What rights should be protected for students and teachers?

The United States Constitution was written to guarantee the people of America’s basic rights are protected. The most important aspects of the Constitution are the Bill of Rights. This is the first Ten Amendments. Of these Ten Amendments, the first is this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” –First Amendment to the Constitution (First Amendment Rights, 2014).

Many people blindly assume that the First Amendment means that they can say whatever they want without any consequence, there have been incidents in history where a student sued the school district for “violating their right to speech”, but as evident from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), students only have a freedom to speech, up to a point (Jacobs, 2008). The students who were suing the school district, John and Mary beth Tinker and Chris Eckhardt decided to show their thoughts on the Vietnam war by waring black armbands in school. They got suspended when they refused to take them off. The Supreme Court agreed with the students, because they were not disrupting the classroom. Future cases have discussed issues such as school attire, like allowing piercings or dying hair color, but one cannot wear a shirt that promotes drug use, or a Confederate flag, (Jacobs, 2008).

Upon reading the article, “10 Supreme Court Cases Every Teen Should Know” (Jacobs, 2008), I realized how limited my knowledge was about certain rights that students have. I was always aware of the freedom of speech and religion in school, but was surprised to hear about the other cases that included corporal punishment as well as privacy rights of students. For example, in the case of Stafford Unified School District v. Redding, in where Savana Redding’s mother sued the school district for allowing her 14-year old honor roll student daughter  who had never been in trouble before to be subjected to a strip-search because another student had blamed her for having pills, (Safford Unified School District v. Redding, n.d.) As a parent of a young child, this scares me, and I am now more aware of my child’s rights in school, as well as those of my students.

As a Deaf Education teacher, one of my jobs is to protect my students as well as teaching them to advocate for themselves, especially because they are deaf. Because of their deafness, they are to receive a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) of 1973, (Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504, 2010). These students are not aware of their rights as students in general, never mind that they are deaf and are protected under more laws because of their dis/ability. Additionally, these students need to be aware of their rights under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) law.

Teachers also have rights, that includes, but is not limited to: teacher right to union, constitutional rights, tenure, discrimination, leaves, resignation, suspension, liability, felony, child abuse, and appeals (Teacher and School Staff Rights, 2011). One that is important for me as a deaf person is the ADA law, which states that I can not be discriminated when trying to find a job just because of my dis/ability. Employers cannot discriminate and also “the law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer,” (Disability Discrimination, n.d.)

In The Teacher Wars, I learned that in light of women’s rights and women’s suffrage during the 1800s, there was a woman named Margaret Haley, who fought for women teachers to finally have higher pay after years of low pay and pay freezes, as well as more political power in education, (Goldstein, 2014).  We must remember that all students and all teachers are human beings, and this means that all of us have rights in this country.

 

References:
Disability Discrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
First Amendment Rights. (2014). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.ushistory.org/gov/10b.asp
Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504. (2010, August). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html
Goldstein, D. (2014). The teacher wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.
“Safford Unified School District v. Redding.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Feb 26, 2016. <https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-479&gt;
Teacher and School Staff Rights. (2011). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.educationrights.com/teacherrights.php
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How can instruction be differentiated for diverse learners?

As I think about the topic of “how can instruction be differentiated for diverse learners?”, I am reminded of what I do everyday at my job. I am working towards a degree in Deaf Education, and while doing so, I work as a Long Term Sub at the Elementary level for Life Skills/Resources class. Part of my job duties includes being a “para”, or rather, In Class Support person for another Deaf Education teacher. Her third graders are taught in two different classroom settings, one being an inclusive self-contained Deaf Ed. classroom and the other part of the day is taught in a general education classroom with a certified interpreter and co-teacher. At our district, we call this “60/40” where 60% of the time they are in general education and 40% of the time is spent in Deaf Education.  For these students, some instruction is in the least restrictive environment, but also some of it is taught in a more restrictive environment. They are pulled out of class for tests, given extra time on assignments, as well as having plenty of accommodations and modifications that includes things such as preferential seating, sound amplification, modified tests, to name a few. These accommodations and modifications are tailored to each student’s specific needs according to their IEP (Individualized Education Program) and all teachers, both general education and Deaf education, must follow these IEPs as required by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).

The other part of my job is teaching students with disabilities. I have one student who is DeafBlind, one who has intellectual disabilities, and another who is a twelve year old who just moved here from Nigeria with no language. As I listened (read the text) to the interview between Dr. Krutka and Dr. Mandy Stewart of Texas Woman’s University, Dr. Stewart spoke of L1 and L2 (Language 1 and Language 2), I couldn’t help but wonder about those who don’t even have a L1. My student from Nigeria only knew the written alphabet and how to write his name. I want to know what resources are out there to teach a person English that has no prior L1. Especially for one who is Deaf, as they learn language differently from someone who can hear. When considering teaching my DeafBlind student, I am required to teach TEKS curriculum, but must greatly expand content and completely modify my lesson plans to adapt to how my student learns. For example: this week, we were learning about the water cycle. I had to make a tactile model of the water cycle and  explain various parts of the cycle in a way that made sense. To simulate evaporation, I had to use a humidifier to really show him what evaporation is like. It requires a great deal of creativity on my part and also bouncing ideas off on a certified DeafBlind teacher.

Differentiated instruction is important in education for many reasons. The main reason is that not everyone learns the same way. For example, deaf children are visual learners. Others learn by doing physical activities. And yet, others learn best by working alone or in a group setting. As a teacher, we should aim to include various methods of teaching. Not necessarily only because everyone has different learning styles, but also because a multi-modal approach is the best way to effectively teach students. It is like the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Teaching one thing in multiple ways ensures that everyone has a chance to understand it because of their different learning styles.

To allow all learners the best chance at being involved, Lois Barrett (n.d)) writes in her article, “Seamless teaching navigating the inclusion spectrum” that we should:

  • “Provide multiple means of representation- Present content in different ways to give students a variety of options for acquiring information and knowledge.
  • Provide multiple means of expression- Ensure students have a variety of ways of demonstrating what they know.
  • Provide multiple means of engagment- Create a stimulating learning environment by offering various ways for a student to engage, based on preferences and interests.”

All students have specific strengths and weaknesses. As educators, we must remember that those who have a disability will also have something that they are good at, even if that means simple math addition for someone who is in high school. Teachers are always refining their craft and they do so by experience. Teachers gain experience throughout the years by learning different strategies and changing up their lesson plans so as to expose all students to various types of learning throughout the school year.

References:

Barrett, L. (2013). Seamless Teaching: Navigating the Inclusion SpectrumTeaching Tolerance, 52(43), 53-55.
Stewart, M., & Krutka, D. (n.d.). #2 Approaches to Bilingual Education.txt. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from https://drive.google.com/a/twu.edu/file/d/0B1_i_NlfcQW4TmtjbVBKN1g4dWM/view