‘A time I found it difficult to include a child’

Creating a lesson that is wholly inclusive is not without its challenges. Each lesson taught me a little more about the individuals in the class and how I could best serve them in my role as a teacher.

In regards to this, during my placement I found that one child in particular stood out and on more than one occasion. He was loud, disruptive and had a very low attention span, or at least this is how he presented. He had no recognised behavioural issues, neither was it ever suggested that there was anything that needed investigating, yet he was widely known to be the cause of any disruptive behaviour. I found it a challenge to include him in many lessons, as he regularly was apposed to being there.

The most memorable occasion was during a maths lesson that I had planned. I had arranged for the higher ability group to work with me on this occasion and knew that the topic, fractions, was something the child in question had been performing well at. I opted to have him join the higher ability, something that he seemed very excited about.

From the beginning of the lesson he was disruptive. He never directly argued against my instructions but made comments regularly, glancing around the class to see who was smirking with him. Once everyone was underway with their work I sat with him, hoping to get him on track. It was a slow process but he responded well to the attention, however as soon as I was called to aid another child, he reset and was back to his challenging behaviour.

I kept him in for 5 minutes at break to have him complete the work and to express my disappointment in how the lesson had gone. He immediately became emotional, apologised and said he’d pay attention in the next lesson. He was and he did, for 10 minutes.

The child was a constant challenge throughout my placement. Having said that, he was intelligent, a great reader and popular with many of the children. I struggled to include him in many lessons and when I did, I felt it was only because he wanted to be.

The problem with the label ‘EAL’

Is there a problem with the label ‘EAL’?

The first issue for concern could be the term ‘label’. Humans use labels to resolve the complicated environments that we struggle to comprehend. We use them and designate them without little thought, often unaware of the problems they can cause. It could be argued that as a species, many of our deepest issues can be attributed to labels. That is a whole other topic though.

When using the label ‘EAL’ we refer to a learner that has English as an additional language. The spectrum is broad on who claims this identity and so amassing all pupils under one umbrella is in itself impersonal.

A child with ‘EAL’ can be perceived as a problem within the classroom and many teachers may not be confident in how to work with a child carrying this label. I myself have not worked with a child in such a position and find the notion intimidating.

The most important thing to remember, with all children, is that every child has the same right to education. This means serving them in a way that allows them to continue developing at the appropriate pace, taking part in work that is at the appropriate level and not restrictive.

Research shows that there are huge benefits in being bilingual at an early age and that children are cognitively more adept at taking on a new language. Although challenges will arise, the child should be seen for their future potential rather than the immediate trials they will face and present to the educator.

I am both excited and apprehensive at the prospect of teaching a bilingual learner and look forward to applying practice I have learnt and building upon that.

Popular culture in primary schools

The first instance of popular culture displayed in school that I saw was Harry Potter. There was a Harry Potter themed reading corner, decorated to look like Hogwarts that most of the children were incredibly happy with. As it is now a movie as well as a book, no one is restricted from enjoying the story, despite not all children’s reading being at a high enough level to read it. This did not stop children from claiming one of the few Potter books and struggling through a page during silent reading. It became ‘the’ book to read and most of what were considered the ‘popular’ boys and girls were reading it and discussing it. Everyone wanted to be part of it but due to their level, were not, and were left out.

What was intended to be a positive, and I’m sure was for many, was also very divisive for others.

Popular culture can enrich the learning environment, I witnessed this first hand, however I also saw it create barriers between children, with some dismissing the views of those that had not read it. Including me, although I pretended I had in order to protect my rep.

I do believe that popular culture has a place, but getting the balance is the challenge.

Chocolate Pudding – The boy with autism

My initial response to this scenario is to be defensive of the boy. To be critical of the adults involved and question why and how this situation arose.

I’m not sure that is the correct response.

Is he known to be autistic and if so does that mean that everything is altered to suit him? To avoid him feeling agitated or uncomfortable. I don’t believe that would be fair on other children, even to those that are empathetic towards him. Neither do I believe it is fair on him. It is not practise that will prepare him for the real world.

At some point in education, on many occasions, we are all made to feel uncomfortable and removed from our safe place. Our resilience is tested. Arguably this is one of the most beneficial traits when going into the adult world.

Of course the boy should be supported and his autism recognised, but he must be aware of how to behave and how to manage his agitation. This responsibility is not just his however, as it falls on the adults and experts around him to guide him as best they can. Punishing him achieves nothing if he doesn’t understand why he has been punished and if he has no control over his behaviour.

My feelings on the matter would likely differ if I was involved, particularly if I knew the boy personally. I am not an expert on learning difficulties and find that there is no one correct response for me to settle on.

Should he be treated the same, punished the same and rewarded the same, despite the fact that he is different?

Are we not all different, with different identities that dictate how we are perceived and how other react to us.

Treating everyone equally is not about treating everyone the same, I recognise that but question if true equality is achievable.

I feel that we should embrace our differences, know who we are and try to understand why we are treated differently. But then that may be easy for me to say. I am white, I am not disabled, I am a man, I am not poor and have been afforded many opportunities in my life.

I don’t know, my head hurts, someone tell me the answer.

Inclusion and diversity in the classroom (what is it?)

Diversity, particularly when considered in education and within the classroom is the idea that each individual student brings with them their own experiences, strength and ideas. These include differences that relate to race, ethnicity, gender, social status, cultural and religious beliefs and other diversifying factors. Exploring and incorporating these differences will enrich the classroom environment and create and inclusive classroom. As a teacher, encouraging children to interact with other or different experience and persuasions is crucial in preparing them for the real world.

Diversity and inclusion isn’t just incorporated into a classroom overnight. It takes time, and much of what the children will adopt in terms of behaviour will be guided by the behaviour modelled by their educators. A teachers first effort towards making a diverse and inclusive classroom in to ensure that children see it as a safe and respectful environment.

An inclusive classroom will have a teacher that recognises the differences between the children, recognise that they learn in different ways and that they all have something individual that they can contribute to the classroom.