The middle school where I work is located in a suburban community and serves 6th through 8th grade students. The district is a mix of white collar and blue collar workers, leading to areas of higher affluence and areas of lower-income housing and apartments, but with predominately middle class residents. Of the 705 students in the school, 11.9% are minority, 13.6% of all students receive free or reduced lunch, 1.1% of the school is not fluent in English, 13.3% are identified as students with disabilities, and 8.2% are identified as gifted/talented, with the average class size being 19.8 students There were 47 disciplinary offenses during the 2009-2010 school year, the majority of them (25) being school policy violations. These offenses were due to 47 students, or about five percent of the school population (SSP, 2010-2011).
The school uses Positive Behavior Supports as a means to reduce office referrals and inspire students to behave through reinforcing positive behavior and provide incentive for good behavior, including a school wide PBS day, where students participate in an activity of their choice then participate in a school wide assembly. Students can only participate if they have less than 3 office referrals. Additionally, each student has a card where teachers will punch with a puncher to recognize good behavior. Students can trade in punches for rewards (5 for a snack coupon, 10 to eat lunch outside with a friend, 20 to listen to their iPods during workshop, etc.). Behavior modification is the goal and the program reflects aspects of behaviorism in that the program is aimed towards changing the students behavior through positive (being sent to the office for disruptive behavior or being allowed to participate in the PBS Day after behaving) and negative reinforcement (losing the privilege to participate in the PBS Day after being sent to the office). Essentially the school is looking to break the stimuli-response cycle to lead to better behavior. For example a stimulus might be the presence of another student. Instead of the response being to tease the student or to start fighting with the student, the school is hoping by providing positive and negative reinforcement that they will learn to ignore the student or treat them with respect. Social-Cognitive theory also comes into play here. As discussed by Ormrod, self-regulation is also an important part of taking responsibility for ones actions. Students who have received office referrals are put on a program where they must obtained signatures and points for their behavior from their teachers. This process could be made better by also having the student score themselves and justify their score to “be aware of how well they are doing at present” (Ormrod, 2012, p. 132). The school often has the student write a paragraph on which core value they did not follow, how they can rectify the situation, and how to avoid repeating the behavior. During PBS Days students who did not earn the right to participate are included in reteaching. Reteaching consist of the student creating some sort of written work, whether it be an essay or a PowerPoint on the core value they struggle with and why it is important in the school.
Working as a SBRI paraprofessional, I provide intervention in reading (Tier II) and math (Tier III). My actual class size in a given period ranges from 1:1 to pairs to small groups. The class type is intervention, providing students, who are chosen based on benchmark data, with additional math and reading support. Of the 27 students I service, eight are in sixth grade, ten are in seventh grade, and nine are in eighth grade. The classes meet twice a week for a 42 minute period. In terms of gender division, I have 13 girls (6 math, 7 reading) and 14 boys (8 math, 6 reading). Of these students, 2 are a minority (one Hispanic and one Hispanic-Asian). This is a little below the minority percentage in the school – a little over 7% of my students are minorities, and 11.9% of the students in the school are minorities (SSP, 2010-2011). In terms of students with ESL, 504s and IEPs, one is an ESL student, four have 504s, and nine have IEPs. Several eat breakfast at school, although which ones specifically are getting a free or reduced breakfast is unknown to me.
As far as I am aware, none of my students are homeless, but I honestly have little knowledge of this status and no student has ever said anything that would make me think they were homeless. None of my students are classified as gifted/talented. I work with several students that have special social needs. For example, one of my student’s is autistic. Besides working with him as his math teacher and providing reading support, I also work with him to increase his social fluency. For example, this student tends to perseverate in conversations, asking about certain topics or a question multiple times, even after it has been answered. Social conveniences such as greeting people when you first see them, asking how someone is, and not interrupting someone who is busy or already in a conversation are all areas he is working on. As mentioned by Ormrod, these behaviors must also be modeled (2012, p. 123-4). For example, if I walk into the room, I need to remember to greet him and make sure I am paying attention to him during our conversations! Another student who has special social needs is my student who is an ELL, has a 504, and is selectively mute. This child hates being confronted about being selectively mute and refuses to speak Spanish in school. Being sensitive to these needs while also building a place where she will feel comfortable enough to talk is a necessity beyond just teaching her math. When working alone, she opens up, telling me about her family and explaining her math work. When another student joins us, she becomes quieter and it actually takes time for both students become comfortable with the situation so that the non-ELL student is not questioning the ELL student on why she isn’t talking and the ELL student feels comfortable enough again to speak in front of the new student.
The middle school where I work is largely homogenous in terms of race and socioeconomic status, but is more diverse in terms of differences among individual students. IEPs, 504s, ELL, free or reduced lunch, behavior and behavior modifications, all create a much more, in practice, diverse group of students and a diverse school with many different needs that all must be met.
School Strategic Profile. (2010-2011).Middle and Junior High School Edition. Retrieved from http://sdeportal.ct.gov/Cedar/WEB/ResearchandReports/SSPReports.aspx
Ormrod, J.E. (2012). Human learning,6th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson