November 6, 2021 0 By Allison Preble

As I’m meeting with students about their learning differences, I’m finding that very few have ever been denied an accommodation. This is super encouraging. When they ask a teacher for help or open up to them about specific struggles with class material, teachers are almost always receptive. It’s really assuring to know that almost all Durham Academy teachers understand the importance of accommodations for students with learning differences. Teachers are also open to change assessments and class plans in their classrooms.

As receptive as teachers are to meeting specific accommodation needs of students, interview feedback indicates that students feel the teacher/student interaction in front of peers during class misses the mark. For example, one student talked about being pressured to finish a test in front of the class after their time and a half was up. Another spoke about consistently getting told to take notes in front of their whole class. They learn better just listening, but teachers will call them out for not writing things down. Another spoke about anxiety in one class due to cold calling by the teacher, equating the feeling of cold calling to public shaming. While teachers might believe that they’re helping a student to remind them to note take, they’re really just highlighting their differences in front of the class. In my interviews I have found that anxiety among students with learning differences is their biggest hurdle and roadblock to learning. The pressure of cold calling or singling out for reminders or accidentally highlighting differences seems to unintentionally raise these students anxiety levels. 

I’m going to research more strategies to help with these unintentional classroom interactions. The other day I received a great recommendation from a student on how teachers can make students feel more comfortable in class. If a student answers a question incorrectly, teachers should not announce to the class that their answer is wrong. Instead they should say a statement like: “that’s a good start… so and so could you finish up what they’re saying.

Over the weekend, I will finish finding themes from my interviews, and begin researching the themes I find.