My Personal Philosophy of Education

This semester I had the privilege to study under Dr. Peter Paul for the second time through his inclusion course. My understanding of the importance of inclusion and the social model of disability was radically changed as a result. The course culminated in drafting our personal philosophy of inclusion. Below is mine:

Differences should not dictate separation. We must understand that schools are more than spaces for meeting IEP goals and lesson objectives. They are learning communities. Communities are built on relationships. Every member of a learning community is entitled to these relationships regardless of ability or any other difference. Education policy and practices that approach inclusion as a privilege to be earned infringe on a child’s rights to be an active participating member of their school community. My philosophy of inclusion is that all children should start in the general education classroom and their wishes and that of their parents should dictate where they progress to.


With that being said, the four walls of a general education classroom are not sacred. Children can be included in their learning community without staying in the general education classroom for the entirety of the day. Many children, regardless of ability, prefer the attention and calm of working with a teacher or therapist in a small group or individually. It is important to not get caught up on where instruction is taking place, but how it is occurring. Is it during specials time? Are the other children in the class talking to the paraprofessional instead of the student they are supporting? Is the content being taught relevant to the general education curriculum? Inclusion is a feeling of belonging, not a location. 

How Did I End Up Here

As we conclude the semester and the halfway point of my college career, I find myself in a place I never expected to be: I plan on pursuing the career my major is designed to prepare me for – truly shocking, I know. As an early childhood special education major, my plans for the future have always involved using my undergrad knowledge as auxiliary to my main work, either as an occupational therapist or human services nonprofit leader. But that has recently changed. Though, this shift has not left me without doubts. When asked why they chose to study special education, my peers speak of beautiful stories of childhood dreams, transformative teachers, and family members that inspired their interest in disability rights advocacy. In contrast, I find myself wondering, “how did I end here?” After reflecting on this question, I realize that my interest in early childhood special education is not new. Like my peers, it has been in front of me since I was an elementary student myself.

So, in less than 100 words, how did I end up here:

My K-12 education sparked an interest in educational approaches and equities through my attendance of 5 schools with dramatically different demographic makeups and teaching styles. In high school, my work with Columbus Early Learning Centers honed this interest in early childhood education, in particular, because the beginning years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of development. I chose to study early childhood special education over general ECE because special education targets delays and disabilities often caused by societal inequities and allows for an individual approach to education within the public school system.

I’d be remiss to leave out the experiences this semester that have solidified my new path. Most notably, my work with The A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning and an eye-opening conversation with the President of United Way of Central Ohio, Lisa Courtice, at the culmination of my fundraising and philanthropy course.

I don’t expect the plans I hold for myself to stick for eternity. They certainly have changed in the past. However, I am eager to have an answer when people ask me why I decided to become a teacher.

Lessons Learned from Interning at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning

This semester I have had the privilege to assist in a preschool classroom at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning, the Ohio State lab school for children ages six-weeks through six years. For the last four months, I have spent 20 hours a week working alongside children and staff in room 124. You can read more about my daily experiences here and here. These are the top takeaways from my internship:

