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Running head: ALL ARE WELCOME

ALL ARE WELCOME: MEETING ALL STUDENTS ALL THE TIME

Requirements for the Degree: Master of Arts in Education

By

Heather Wirkus

July 2018
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Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to synthesize and reflect upon four texts read and analyzed

during the span of time leading up to the Proseminar in preparation for receiving the Master in

the Arts in Education through Viterbo University. The main goals of this assignment are to: (a)

identify the multiple common themes of the four texts read, (b) make connections from these

common book themes to the theme of ‘All Are Welcome: Meeting All Students All the Time’,

and (c) to make additional connections to my personal experiences in the classroom.

The books assigned and chosen to read were Eric Jensen’s Poor Students, Rich Teaching,

Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristen

Souers and Pete Hall, The Educator’s Handbook for Inclusive School Practices by Julie Causton

and Chelsea P. Tracy-Bronson, and Unstoppable Learning: Seven Essential Elements to Unleash

Student Potential by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. While two of the books were assigned, the

other two books were selected when reflecting upon the needs of the students in my classroom.

Many of the students in our school building come from socioeconomically disadvantaged

households, have experienced parents divorcing, witness family members being incarcerated,

and numerous other traumatic events. Inclusion is also a hot topic trending in education, and I

believe the more information learned about the inclusive classroom, the more I will be able to

benefit my students with disabilities, as well as my students without disabilities.

Each of these texts incorporated a variety of strategies and resources, as well as numerous

professional opinions and examples, each book had numerous, resonating common themes, with

the priority focusing on the needs of the students.


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Common Themes

One of the most obvious common themes witnessed throughout the chosen texts was the

effects educators have on their students. Educators are extraordinary individuals, who have the

power to alter the lives of young people through encouragement, empowerment, and

engagement. An educator’s ability to inspire student learning through their style of teaching

allows students to go above expectations. The idea of teaching, while vital when establishing a

career in education, is not as important when comparing it to the community of students that are

being taught. Fisher and Frey (2015) begin their research by discussing the community of

students within the classroom. As do the authors of the other texts read, Fisher and Frey

highlight the importance of the student and how their needs are priority because it is the students

who are taught and not the content area (2015).

Jensen (2016) discussed various mindsets throughout his book, each mindset addressing

the needs of students. For example, The Achievement Mindset allows teachers to empower by

declaring, “I can build student effort, motivation, and attitudes to succeed. They are all teachable

skills” (Jensen, 2016, p. 60). This empowerment allows students to grow academically, socially,

emotionally, and behaviorally. His work can be directly relate to the work done by Souers and

Hall. By explicitly teaching students about their brain and its functions, students are given a

sense of power over their actions in order to manage their stress when coming from traumatic

scenarios outside of the classroom (Souers & Hall, 2016). These connections to empowerment

allow students the opportunity to take control of their learning.

Jensen (2016) also provided The Engagement Mindset, which articulates, “I can and will

engage with purpose every student, every day, every nine minutes or less, guaranteed” (p. 148).

Engaging with students models for students the importance of engagement within education.
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Causton and Tracy-Bronson (2015) displayed the great importance of engagement within the

inclusive classroom and went on to state that “all students are more engaged when they enjoy

classroom life, laugh, and connect with peers” (p. 122).

Each of these books reached out to me as an educator, providing me numerous and

various strategies on how to improve my teaching in order to improve the education and learning

of my students. I was also provided with a number of instructional strategies to assist in creating

an education that would allow my students to be career ready. Jensen (2016) and Souers and

Hall (2016) provided specific activities on how to manage stress, such as breathing exercises,

music enhancement, and body movement in order to enhance learning experiences for students.

Fisher and Frey (2015) as well as Causton and Tracy-Bronson (2015) provided activities in how

to improve learning interactions between peers and educators.

These interaction activities lead into another common theme noticed throughout the four

books; relationships. While each of the books addressed various issues, such as trauma, Special

Education, and poverty, a common thread was the importance of establishing and maintaining

positive relationships with students. These types of relationships are built around honesty and

trust. Students need to be able to trust their educators in order to be honest with them and to

surrender their learning. Without a student’s trust, educators will struggle to make meaningful

learning connections and academics may suffer.

