What are the Students Asking?
This study has two groups of student participants: The primary (group A) and secondary group (group B). The primary group (group A, SWDs) is the focus of this project and they serve as the main purpose of this research project. Most of the data collected references their participation and their response to the solutions. The secondary group (group B, general education students) play a major role as an independent group that participates in the PAR project and in some cases provide reasons for conducting this type of research project.
For this study there are fourteen eighth-grade SWDs participating as the primary group in the study, each having their own set of learning challenges. The focus group is demographically diverse, and the students are exposed daily to the same academic challenges. For the most part these students do not exhibit aggressive behaviors in the classroom which has made it possible to create a clear baseline for positive classroom activities. They tend to be somewhat hesitant to be the first respondents in class discussions, however, when they feel comfortable in their learning environment they are healthy contributors and add a variety of viewpoints on many topics. Because of the perception by some of their fellow students and the sensitive nature of having a disability, most of the data gathered from this group of students has been gathered through observations, and one-on-one interviews with them.
This group of participants are the gen. ed. (general education) students that attend the same classes as the primary group throughout the day. They come from diverse backgrounds including ELLs (English Language Learners) coming from a variety of locations around the world including the continent of Africa, the Middle East, Puerto Rico, and South East Asia. The ELLs have support staff like the students in group A, however, they have their own set of special linguistic challenges. All these students make up culturally diverse classrooms that requires educational professionals to be flexible in teaching methods and adapt to the needs of the students.
All of the Students:
Even thou there is a variety of backgrounds, intellectual make-ups, and variation in English comprehension, these students are average thirteen and fourteen year-olders and they live and act like typical teenagers. The school they attend is in what used to be a small community that is now a part of the larger city near to it. The school and community does still have a smaller community spirit since the school teaches kindergarten through eighth-grade. There are some instances where the students have always attended this school since they were in kindergarten.
The school was built in the nineteen thirties as such it does not have air conditioning throughout most of the classrooms. During the winter time radiant heat is used to heat most of the classrooms. Some of the inside classrooms have air conditioning and the air circulates. These conditions are mentioned here for a couple of reasons. First, variations in the classroom climate effect the students and how they behave and perform in the classrooms. Second, when it comes to comfort, the winter days are better than the warmer days because the heat works well. However, air exchange is non-existent meaning during cold and flu season there is a high absenteeism rate within the student population. Third, during the warmer months the air exchange is a little bit better because the windows are open every day, however, it can get humid and sticky. Last year the teachers placed coolers of water in each classroom to provide some relief for the students on those hot and humid days, another reason for mentioning the school’s age, community feel, and the grades taught in the school. This is the charm that can be qualified in the school. The school community is close, and it is not uncommon to see first and second graders marching in line formation down the eighth-graders hallway from time to time. The eighth-graders share bus transportation to and from school with the younger grades and sometimes they do try to lead by example for their younger schoolmates.
This is one of the go-to school for many teachers in the school district compared to the other schools in the district. This is considered a go-to school, there are many great teachers here who genuinely care about the students. If the students give them a chance to teach they will rise to the occasion and help them grow academically. But they face the behavioral challenges of a few students that try their best to disrupt school decorum and the learning process. That is part of the diversity spoken about above and is one of the major motivators for this project.
If you walk around the community on any given day or night, it is a quiet community with a major presence of middle-class income families. Many of the families have grown up in this community and went to school in this school. Surprisingly, not many parents attended to the parent/teacher conferences last year, but those parents interested in their children’s school life seem to be genuinely vested.