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Safe Schools for the Roller Coaster Years

Linda Inlay
The article, Safe Schools for the Roller Coaster Years, by Linda Inlay discusses the
issues surrounding the adolescent teenager. During these years, students emotions are flaring
up, while their ability to make sound judgments is not yet developed. The author uses her
school, the River School, to showcase a new approach to teaching middle school students. She
argues that by establishing clear expectations, yet giving the children autonomy, one is paving
the way for students to learn useful life lessons and to learn how to make good decisions. A
major point emphasized is the need for students to feel comfortable making mistakes, and not
worrying about adult anger. Showing the adolescents why their actions were wrong is much
more effective than simply yelling at them. Finally, Inlay, points to the sadness of the students at
the end of the year as proof of this approaches success; they enjoy school and want to be
there.

Helping Gifted Learners Soar


Susan Rakow
The article, Helping Gifted Learners Soar by Susan Rakow, discusses the need to
differentiate not only those students who have a disability, but also those considered gifted. Too
often, students with higher subject literacy levels are forced to follow the pace of the class, thus
limiting the progress they make. Using students in elementary school, the author writes that preassessment and differentiation are crucial for the success of gifted students. First a teacher
must determine the literacy levels of each student and then differentiate the lesson accordingly.
Rakow explains that although tracking students to either go to college or go to work is no longer
in use, it is useful to keep track of those with higher brain capacities. This is not undemocratic;
but rather allows each child to receive as much as possible from the education system.

Knowledge Synthesis Paper for the Readings and the Exploratory Essay
Overview and Impact
The research done during this class has allowed for greater understanding of student
literacy. The article Helping Gifted Students Soar gives an important lesson in differentiation.
Often, teachers do not include gifted students in their differentiated lessons and only focus on
those who are at or below level. The task of differentiating is of paramount importance for a
teacher. The goal is to help all students in a class, whether they be at, below, or above level.
This article reminded me that when I become a teacher I must remember to adapt my lessons to
best help all of my students. The article Safe Schools for the Roller Coaster Years discusses
the importance of recognizing the level of brain development and maturity of adolescent
students. Knowing this information is essential for a teacher. Without understanding how the
student brain works, a teacher will not be able to enhance a students content literacy. There are
different ways of teaching adolescents and these strategies are intricately tied to a students
literacy levels. Finally, the Exploratory Essay allowed me to reflect on what I have read and
applied throughout the semester. This reflection reminded me to always reflect on what I have
done and how I can improve my lessons and teaching.
Skills and Insights Gained
From my research and reflection I have gained a few useful skills and insights. Firstly, I
recognize the importance of reflection in education and life. Ultimately all learning is a reflection
on ones experiences. This reflection allows people to adapt what they have been doing to get
better outcomes the next time. My reflection in the Exploratory Essay has allowed me to alter
my approach to teaching written literacy next time I have the opportunity, in hopes that the
outcome will be even better than the previous time. The second insight that I have learned from
my reading throughout the semester is the importance of differentiation when it comes to
literacy standards. As a teacher I must always remember that the adolescent brain is quite
different from me and I must teach accordingly. Furthermore, I cannot forget that not all of my
students will be at the same level. I must teach each student in the manner best suited for them.
Lessons Learned

Since I am not yet a teacher it is hard to say how exactly I have applied the knowledge
from these readings and the Exploratory Essay to my life. When making my lesson plans for this
class, I used the information from the two readings aforementioned to help me differentiate and
decide which activities to use. Additionally, it is useful to have a general knowledge of how
adolescents function. This has helped me when I gave the short lesson in class, and will surely
apply to the rest of my teaching career. Finally, in the future I hope to remember that every
student is different and that for this reason, the lesson should be tailored to help each student,
not just most students.