  1. Children’s development is complex. Children are very rarely totally “ahead,” “on track,” or “behind” in most or all developmental domains as I had previously thought. I guess I believed that since all parts of the child grow in the same environment then that environment nurtures all parts of the child equally well. However, this is not the case. A child can have extraordinary language skills and poor social skills. They can have strong print awareness, but poor phonological awareness. A child’s strengths and weaknesses are complex.
  2. No one likes to be told what to do, so avoid telling people what to do. I could go on and on about my growth and understanding in this regard, but I’ll cut to the chase: speak to children the way you want to be spoken to.
  3. The best teaching has nothing to do with lessons or planning. Teaching happens in every interaction a teacher shares with his or her students. It’s the conversations shared at the snack table, lining up for outdoor play, or while feuding in the building space where most of the teaching happens. Lessons make up a small fraction of the day; it’s the interactions that really count. 
  4. You have to be stubborn. There are times when it would be easier to just let things go, but seizing every opportunity to model and correct behavior is key to building independence and creating a happy, calm classroom for all.
  5. Guidance and discipline involve a tricky balance. You have to teach students the skills to succeed while providing consequences that deter destructive behavior.
  6. If it doesn’t matter, don’t control it. Climb up the slide! Spend 10 minutes washing your hands! Put the baby dolls in the water table! There is no use in getting into power struggles over things that don’t really matter, and normally if you let go, pretty impressive learning happens. Limits should never be arbitrary.
  7. The better the teacher you are the less stressful the job is. Before this experience, I was worried that teaching would be too stressful for me, but after seeing my master teacher lead I understand that a strong teacher can create calm within the class once he or she has the skills to do so.
  8. Affluence affects development and learning in different ways than I previously thought. Mo’ money, mo’ problems
  9. Working with the same children over an extended period is more rewarding and easier than subbing. Knowing students is half the joy of working with them.
  10. Teaching is not isolating work. Possibly a problem specific to me, I was wary of being a career teacher because I thought it would be lonely and emotionally laborious work. I thought working with people at such a drastically different stage in life as myself would be isolating. I thought I would have to pretend to feel positive emotions when I didn’t. I was wrong. Teaching preschool is the most human job I have ever had the privilege of working. My students show up as their whole selves and so do I. That’s what it takes to build connections. I know them, and they know me more intimately than any coworkers at an office job.

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Serving as ACES Service Co-Chair in the Covid-19 Pandemic

This year I have served on my scholar program’s leadership council as service chair alongside my peers including my co-chair, Anna Gardner. When originally applying for the position I was expecting the role to entail coordinating with community agencies to host group volunteer experiences as has been done in past years. I was eager to connect students with the people and places of my hometown. So much of the Ohio State experience is spent within the University District, and I was eager to encourage students to get out into other Columbus neighborhoods. However, when entering the role our world was still effectively shut down. In-person events have been suspended for most of the year and many organizations have had to shut their door to volunteers for the safety of their beneficiaries. Anna and I have had to adapt to bring service-learning opportunities to our fellow scholars. We utilized virtual tools to provide accessible educational experiences.

During my tenure on council, I planned and hosted 5 virtual service learning events including a 3-part lecture series centered on ethical and self-aware service and philanthropy, implemented a program-wide event planning procedure to improve event attendee experience and increase fidelity to program mission/pillars, and developed a marketing plan in response to reduced volunteer opportunities caused by the pandemic. 

My lecture series, Being a Better Servant: Understanding Your Impact as a Volunteer and Donor, aimed to strengthen scholars’ understanding of how to best serve their community through introspection of their own lived experiences and values. Presentation objectives were created based on program pillars of social change, community, service, and advocacy. Topics of the series included Paternalism in Service: Who Knows Best?, How Charity Can Hinder Social Justice, and Effective Altruism. Below is an event plan and presentation slide deck from the series. 

How Charity Can Hinder Social Justice Event Plan

Paternalism in Service

Summary of Mentorship Experience

This semester I had the pleasure to mentor Payton Harvey through our scholar’s program, Advocates for Communities and Education Scholars (ACES). As part of my final year capstone project, I have documented my mentoring journey. As the spring semester concludes, this is my final entry.

Payton is a first-year student from a small town in Ohio. She studies psychology with a planned minor in art. She hopes to become an art therapist. She is a first-gen college student. A middle child, Payton’s older sister currently attends Ohio State with plans to work in the medical field. She is a junior and lived on campus this year. Payton and her family have been visiting the campus since her sister began at the university. Payton’s transition to college has been greatly eased by her older sister the experience she had with OSU before enrolling. (Unfortunately for her little sister it has been hard to have both of her siblings away from home over these last nine months.)

