DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
Aspects to consider:
Period and place in which the experience took place :
The events described took place during the current school year; the student is in the second year of the High School specializing in the Study of Art in Grosseto.
Main actors involved (special focus on the profile of the student)
1. The student has been in possession of disability certification since Middle School (as provided for according to the Italian Law n. 104/92), for the recognition of social disadvantage due to dyslexia and dyscalculia, with severely impaired short memory. She was diagnosed with a significant anxiety-inducing component that impedes learning, accompanied by a strong lack of self-esteem. In Middle School, the student always received the aid of support teachers in the classroom together with other students with severe cognitive impairments. She arrived in High School with poor basic skills, but with consolidated digital skills and a good ability for logical organization.
2. THE CLASS: The class presents difficult interpersonal dynamics; students are present who manifest difficulty in socializing with their peers, who together with the student are excluded by the group.
3. THE TEACHERS: The teachers took note of the aggravation of the general situation compared to last year and frequently adopt teaching methods that promote the contributions of those most vulnerable in the context of teaching/learning.
4. PSYCHOLOGISTS OF TERRITORIAL HEALTHCARE SERVICES: Teachers contacted the Psychologists to have resources in order to promote a constructive approach to inclusion in the classroom; the psychologists collaborated with the teachers and organized meetings specific to the needs of the school that were held at the Listening Center.
THE FAMILY: The family is very attentive to the needs of their daughter, but they are not able to assist her in homework, nor are they economically able to provide for home tutoring.
Description of the factual events
My work with the student involves the teaching of Math. The student demonstrates difficulty in the technique of numerical computation because of dyscalculia, but has good ability in the logical and intuitive retrieval of number facts. She strongly feels the discomfort of diversity because she considers this subject as an “intelligence indicator” and fears the judgment of her classmates as soon as she enters the classroom. Together with the class teacher, we decided to avoid my presence in the classroom and proposed to the student the possibility of individual study. We began working on the same arguments as the class that I proposed in a de-structured manner, enabling her to participate directly in the construction of learning. I proposed exercises of increasing difficulty, always within her grasp and capabilities. The principal objective was to increase her level of self-esteem, to avoid the snowball effect of the progressive accumulation of errors typical of dyscalculia (correcting as we went along, the exchange of symbols, the inversion of the numbers, numerator/denominator, etc.). During the lessons in which I was not present, the student slowly began to take important notes and to demonstrate sufficient skills in following proposed topics. The event that symbolized the student’s awareness of her own abilities occurred during the oral exam of a classmate. The student intervened to assist a classmate in difficulty, demonstrating to the teacher an ability to interact effectively in the content required.
Actions carried out to identify the causes of the students difficulties
I tried to investigate the motive of her inhibition and almost total rejection that the student demonstrated last year in this subject matter; I tried to distinguish as much as possible the current learning in respect to previous studies, and found it to be more related to automatisms of calculations.
Actions carried out to solve the situation
Every time that I tried to work on calculations, the student demonstrated closure and I immediately understood the importance of incorporating procedures involving a “parallel” course of action, in which we address the specific case of the calculation only in conjunction with the needs required according to a topic proposed in the classroom, promoting the rational use of a calculator.
The student needs consistent positive reinforcement. She is emotionally dependent on the successful results of assigned work, for which in the case of the least amount of difficulty encountered in achieving the task in individual work, she abandons the assignment both at home and at school. Moreover, based on her short-term memory difficulties, she needs appropriate compensatory instruments for class tests; yet, to avoid being considered “different” or “privileged” by her classmates, she refuses the opportunity to consult materials that I prepare for these exams.
Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents
THE COLLEAGUES OF THE CLASS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: The colleagues are aware that the student’s refusal is strongly conditioned by disinvestment due to a low level of self-esteem and pay more attention to the emotional component of learning. Based on this prospective, the Integrated Sciences Teacher, also responsible for Peer Education, has initiated a cooperative learning approach in the classroom.
THE SCHOOL COORDINATOR: The teacher in charge of the school complex has been available for meetings with class parents, to motivate the promotion of alternative educational strategies, a fundamental cultural value of our school.
The student’s approach towards all subjects has significantly improved; there is still great difficulty regarding individual study, for which constant assistance would be necessary. Until today, the student undergoes testing using the same content as the rest of the class (although reduced in the difficulty level of calculations). The teachers’ objective is to assist the student in reaching the required standard subject matter foundations necessary to begin the course of the second three years of High School;
Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
STRENGTHS: the presence of the student in the classroom represents a motive for classroom teacher to constantly research new methodologies to guarantee significant learning.
WEAKNESSES: the student still relies heavily on the judgment of her classmates. Although the possibility to change classes was offered to the student at the beginning of the school year, she refused this opportunity- it is uncertain whether she refused to challenge herself (I hope so!) or… based on a “tendency to isolate herself from the group”.
Still on some occasions, she refuses to intervene in class, despite the fact that she is able to respond.