Jensen (2016) provides The Relational Mindset which states, “We are all connected in

this life together. Always connect first as a person and then as a teacher second” (p. 26). This

connections encourages students to remain in school and true to the academic and educational

system. Souers and Hall (2016) also encouraged positive, healthy relationships and the

foundational building of trust. “Trust is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. A healthy


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relationship, in turn, is an instrumental aspect of feeling safe” (Sours & Hall, 2016, p. 102).

When establishing these relationships, students hold their educators accountable for following

through, supporting them, and including them in the learning process (Causton & Tracy-

Bronson, 2015). Students continually learn from what is modeled. Modeling positive, healthy

relationships will allow for them to reciprocate these relationships. However, students see their

peers as their family members and their equals once that community is established. When

thinking about the classroom as a community system, Fisher and Frey (2015) explain that

various relationships can reflect negatively when reprimands or negativity are presented. Trust,

honesty, positivity, and safety are critical pieces when establishing positive relationships, as well

as constructive learning environments for all students.

“Develop strong relationships with students, and then lean on those relationships to

establish expectations for students” (Fisher & Frey, 2015, p. 131). Which leads into the common

theme of learning environments. Students are able to flourish within environments in which they

feel safe and are secure with a caring adult. Each of the texts delved deep into establishing

constructive classroom learning environments. Souers and Hall’s (2016) entire book revolved

around the idea of establishing a classroom conducive to the needs of students affected by

traumatic experiences.

Educators face the implications of trauma forced upon their students from day to day.

According to Hall (2016), “every classroom can and should be a safe place for students to live,

learn, develop, and meet high academic standards” (p. 5). This description is not limited to a

specific grouping of students, but is a standard for all students. It is within our best interest for

our students’ success to ensure the quality of the learning environment, making is conducive to

their learning needs. As Causton and Tracy-Bronson (2015) also focus on the inclusive
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classroom environment within their exploration, the researchers numerous environmental

adaptations. Simple changes, such as utilizing movement, time management devices, engaging

transitions, and anchoring activities for independent work may assist in student success on

academic tasks (Causton & Tracy-Bronson, 2015). The stage for learning is ultimately set by the

educators as they create an environment that allows all students the opportunity to thrive by

establishing expectations, procedures, and routines (Fisher & Frey, 2015). Jensen (2016)

interweaves each of these research-based texts with The Rich Classroom Climate mindset which

states, “I focus on what students need to succeed and build it into the learning and social

environment every day” (p. 111), because creating a warm classroom environment ensures

students that they are safe and cared for at school.

Each of these common themes reminds educators that this career, this profession, is

strictly about the students. Although educators are constantly criticized and evaluated as

successful or unsuccessful according to the standards their students achieve, it is critical to

provide all students with an education that is ethical and within their best interests (Souers &

Hall, 2016). Career or college ready is the ultimate goal in measuring student success and

achievement.

All Are Welcome: Meeting All Students All the Time

The overall concepts of each of the four books read revolved around the theme of

meeting the needs of all students at all times. The books addressed concerns and needs of a

variety of students, with focuses on students involved in trauma, Special Education, and poverty.

In my belief, the theme ‘All Are Welcome: Meeting All Students All the Time’ refers to the

ideas of differentiation, modifications, and adjustments in order to ensure all student needs are

being met to assist them in being successful and making gains. The thing to keep in mind for
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educators is that not all students learn the same, nor is success the same for each individual

student. The focus of educators to ensure these differences is consider the effect being made on

student learning, the relationships being built between educator and student, and the learning

environment that is established. According to Fisher and Frey (2015), the classroom

environment has a direct and measurable impact on student achievement” (p. 49). The

researchers continue on to note the importance and effectiveness of interactions to cultivate

developmentally appropriate fundamentals (Fisher & Frey, 2015). With the student being a

primary theme within each of the texts, it is a dynamic role that relationships and environments

play upon the student as a sufficient learner in order to attain the academic achievements needing

to be considered career ready (Jensen, 2016).

Differentiation, modifications, and adjustments are not strictly related to academics in

education. These terms can also be applied to behavioral, social, and emotional needs as well.

Each student comes into the school environment with a different background and various

experiences, whether lacking or abundant (Souers & Hall, 2016). Welcoming students and

making them feel as though they are treated equally as their peers is vital in making the school a

community, while also making students feel safe a cared for each day (Fisher & Frey, 2015).

