Billy Baines Middle School (BMS) is located in Fort Bend ISD, in Missouri City, TX. Its school teaches sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. BMS opened in August 2006 and was named after Mr. Billy Baines. Mr. Baines was hired in 1959 as the first African American principal and he served Fort Bend ISD for thirty years. BMS has approximately 1,400 students with an average 18:1 student-to-teacher ratio. BMS is a diverse school with equal distribution by gender and ethnicity. African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics are predominating ethnic groups at BMS.
Special Education at BMS consists of two classrooms. I had the pleasure of observing Ms. Wheeler’s class. Her class has four male students: Deonte, Samuel, Jonathan, and Cody. Deonte is an African American boy who appears to be about 16 years old, about 6’4”. Deonte shows characteristics comparable to Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Samuel is an African American boy who is about 5’2” and roughly 13 years old. He shows characteristics comparable to Mental Retardation, and Language Impairment.
Jonathan is a Hispanic boy about 15 years old, 5’ 6”, and shows characteristics comparable to Mental Retardation and Speech Impairment. Cody is a 5’1” Asian American boy who is left handed and very active in the classroom. Cody shows characteristics comparable to severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and a delay in learning. Teachers spend an average of four years being taught to teach, however each student learns differently and there are about a dozen ways to impart knowledge. Students use an array of techniques to learn information, some use music, others learn by doing, or by using a visual aid to assist in learning.
Teaching has truly become an art because there are many ways that students learn and process information. Teachers spend hours planning lessons that use each of our multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner introduced the multiple intelligence theory in 1983, and leads educators to think that humans have a wide range of cognitive abilities. By using many methods of instruction teachers can keep students engaged in the learning process. Ms. Wheeler’s class although engaged, was not fully attentive at all times. Her students had a difficult time staying on task.
Ms. Wheeler was able to redirect students and keep them motivated. Ms. Wheeler motivated student with rewards for good behavior, correct answers, and following instructions. She also keeps a high level of enthusiasm, by using statements like “this is neat” or “this is an exciting thing”. Ms. Wheeler spends time planning assignments that will accommodate each student and their learning style. She uses different instructional methods to keep her students engaged in learning, such as group activities and centers.
She does not use a great deal of lecture because students easily get distracted. Ms. Wheeler also uses the many tools in her classroom to accommodate the class. For example, many students are only able to read at a kindergarten reading level, so when the class read about the Ryder Cup Golf she used the SMART Board™. The students who could read took turns reading while others followed along, some words would have small pictures above them that represented the word. After the class had finished reading she played an audio clip of the reading to review. Ms.
Wheeler also used the multiple intelligence theory in her teaching, she taught students to brush their teeth and wash their hands after eating lunch, and this uses logical-mathematics intelligence. She also taught students by using the musical intelligence she had a music therapist come by to teach students how to use music to remember things they are learning in class. Ms. Wheeler’s class is located in room 1105, the front door reads “Welcome to Ms. Wheeler’s class”. Ms. Wheeler’s class has a welcoming and safe feeling even before you walk into the classroom.
Walking into her classroom the first thing you see is the centers arranged around the room. Her classroom is connected to the other special education classroom by the bathroom and kitchen area. Ms. Wheeler’s class is bare with little on the walls. She believes that posters and art causes distractions to her students. Although, it is hard to teach students who are easily distracted, Ms. Wheeler accepts the distractions in a positive manner. She can get task with her students for a moment and find ways to easily transition back to the task at hand.
For example, Ms. Wheeler was teaching about the life cycle of a butterfly and Deonte asked her whom she spent her weekend with. Ms. Wheeler replied that she spent it with her cat. In order to get back to the task at hand she told a story about her cat playing in the garden, and they saw a caterpillar. Her transitions between topics work well for her students. Ms. Wheeler’s students also show her a lot of affection; she kindly and professionally returns the affection. Samuel loves high-fives and hugs, while Cody likes fist pumps.
Much of the affection shown in the class is done after a task or during transition periods. Ms. Wheeler quizzes her students after each completed task. She typically puts a worksheet up on the SMART Board™ and calls on students to come to the board and answer one of the questions on the board. Also during centers the teacher or teacher’s aide will ask many questions to make sure the student understands the assignment. When students succeed Ms. Wheeler always praises them with kind remarks. Ms. Wheeler’s class was at most times chaotic.
Her class follows little rules and behavior varies between students. Ms. Wheeler does remind students often to use inside voices and to pay attention. However, because the students are all special needs students you cannot punish them for behavior that is relative of their mental or physical disability. The instructor utilizes individualized learning objectives; she uses centers as a way to have one on one instructional time with her students. Each of her students are on different academic levels, so one on one time with her students is vital to the education progression of her students.
Based on the progression of her students it is sometimes necessary to make adjustments to their individualized education program (IEP) and individualized schedules. In conclusion, observing Ms. Wheeler’s class has taught me about how to teach students who have any disability and how to individualize education even within the general education. My time in Ms. Wheeler’s class was spent only observing. Fort Bend ISD does not allow much interaction with their special needs students, because they want to keep their students on their adapted schedules.
The theory behind this is the children are able to transition between school and home easier. My experience in Ms. Wheeler’s class has taught me the importance of patience when working with young students. It also taught me how important it is to have a student teacher meeting with each of my students and address their weaknesses and strengths. This will help me in making sure each student is succeeding to the best of their ability. I also have decided that when I begin teaching, I will use a large array of teaching strategies to accommodate the different learning style of all students.
My desired degree is Education, Math fourth to eighth grade and in my classroom I can use an overhead or SMART Board™ to allow students a chance to “student teach”. I can also use personal white boards for rapid math games. Observing middle school special education has confirmed to me that I could not teach special education. Those who can teach these exceptional children in my opinion must have a special quality to handle the demand of their jobs. It takes an exceptional teacher to teach these amazing children. However, I have decided teaching middle school is where I will be most effective.
For a long time I believed that teaching elementary was always the way to go, but allowing students to take action in their own education is a future goal of mine. The only way I can see this vision come to pass is by teaching students old enough to take charge of their actions yet young enough to mold. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ” I want to teach the new generation that taking charge of their education will change the world around them.
Courtney from Study Moose
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