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English language learners often enter U.S. schools with a literacy disadvantage. While they may be proficient in their native language, many struggle to attain the English literacy and language skills needed to succeed academically and engage in social interactions with their peers.
Adolescents who struggle with reading are often reluctant to bring attention upon themselves and engage in class. However, with the right intervention, these students—who share the same dreams and aspirations as their grade-level peers—can become more, do more, and achieve more.
All of us do some things because we like to. We also do our best to instill in the children we teach and others this same feeling. Intrinsic rewards are wonderfully motivating, but we are not born with the ability to generate this motivation. We learn it through a variety of processes, starting at an early age.
There are many commonly proposed solutions to the shortage of qualified teachers for secondary students who are struggling in math or have learning disabilities. These solutions are expensive, complex, and they will take considerable time to implement. Many of them have been with us for years and have yet to be seriously implemented. So, what can be done in the short term?
At the heart of today’s challenge is finding a sufficient number of new teachers who have three distinct qualifications: 1) a sufficient content knowledge of mathematics, 2) a reasonable level of teaching or “pedagogical” knowledge of the subject, and 3) a capacity to differentiate instruction for struggling students. Finding all of these qualifications in one individual is rare, and the data confirm this.
This is my 25th year teaching. Yet, it feels a bit like my first. I am part of a small team of teachers at my school who have volunteered to pilot a mastery learning program with our seventh-grade students. Like my first year in the classroom, the learning curve is steep.
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