Each of the books read made the importance of acquiring various instructional strategies to meet

the needs of all students, as well as improving teaching to make learning more effect and

efficient and creating positive relationships and learning environments profusely clear. These

pieces are all placed together in order to achieve student success according to the needs of the

individual students.

Classroom Experiences
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I have personally and professionally worked with students who have experienced trauma,

receive Special Education services, and are stricken by poverty. While working with students

who are accompanied by these circumstances can be overwhelming and intimidating, educators

need to alter their focus from the challenges to filling their students with positive expectations in

daily situations (Souers & Hall, 2016). Instead of viewing these as challenges, I utilize these

moments to challenge my students to set higher goals and expectations for themselves. Each

month, we take time to set goals in core, academic areas. Upon setting these goals, we discuss

and brainstorm ways to achieve these goals and grow in our academic areas. Students use these

achievement ideas and goals to self-regulate and adjust accordingly, developing accountability,

responsibility, and academic respect. Knowing what my students need to adequately, effectively,

and efficiently learn is vital because we need to “maintain our focus on the students we serve”

(Souers & Hall, 2016, p. 86).

Jensen (2016) stated “when students feel connected, respected, and trusted by their

teachers, they behave and learn better, as student-teacher relationships have a strong effect on

student achievement” (p. 29). I found this statement especially true through my years of

teaching, and after having read Jensen’s work first, found a commonality between the following

books. At the beginning of each school year, I personally work hard to establish positive

relationships with each of my students. We begin and end each day with positivity and displays

of affection. It is crucial, in my opinion, to explicitly inform and passionately display to my

students that I believe in their work and efforts and care about their feelings and ideas. Sauer

and Hall (2016) remind us that “relationships are not easy” (p. 90), and they “require an

investment of time, energy, and spirit” (p. 91). However, I hope that building this rapport with
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my students each year ensures them that I am available to them whether they are seven year old

or graduating high school.

Stability through establishing routines and procedures allow in the facilitation of student

growth, academically and personally (Fisher & Frey, 2015). At the beginning of each school

year, I work with my students to establish classroom expectations. Due to the students have

much control over these expectations, accountability and responsibility are gained as students

work to adhere to what they have personally established. Within these expectations, students

form a sense of community with their peers, which quickly form bonds; a family of sorts.

Characteristics, such as empathy, sympathy, patience, flexibility, trust, and honest, are explicitly

taught to start and practiced throughout the school year. Students find their value through these

caring, safe learning environments.

Conclusion

While each of these texts were established and developed by various professionals with

differing ideas and opinions, each of the books had resounding importance in the educational

fields. The word or title of ‘student’ encompasses a vast range of human beings, however, the

term student does not apply to a singular type of human being. Students differ, making educators

responsible for taking into consideration academic, emotional, behavioral, and social needs due

to varying challenges each student faces at home and at school.

My ‘now what’ moment is to effectively and efficiently provide my students with the

education they need and deserve, one that is fair to each of their individual needs. Causton and

Tracy-Bronson (2015) suggest that educators address a few simple questions each day: (1) What

worked today? (2) What did not work? and (3)What do I want to do differently tomorrow? (p.
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187). I believe these three, simple questions will allow me to reflect more thoroughly each day

in order to achieve this goal.

“Life is a marvelous adventure, full of opportunity, joy, and wonder. How I wish

everyone shared that perspective! In reality, life is hard, often mean, and always unpredictable”

(Sauer & Hall, 2016, p. 170). While this quote refers to life, I believe it can also be utilized to

describe education. However, it is today’s educators that can work to make it more simplistic

and kind in all of its unpredictability through their passion and dedication to the profession. I

only hope that my passion and dedication to my students radiates through as well.
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References

Causton, J., & Tracy-Bronson, C.P. (2015). The Educator’s Handbook for Inclusive School

Practices. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Fisher, D., & Frey, Nancy. (2015). Unstoppable Learning: Seven Essential Elements to Unleash

Student Potential. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Jensen, E. (2016). Poor Students, Rich Teaching: Mindsets for Change. Bloomington, IN:

Solution Tree Press.

Souers, K., & Hall, P. (2016). Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-

Sensitive Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.