Teachers Told: Treat All Students Equally

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Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development. (FP)

Teachers have been told to treat children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, with the same love, respect and care given to others.

The appeal came today from Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed the start of a professional development seminar titled: Understanding the Dyslexic Learner: Identification, Diagnosis and Remediation, hosted in conjunction with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, at the Savannah Hotel.

"Give them that care to make them first feel confident in themselves regardless of what deficiencies or deficit that they may have," Minister Jones said, pointing out that we were now "in more enlightened times in the world and in our country". He added: "And, therefore, persons with learning disabilities/deficits should not feel as though they are isolated in the community of learners. They should feel welcome to the same space. We [should] no longer put them in a special group."

The Minister, who is also a former educator, reminded the over 150 teachers present at the seminar, that in the past some children were put in a special class. "That was at a time, I guess, when teachers, educators and psychologists, didn’t understand the varying abilities being manifested by those students and because they weren’t able to spell, count, and read and write as so many others were able to.?? They were isolated in a corner and were allowed, by and large, to wallow in their own weaknesses," Mr. Jones contended.

Explaining that the profession was no longer at that stage, he said: "Teachers you are all called to service…you might not have felt that way…some of you might have been looking for a job… it is of God’s choice and since you are where you are you have to impact on those you serve in a very forceful and dynamic manner. You cannot shirk your responsibility to make a difference. And, when you make that difference you are able to allow all those whom you serve to go the distance."??

As he recalled his own experience with teaching a dyslexic pupil, some decades ago, Mr. Jones observed, "In the school system we have to be able to recognise, particularly early, when those students come to our schools with all their various challenges. And, there are not all going to be learning difficulties as manifested by dyslexia, but they might be severe emotional difficulties that, sometimes, we don’t know about because of a severe turbulent environment.??

"And, little children sometimes inculcate a lot of things in silence and then manifest them in a form of behaviour that you might consider to be alien to the classroom environment. So we have to be vigilant and fully aware of the dynamics of our classroom and call on others if you don’t know… we don’t know everything."

The seminar, which continues until Friday, October 7, is being facilitated by Professor of Educational and Counselling Psychology & Special Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada, Dr. Linda Siegel.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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