The learners at my elementary placement are very diverse. They come from many different home situations, parental styles and have diverse cognitive abilities. Mr. Bali (my co-op teacher) have to be very careful when he makes his curriculum because many of the students are not having their primary needs met or are learning far beyond the predicted standard set by the school board. For example, I worked one-on-one with a student that can barely read kindergarten-level words (even though she is in grade 3/4) but I also work with a student who is working her way through the first Twilight book. The children are extremely curious and open to new people in their classrooms. I think this is for two reasons, the first being that Mr. Bali works hard to create an accepting environment in the classroom. The second reason is that a lot of the students in this particular classroom do not get a lot of attention at home and they love the extra attention. Both Clayton and I have a group of kids requesting that we work with them one-on-one in the hallway and read them stories. While their desire for attention drives some of them to do really well in school, others become a distraction for the same reason. The classroom becomes a delicate social situation for the teacher to navigate. Where is the point of which you are still empathetic, warm and comforting while also driving students to reach their full potential and not allow them to hinder another student’s path to success? I don’t have the answer yet, I think that picking your battles is one part and also communicating boundaries early on and then sticking to them.
Mr. Bali (and the school itself) also honours the children’s different learning styles through school setup. At the end of the school, there is an independent learning room where students can go to blow off some steam and work privately. It was under construction so Clayton and I didn’t get to see inside but I thought the idea was really cool! Apparently there is exercise equipment so that students with more hyperactive tendencies can move and release some of that energy. Mr. Bali also has his classroom set up with some floor desks so kids can learn on the floor. The learning situation is fluid with many kids working at his low desk at the back with Jordan himself helping them out. Some students also work out in the hall. Otherwise, Mr. Bali’s classroom is set up in a classical style where desks are in rows and the teacher is at the front teaching. They all have lockers which creates a grounding in a more fluid classroom setting. Some other teachers set up their classrooms in a more modern approach with home-like decor and plants adorning the classroom. Personally, I prefer that approach but this isn’t Mr. Bali’s classroom originally – since the original teacher is on maternity leave. But it seems to work well for the kids.