with mental health challenges, some of the most challenging students that educators face. In our inclusive classrooms, teachers are becoming skilled at working with children who exhibit learning, physical, and cognitive disabilities, as well as those on the autism spectrum while students with mental health challenges continue to mystify and frustrate. Read the rest of this entry →

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by Jess

Lessons I Learned on how to Build a Successful Classroom

September 13, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Three Key Components of a Healthy Classroom

My first year teaching was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. I took more college classes than I could count and was determined to make myself a successful teacher, but what I discovered is that to be a successful teacher, I had to have a successful classroom. I have reflected upon my years of teaching and all of my education and have composed a short list of what a successful classroom looks like; a passionate and purpose-driven teacher, an active and collaborative classroom, and a sense of community. Pretty simple, right? Now that I reflect it seems so, but I have had a lot of trial and error along the way. Let me quickly discuss the three aspects of a successful classroom and include some ideas with you…

A Passionate and Purpose-Driven Teacher:

Being a passionate and purpose-driven teacher is the first key to making a classroom successful. I started my teaching career young and I initially wanted to get into teaching because I thought I was “good with kids” and I could picture myself teaching. What I found was that teaching was not for wimps! I found that it was not a seven-hour day filled with going from lesson to lesson. I realized that I had to have purpose in every activity and every step I took. I needed to be passionate about what I was teaching; otherwise my students would not be either. If I can share anything with you on this area is to be mindful of your attitude as a teacher. Do things on purpose and avoid giving students work to fill time. Be enthusiastic about teaching and learning. Share with students any personal struggles you had with learning a particular subject area, but also include how you overcame it. Encourage them, inspire them, and be consistent with them.

Active and Collaborative Classroom:

I cannot stress the impact that an active and collaborative classroom has on teaching and learning really has.  So many times (and I have been guilty myself) teachers get stuck in a routine or want to be a “Sage on the Stage” teacher. Many times we teach the way we were taught, but I can tell you from experience, it does not always work. While I agree lecture has a time and a place, it needs to be used in moderation. We really need to focus on our students and get them engaged in the learning so that the learning is meaningful.  Further, I have a personal preference to collaborative learning. In fact, this was the reason I wrote my dissertation on it. I watched time and time again how my students enjoyed collaborative learning and how they retained the information so much better.  From my experience, I would encourage you to have fun in your class. Play meaningful games, create activities that foster growth, and laugh. It does take time to do these, but I promise the payoff is great.

Sense of Community:

This term was drilled into me while I was in my doctoral program and I really adopted it because I found the true importance of it. Having a sense of community in the classroom takes out a lot of drama and biases and allows students and the teacher to be a team.  One thing I found that helps establish a community is to do some fun activities in the class so that everyone can get to know one another. These can be short ice-breaker type activities or just a rapid-fire activity where the teacher asks the students what they did over the weekend, their favorite piece of candy, thoughts on the last activity, etc. It is equally important for the teacher to participate. I know many teachers do this on the first day of class, but I recommend that these are done regularly. As your students get to know one another, they begin to build relationships. As those relationships grow, so does their comfort level. When students are comfortable, they can relax, ask questions, and learn without fear of embarrassment or any other possible insecurities.

Dr. Jessica Alvarado is an Assistant Professor at Ashford University where she is the program chair of the child development program. She has a true passion for education and hopes to continue to inspire her students in the years to come!

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Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms, Not so Fast.

July 18, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

I get it, I get it, step away from the computer screen and count to ten.  Now before you start flaming me, based only on the title of this blog, please read it in its entirety.  At first blush placing cameras in classrooms for students with special needs sounds like a wonderful idea.  At second blush, my analytical mind takes over, and I keep coming up with more questions than answers.  I understand the reasons for doing it: Read the rest of this entry →

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by Jess

Classroom Magic

July 9, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

There are few things in life I find “magical.” Learning is one of those few things, it is a journey that opens up the mind and heart. It has been my passion to inspire children to love learning. I have been lucky enough to have spent the past twenty years working in a variety of classroom settings. I have had the privilege to work with children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as a variety of diagnosis. I know what works in a classroom.....and what doesnʼt! I want to share with you what actually works so that you can help better identify which classroom will work for your child OR if you are an educator...I hope some of these ideas can help transform your classroom into a journey of wonderment. Read the rest of this entry →

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