Teaching Fellows Response #2

What is the greatest challenge you expect to encounter as a teacher in a high-need school in New York City? Considering this challenge, could a teacher ensure high academic achievement for all students? If yes, please explain how. If no, please explain why.

What I foresee as being my greatest challenge as a teacher in a high-need school in New York City is working with children whom have severe physical or mental limitations such that may never be surpassed.  While not foreign to me, the concept of limitation runs counter to my concept of what a child is.  And as I consider myself a empathetic person, I would feel such tragic circumstances acutely.  Not one to let emotions lead me astray, I would carry on with renewed resolve.

If a child is the fertile soil in which the seed of knowledge may be planted, what then if the soil itself has limitations?  How can I teach this child within the framework of their own limitations?  And how can I work my way into such a framework?  I’m sure I could rattle off many more questions, as it is, simply put, not my area of expertise. Be that as it may, it is certainly an area of curiosity, which is the key.  The one thing consistent amongst all students, and certainly all children, is curiosity, a willingness to learn.  As this is a characteristic not lost upon even the most limited or handicapped individual, one might divine a way in to shed some light on their lives, and this is the greatest joy of the teacher.

If a child can learn, then that child can achieve.  If a child is taught well then that child can achieve much.  Regardless of any limitations a child may walk in with, with the proper teacher any child may walk out successful.  However achieving success differs from student to student as much as their talents and abilities might.  One would agree that it is unfair to expect that every student jumps 3 feet on the high jump.  Some students might not be tall enough to make the jump,  other students may be better at jumping distance, some might not know how to do the high jump and still others might have disabilities that stop them from being able to jump at all.  But this does not mean that these students cannot make stunning attempts despite what might be working against them, and we might find that one student feels just as successful having jumped a foot and a half as another did jumping three and a half feet.  The same is true for the classroom.  The success of each student measured by the means and abilities of the student and by the student themselves.

The successful teacher is one that discovers the meaning of success in each student, rather than teaching what success means.  By making achievement meaningful to each student, we encourage them on to greater heights.

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