Monday, June 13, 2011

‘A good teacher has high hopes for her students’

‘A good teacher has high hopes for her students’
Published MOD May 2011

DEALING with kids, those screaming little tykes running around and refusing to give in to their whim, can be tough. Imagine doing so with children with special needs every single day. Michelle Arriola happily experiences just that. A Filipina born in the United States, Michelle is a teacher at Cardenas School in Chicago. The school is located in the Mexican-American community known as Little Village.
Michelle took up Early Child Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

“I wanted to be a teacher because I love helping children learn and fulfill their dreams,” she says.
Michelle plans to take up her Master’s degree in Education and English as a Second Language (ESL). “English is the second language of most of my students. I want to learn more about how to teach English Language Learners (ELLs) so I can meet my students’ needs.”
That will be in the coming school year. Meanwhile, Michelle is enjoying her summer vacation in Manila with her relatives. She shares with MOD her insights on education and the challenges of teaching.

Different levels of learning. “I teach children with special needs—those with Autism, Down syndrome, developmental delays, speech delays, cognitive delays, learning disabilities, and a lot of different kinds of disabilities—in preschool and kindergarten. Teaching kids with special needs is different from teaching kids who are typically developing because they are at different levels, mentally. I might have a three-year-old, but mentally, he is nine-month-old. So I need to make a lesson plan that he would be able to understand. In my classroom there are also children who are non-verbal. They have no speech at all. These students are most likely the ones to be screaming, crying, and having a tantrum because they are frustrated that they cannot express what they want or what they need.”

Help them learn. “There are kids with Autism who need to follow an exclusive schedule. A regular teacher won’t be able to do that, because she has 25 other kids to worry about. I’m lucky I have a small classroom. I only attend to 10 students in the morning and 10 students in the afternoon. I think that’s helpful in their learning, too. I’m also fortunate to have two aides in my classroom to help me.”

Know what is important. “My parents raised me to believe that education is important. I want to teach kids, and teach them that learning, being educated, and going to school are really important.”

Patience is a virtue. “A good teacher is someone who is patient with the children. She teaches to the best of the abilities of the kids. If a kid is a visual learner or an auditory learner, the teacher will adjust for that student. I think a good teacher tries to understand the student, where he comes from. Most of all, a good teacher has high hopes for her students.”

Magic moments. “Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites. I have a bond with all my students, and I would say that I have favorite moments with each of them. For example, one of my students just learned how to write his first and last name on his own. Another student learned to sing the ABC. Those are two different things, but they are both favorite moments.”

Rewards plus. “The most rewarding thing about being a teacher is seeing the kids grow, learn, and understand the concepts that I am teaching them.”

Do your best. “I hope that my students will be able to go the next grade, learning the best that they can. I try to teach the basics—colors, shapes, and letters, spell their names. I just want them to know that they can try their best.”

Kids as teachers. “I have learned from the kids that every day is different, and to look at challenges as something that can be overcome. Most important, they taught me to have fun.”

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