Question Six: How do students' development and life experiences affect learning?

Being a classroom teacher has many challenges and many rewards. One part of teaching that makes being a classroom teacher such a unique, challenging, and rewarding profession is that no two students are exactly the same. Students come from different cultures, different backgrounds and learning styles. Students' individual backgrounds and experiences affect them as learners and affect their performance in your classroom.

In his remarks to American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education Meeting, Jon Snyder, the Dean of Bank Street College, summarized discussions about educator preparation and child development with what he termed two, "take aways." The first take away is that "children do things for a reason and to understand that a teacher's job is to figure out those reasons and to use that knowledge to create contexts that support the growth and development of their students." The second "take away" is that, "all human beings are vulnerable and bring with them both risks and protective factors. The teacher's job is to create contexts that alleviate the risks and enrich the protective factors to support the growth and development of their students."

When you observe particular student, you may become concerned because his/her development and learning appears so different from his/her classmates. This may cause you to question whether the student's development is normal or whether the child might have a disability that is affecting his/her development and learning. As you investigate the possible reasons for a child's development or learning, be mindful that there are a variety of lenses through which you can view this child. Some of the lenses through which you can view the child are: level of development, learning preferences, spoken language, culture, background, gender, religious beliefs, and peer groups. The more lenses with which you are knowledgeable and can interpret a child's behavior, the greater likelihood that your inferences about the reasons for a child's classroom behavior and achievement are accurate.

The responses to the questions below provide more insight into issues surrounding a child's background and development.