The last six months have caught us flat-footed. No one was prepared for what was about to happen. It felt like an unannounced hurricane with steady gale winds, an avalanche to an avid skier or like a sand storm to the lonely desert traveller.
Where ever you were then, as a teacher, you are no longer there today. Imagine our students with Special Educational Needs( SEN)! It must be a roller coaster for many!
As we have embarked on this new school year; we are doing so, with many uncertainties and unresolved thoughts and questions. One question I wish to answer is, what can we do for our students with SEN?
Many of our schools have adopted a hybrid system for education delivery. The Hybrid system will vary depending on many factors, including; the age of the students, the level and type of disabilities, the number of children in a family and a host of other considerations.
The basic hybrid model may entail a split of the weekdays into in-school and at home/distance learning.
What can teachers do to support our students with SEN?
- Talk with the parent/s and the student. Ask him/her to share with you how they felt last year when they had to be at home because of COVID-19. Was that a good or bad experience and why so? Find out whether, in your position as a teacher, they have any questions they would like to ask you or whether they have anything they would like to share with you and what are they looking forward to in the coming year.
- I would also suggest creating a visual timetable for the student, showing days at school and days at home. A visual schedule will give the student an overview of his/her week and can help him or her to be mentally prepared for it.
- Encourage parents to allow the students at home; distance learning days to wear their uniforms during school hours. Try to and maintain the times of the school timetable routine, including times for break and lunch while at home, doing distance learning. The method will place them in a school and learning mindset. They will be able to distinguish between school days and non-school days.
- Depending on your school, you can also lead small group reading or Math interventions online with your students. Dress for school and lead your sessions. For many students, they will be delighted to see their teacher. Besides, you can ask them questions and receive immediate feedback. You can give instant praise and rewards, and the students will love it!
- Some parents are not very computer literate and struggle with English. There is a way around that too. WhatsApp!! You can send the work via WhatsApp, ask the students to complete the activity, take a picture and then return it to you via Whatsapp. Use every means at your disposal, in accordance with your school’s online and safeguarding protocols.
- In-school days can be very challenging. What do the SEN students understand about physical/ social distancing? Your school may have a new code of greeting. If possible, share the new code with the parents, before the students arrive at school, so that they can begin to practice at home, if not, you will have to teach them on arrival.
The future is unknown but it can also be a bright one for our students with SEN!
By: Debbie Hamilton Bogues
Debbie is an experienced international educator, who has spent almost 30 years in education in the Caribbean, USA, UK and the Middle East. She has a passion for students with special education needs.