Payton has enjoyed her first year at Ohio State despite the challenges that come with the transition to college and social distancing as a young adult. She lived in the connector of Smith-Steeb where she became very close with her hallmates. (She is next-door neighbors to my old room!) She has succeeded in her coursework and especially enjoyed her in-person classes. She is hopeful for next fall as most of her classes will be in person.

Payton and I share a love of the outdoors and reading and an interest in helping people learn and develop. We both have a connection to small-town America and bonded over the similarities of our extended family dynamics. At the beginning of the program, I was unsure why Payton preferenced me as we had differing majors, hometowns, and listed interests. However, after meeting for the first time I realized we have similar temperaments and zest for life. After speaking to other mentor and mentee pairs this became very clear.

Over the course of her freshmen year, Payton has grown into a confident and capable college student. She has soared socially as she has connected with people on her floor, in ACES, and wherever on earth she manages to make friends in a pandemic with almost exclusively online classes and virtual clubs. In reflecting on the year, I realize I envy her ability to make new friends in this socially distanced world. Payton has strengthened her ability to study and complete school work. She has adjusted to the rigor of college well.

Participation in the mentorship program enabled me to grow personally, academically, and professionally. I believe that personal growth, community contribution, and strong relationships are the triad upon which happiness is built. I proactively pursue growth in each of these areas in all of my endeavors. Every goal that I set for myself must align with at least one of these three objectives. This mentorship program built my skills as a leader inside and out of the university context, assisted a fellow buckeye in their transition into our OSU community, and built a fulfilling personal relationship.

The ACES mentoring program provided me with an introduction to mentoring and peer support that I will use in my role this summer and next academic year as a First Year Experience Peer Leader. I can only hope that my 300 students will be a tenth as amazing as Payton is. Working with her has advanced my relationship-building and outreach skills, task management, and charisma.

Mentoring Payton demanded I build and maintain a close personal/academic relationship. I enhanced my cooperation, communication, and trust-building skills by working as part of a partnership to complete a project. Working on a project following the capstone guidelines and deadlines strengthened my ability to accomplish tasks efficiently. These skills will transfer to professional roles in the future. Maintaining contact and meeting with my mentee strengthened my communication, specifically interpersonal communication, skills. This experience made me a more charismatic individual.

Over the last two semesters, I have supported Payton by checking in with her periodically on her transition to the university and areas where she may need support. I have provided her with personal advice and shared my own first-year experiences so she does not feel alone in her challenges.

The mentoring program allows you to form a connection with a fellow buckeye while deepening your involvement with your scholar program. Mentoring Payton has been the highlight of my ACES experience this year. While I didn’t technically have a mentor my first year (long story!), I highly recommend the program to all of my fellow and future ACES.

Payton and I with Brutus

Visiting the Book Loft with My Mentee

Yesterday I had the pleasure to meet up with my mentee, Payton, and share with her one of my favorite Columbus hidden gems and neighborhoods, The Book Loft in German Village. The Book Loft is a quirky book store nestled in the heart of one of Columbus’s oldest neighborhoods. Thousands of books are stacked on the shelves in each of the 32 tiny rooms of the historic home that the shop resides in.

Payton has been coming to Columbus semi regularly for the last few years as her sister in a current OSU junior. She has explored much of the city with her family, but never made it to German Village. She has a friend who raves about, so she was happy to make the trip when I suggested it for our spring explore Columbus outing.

Payton is an avid reader. She’s shared her book worm habits with me before. This is why I thought the trip would be an excellent choice for us.

We met up outside of Smith-Steeb, Payton’s dorm hall and my former residence, on an early spring afternoon. We crossed the campus green to High Street to wait for the bus that would take us South into the city. We rode the number 2 down through Short North, chatting as we went. Payton had recently tried a new restaurant in the neighborhood, NorthStar. She visited for a floormate’s birthday the night before. We discussed the neighborhood and how there was a big divide between the college side and the young professionals/downtown side. High Street was busy with people decked out in green for St. Patrick’s day.

