Ruben and Javier were both 16 year old students in my ROP (Regional Occupational Program) Retail Sales class. The class consisted of 19 students – 3 of which were in our district’s special education program. Ruben and Javier both had learning disabilities, according to their IEPs, and their academic skills were below those of the other students. However, their desire to do well in the class and gain employment matched, or exceeded, their peers’.
Each day in class, some activities were geared more for individual learning (i.e. creating a resume and cover letter), while other tasks were intended more for group learning (like practicing customer service skills and using the cash registers). Fortunately, this particular group of students worked well individually and in groups. As a teacher, I made it a point to modify the curriculum and accommodate Ruben and Javier’s needs, but I also encouraged the other students to help Ruben and Javier by offering their own encouragement and being patient with them.
Despite their differences in abilities, these students were united by one valuable trait – determination. All the students appreciated how Ruben and Javier didn’t give up. They took the extra time and effort needed to learn the cash register or whatever challenge we took on each day. Once the students recognized the determination in each other, they established mutual respect. Together, they accomplished their goals.
Since the students had different career goals, the chances of them competing for the same job were minimal, so that made them even more comfortable encouraging one another during the application process. As students started internships through the ROP program and/or gained employment, they expressed joy for each other’s success and were interested in hearing about their experiences in the “real world.” The experience of working and learning with peers with different levels of ability better prepared these students for life, where determination and simple acts of encouragement and patience go a long way.
-Submitted by Rosalie Simons, edited by KIT Staff.
Rosalie Simons is a Teacher of the Year recipient and is credentialed in Sales and Marketing, Finance and Business, and Special Education
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