Special Education

Holistic education: Joy, wellness, and rigor

We speak with Dr. Linda Nathan of the Center for Artistry and Scholarship and the Perrone-Sizer Institute for Creative Leadership about her experience in creating progressive schools. Dr. Nathan says all teachers, no matter their subject areas, should have expertise in teaching reading and students with moderate disabilities. The arts are central to her educational vision. Dr. Nathan talks about how to achieve predictable and collaborative authentic assessment of student work and how to deal with standardized test requirements when necessary. She also describes why “grit” is not enough for student success when students are caught in the insidious web of a racist system.

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Vulnerable students’ needs and rights in pandemic: Threats and opportunities

Diana MTK Autin, parent advocacy leader, describes how distance learning fails to meet the needs of many students and exacerbates inequities. She leads several organizations that help parents advocate effectively for their own families and also for systemic change. The pandemic’s impacts are likely to be felt by students for a long time, and unless students’ rights are defended, long-standing legal protections may be weakened with devastating effects.

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Emotionally Responsive Education: “inviting and containing”

Margaret Blachly of Bank Street’s Center for Emotionally Responsive Practice describes how to fit materials, curriculum, and relationships together to create an emotionally safe classroom. Emphasizing the importance of a deep understanding of child development, she tells how important it is to know each child’s “story.” Margaret shares what she’s learned as a dual-language and special ed teacher and gives advice to new kindergarten teachers. Reflecting on Dewey’s Education and Experience, she talks about the ethical dimensions of teaching and the connections between the classroom and the larger society.

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Special education: How students and their teachers are shortchanged

Jia Lee, NYC special education teacher and union activist, talks about the unfairness of the Fair Funding Formula, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the tendency of schools to re-traumatize vulnerable students. She also highlights the contrast between NYC Chancellor Carranza’s call for more culturally responsive classrooms and the City’s newly-mandated MAP tests, and the gap between what the United Federation of Teachers does and what it could do.

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Mark Gordon on the Friends and Relationships Course: Teaching and learning from people with intellectual disabilities about sexuality, interdependence, and inclusion

We talk with Mark Gordon, founder of the Friends and Relationships Course, a program in New Mexico that provides classes for adults with intellectual disabilities who want to learn how to form intimate and other relationships. He talks about what he’s learned over 15 years of teaching sexuality classes, learning along with his son about the ongoing necessity for interdependence. We also discuss society’s failure to welcome and accommodate people with developmental disabilities.

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