This is part three of a four-part installment about why kids with LD, ADHD and Asperger syndrome may not be getting their needs met via so-called "inclusion" programs. I have introduced the Hybrid Teacher as way to improve the instruction offered to kids with these disorders. Responses to the blog so far have ranged from critiques of the model as unrealistic or idealistic (I loved that one!) to "Thanks for describing ME! I am the Hybrid Teacher and I am making it happen out here in..." Hooray! She LIVES! Are there more of you out there?
Here are three more characteristics of the Hybrid Teacher. (if you missed the first two installments, click here to catch up. Then join the discussion.)
The Hybrid Teacher...
...is guided and energized by finding out what facilitates effective learning and what gets in the way. The focus of teaching is to minimize the impediments by educating the learner about his own cognitive style, modifying the curriculum without lowering standards, and creating a learning space in which students can feel safe and competent.
...praises the process that students use as often or more than the product they create. Teachers who ask kids "how did you get that answer" generally get a scowl or a "huh?" response, which isn't very reinforcing. When Hybrid Teachers get a blank stare in response to this question, they give the student a couple of possible choices ("because you took all the distracting things off your desk," or "I noticed that you put on the headphones to block out the noise from the classroom." This can generate an "Oh, yeah" response; the next time the question is asked, that student is more likely to come up with an answer that address how she figured something out. That's the behavior of a successful learner.
...understands that it's not about having kids work harder, but rather that they work smarter. Hybrid Teachers ask kids what strategies they have used in the past to be successful in any kind of learning (in school or outside of school) and helps to translate that skill and recreate that positive learning experience in the classroom. We all know the student who can take apart and rebuild a computer but can't read. The Hybrid Teacher focuses on how the student learned to do the former and uses that knowledge as a basis for specialized instruction in reading. If a child says "I remember everything I see" the Hybrid Teacher capitalizes on that strength by developing a sight word vocabulary or a symbol system that supplements weak language processing skills. This kind of "mining for assets" leads to increased success and the confidence that comes from it.
...knows that it's important to separate skill instruction from content acquisition. A blind student may not be able to read small print, but she can certainly learn content. Making modifications in that case is a "no-brainer." Hybrid Teachers keep that image in mind when they work with students with visual perceptual difficulties that get in the way of fluent reading. Remember that when poor readers rely on reading to gain knowledge, they miss a lot of information. Students who have problems holding words or sounds in working memory simply cannot benefit from a lecture that's not supported by visual cues. Remember what it's like to know just a little Spanish when you try to understand those rapidly delivered directions to the airport in Mexico City.
Dr. Schultz served for many years as the Expert on Learning Disabilities and ADHD at www.familyeducation.com, a website for parents and teachers, and has been a contributor to www.ldonline.org. He sits on the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Academic Psychiatry, on the Advisory Board of www.insideADHD. He recently completed a book that examines the relationship between stress and learning called Nowhere to Hide: Why Kids with ADHD and LD Hate School and What We Can Do About It. Dr. Schultz is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of LDA http://www.ldanatl.organd gave the the kick-off keynote presenter at their conference in Chicago last February. Learn more about Dr. Schultz at www.jeromeschultz.com. Twitter: @docschultz