About Raven Tukes

Hello! My name is Raven Tukes and I am currently a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Kinmen, Taiwan. Starting Fall 2016, I will be a graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education pursuing my Masters in International Education Policy.

In Taiwanese society, the “group” is more important than the individual. This is very salient in the classroom. At my school, students are given IQ tests to measure their academic abilities against their SpecialEd3fellow peers (because here, everyone needs to be on the same level) and when students perform subpar they are often classified, quite frankly as some teachers put it, “stupid” or “slow.”

However, unlike America, whether or not students are classified as “normal”, in Taiwan, it is illegal to track students based on an academic or behavioral disability. Furthermore, in Kinmen, Taiwan, no one is “held back” or retained a grade if they do not pass standardized tests. Students who lag academically or have serious behavior disabilities must be integrated in the traditional classroom and receive regular education. However, there’s a catch. Students with disabilities who fall into these categories also go without additional support in the classroom. Parents at my school, for instance, are too embarrassed to apply for special needs resources, so their children miss a valuable opportunity to get the resources they need to learn effectively.

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Students with disabilities who fall into these categories also go without additional support in the classroom. Click To Tweet

Because of this, classroom management is a very serious issue in my classroom. Students that have severe learning and behavior disabilities not only distract students from learning, but are usually idle an entire 40-minute period. Particularly in my case, neither my co-teacher nor I are equipped with the skills to individually cater to these students. Although we still try, together, we spend at least 15 minutes at the beginning of our class helping these students open their books and turn to the correct page. In my 3rd grade class, a class of 16, where five have been clinically diagnosed with severe behavioral or learning disorders, some days we barely have an opportunity to teach as we are steadily calming these students or helping them one-on-one complete basic tasks like tracing theSpecialEd1 alphabet.

While I greatly appreciate that Kinmen acknowledges every child’s right to learn in a traditional classroom with their peers, ultimately to not feel ostracized or stigmatized if they have different abilities, there must be better and more effective ways to ensure learning for all students. Working within Kinmen’s own cultural parameters, where parents often feel embarrassed and targeted if their students have been referred to special education resources, I hope and believe that Kinmen can create opportunities for both parents and students to receive the resources they need. In the meanwhile, however, what can I do to better help my students that need special resources?

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