A very talented teacher – Ms. Flack at Monte Vista High School – put together a lesson plan to educate students about why not to use the r-word. The lesson plan was implemented before Monte Vista hosted a Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program basketball competition. It’s no wonder why Ms. Flack was one of our teachers of the season this year! We caught up with Ms. Flack to see how the lesson plan and competition faired.
What kind of reaction did the plan elicit from the students?
The teachers who presented the lesson said it was eye-opening and that students responded well to it. They said that students participated in the lesson thoughtfully, and that it worked as an avenue to have a discussion about tolerance and acceptance. It also got students really excited about the Special Olympics basketball event and Spread the Word to End the Word.
What kind of feedback did you get from your fellow teachers about the lesson plan and its impact on the students?
Most teachers reacted positively to the lesson plan; however, I did receive negative responses from two teachers. While both teachers were okay with presenting the information about the upcoming Special Olympics event and Spread the Word to End the Word, neither were okay with doing the full lesson and showing the videos. The teachers that reacted positively said that they were glad they had a chance to present the lesson and that it helped them get their students to open up and have meaningful discussions.
Now that you’ve seen it in action, would you make any changes to the plan? What tips would you give to teachers using the plan at their schools?
I think the only change I would make would be to figure out how the lesson could be presented to a class with both general education students and special education students. Being a special education teacher myself, it didn’t even dawn on me that that might be an issue. For teachers using the lesson plan at other schools, I would advise them to be aware of the backgrounds of the students in their class before giving the lesson. It might be beneficial for teachers to talk to their students with special needs about the lesson first to get their feedback about whether or not they would like to participate.
Your school hosted a Special Olympics school competition following the lesson plan. What kind of difference do you think the plan made in the students’ reception and behavior at the tournament?
I think the lesson plan promoted acceptance and tolerance and we definitely saw a shift in student attitudes on the day of the event. Students were really excited to watch the event and the volunteers were extremely helpful and understanding. I heard students around campus saying really positive things about the event. Those who got to watch cheered the players on enthusiastically; you could almost feel the positivity in the gyms.
How did the basketball competition go?
The competition went really well. Many participating teachers came up to me to tell me that it was even better than last year. They were really impressed with the Opening Ceremonies and the organization of the event. They all felt so welcomed and loved how many general education students were involved, either as volunteers or spectators.
You’ve said before that you’re lucky to teach at a school with an already positive and accepting atmosphere. You have 14 general students who serve as teaching assistants for you. What was their involvement in the basketball competition like?
All of them helped in some capacity. One was a referee, one helped with skills and the remainder spent the day with my class helping my students. As a teacher, I was so impressed by the level of respect, compassion, and responsibility that each of them showed. They all came back to my classroom when the event was over, and when I looked around at all of them, I was brought to tears. I felt compelled to tell them that because of them and students like them, they are helping an entire school population with an attitude shift towards people with special needs. As I think I’ve said before, I’m really lucky to teach at a school with an already positive and accepting atmosphere. Having attended high school here almost a decade ago, it’s amazing to see how welcoming, tolerant, and inclusive students have become since I graduated.