My clinical was completed at Soar Academy. It is a self-contained school specifically for student with disabilities with approximately 11 students. The teacher I interviewed taught 5 children ages 4 through 8. Her student’s disabilities were developmental delay, spinal bifida, Noonan’s syndrome and Autism. Students come to Soar through an application process. If there application is accepted then they begin at the school on a trial basis. This is so that the teachers, parents, and student can see if the school will be a right fit for everyone. When deciding what to put on an IEP the teachers observe the students and collaborate with the student’s parents. When dealing with disciple problems it seems that the most common method is using time-outs. Though they try to talk with a child first to teach them how not to do that behavior and understand why they can’t do it.
Parents at Soar Academy are very involved. The teachers keep their parents involved though daily reports and they talk to the parents twice a day. They also do so through IEP meetings, fundraisers, report cards, and conferences. Their Administrator gives them total support in anything and everything that they do and even helps in the classrooms if needed.
The teacher that I spoke with said that the problems she saw with inclusion are that it is disruptive, more time consuming, and there is not enough attention for all the students in the classroom. The good things about inclusion are that the disabled students get to see a model of how certain things should be done and it allows for friendships to develop. She says that it makes the students with out disabilities more comfortable around the students with the disabilities. She says that the hardest part of the job is trying to make sure that each student gets an equal amount of time. Plus being able to get everything else done in a day such as progress reports and take-home packets. She said that the best thing about her job is when she sees the progress in her students after working with them for so long. She also likes the staff and getting to know the parents. She also does not feel that her job is too demanding.
Overall Soar Academy seemed to be a very well organized school. One example is that they have a room with the entire curriculum. The curriculum in separated into units. Each unit and all the teaching tools that go with it are put into one box. The boxes are then shelved in order of the units to make it easier for the teachers to find each one. Teachers take the boxes in and out as needed. There were two main classrooms one with five students, one with six students and were separated by age. The older half was in one room and the younger have in another. There are two teachers in each classroom with one of the teacher as the lead.
Soar has many things to make life for the families of disabled student easier. I found it cool that they have there own physical therapy room equipped, so that the students that need physical therapy can get it at school. Then parents do not have to take their child to a separate facility afterschool for physical therapy. There is also a playroom used therapeutically to create a calming space. They have a ball pit and many big pillows all over the room with beanbag chairs. They also have a cushioned harness that hangs in the middle of the room for students with autism. A student is put in the harness when they are agitated. It restricts their movement and helps to soothe the student. My favorite part of the playroom was a machine that they have that projects scenes on to the wall, such as a beach scene, while calming music is playing.
Both the classrooms were very colorful. There were multiple teaching aides on the walls such as the seasons and days of the week in every room. I did not see very many assignments being worked on at the time that I came in. The lesson that I did observe was on the Solar system. This was a very neat lesson because they were able to use the Smart Board, which had a program on it that displayed the planets. The planets appeared on the board as they would appear in space. The students were able to go up to the board one at a time and choose a planet by touching the board. Then information about each planet came up and the information was talked about. Each of the students were asked to repeat the information that they had learned. By the end of the activity the students were able to tell the name of the planets and some of the characteristics of each one. This was a very effective activity that the students really enjoyed. The teachers used lots of repetition and were redundant in order to get the information into the student’s brains.
After the Smart Board activity the students went back to their classrooms where they were given a worksheet on the planets where they were told to color each planet using a diagram. Again the teaching technique was repetition. The assistant seemed to be responsible for the handing out worksheets for the students to work on. The classroom size was small enough that when a student needed help they were able to just call for the teacher with out having to raise their hand. The students asked for help quite easily and it was obvious that they were comfortable with their teachers. The students really love their teachers and the teachers really love their students. It was a very relaxed atmosphere. The teachers were constantly watching the students to make sure they were on task with the worksheets. In the older class most of the children we interested in their assignment and were able to pay attention with out a lot of prompting.
Most of the discipline problems came from the younger group. When a discipline problem arose the teachers tried to talk to the student and make them understand what they were doing was wrong. If that did not help then they would put the student into time-out until they calmed down. They really tried to help the child see why the behavior was bad instead of just making it stop.
One particular kid named Franklin that most likely had autism really caught me. He was such a cute kid. He was always looking around the room and looking for something to do. There was two moments when, out of the blue, he would come running up to me and gave me a hug. I had not even seen him coming. I played with him later in the afternoon. He brought over some play dough for me to open and the teachers said that I needed to watch him or he would try to eat it. So we began to play with it and sure enough I could tell that he was just waiting for a moment that he could stick some in his mouth, and he finally found one. So I put the play dough away even though he brought it back to me so that I could open it again. I told him that I could not open it for him because he had done something he should not have done. He didn’t say a word the whole time I was there but I think that I could tell he was very smart. He seemed to know when he was doing wrongs things, just like all boys do, always looking for trouble.
One part of the day that stood out to me was when the kids had naptime. It was like any naptime, the kids got out there mats and each of then had their blankets and pillows. They had their own spot in the room that they chose and the teacher put on some calming music. What I really noticed about this is that the teacher really had to utilize this time to get things done while the kids were sleeping. The teachers were able to eat lunch and do a bit of socializing with each other. The teachers seemed to really enjoy each other company. The teacher’s relationship with their executive director was a very casual one as well. They were able to talk to each other as if they were friends, as I believe they were. The teachers then had to work on getting together their lessons for the next day and assembling the take-home packets. The take-home packets consisted of the work that student had done such as worksheets and coloring projects. Then once a month they include a book that the child takes home and it too read with their parent for that month. The teacher that I interviewed said that one of her least favorite things about eh job was trying to find the time to get everything done. This was proof that they really did have to use there time wisely and not waste any.
I really enjoyed my time at Soar Academy. It was a little uncomfortable at first because I felt like I was invading their space. However, the teachers were inviting and I eventually was able to talk to the kids and ask the teachers questions. The only thing that I wish that I could have done is split up my time so that I could have gotten experience and two different days. I really enjoyed being with the kids because you could tell that the environment they were in had allowed them to flourish. I hope that when I finally become a teacher that I can find a place that is like this. Where the needs of the students take precedent over anything and are able to have good relationships with the people that I work with.
And I am open to any teachers opinions too :)
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