During my high school years, I had a teacher that taught Theory of Knowledge, which discussed epistemology and philosophy. He always (somewhat sarcastically) called each of us ‘special snowflakes.’ He had a dry sense of humour and would use this term whenever discussing how we function as students, and as people in general. That each of us have different needs and come from different walks of life.
With this said, one thing that I’ve come to understand through my student teaching is that each student is actually just as unique as a snowflake. Each student comes from a different background and learns in different ways. My teacher back in high school was ultimately right; we all process and experience and learn differently.
So how can we, as teachers, find a way to create lessons that reach all students, despite their differences? How do we find the time to understand each of our students’ needs in order to better educate them?
Admittedly, it’s practically impossible to even memorize every student’s name (especially at an elementary school with 800+ kids), but there’s the effort that matters. We must try our hardest to find ways to relate to students, to further understand who they are. We need to provide safe spaces that nurture students to express themselves and to experience art in the best way that suits them. We must prepare for students with disabilities, troubles at home, language barriers, etc.
In lesson planning, we should focus on means of production. What other opportunities can we provide to facilitate for all to learn?
- If there’s a blind student – bring out things with texture, show them how to create raised lines on a paper to draw what they want, make more 3-dimensional lessons.
- If a class has an ELL student – incorporate learning their language/culture in your lesson, provide written materials for them to look over later, take more time to demonstrate for them.
- If you have a student that doesn’t feel like making art – find out what’s wrong, compromise in a ‘I help you / you help me’ situation, give them time to chill out in a ‘stop and think’ corner.
- If you have a student that isn’t challenged enough – provide optional activities when students are done, encourage them to add further details, place out new materials they haven’t used yet.
Because in environments such as these the students can flourish, academically and otherwise.