BEAVERTON, OR (KPTV) -- Kids are learning to navigate distance learning right now and for many kids with special needs, they're facing a unique set of challenges. FOX 12 recently spoke with a special education teacher to share how he's handling distance learning.
Bob Warberg has been a special education teacher for more than 15 years, currently teaching at Whitford Middle School in the Beaverton School District.
“The primary focus of my kids that I work with, their primary struggle is academics," said Warberg. "Their lagging skills are in areas typically of reading, writing and math. It could be study skills organizations. It could be some behavior or attention and focus concerns and stuff like that, too.”
Warberg said some of his kids are performing significantly below their grade level, but his focus can't be on academics alone.
“My teaching is more relationship-based because all of my students I work with have documented disabilities, that have gone through the special education process," he said. "So, let’s just be honest, learning is hard for them and I kind of feel like my way in, to ease that struggle, is building the relationship of trust.”
“I have to have their trust, because they know that they’re not really good at a skill and my job is to help them raise those skills, so they feel more confident about themselves," Warberg continued.
But unlike previous years, Warberg is currently teaching his kids all online.
“It’s hard for everybody. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, but we just want them to know, hey, we’re here to help," said Warberg. "We want to help and we want to be in school, but this is kind of the cards we’re dealt right now and we’ve got to make the best of it."
He said it's that positive attitude that continues to help build connections with his students, even through a screen.
“Like everybody, some students are introverts and this is working," Warberg said. "For some kids, they’re more social butterflies and things like that, so I encourage students to do what’s best for them, as far as if you feel like leaving your video on and your mic on and chat with me, cool, well go for it."
"If you’re more comfortable with leaving your mic off and your video off and you want to communicate with me through the chat in zoom, then do that with me, that’s cool," he continued.
He said keeping some kind of order is also crucial.
“The first two or three weeks, it was really like okay these are your zoom classes, this is your time," he said. "Building that schedule, that routine for while we’re in distance learning is crucial for any kid, let alone a kid who struggles academically or socially or emotionally right now too.”
But ultimately, Warberg said making his kids feel like he's another person in their corner is how they continue to get through a school year unlike any other.
“There’s a lot of negative stuff going on in the world and if I can be positive for my 45 minutes that I have them, and hoping that that rubs off on them to encourage them to do their best, build their grit, their determination, whatever we want to call it, then I feel like I’m kind of winning here a little bit, too," he said. "And I feel like I am, because I’m seeing higher attendance in my classes. I’m seeing more work completion. I’m seeing more self-confidence, more kids wanting to share.”
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