By: Jasmine Kyles

When supporting a middle school classroom it’s not unusual to have students who are off-task. One of my daily challenges is getting my 6th grade student (we’ll call him Clark) to participate in activities with his math class. I find that he is sometimes off-task due to his recent re-integration into regular education classes. His way of learning concepts is a little different from most because he’s not used to the traditional classroom structure.

Clark finds it difficult to grasp concepts when multi-step instructions are given to the entire class. My role with Clark is to motivate and engage him when he feels over-stimulated. For example, when the teacher instructs the class to open their books and begin working on an assignment, I walk to Clark’s desk and make sure he has a pencil, paper, and book opened to the correct page. This offers Clark the one-on-one supplemental support that he is used to receiving in special education courses.

Some days Clark is unresponsive to my one-on-one instructions and chooses to do nothing. I don’t let it discourage me, however, or get in the way of providing him with the service he deserves. As a strategy, a few weeks ago I began greeting Clark with comments like “Hello, my successful student” or “You’re going to be great today.” At first, Clark seemed agitated by these phrases, and I assume it is because he wasn’t used to hearing them. Most recently I’ve seen him become excited when I recognize him for what I know he is capable of accomplishing in the future.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this story, but at City Year one of our values is ‘Social Justice for All.’ In our service we work with many types of students, and there is no one education plan that works for everyone. Meeting each child where they learn provides them the greatest chance at academic success. I see this year, my City Year, as an opportunity to make strides towards a more equitable and fair society for all who seek an education.

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