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A “Revisited” blog post indicates that I reread the original and used AI-assisted tools (e.g., Grammarly) to improve grammar and word choice.

First published on December 14, 2009

I’m proctoring a final exam right now for my Introductory Psychology class. Though they have been given three hours to complete the exam, it appears that all have completed the fifty multiple-choice questions and are now involved in the writing component. So I’ll use this time to write along with them!

Each of these 25 students has become special to me—and each has unique needs. This group of students, in particular, has taught me a lot about my own special needs. How curious. How unsettling. How delightful.

Over my 30-odd years of teaching, I’ve been introduced to several students identified as “special needs students.” I’ve tried to be aware of teaching techniques, accommodations, and resources that will allow me to teach them more effectively. The definition of special needs students has so expanded across the years that I sometimes fear that the designation has become meaningless (not unlike what happens when one expands or overextends definitions of intelligence.)

Some of my special students have been blind; others, quadriplegic. Some enter the classroom with documentation of a learning disorder; others discover undiagnosed limitations to their learning abilities.  Still, others self-handicap themselves with some label which becomes self-fulfilling unless challenged and disconfirmed.

One of my special needs is to have responsive students who intellectually stimulate me and give me pause to think about something in a different way, anew, or for the first time.

Some students’ unique needs are due to their coming from a different culture or country, the world of work or war, or an unfamiliarity with a college environment.

“Special needs” students challenge me to think about different ways of teaching. They teach me patience and give me cause for admiration for their courage, good humor, persistence, and resilience as they find creative solutions to mastering skills needed for academic success.

But I’ve come to believe that ALL students (including myself) have special needs. The Carroll I want to be a part of is a caring community where all special needs are addressed. I want this to be a place where there is room and balance for playfulness and serious scholarship, where learning can extend across classes and outside of the classroom, where every member of the community can genuinely feel valued, can grow, can comfortably take risks necessary for additional learning, and can value and appreciate others even if they are different from them.