Irena Macijauskienė – “Small steps to success”
Please read the success story
Irena Macijauskienė is a teacher of mathematics at Kaunas Jonas Laužikas School. It is a special needs school for children with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. The teaching environment, methods and tools are adapted to meet the needs of the pupils. The classes are smaller and the teacher-student ratio is higher. Subject teachers work hand in hand with special educational needs teachers: speech therapists, psychologists, social pedagogues, physical therapists, medics and teacher assistants to support young people who need extra help and guidance with their learning. Having received a master’s degree in special education, Irena has developed the necessary skills to teach pupils with intellectual disability. All of her pupils demonstrate a different level of knowledge in mathematics, they also have behavioral disorders. Nevertheless, the teacher loves each and every student in her class and works hard to help her pupils grow and experience success.
There are 7 pupils in Irena’s math class. All of them are different, they face unique challenges, thus a special approach, a special teaching strategy is needed. Most of the pupils have difficulties in acquiring reading and writing skills, for this reason learning Mathematics is even more difficult. Owing to changes in staff, the teacher has worked in this class for only a couple of months. Nevertheless, she has already observed positive changes in the student behaviour and motivation.
The teacher has noticed that pupils are more likely to be motivated when she uses multisensory teaching tools, such as coloring pages, colorful pencils, personal computers, tablets, the SMART board, etc. Learning math is not easy, therefore the teacher tries to keep the lessons short, break the material into smaller “chunks” and try to add the gamification element to make learning an enjoyable experience. The pupils enjoy creative tasks and situational didactic games. They learn easier when true-to-life examples, such as buying exercise books or pens are used. This way the pupils learn to apply the math skills to real life situations. The teacher loves saying „Mathematics is a like game: joyful, lively, creative“
The teacher states that achieving high learning results is next to impossible due to the students’ intellectual disability. Teacher Irena never strives for perfection, but lets the children make mistakes, correct them, make mistakes again. They sometimes get stuck, but then she tries a different approach, so that they could keep going and motivation never fades out.
Irena’s recommendation to other teachers who work with pupils with special educational needs would be: keep going and never give up; praise more, criticize less; let the pupils enjoy learning and make them feel proud of their achievements, no matter how small they are; display the pupils’ creative work and share their success stories in the classroom, on the school webpage, and on Facebook.
Questions for reflection:
- What‘s the teacher‘s motto?
- What are the things that a teacher should consider when working with children with special educational needs?
- What lesson can you learn from this story?