My students come from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. Most of which are low-income and learning/emotional disabled. A review of student grades and school-wide data indicate that students with disabilities are the lowest performing sub-group at our high school.
Many of my students have experienced some type of trauma in their lives, which has affected the way they perform at school, especially after Hurricane Harvey abruptly swept our small town in August 2017.
Many of my students are still living in wind/water damaged homes, while some are still displaced from their homes completely.
Our classes serve students with a range of disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, autism spectrum disorder and specific learning disabilities. The typical student in my class reads at a third grade level and some even struggle with basic phonics and number sense. 90% of our students are Hispanic, while several others have made this their home straight out of refugee camps in Burma.
The opportunity and achievement gaps are apparent among our student population. Our district fights a never-ending budget issue, which leads to our students falling behind in many areas. Teachers are expected to deliver rigorous instruction without the required tools to do so.
As I think back to when I was a student, some of my favorite times in elementary school were spent sitting on a classroom rug, in close proximity of my teacher, as she read a book aloud to the class. Even as 5th graders, I know my students would enjoy doing the same. Gathering together to listen to novels, or to participate in discussions, allows students to let their guard down in the comforts of our classroom. That leads to trust, which leads to strong relationships, which in turn can motivate risk-taking, creativity, and learning. A comfortable classroom is key for young students.
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