Payton is working on her resume to apply for the Wexner Center for the Arts Internships that just opened up. She is interested in the Art and Resilience position as it aligns with her career interests of helping and healing people through art. Payton is working towards becoming an art therapist. She’s also working on pursuing research opportunities as she anticipates they will be beneficial when it comes time for her to apply to graduate school.

Payton and I arrived at the book store and spent the next two hours browsing the stacks. Each room in the shop is organized around a different genre such as LGBTQIA+ Romance, United States History, Horror, or Science. Payton and I both agreed that our favorite room was the essay collections. We spent an embarrassingly long amount of time flipping through the pages of each postcard book in the room over. The Book Loft has feels like a grown up Scholastic book fair. There are many literacy accessories like the post cards, book marks, and tote bags displayed in between the shelves.

After roaming through each of the four wings Payton paid for a book of poems and we headed outside back to downtown to catch our bus. We rode the number 8 though downtown, the arena district, and Vicky Village. Payton hadn’t been to these parts of Columbus and enjoyed the new scenery.

Payton and I would definitely go back if given the chance. While it is a rather long bus ride (35 minutes from South campus) it is worth the commute. The Book Loft is like no other book store in Columbus or Ohio for that matter. German Village has a special kind of charm that is hard to find in a city of Columbus’s age.

If returning I would recommend going a little earlier in the day than us, (We arrived just before 4.) so you could grab lunch at Katzinger’s Deli before hand. Katzinger’s is a the go to place for delectable sandwiches in the city. Alternatively, visiting later in the night after sunset would also be a wonderful experience as the courtyard of the shop is wrapped in fairy lights and the star light makes German Village feel like it’s out of fairy tale.

I highly recommend the experience to my fellow scholars as they complete the mentorship this program spring. It is highly engaging and sure to be a crowd-pleaser for you and your mentee. Even if you’re not an avid reader the shop is so unique it is sure to be interesting.

This experience taught us about the the diversity of our city and the lived experiences of it’s residence. On the way we were given a window into the world’s of our neighbors on the bus, in German Village, and in the book store. While it very easy to stay in the 43210 as students, it is so enriching to get out in the community and experience what Columbus is like for it’s permanent residents.

What We Can Learn from a Picture of a Dinosaur

During table choices students have the option to work with homemade dinosaur puzzles. Four sets have been made of the puzzles in the image above. Each is of a different species of dinosaur.

A prekindergarten student comes to sit down at the table where I am working with two other children. He grows quickly frustrated and requests for help. He is an older student and needs only verbal prompting and encouragement to complete the task. Once truly started he assembles the puzzle quickly. I offer him the puzzle that is in my spot. He declines and reaches for the simpler two piece puzzles in the middle of the table. Photos of six dinosaurs have been printed, laminated, and cut in half.

“I’m going to make silly ones!” he exclaims. (Objective 11e)

“Oh, you’re going to mix them up. That will be funny.” I say.

He places the tail end of one with the front end of another. I do the same. I describe that mine has a Triceratops tail and T-rex face. He remarks that his has a T-rex tail but is unsure of what the front half is. I suggest that we could look in the dinosaur book to find out. He grabs the dinosaur encyclopedia from the library and turns page by page looking for a match. He finds one. (Objective 13, 17)

“There! What’s that say?” he points to the heading text at the top left of the page. (Objective 17b)

“Stegosaurus!” I say.

He repeats me.

In the background of the page is another dinosaur that I recognize from the figurines in the block area. I tell him that I’ll be right back. I grab the toy and return back to the table. “It matches,” I say, placing it next to the page.

He looks from the book to the dinosaur to me and back again. He smiles.

“Maybe we can find the name of this dinosaur in the book too.” I remark.

He picks up the dinosaur and turns it on it’s belly. “What’s that say?” he shows it to me. (Objective 12a)

In teeny tiny letters below MADE IN CHINA reads PARASAUROLOPHUS.

“Parasaur-olo-phus!” In one of few times since my elementary years, decoding does not come easily to me. “You remembered that the names were on their backs! I didn’t know that.”

He gleams with pride.

We flip through the book again looking for the rest of the unknown dinosaurs, but he gets distracted after turning to the front.

“What’s this?” he asks.

“It’s the table of contents.” I point to the words at the top of the page. “It tells what is on each page of the book.”

He looks over the spread in wonder. (Objective 17a)

“What’s that say?” he points to “Herrerasaurus.”

I read the name then point to the 33 beside it. “There’s a photo and more information on page 33. This is page 4.” I point to the number in the corner of the page.

He turns carefully, reading each page number aloud as he goes until he gets to page 33. He stops and looks to the top of the page. He recognizes the word from the table of contents. He points and recites then looks up at me with excitement on his face. He flips back to the front of the book to try again. (Objective 20a, 20c, 18b, 11d)

After using the table of contents a few more times, he returns his attention back to the puzzles in front of him. He matches a few up, but the task is well within his zone of achieved development. He begins to grow bored. (objective 11a)

“I have an idea!” I exclaim. I flip over the 12 dinosaur halves. “We can play a matching game.”

He looks on confused.

I model flipping over two cards one at a time. On the second try I find a match. “That’s how you play.”

He grins, now fully on board. (Objective 11e)

We flip the cards all over again and he begins the game. With each turn of the card he says the dinosaur name that he has just learned. I follow suit. He waits his turn patiently, accepts defeat with grace, and wins without gloating. We play until it is time to transition to morning snack. (Objective 9a, 1a, 1b, 11a)

Learning Objectives (Aligned with Teaching Strategies GOLD)
  • 1. Regulates own emotions and behaviors
  • 2a. Forms relationships with adults
  • 7a. Uses fingers and hands
  • 8. Listens to and understands increasingly complex language
  • 9. Uses language to express thoughts and needs
  • 10. Uses appropriate conversational and other communication skills
  • 11. Demonstrates positive approaches to learning
  • 12. Remembers and connects experiences
  • 13. Uses classification skills
  • 17. Demonstrates knowledge of print and its uses
  • 18. Comprehends and responds to books and other texts
  • 20. Uses number concepts and operations
  • 25. Demonstrates knowledge of the characteristics of living things

Complete Teaching Strategies GOLD Objectives

A Day at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning

Schoenbaum Family Center at Weinland Park
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

This semester I have the pleasure to intern at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning at the Schoenbaum Family Center. The school offers early childhood education and care for children ages six weeks to five years in an intentionally diverse learning community. It is a part of the university’s College of Education and Human Ecology, serving as a place for research and undergraduate teacher training. I work as an assistant teacher in a preschool class under the guidance of a master teacher. Days at the school vary, but they all march to the same beat. Below I have shared my experiences on a Thursday in mid-February.

The day begins at 8:30. I welcome students as they arrive. After putting away their belongings and washing their hands I offer them breakfast. At the table we discuss how we spent our home days, the snow, and what’s new in the sensory table. After cleaning up their breakfast dishes students transition to indoor play.

During indoor play children move freely between the interest areas, becoming engrossed in their work. I spend the time observing children, intervening to mediate peer conflict when needed, conversing, and engaging in play. On this particular day I type on old keyboards in writing, facilitate ramp construction on the carpet, pretend to be a domino version of myself at the dollhouse, and mediate much conflict. Due to the extreme cold the children have not been able to spend nearly as much time playing outside than normal. Tensions are running high and feelings are easily hurt. Understanding the natural consequences of yelling or hitting our playmates is a frequent conversation.

At around 10 o’clock we begin to get ready for circle time. Children are given a warning that they have 5 more playing minutes then told to clean up and use the restroom. Through consistent schedules and a well designed environment this is a task they can complete independently for the most part.

