I currently work in a private primary school so am not faced with many of the behaviour problems that you meet in mainstream primary and high schools – I tend to work with less than 10 students at a time as well. That is not to say that I have no 'behaviour issues', but I tend to try and identify what the trigger is to the behaviour. Sometimes it can be the make-up of a group (i.e. a certain group of 13 year old boys together who have been sent to me for handwriting practice). In cases like this I try and make my lessons interesting (e.g. we use 'Ridley's "Believe It Or Not" and "The Guinness Book of Records" and I let the students select a passage each that they will then practice writing in D'Nelian) Once I have established a good teacher-student relationship with students, I try and be light hearted and use humour in my classes. I also use positive reinforcement systems, and once in a while a chocolate coin reward J “Catch them being good!”
RE: physical barriers in the classrooms in my school, I feel it is the lack of Assistive Technology/ICT resources that are holding back many of my students with dyslexia. We have a few Smart Boards in the school, but most students are still expected to copy from the whiteboard and to do extended writing by hand. I have also noted a main barrier to optimal learning/student success in our French program. Each student receives 4 periods of French a week and students are split into 4 different year group classes depending on ability. Unfortunately, many of my students with dyslexia have excellent expressive language but struggle immensely when faced with learning poems, long lists of vocabulary and with writing, which tends to be a large component of the lesson. The French style of teaching is very traditional in style (with little or no differentiation), and I feel that many of my students are actually placed in the wrong class – they are placed on written rather than expressive ability, and this compounds some students’ already low self-esteem.
The student that I teach who has severe hearing issues also has a 'motivation book' (we don't call it that - it's more like a home-school communication book) in which the student identifies (with help from her mum) what she feels went well during the school day and what she struggled with. All specialist teachers are encouraged to write in this book, and to try and keep comments as positive as possible as this child has extremely low self-esteem and has a tendency to hide behind her disability.
I find collaboration/sharing of information between staff to be almost impossible although I realise the importance of it. I rarely manage get to the staff room (it is 4 floors away), so much of the communication I do is through email. We have Google chat which has proved useful a few times, but it’s not the same as actually sitting down with a student’s teacher for a 15 minutes catch up. For me, lack of time can also be considered a Barrier to Learning.
Good luck, Agnes, with your next busy few weeks – it has been really interesting reading your postings. Antonia.