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Berry’s Classroom a Lesson in the Difference of Ability

Annie Carter
Success

There are multiple reasons why diversity affects children, teachers, and the school as a whole.

Along with many factors that diversity affects there are also many definitions of diversity. When thinking of

diversity most people think that it simply about race. Although race is a factor in diversity it is not the only

factor that makes up diversity. The three main factors that I believe impact schools today are religion,

socio-economic status, and level of abilities. These affect children for the better or for the worse in their

lifetimes and teachers can help determine which side it affects.

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own

conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (The

Pearl of Great Price 1880) As educators in this day and age it is not encourage to speak about religion in

our classrooms. In as much as we are not encouraged to do so, neither are our students, this affects both

us and them, especially in a place like Rexburg, Idaho. As a non-member in Rexburg this can affect one’s

social life the most. It is very important, for us as teachers, to make sure that both members and non-

members realize that just because they don’t believe in the same thing doesn’t mean they have to hate

each other, or be mean to one another.

In my hometown there were many people that were in the lower level of socio-economic status. I

have seen this be the motivation of some people, and the downfall of others. A lot of side of the outcome

they came on was based on the teachers that they had. At the high school there was a mix of teachers

that absolutely loved their job, and teachers who did not love their job nearly as much and you could tell.

The teachers that made the most impact on these students were the teachers who loved their job. The

teachers let them know that their socio-economic status did not define them, and that they didn’t have to

live the life they live now. They encouraged those students and believed in those students.

As we are growing and learning how to be teachers we are taught about making lesson plans for

the whole class, but we aren’t always taught about what to expect when we have different levels of

abilities. As a Special Education major we are taught how to differentiate, accommodate, and modify all to

suit the needs of our students with a variety of levels of abilities. This is one focus that makes a big
difference when it comes to a child’s education. Without these differentiations, accommodations, and

modifications, these children could fall through the cracks. They could go on not living their best life

because teachers were too scared, or decided this was too hard.

Case Study

Introduction

As stated previously there are many factors that have contribute to a child’s educational career. In

my experience I chose to work in a resource room for children in sixth grade math. There were a lot of

children who were Mormon but there was a couple who were not. Jane is one of these students who was

not a member and she tells how this affects her and her social life. Sometimes in a land of opportunity like

America we only think of starving children in Africa, but in reality, we have children who are hungry here

in America.” Uninformed teachers may think that poor children slouch, slump, and show little effort

because they are—or their parents are—lazy. Yet research suggests that parents from poor families work

as much as parents of middle- or upper-class families do.” In the school I worked in there were a handful

of students that are struggling with the basics. My teacher, Mrs. Slade, that I worked with tells how it

affects them in her classroom. Mrs. Slade also is a Special Education teacher and she talks about the

difference between her first year of teaching the curriculum to her now modified curriculum.

To Be or Not to Be Mormon…..

Jane: Although I’m in sixth grade there are a lot of things that go on in school that teachers and

parents don’t know about. There are a lot of Mormon kids in this school and I am not. In elementary

school this never really made a difference to who I wanted to be friends with or not. As we are getting

older and we’re going to go to junior high people are starting to separate into the “cool groups”, the “art

kids” and other things like that. A lot of my old friends in elementary school have started separating into a

group of all Mormons. One day I tried to go and hang out with some of my old friends who are Mormon

and they kind of ignored me. I was so confused because I used to hang out with them all the time and
now they didn’t want to talk to me. As I was talking to other non-member kids they were telling me that the

Mormon kids wouldn’t talk to me because I wasn’t Mormon.

For a little while this made me feel really bad because I had a lot of different classes with this

Mormon group and no one wanted to be my friend. I would just think to myself why is it so wrong for me

not to be Mormon? What makes me so bad that they won’t even talk to me? After a bad day I went home

and talked to my older sister about this, and after that she then told my mom about the situation. The next

day my mom went and talked to one of my teachers Mrs. Slade about the problem. Mrs. Slade listened to

my mom and let her talk until she was done. My mom told her how bad she felt because I was feeling bad

about these kids not talking to me. Mrs. Slade then told my mom that she would watch for me in her class

and talk with this “Mormon kid group” about the problem. That very day Mrs. Slade did just that and by

last period I slowly had more of my old friends talking to me. It wasn’t like how it used to be in elementary

school where we would talk and talk and not get our work done. It was better than sitting at the table by

myself and not talking to anyone. I’m glad that Mrs. Slade was so kind to my family and me.

No Child Should Go Hungry

Mrs. Slade: As a student teacher and teaching this district I have seen a lot of different levels of

socio-economic status’. My first school that I student taught in it was in Utah and the children were all

from very wealthy families, and so moving here it was a very big change. There were children from all

different levels. The was this one girl that I remember my first-year teaching here, her name was Molly.

Molly was a very quiet girl but did talk to a select few people. As a new teacher I was very energetic about

the idea of teaching so I wanted to make a difference in every child’s life. For the longest time I just could

not get through to her. I would talk with her and try to make her smile but absolutely nothing worked, and

then finally I decided that I would see if one of her other teachers knew what the backstory of this girl was.

I talked to a long-time teacher Mr. Standford. He told me all about how Molly’s father would sit at

home and play video games while her mom would work three jobs to support her family. He also told me

that since her mom is working and her dad is preoccupied that Molly takes cares of her younger siblings.

