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Ciara Hall

Dr. Prichard

Exceptionalities

10-5-15

The Chance of A Lifetime

Think of an entirely black and white world. Imagine that each one of us wore the same

outfits, listened to the same music, spoke the same language, shared the same culture, and

learned the exact same way. Some may say that this would be excellent, because no one would

be able to claim that they were better than another, and there would be no inequality. This would

also be an excellent arrangement for teachers, in a classroom, because they could all learn one

teaching style—since they all learn the same way, like their students. Who could ever say

anything negative about this fantasy?

Looking at this imagined world from a shallow perspective, it seems wonderful, but try to

examine this picture from an in-depth one. Ah… now the picture is a bit different, is it not? It

certainly should be. Think about why the societies of the world have different cultures and

different schools of thought. How boring it would be if we were all the same.

Diversity is what makes the world continue to grow and flourish. For example, how many

times has a person stated that they suddenly have a brand new perspective because they were

able to converse with someone else who felt and thought completely different about the topic at

hand? Differences of others help us, as individuals to expand mentally. This is why diversity is

so crucial for a successful classroom environment.


Disabilities

The history of people with disabilities is a tragic one. In the past individuals who had a

disability were said to have been cursed or, in some cases, sent as gifts from the gods. They were

not valued as average members of society for the soul reason that they were different. Others did

not understand these people, so they were afraid or awed by them. In more cases than not, these

people were sent to horrific asylums to live because they were thought to be incapable of living

out their daily lives within the community. These unstable folk had to be put away. Children

confined in cages, shock therapy, and forced strait jacket confinement were just a few of the

horrors that individuals that had any kind of disability, cognitive or physical, had to endure

(Monroe, 2015).

A scene from the play, “The Miracle Worker”, the story of Hellen Keller, comes to mind.

Her teacher Anne Sullivan is trying to inform Hellen’s parents that the only other alternative for

Hellen, besides letting her stay to teach the child, would be to send her to an asylum. She begins

to recount all of her unmentionable experiences at the asylum in which she was raised. Rats,

filth, sick babies, dying, diseased patients, and much more were just some of the frightening

details that Miss Sullivan told of. She, herself explained that the only reason she was sent there

was because she was legally blind and no one knew what to do. It is well-known what Hellen’s

parents’ decision was—to keep Anne on as her teacher. They knew that Hellen had potential to

be a strong, influential member of society and wanted to give her this chance. Society did not

begin to see disability as an obstacle to be overcame until much, much later (Gibson, 2008).
I am now taken back to my childhood school days. Being visually impaired and

requiring all my assignments to be in large print or braille, I certainly stood out in class. For the

first part of the day, I had a special teacher that would pull me out of the regular classroom to work

on reading and spelling with me since I needed this instruction to be brailed. This was very helpful,

but when I went back to the classroom, for the rest of the day, there would be that teacher that had

the nerve to say, “I don’t teach special ed.” To my braille teacher, trying to explain to her that, in

her eyes, I was unteachable—at least by her. After fighting this battle for six years strait, I decided

it was time for me to enroll in a school for the blind to be able to get the classroom experience I

deserved. So, that’s just what I did, and it was the best decision I ever made.

There will always be one teacher, in every school, that will claim to be uncertified to teach

a child with a particular disability, but the key is for them to realize the importance of including

them in class. Not only is it the law, but it can also be extremely beneficial to the teacher and the

other students in the class. Today, being a successful college student, I have found that fellow

students and professors alike love to learn about the different pieces of technology I use, and walk

away with a better understanding of what it means to be blind. It is not a handicap, but merely an

inconvenience to be overcame. Because of the Americans with disabilities Act, students are able

to be included in a classroom (Mayerson, 1992). It is up to the teacher as to whether or not they

get equal learning opportunities. To do this, the teacher should do as much research as possible on

each disability that he or she encounters to avoid stereotyping and to make sure the child’s needs

are met. The teacher should never refuse to teach him or her.

