In our discussion over Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity, we came up with key take-aways from Chapters 4 and 5. Our overarching theme was the need for BIG planning at the beginning of the year. The old adage that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail reminds me of the importance of planning your year as a teacher so you can see how you could put units together that will support deeper learning of the concepts. We also recognized the need for collaboration. It is no longer possible or successful to teach in a classroom silo. We MUST work together with colleagues in common grades and if that isn't possible, then we need to find a way to work with teachers in other schools. We need to make time to work together with teachers of grades on either side of our grade so we can see the continuum of learning. And finally, we recognized the need to intimately know your curriculum. There was a suggestion that this kind of planning could be catchment wide ( in our district we work in high school catchments: all elementary schools that feed into junior high schools that feed into high schools work together in a "catchment.")
We learned about the need to get rid of "cute" activities and focus on activities that leverage the learning of essential curricular outcomes.
We learned that we do, indeed, teach to ourselves and that we must learn to include activities that we may find uncomfortable but meet the needs of students in our classrooms.
We learned that to intentionally include students with significant disabilities, we MUST learn from other disciplines such as occupational therapy, speech pathology, literacy specialists and so on to create learning for these students as they deserve a quality education that is much more than sitting and watching.
We learned that educational assistants should not become helicopters, hovering over our students with special needs for two reasons: First, students need to work toward some kind of independence and second, even though we think we are cool as adults, we aren't really. Having an adult around you all the time is going to limit your friend-ability factor with other students.
This was such rich discussion to this point that we did not get to the other questions, but felt that the key idea was around planning intentionally for all students.