Article: Lorain Teachers Center Education, Classroom with Students-First Model

Lorain Teachers Center Education, Classroom with Students-First Model

Teacher shows student how to construct an angle using her hands.

February 22, 2024 | In a student-centered initiative, Lorain High School geometry teachers David Dull and Lauren Waite are leading the way in transforming traditional classrooms into nurturing environments where students not only feel empowered to learn but also to develop personally and emotionally through the science-backed Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is a revolutionary learning framework focusing on student-centric classroom practices, allowing students to take charge of their academic, social, and emotional growth. The teachers have integrated UDL principles into their daily teaching routines, emphasizing a holistic approach to education beyond traditional subject matter.

Each class session begins with a reflection exercise, where students are free to express themselves in a safe environment. Students said that writing their thoughts down on paper has served as a release of emotional stress.

The assignments follow themed days such as "Mindset Monday," promoting positive attitudes, and "Feel Good Friday," celebrating personal achievements. It serves as a space for students to reflect on their choices, fostering personal growth alongside academic achievement.

"Just them knowing that we're not going to dive right into math," Waite said. "We actually want to work with them as human beings, not just students."

Dull also emphasized the importance of addressing students' challenges. 

"We have so many kids come in every day that are having some kind of a crisis at that moment," he said. "What do you have them do to pull themselves back together?"

Ayden, a Lorain High School student, shared his transformative experience: "This has helped me to better understand that I need to find exercises to calm me down a little bit more. Not get as frustrated, or too annoyed, or too angry." He also expressed gratitude for the teachers' commitment to students' well-being, stating, "They take the time out of their day to do the lesson, to talk to the students to make sure every single one of them is okay. And I definitely appreciate them for that, and I hope that they understand that."

Implementing UDL has shifted the focus from traditional learning to building relationships and creating an inclusive atmosphere. Waite noted, "Just implementing that and showing them that we care about them as human beings and not just a grade in our grade books."

As a result of these efforts, both teachers have witnessed positive changes in student attitudes and overall academic performance. Waite added, "They're just more attentive, and their grades all around have been better since implementing that, for sure."

This groundbreaking initiative at Lorain High School sets a precedent for a more holistic and student-centered approach to education, demonstrating the potential for positive transformation in classrooms nationwide.

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