I have to say that one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever learned was that I am (surprisingly) not perfect. I learned this in elementary school, after time and time again, I came up short of my own extremely high expectations. As a child, I was so hard on myself. For what reason I don’t think I can really explain or even understand now. As an adult, I’ve come to understand (and graciously accept) the beauty of flaws in human nature. The learning moments- the TEACHING moments- are the moments when something doesn’t go quite right; something doesn’t go as planned.
Recently, in my personal life, something didn’t quite go as planned. I won’t go into the details, because, truthfully, they don’t matter. What matters is what I choose to do now. I stopped writing on this for awhile- partially because of the busy tail-end of the school year, and partially because I just didn’t have words that seemed important enough to share. Summer and time have rejuvenated me and I think I’m ready to begin again! I have made mistakes, I have learned from them, and now it’s time to share some of my knowledge and summer plans with you (whoever you are).
A small group of teachers, administrators, and specialists from my elementary school are attending a week long professional development on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at Harvard in July. I just happen to be one of the lucky teachers who will be in attendance! I say lucky because I really do feel that way. UDL is something I’ve learned a little about before during my undergrad at Penn State, but I do believe that my practice could be amped up with a little more information, discussion, and development. This is going to be a pretty rigorous week of learning…in fact, we have assignments to complete before we even get there! The book I’m reading now is called Effective Inclusive Schools: Designing Successful Schoolwide Programs by Thomas Hehir with Lauren Katzman.
So far, I have really enjoyed reading about the three schools these authors followed throughout their research. It is so easy to think of a list of excuses why “my school could never be like that,” but, in many ways, the school I work at is already a lot like these schools. We have a very large Hispanic population. We have a very large free/reduced lunch population. We have children arriving from various countries at various times throughout the year who have never been in school, let alone have any knowledge of our language. Yet, it is our job to find ways to help them be the best learners they can be. In no way is this easy, but I believe it is possible because I know other schools have excelled in teaching learners of all races, religions, abilities, and interests. I am excited to share the things I learn at this workshop here with you! I will be there from July 7-11 and plan to have a few nights where I can debrief my learning here.
As for the rest of my summer day, I plan to continue scrubbing the kitchen floor, walk up the street to see a movie, and (of course) read a little bit more about these great schools! I’d love to hear any thoughts or knowledge you all have about UDL or similar approaches to reaching all learners.