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From the Teacher’s Desk: What Makes Learning Diverse?

Education is a life-long journey. Trends in education come and go, but the goal remains the same: students must learn the skills they need to live a successful life. During the last several decades, we have realized that the learning process looks different for different people. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, and human development is not linear, as skills can develop and be mastered at various times for different people. Research also suggests that a key to success in education is knowing students deeply and understanding their uniquenesses. 


Many Learning Styles Create a Positive Environment

Diversity in learning and classrooms is essential for a healthy school community. The opportunity to experience learners with different needs provides students with a chance to develop empathy, patience, curiosity, and cooperation. These experiences, often unique to a classroom environment, force students to be flexible and compassionate as they develop academic and socio-emotional skills. Diverse classrooms foster creativity, innovation, and independence.


What Makes a Student Twice Exceptional? 

Within a school environment, there can be gifted and talented students, those who have particular abilities and learn quickly. In the same setting, there can be students who have learning complexities, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia or struggle with neurological disorders, such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Developmental Delays. Interestingly, twice-exceptional students, possessing an above-average talent in one area and challenges in another, are quite common. As research has explained these common exceptionalities more thoroughly and clearly, they are becoming normalized, helping teachers and parents gain more access to learning how to serve these students better. 


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Other Factors to Learning Diversity

Other types of diverse learners often fall under the radar and may require similar support and recognition. Factors such as brain development during the first few years of life, trauma, socio-economic status, culture and ethnicity, language spoken at home, and parents' availability, physically and emotionally, have a big impact on how a student learns. Medical conditions such as color vision deficiency, asthma, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and even frequent ear and upper respiratory infections greatly impact a student’s ability, disposition, and readiness for learning. Students who experience any of these have particular needs, which, when not met, can cause delays in learning.


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Teacher’s Toolbox  

Teachers plan lessons taking into consideration many factors, including particular student needs. Classroom accommodations for students with learning challenges or chronic illnesses are important as they aim to provide an equitable learning environment for all students. Teachers will sometimes incorporate accommodations as best practices in their classrooms as they benefit all students. For example, most teachers use timers to inform students of how much time they have to complete an activity. This is a way to help students learn time management, a skill all students should learn. At the same time, a timer can help students with attention issues or anxiety have a clearer sense of time which will help them perform a task more successfully. 

Other times, accommodations need to be particular to a student’s specific needs. For example, if there is a student in the class who has a color vision deficiency, the teacher will minimize or avoid the use of certain colors so the student has equal access to the material as the rest of the students. A student whose first language is not English or whose parents’ first language is different could present difficulties with spelling and vocabulary. Teachers will choose readings and resources that support the development of the English language based on the student’s particular needs. A student who suffers from anxiety might need a private “heads up” when the daily schedule has to change due to an unexpected event. Students with Dyslexia or with reading impairments benefit from audiobooks and assistive technology that turns written language into audio. A student with diabetes can be allowed a place in the classroom to store extra snacks of glucose tablets. If there is a student with chronic asthma in a classroom, outdoor recess can be changed to indoor recess during very cold days or when the pollen count is very high. 


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Known and Loved

At schools like MPCS, it is a top priority to make sure every student feels known and loved. Within the scope of the uniqueness of culture, race, ability, socioeconomic status, and neurodiversity, it's important to remember that all children are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). Teachers take great pride in knowing their students deeply and celebrating their uniquenesses. The more we know them, the better we can successfully meet their needs. And as advocates for the individuality of every child, we are able to guide them through their learning journey. 


Mrs. Jocelyn Sotomayor is the Assistant Head of Lower School at MPCS. She has been in the field of education for almost 25 years, serving in different capacities such as teacher, counselor, college counselor, dean of students, and assistant principal. She also served as principal of two upper schools, one in Puerto Rico, and one in Atlanta, Georgia. Mrs. Sotomayor has a master's degree in School Counseling and another in Public Affairs. She has a certificate in school leadership and is a certified Executive Functions Coach. 
To learn more about exceptional learning at Mount Paran Christian School  click here.


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Providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment, Mount Paran Christian School unites with home and church to prepare servant-leaders to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth.