My specialist experience teaching students with SEN:
I have 14 years of teaching experience teaching students with autism (including non-verbal and high functioning), language disorders, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety issues, behavioural needs, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, working memory challenges, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), organisation challenges, visual impairments, depression and global developmental delay. As well as academic subjects, I teach study skills, time management skills, independence, social and communication skills as well as expression and intonation.
My skills and experience teaching children with autism:
My 6 (six) years of experience of working with students with autism (including Asperger's) on a 1-to-1 basis taught me a few important lessons namely, a structured environment for students with ASD may be crucial to optimise their learning attainment. Also, non-neurotypical students’ susceptibility to sensory stimuli (e.g., cacophonic noises, bright lights) should be considered when setting up a suitable learning environment for them. Understanding that individuals with autism may tend to abstain from eye contact and/or may have alternative ways of expressing empathy can contribute to building trust and, consequently, allow students to make more progress. Also, diversification of teaching and learning methods (e.g., online, worksheets, game-like activities) as well as specific time frames and rewards for success are some of the strategies that proved successful with many of my students.
My skills and experience teaching students with ADHD:
Having worked extensively with students diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and engagement issues (for various local authorities and agencies throughout London) since 2011, I have arrived at the following conclusions that I apply in my teaching practice: (1) Relating to pupils as individuals rather than as ‘members of a category’ increases their confidence and motivation; (2) Establishing positive interpersonal relationships stimulates learning; (3) Adopting an approach that is non-confrontational and therapeutic rather than punitive ensures a more constructive outcome; (4) Managing any disruptive behaviour in such a way as to minimise interruption to the lesson (e.g., by maintaining eye contact, using humour to defuse tension and not permitting confrontations to arise) eliminates potential time-wasting and refines the learning process; (5) Impulsive behaviour on the part of students can be controlled by slowing down their automatic reactions and recommending a process of self-examination: the pupil can be encouraged to ask her / himself: ‘Why am I doing this?’; (6) Working collaboratively with students’ families optimises their progress; (7) Working in tandem with other professionals (e.g., teaching assistants, speech therapists, occupational therapists and educational psychologists) is essential for the provision of effective student pastoral and educational support.
Some techniques I make use of when assisting students with ADD, ADHD and engagement issues are the following: (A) In view of the fact that students with ADD, ADHD and engagement issues may not remember lengthy oral directions, it is advisable to provide written directions that they can refer to whenever necessary. Having such directions accessible while students are completing an assignment ensures that they stay on track; in this way, they are always aware of what stage they are at in the process, and what needs to be done next. (B) Giving only one direction at a time is helpful when teaching pupils with ADD, ADHD and engagement issues; doing this helps them focus on the task in hand, and ensures that they do not become confused. If directions are presented to them one at a time, they are more likely to act in accordance with them, and thus to successfully complete the tasks they have been given. (C) Students with ADHD may need to be redirected from time to time as they may have engagement issues, and may not have listened to the initial directions with sufficient attention. (D) Learning patterns in Maths makes it easier to understand and remember concepts. Mnemonics (e.g., ‘Don’t Miss Susie’s Boat’ as a way of reminding oneself how to do long division – ‘Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Bring down’) may make a significant difference. (E) Using charts and graphs is a great way of helping pupils with ADD, ADHD and engagement issues remember the steps needed to perform complex calculations; flow charts and mind maps are especially helpful when dealing with students who have visual learning styles. Also, computers and smartboards can help students interact with revision material in different ways: using these devices can improve students’ ability to transfer items from short-term to long-term memory.
My specialist experience teaching children with ODD/PDA
: My experience of working in an alternative provision (2011 – 2021; London) has taught me that the child’s uncontrolled anxiety (often manifested as panic attacks) may pose quite a challenge when avoidance of ordinary demands takes place. This, however, can be remedied by some adequate social and language skills. For instance, one way of engaging pupils with PDA in learning is saying “I wonder if we can...”, or “Maybe we could investigate…”, rather than “You’ve got/need to/must…”. There are several tried and tested methods that proved extremely useful for me, while working with pupils with PDA. First, it is vital to stay calm when children with PDA panic. Second, it is essential to develop a strong relationship with a child who has high anxiety. This can be attained by getting to know the child and their interests as soon as one can. As the more is understood about the pupil, the easier it will be to distract him/her from potential crisis, it is much easier to diffuse a situation once it is in place. Additionally, knowing what is going to happen gives children with PDA a sense of being in control: they find it helpful to know what is ahead of them in terms of learning, and it allows them processing time. Furthermore, being flexible and non-confrontational is an absolute preliminary when it comes down to working with children with PDA. For some, displaying information in a visual format (e.g., lesson plan, word mats, graphs, flow charts, etc.) can create a sense of independence and choice which, in turn, reduces anxiety. Besides, it is crucial to look out for signs of increased anxiety - this can be reduced by decreasing demand - as the mood and behaviour of children with PDA can change very quickly. The sooner it is done, the better the engagement. Finally, the importance of encouraging children with PDA to begin to identify their own stress levels and what they need, and to teach them the skills to communicate this, should be consistently prioritised.
