Many of the students I work with attend private, independent schools, and the Philadelphia area is blessed with a large variety of high-quality schools.
For students who learn differently, the atmosphere of the school they attend has much to do with their sense of success. It has been my observation that atmosphere is established in either a top-down or a bottom-up manner.
The students I currently work with are all in high school, and this is what I have observed about their teachers:
- they have generally been open to ideas and suggestions for better serving struggling students;
- at the secondary level, they typically have had interesting and enriching experiences with developing their abilities to teach content to students;
- very often, they have had little training or sustained professional development about learning differences.
Sometimes, the experience of working with a struggling student has inspired teachers to promote greater faculty-wide understanding that how students learn is as important to consider as what students learn. These teacher-leaders are critical to creating the right atmosphere for students.
As a private tutor, it is gratifying to serve as a link in the chain. Consulting with a classroom teacher provides an opportunity to spread the credo that kids have ‘all kinds of minds’.
Next time, we’ll look at the role of a school’s administration.