In a traditional classroom, we have the luxury of answering clarifying questions and reminding students of the sequence of tasks, and we can provide lots of visual and verbal cues to help students stay organized and on-task. In an online environment, we don’t have the same opportunities to support students in the moment, so it’s incumbent on us to be intentional and consistent in how we present learning materials to them. Otherwise we risk creating unnecessary confusion and frustration; in other words: we can’t change the weather, or lighten traffic, but we can make sure the streets are well lit and there are signs to guide their way.
In my time as a high school teacher, I worked with my fair share of teenagers who engaged in … challenging behavior. But the students that concerned me the most were those who did not have at least one trusting, positive relationship with some adult in school. In these scenarios, my fear stemmed from how little we know about the emotional state of our students at such a vulnerable part of their development. It was too easy to miss signs of& serious distress and even easier to miss crucial opportunities to help them expand their abilities or sense of possibilities. Their classwork and their grades could maybe tell us what, or if, they were learning; but we had few answers to the most essential question: how are they handling the critical challenges of adolescence? That so many of us have a story about a teacher (or some other caring adult) who played a critical role in guiding us through adolescence is a testament to the power and importance of the connections we should strive to make with our students.
Although it took almost two years from initial proposal to publication, we now contemplate with satisfaction and some pride From Disability to Diversity: College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. It encompasses many of the ideas that make Landmark College an exceptional learning environment for students who learn differently, but adapts them for application at colleges that are not specialized. We wanted to “provide useful information for those working in postsecondary contexts who are not yet experts in supporting these students,” as well as a layperson’s overview of recent advances in neuro-cognitive research and social justice advocacy that undergird the approaches we promote.