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The difference between ‘Captain Underpants’ and ‘Harry Potter’.

Posted on Mar 28, 2013

Pieces of paper pointing at a brain.The New York Times article, “Learning-Disabled Students Blossom in Blended Classes” tells the story of boy with a learning disability switching from a traditional, private school to a blended school, PS 75 in Manhattan, New York. Not only did his behavior improve, but, “He’s gone from ‘Captain Underpants’ to ‘Harry Potter,’” his mother provides as evidence of his success. At the start, Jed didn’t even know there were other special education students in the classroom.

His mother describes the extra help he gets as, “invisible.” The classroom of thirty-one students is led by a collaborative teaching model – a general education teacher and a special education teacher. Together, they promote a more individualized education for the students, helping students both inside and outside of their specialty. This is important not only for the “invisible help”, but also because it allows all students, learning-disabled or not, to receive the extra attention they need.

The article doesn’t harp much on the benefits of a blended learning model as it does having a collaborative teaching team. It’s important to remember how much freedom blended learning gives students for learning and teachers for instruction. Without it, these teachers might butt heads during their lessons and the visibility factor for student’s modalities might change a bit.

The school’s website provides, “At PS75, children of all backgrounds and abilities learn together. This diversity fosters respect and tolerance and prepares students to be confident, responsible citizens of the community and the world.”

They hold true to this with their dual-language program, which places native English-speakers and native Spanish-speakers into one classroom. The goal is for each group of students to learn from, and help teach one another. PS 75 describes their program, “Many schools have transitional bilingual programs or ESL programs, which help non-native English speakers to transition into an English-taught curriculum, but PS 75′s dual language program is different in that it also encourages students who are fluent in Spanish to continue developing their native language as they learn English.”

I find this wildly innovative. As a native-English speaker and a German language student in college, I’ve come to the realization that my knowledge of the English language is a crutch. Studying German made me realize how weak my foundation of English is. I lean, too often, on what I know sounds right versus what I know is right. I truly envy this foreign language learning format. At PS 75, a second grade class is attempting to combine the dual-language program with their special education program. They explain, “One day they teach in English, the next Spanish. Every child gets a chance to shine; on Spanish days, Hispanic special ed children help out general ed children.” Overall, I think it’s important for any and all students to be given the chance to excel, to receive the extra help they need, and the extra attention they deserve.  PS 75 has found a combination of tools to make these things possible.

Kyle Vineyard is a senior majoring in English at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for the written word and a soft spot for rural America.

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