Learning Styles
A child that has a unique learning style could be mistakenly categorized as having a

learning disability, because they are not learning as the rest of the class is. The teacher may say,

“Sit up, stop fidgeting, and pay attention.”, not understanding that the reason the child is

“fidgeting” is because that helps them focus. Maybe this child needs to be allowed to stand up

occasionally to help them keep their focus. According to Howard Gardener, this is a type of

learning style, or intelligence, called kinesthetic learning—meaning that this child has to move to

learn. In fact, there are seven of these multiple intelligences.

In the book Seven Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple

Intelligences by Thomas Armstrong, These seven intelligences are explained in great detail.

They are linguistic (word smart), spacial (picture smart), musical (music smart), kinesthetic

(body smart), logical or mathematic, social (people smart), and intrapersonal (self smart)

(Armstrong, 1993). As a teacher, you must try to focus on the multiple intelligences in your

class. There will probably be students that learn in different ways, and you must identify these

ways in order to modify your class assignments. Doing this not only helps these particular

students, it also helps the others to open their minds to different learning styles. If they are

struggling with a topic, looking at it from a different learning perspective could very well assist

them in grasping it better. My personal example is when I was struggling to learn something in

math, because I was simply trying to understand the problem by listening to the teacher explain

how to do it. Once I was given objects to feel, it became clearer and clearer until, finally, I got it.

My teacher gathered that I was a kinesthetic learner, because I had to do something with the

information to understand it. This realization on a teacher’s part, and acting on her observations,

makes for a diversely successful classroom environment.


Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Along with multiple disabilities and learning styles in the classroom, there are going to be

students from different cultures, ethnic groups, and races. There will be student’s whose first

language is not English. How does a teacher handle this? To avoid stereotyping, much like with

students with disabilities, the teacher must do research on the student’s culture to know how to

best accommodate them in class. The teacher must make certain that the other students do not

make fun of the student’s that may have unique cultures, and make sure that the student knows

that they are welcome with their interpreter if one is needed.

As mentioned above, to make a child feel comfortable in class is to make sure the other

students do as well. This means that just because a student is a different race or ethnicity, they

should not be treated differently. This is the whole entire point of the case of Brown vs. Board of

Education—that students of any race have a right to an equal public education. As a teacher,

racism should be strongly discouraged. The teacher should see the importance of having different

races, cultures, and Ethnicities in her ever-diverse classroom. This helps the students appreciate

other cultures and respect other people for who they are as individuals, and not judge them by the

color of their skin (Morgan, 2015).

Sexual Orientation

Another aspect of diversity that a teacher will more than likely encounter in her teaching

career is a student who has a different sexual orientation than what she is used to. It is important,

for the teacher to be respectful of that student’s way of living and do or say nothing to make
them feel uncomfortable. This issue is much like student’s with disabilities and students of

different cultures—they all need to be taught and it is your job to set all personal feelings aside

and teach them. It is the teacher’s job to make the learning environment as nurturing to every

type of student.

Socioeconomic Background

Having a nurturing learning environment is so essential for success, and a teacher must

also take into consideration that there are going to be some students who don’t have much

money. This could affect the way they are able to perform in the class. For example, the student

may not have a computer at home and will not be able to complete the computer homework.

Baring this in mind, a teacher should make the class assignments so that the children are able to

work on them in class to avoid feeling put on the spot when the teacher asks, “Why didn’t you do

the homework?” Also, for the students in the class, this teaches them to respect others that do not

have as much money as they do. Knowledge of others’ economic background helps to add to the

overall respect and diversity of the classroom.

Times Have Changed

In conclusion, it is very clear that, as a society, we have come very far in the education

department. From the Civil Rights Movement, to the ADA law, children with different

disabilities, races, and ethnic backgrounds are allowed to freely enjoy the benefits of new ideas
and thought growth that the diverse classroom of today has to offer. It is up to the future teachers

to make certain that this remains in the classrooms.


References

Armstrong, T. 1993. Seven Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple

Intelligences New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.

Gibson, W. 2008. The Miracle Worker Scribner

Mayerson, A. 1992. “The History of Americans with Disabilities Act”

http://dredf.org/news/publications/the-history-of-the-ada/

Monroe, D. 2015. “Asylum: Inside Central State Hospital, Once the World’s

Largest Mental Institution” Atlanta Magazine

Morgan, R. 2015. “Eliminating Racism in the Classroom”

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/racism_morgan.html