She feeds them, bathes them, dresses them, gets them ready for school and does all the things a parent
should be doing. Since she hasn’t had much food other than prepackaged food this would often be their

meals.

After this talk with Mr. Standford I racked my brain for a way to help this child without crossing the

line. My greatest idea that I could come up with a simple answer of showing love and support for this girl.

I took one day at time praying every day to ask God what I could do to help this sweet child to grow up

and achieve everything she can. As I started implementing my plan Molly would open up more and more.

At first it was a tiny little smile with no teeth, but by the end of the school year she would not stop talking!

As she came to blossom out of her shell she started to gain more friends and along with this she gained

confidence. I wanted her to live the best life she could and so I started having everyone make short term

and long-term goals for themselves. At the beginning of the year Molly’s short-term goal was to make it

through the day, and her long term goal was to graduate high school. Now, at the end of the year Molly’s

new dream is to graduate college and go on to be a pediatrician. These are the moments that help me

remember why I chose to be a teacher.

When a Flower Doesn’t Bloom, You Fix the Environment in Which It Grows, Not the Flower

-Alexander Den Heijer-

Mrs. Slade: I’m sorry I have so many stories from my first-year teaching, but throughout my years

of teaching I have learned a lot from that point on and I feel they’re all vital. My first year of teaching I

followed my teacher’s manual to the T! There were many times where I would see my students dozing off

in the midst of my lesson, but I had to get through this curriculum. I wasn’t so worried about the state test

but I was more worried about making sure they were ready to move on to seventh grade. I also wasn’t

taught how to differentiate my instruction if the children didn’t understand the curriculum. I was at a loss

because I wanted my students to love my class and be fully engaged. Again, my wheels started turning in

my brain as to how I could stick to the curriculum but keep my students engaged in the lesson. That is

when I found this quote “When a Flower Doesn’t Bloom, You Fix the Environment in Which It Grows, Not

the Flower.” (Heijer 2013)


I first started off with a lot of different methods acting silly, telling jokes, etc. These things kept

their engagement for a little while but it’s not what I wanted. I decided to ask my students what they didn’t

like about math and they told me it’s not that they don’t like me it’s that they don’t understand it. When

they don’t understand it they do ask questions but some of them are too shy to do so. Since they don’t

ask questions we move on and they never understand it. Finally, I thought back to my own children and

what helped them learn. They learned by me telling them stories, and applying these types of things to

their lives.

As I have gone through the years implementing these methods I have seen my student’s

engagement grow and grow every year as a gain more experience. As these children have gone through

my classroom they go onto their other teachers and tell them what I implemented in my classroom. I

believe that this worked because although science says that there isn’t different learning styles I believe

that students lean towards a certain style. As I have implemented stories, lectures, hands-on activities

and so on I am reaching every child’s level and abilities.

*Names Changed for Privacy

Commentary

As Children of God we were all created in our own special way and not one of us is the exact same

as another. Just as God made us differently every single one of us thinks in a different way and has our

own way of doing things. Some people may agree with our way of doing things and others may not.

Although this is good we also need to realize that diversity doesn’t mean that we can’t love each other

especially as teachers. As teachers we need to unify just as we as people do. “Be one; and if ye are not

one ye are not mine” (The Doctrine and Covenants 1990)

There are many factors and variables that affect children in school now days. I feel that the most

important ones that affect children and society, where I will be teaching, is religion, socio-economic

status, and ability levels. I feel that these are important because as of late I feel that members of the

church aren’t being as nice as we should. I know that other people in different religions may not be nice
as well, but I know that the best way to start change is with me. Socio-economic status is a big deal

because I don’t want children to feel like they can’t achieve anything just because they happened to born

into a family that wasn’t financially fortunate. As a future Special Education teacher I feel that ability level

is so important because we want all children to learn, and in order to do this we need to learn how to work

with these children.

I think the best way to help teachers recognize these difficulties is to educate them, and let them

know that just because they can’t see it happening doesn’t mean it isn’t. As the new generation of

teachers, we are being taught about these difficulties, in classes like these. Once teachers learn how to

recognize these problems we then need to figure out how to solve these problems where we teach,

because each of our school districts are going to be different. One strategy that I liked when talking about

socio-economic status is getting the struggling child into classes that will help them in their lives at home.

I think this is a great Segway to what needs to be done, we need to give our students more real-world

opportunities and strategies to implement. “Schools should accommodate all children regardless of their

physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions.” (Article 3, UNESCO 1994)
References

Alur, M., & Timmons, V. (2009). Inclusive education across cultures crossing boundaries, sharing ideas.

Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Den Heijer, A. (2013, August). Retrieved December 07, 2017, from

https://www.alexanderdenheijer.com/single-post/2016/08/05/When-a-flower-doesnt-bloom

Jensen, E. (2013, May). How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement. Retrieved December 12, 2017,

from https://byui.brightspace.com/content/enforced/293732-

Online.2017.Fall.ED312.03/Course%20Files/2013.Jensen.HowPovertyAffectsClassroomEngage

ment%20(1).pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=qexDxObZ3idV8LPWPJImI6DVV&ou=293732

Smith, J. (1990). The Doctrine and Covenants. Independence, MO: Joseph Smith, Jr.s Rare Reprints.

Pearl of Great Price. (1880). Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.