My skills and experience supporting students with anxiety and mental health needs:
I have been working with pupils who have anxiety issues for several years for SENsational Tutors (2019-present) and other London agencies (2010-2018). My most recent experience of working with students with anxiety is the role as a life coach and academic mentor (September 2019-present) to a female student (Year 11) who is attending Surbiton High School. Our highly interactive sessions focus on a wide range of topics, some of these being work on her anxiety issues, fine-tuning her organisational skills, developing her time-management abilities, and improving the specificity and clarity of her written and oral expression (English Language). In addition, I have been teaching her revision techniques, and have also been focussing on general life skills such as interpersonal communication. Last but not least, I have recently been informed that the student in question obtained Grade 9 in English Language GCSE exam!
Additionally, from October 2019 to April 2021, I worked with another female student (Year 11; Sacred Heart School), whose recent GCSE results were as follows: one 7 and nine 8’s & 9’s (including an 8 in Maths!). My involvement began when her parents contacted me, desperately seeking my help: they told me that their daughter had neither read nor written anything at all since the previous March owing to a stress-related mental breakdown. Following a series of intensive sessions (3 hours per week) between October 2019 and July 2020 in which I employed a variety of unconventional anxiety-relieving techniques – ranging from philosophical discussions to Origami – the student was so motivated to get back to school that at the beginning of September 2020 she was finally allowed to sit her Year 11 (re-entry) exams, including the Higher Tier GCSE Mathematics mock tests, passing them successfully.
My experience working with students with anxiety disorders - boosting confidence and self-esteem:
I acquired a great deal of experience with pupils in need of enhancement to their confidence and self-esteem both during the course of my work for SENsational Tutors, London (2019-present) and when I was teaching pupils attending Sacred Heart School (Hammersmith) and Surbiton High School. As a result of this experience, I have arrived at the following conclusions: (1) Before pupils with low self-esteem can learn to overcome their difficulties, they often need a boost to their self-confidence. It is therefore essential to give them praise for small achievements. It should be borne in mind, however, that when the teacher praises a pupil, rather than making a general comment on how good, attentive or helpful they have been, s/he should tell the pupil, clearly and in a direct manner, exactly what they are being praised for. As examples of how this can be done, the teacher might praise ‘a neatly presented piece of work’ or ‘a precise and accurate drawing or diagram’. (2) The teacher should always be consistent and reliable; s/he should maintain clear boundaries and ensure that the relationship with the pupil is kept on a professional footing. (3) Lesson objectives, and the lesson plan, must be made clear from the outset. Also, simple, structured instructions must be provided in the form of a list containing numbered steps (for example, ‘1 Do X.; 2 Do Y.; 3 Do Z.’). Doing this prevents anxiety, enhances confidence and helps get things done. (4) Providing support materials (such as worksheets containing topic-specific vocabulary clues, synonyms and antonyms, adverbials of time and place, collocations, alternative ways of saying the same thing, strategies for ‘showing not telling’ – i.e., saying things indirectly – and ways of conveying irony and criticism) help students to complete tasks independently, without the ‘threat’ of failing because they do not know some important piece of information. (5) Presenting pupils who lack confidence with a choice between alternatives gives them a sense of control. (One should always remember, however, that the choices available are decided on by the teacher.) (6) When beginning an activity, it is essential to go through it thoroughly beforehand in order to make sure that it has been understood. Encouraging pupils with low self-esteem to visualise an activity that is to be undertaken, or linking it to a funny action, may make tasks more palatable. (7) The way written material is presented is of great importance. It is useful to make such material ‘user-friendly’ – for instance, by presenting it as a series of bullet points rather than as a block or blocks of text.
Another thing I have learned is that one of the most powerful strategies for boosting pupils’ confidence is to encourage them to self-reflect. I believe that they should be encouraged to develop a ‘growth mindset’: this empowers them as individuals, fosters independence, and enables them to become the best version of themselves. Therefore, during my sessions I ask my pupils to reflect on their own achievements by asking questions such as the following:
My experience providing fun sessions to help students engage in learning:
- – What areas are you most confident in?
