Attending a student field trip to an island on the opposite side of Malaysia with my school. Many students' first times travelling that car and we rode the steepest cable car in the world! It was a memory students talked about months later.

William & Mary School of Education Statement on Diversity

Diversity connotes distinctiveness, uniqueness, and interconnection among and between human beings. It denotes racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage, national origin, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, philosophical, religious, and spiritual beliefs, as well as physical, social, and intellectual attributes and abilities.

The faculty, staff, and students of the School of Education value inclusiveness and equity of opportunities for diverse learners. We promote attitudes and beliefs that foster faculty members’ and students’ understanding of self and diverse others through curriculum, instruction, research, and focused learning activities. These values also guide our internal governance as well as our partnership with educational institutions and other community agencies. Advocacy for diverse learners informs instructional, clinical, and policy decisions in order to impact our students and the constituents they will serve.

US Embassy sponsored event bringing previous Gold Cup US Soccer team players to teach a workshop for students.

As a teacher certified in an ever growing society of diverse populations, I make sure to embrace diversity and differentiation in all of my teachings whenever possible. I have thought about what it means to become an effective teacher for whatever group of students will be rushing into my class on the first day of school, as each set of students bring unique identities. I reflect upon my teachings and look for other outlets to bring more diversity, variety, and ideas into the classroom.

The elementary school classroom in which I was placed for student teaching had little diversity. There are a few students with special needs which make our accommodations and differentiation varied during instructional times. Many students with special needs are often shifted to other schools according to the reports I have heard from various sources involved with the school and school system since resources are allocated elsewhere. Therefore I have not seen many accommodations for special needs students in my placement per say. I was unsure before the semester started if I would have the opportunity to spend time with special needs students at all this year. This drove me to take an opportunity outside of the requirements of the Elementary Program which allowed me to work one-on-one with a teenager who has a severe case of autism and a mild diagnosis of cerebral palsy. I have learned a lot about the Williamsburg James City County (WJCC) school system’s dealings with special needs children from the domestic side of things as well as first hand through this experience. Additionally, teaching in Malaysia with a very different culture and community of students helped me gain strategies to think outside of my context and into the perspectives of my students when I teach or make pedagogical decisions.

I spent time every week day before school as well as after school with the one-on-one student with disabilities including participating in her school activities such as chaperoning school dances and other events at her middle school. After speaking with her mother, to other faculty about special needs, and seeing situations first hand, I have had a unique opportunity to witness a wide scope of situations dealing with special needs, which have helped give me ideas for my future classrooms. First of all, when working with this student, I have realized age difference and different mental conditions may force me to converse with individuals in different ways than the way I dealt with my first grade placement class. First grade is the age where students began to be tracked or labelled through a program called Child Study, at least in WJCC so this was an important grade to be working with and to understand the foundations for labelling and dealing with exceptional students.

The student I assisted daily showed me that autism is variable and often unpredictable which has kept me on my toes. I walked into her house keeping the history of what had happened in the past in perspective but also start with a clean slate to begin every day with a fresh start. I never know the type of behavior I will deal with when I get inside the home of this student. There is an element of working with her mother being there as well which I have to balance while I am there. This can be compared to a similar dynamic between the homeroom teacher and an aide in a classroom, with a more heightened of relation to the student. As I look to my future classrooms I realize I may have students like this teenager to work with so the more I experiment to problem solve and find solutions for variants of behavior, the more strategies I will have to use later.

I could have a powerful influence on the future of these kids in that first grade placement, especially since some of were in the process of being reviewed for Child Study which is one of the first steps for being tested for special needs. Both my cooperating teacher (CT) and I tried hard to work together along with other relevant paraprofessionals to help give the proper support and help for these students so as many as possible can succeed. I realize as a teacher that some may fall through the cracks or not be as successful as others but as a teacher the effort to prevent losing students as much as possible is extremely important. I hope as a teacher in the future that I can be a support and help to all of my students knowing that I cannot entirely control the future but do have the potential to have a major impact on their lives the year I teach them and in their future trajectories as students and professionals.

I feel similarly with gifted students on the other side of the spectrum. There were no “gifted” labeled students in my class because first grade is the year labeling starts in this county. However, there were kids who are also pulled out for enrichment programs to jumpstart that gifted tracked process. There were varying ability groups in my classroom which I witnessed my cooperating teacher and myself accommodating for frequently. This often consists of building in a challenge or additional activity to a lesson that relates to the goals and standards addressed. There are times in a pinch that an unrelated activity will be given in order to maintain classroom management or times when the higher achieving students do not have extra tasks to do when they have access time. Students are cycling in and out of the room during every instructional part of the day which makes teaching in groups or teamwork difficult to coordinate and often results in making many last minute decisions. However literacy plays a huge role in my classroom placement so students are encouraged to read whenever there is free time. This can be a great place to differentiate with several reading level programs or structures made within your classroom library. Students can find a match for their reading ability level both with the assistance of their educators and on their own if they know how to do so themselves.

This not only keeps students occupied and learning more but also expanding several academic skills related to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). For language arts, there are obvious relationships between this activity and the SOLs since students are reading a variety of literature, expanding their vocabulary, interpreting literacy, and reading a variety of writing forms. All of these skills or disciplines are directly listed as tenants of the SOLs for first graders. For Mathematics, students watch the time and work on time management. These skills help give students motivation to finish early so they can “enjoy books” as my CT states, with books they wish to enjoy. This also helps them build up skills in other subjects and stay focused. Students can work individually or in groups bringing their own perspectives and methods to the classroom. This brings in new ideas and helps students think of new methods for solving math equations, which is why strategies like Math Talk are effective structures to incorporate in your mathematical pedagogy.

This idea of self-motivation through work is one I want to carry with me in my future teachings. Depending on the grade level, students with extra time (if there is not a supplemental activity I provide) can read trade books related to material covered in class, work with online resources to further learning, or participate in another similar activity whether they need a modification to the lesson, are gifted, high achieving, or finish particularly early for a certain assignment. The varieties of experiences I have participated in and taught myself, have equipped me to work with a diverse array of students. I will continue to work with diverse groups of students at any opportunity to gain more strategies and ideas for exceptional students.

Cultural exchange as I teach them the famous American "Cha Cha Slide" for an arts week at school.