Tanya Derkash, our learning support specialist at Nanjing International School in China, has been excellent in providing me with strategies to use when teaching any special needs students that I have in my PE classes. Tanya’s main focus is to provide an inclusive and collaborative approach to teaching and learning and has been a valuable asset to have on faculty. Both Tanya and I are in our first year at NIS. She taught at Mission High School in San Francisco before joining Nanjing International School. She also has an extensive background in art. To see her amazing work, visit her website at www.tanyaderkash.com Please read Tanya’s guest blog below:
In Mr. Andy’s PE class on Friday, I was supporting a little boy with Down Syndrome. The activity for the day was to create shapes with the body in relationship to a partner. As some may know, partnership or ‘picking partners’ can be difficult for students with special needs so I was overjoyed when Mr. Andy announced that they would be in groups of three. His reasoning was that the third person could observe the body formations and then comment on ways to make it more effective. Putting children in groups of three provides more opportunities for participation and allows for more creativity in how individual students participate.
Sometimes including students with special needs can require some ‘thinking outside of the box.’ It is always a joy to work with teachers who can interact spontaneously with a child’s unique behaviors and utilize these moments as opportunities for role modeling. For example, as Mr. Andy was explaining the assessment activity, the little boy I support got up and walked to the front of the room at an inappropriate time. Without missing a beat, Mr. Andy grabbed his hand and asked him to help demonstrate a body formation. Such a small gesture did two large things - one, it modeled to the kids that this child was capable and two, it allowed this student to feel like a leader by treating him with dignity rather than scolding him. Kids with disabilities are very aware that they are different from the others and are constantly seeking opportunities for positive recognition.