- – How did you get to be so confident in this area?
- – How can the ways your confidence grew in area X help you to grow more confident in other areas?
- – How can you help other people to become more confident?
Having been working with students diagnosed with engagement issues since 2015, I have drawn the following conclusions regarding children’s engagement in learning: 1. Relating to pupils as individuals rather than as ‘categories’ enhances their confidence; 2. Impulses can be controlled by slowing down reactions and self-examination: "Ask yourself, why am I doing this?"; 3. Enhancing positive inter-personal relations stimulates learning; 4. Using non-confrontational approaches provides effective solutions; 5. Adopting a more ‘therapeutic’ rather than ‘punitive’ approaches provides constructive outcomes; 6. Keeping students ‘on track’ allows for longstanding target achievement; 7. Working collaboratively with others – students, families as equal partners – optimises students’ progress; 8. Working collaboratively with other professionals (teaching assistants, speech therapists, educational psychologists) is crucial for any effective student pastoral and educational support; 9. Managing any disruptive behaviour without disrupting the lesson - as far as possible (e.g. eye contact, diffusing situation with humour, and avoid creating confrontations) – eliminates unnecessary time / potential waste and refines learning process. 10. When pupils are upset and unwilling to cooperate, engaging them in drawing (e.g., funny cartoons) often lightens up the atmosphere and successfully redirects their focus.
My skills and experience supporting students to develop their independence:
Having been working with SEN pupils in, inter alia, alternative provision for the last 10 (ten) years, I have learnt that involving them in the process of teaching optimises their learning. This, however, can be attained by means of methodical self-assessment. Helping students understand their own learning by means of review and developing appropriate strategies for “learning to learn” (can a pupil explain in his own words what he / she has just learnt?) allows them to self-evaluate and actively (consciously) experience their educational attainment.
Some of the techniques I make use of in my daily teaching practice include boosting confidence by teaching independence, encouraging self-evaluation and self-appreciation, and developing a pleasure in learning. I introduce short- and long-term target-setting (including the drawing up of daily work schedules), plus reviewing and evaluating progress to date, which helps students to understand their own learning process and develop appropriate strategies for ‘learning how to learn’.
For the last three years I have been assisting pupils who are attending a number of schools – Kensington Park School, Riverston School and Surbiton High School, to name but a few – with their (Years 9-11) homework in Maths (AQA, IGCSE and Excel), English Language, English Literature, Drama, History, Chemistry, Physics, RE and ESOL.
Past and present pupils include students at the following institutions: Sacred Heart High School, Hammersmith (a Catholic secondary school and sixth form with academy status for girls); Surbiton High School, Surbiton (a private independent school); Kew House School, Brentford (an independent co-educational secondary school for pupils aged 11 to 18)
More recently, I have been acting as a life coach and academic mentor to high school students; this has involved teaching time management, teaching organisation and revision skills, and providing additional study skills support.
Since September 2019 I have been acting as a life coach and academic mentor to a female student (Year 11) who is attending Surbiton High School. Our highly interactive sessions focus on a wide range of topics, some of these being the fine tuning of her organisational skills, developing her time management abilities, and improving the specificity and clarity of her written and oral expression. I have also been teaching her revision techniques and general life skills such as interpersonal communication.
My experience teaching Maths:
I prepare pupils for Key Stage 2 - Key Stage 4 (including GCSE) using past papers, and supplement these with interactive e-learning platforms (IXL, Corbett Maths, Maths Workout, Mathsframe, Atom Learning, etc.) that both provide feedback and teach theory. Before a pupil’s individual learning plan for Mathematics is drawn up, their learning style (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic) must be taken into consideration. E-learning is extremely valuable in this area as it offers suitable tools for the conveying of information to students with different learning styles, at the same time bridging the various disciplines that are necessary for success in Maths. I believe it to be vital that my students acquire information-discriminatory skills that will allow them to extract the crucial information from an instruction or word problem, and discard the rest. Also, as the ability to concentrate varies from individual to individual, it is essential that tasks should be differentiated with respect to the skills needed to perform them.
In view of the fact that some students find it challenging to solve word problems, I think it essential to boost their confidence by familiarising them with inference strategies such as the SOS (‘Simplify, Organise and Solve’) technique. This method sharpens students’ focus, enabling them to break down often verbose word problems into smaller, more ‘palatable’, components. In essence, this strategy – the so-called ‘BUCK’ technique – involves boxing (B), underlining (U) and circling (C) the crucial information, and discarding (K for ‘Knock’) whatever is unnecessary.