Chief Academics Officer's Blog
Eileen Ginzburg: Special Education: Teaching a Child According to His Way
The word special conjures up something wonderful in our minds. Our birthday is our special day, a night at our favorite restaurant is a special evening, a family trip to Israel is a special vacation. Why is it, that when people hear the words special education, suddenly there’s a quickening of the pulse and feelings of confusion?
It says in the Talmud - chanuk lnar al pi darko, teach the child according to his way and he will not falter. The Rabbis knew that if they connected to each of their students in their own unique way that they would touch their souls, thus their students would not depart from their teachings. Special education is an art where we think outside of the box and come up with strategies to help each of our students grow and succeed. If we can unscramble the puzzle we can create lifelong learners who will know how to compensate for their deficit areas and soar to great heights.
Classrooms across our nation are filled with diverse types of learners. Astute teachers notice what tasks each student approaches with ease and those which are challenging. Challenges make us grow but when a child perceives them as insurmountable, s/he can retreat and give up. It becomes the job of the teacher to give that student the tools to succeed. Those tools may be different than the tools used by the student sitting in the next desk. If a child has difficulty remembering his multiplication tables, typically a teacher would continue to assign worksheets for homework each evening. For some students repetition is a successful tool. For others, with weaker memories, it’s a task that is laborious, and usually ends with the same result-an inability to recall the math facts. The teacher must then think, “what can I do differently? How can I tap into this child’s strengths in order to get the desired result; in this case, learning the multiplication tables?” Maybe that child has to chant the tables while jumping rope during recess to activate the kinesthetic modality. Maybe another child needs to write these tables in the sand utilizing the tactile modality, while another child can learn through song activating the language center of the brain.
Hillel’s creation of a Special Services Department demonstrates our school’s commitment to diverse learners. We believe every child is capable of learning. The key is taking the time to learn about each child and work collaboratively with parents and professionals to create the program designed to meet each child’s needs. That sounds really special, doesn’t it?
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