I spend circle time working one-on-one with a student that needs extra support. Some days we join the rest of the class on the carpet for stories and finger rhymes, but on most I follow his lead in play. He is highly interested in small world dramatic play and letter recognition and formation. During circle time I try to guide his interest to the latter as it is quieter and less disruptive for those participating in the morning meeting. On this morning we spend circle time working at the writing desk. (You can read more about it here.)

At the end of circle time children choose where they will work. Special materials are available at the tables around the room including the sensory and light tables. Materials are chosen based on the children’s interest. Today there is snow painting at the art table, translucent gems and small cups at the light table, water and pouring/filling tools at the sensory table, and homemade dinosaur puzzles at the circle table. (You can read more about my experience using dinosaur puzzles for child led individual instruction here.)

Following table choices we transition to snack time and typically then to outdoor play. Because of the weather we are unable to play outside. Instead we incorporate gross motor movement by riding bikes, running, and playing movement games such as Simon Says and Follow the Leader. A new game we have been working on is the opposite game. Students are given a task, either to touch their head or their stomachs, but they have previously been instructed to do the opposite of what they are told. A seemingly simple task for adults, for young children it requires great concentration and can be frustrating at times. It is an excellent tool to build persistence and impulse control.

We then transition to lunch where we eat family style – although, modified to take COVID-19 precautions. I serve, converse, encourage adventurous eating, and model and remind students of appropriate mealtime behavior. After lunch we walk back to the classroom for independent reading and rest time.

During rest time I support students who need teacher assistance falling asleep. After all who take naps have fallen asleep, I work one-on-one with an older student on their pencil grasp or assist with administrative tasks.

On this particular afternoon I assemble a sign-in poster and laminate it in the teacher work room. Each student has a space to print their name, scaffolded to their current skill level, at arrival. Incorporating the task into the daily routine encourages fine motor strength and coordination, letter formation, and use of writing to convey meaning.

After that I make popsicle sticks for a process based art project and study of cause and effect to be used next week. As I’m working student’s begin to wake up from their nap. As they transition from rest to snack time they join me at the table. I offer them opportunities to help by counting the bundles of sticks needed and securing the rubber bands on the sides of the bundles. Once we have enough built we clean up and I serve snack.

After snack students transition to indoor play. The afternoon work cycle is very similar to the morning. The children depart individually as their caregivers arrive to pick them up. At the end of the day my master teacher and I sanitize the materials and make sure the room is ready for children to arrive the following morning.

This is the weekly Curriculum Guide that includes the day described above. 

Catching Up with my Mentee

Last Friday I was able to meet up with my ACES mentee, Payton Harvey, at the Ohio Union. We chatted about how the semester was going and areas where I could be of assistance as she finished up her first year at OSU.

Payton is a psychology major and plans on adding an art minor. She hopes to be an art therapist. We discussed the challenges of finding professional development opportunities during the pandemic. She has been researching art therapists in Columbus to better understand their experiences and credentials for working in the field. She is also considering reaching out to them to set up job shadowing if she is not able to secure a paid internship for over the summer. I mentioned an art therapist that did some project work at a previous job of mine that I could reach out to.

Payton is planning on applying for a Wexner Center for the Arts internship for the 2021-2022 academic year. She is also very interested in securing a research assistant position for her sophomore or junior year. She is considering taking an Excel course to become certified in the skill as she expects in could help her in the job search.

As a first generation college student, Payton was recommended to apply to be a First Year Experience Peer Leader. The job would entail running freshmen orientation and assisting first year students with their transition to Ohio State. I’ve recently been accepted for the position for the 2021-2022 academic year. I recommended she apply for next year as I thought she would be a good fit and could gain a lot from the experience. (Have you had the chance to explore your desired career through internships, field experience, etc.?)

Payton lives in the “connector” hallway of the ACES living-learning community. Her hallmates are all very close and enjoy being able to live so close together. Payton has continued to remain close with her roommate. While they are disappointed that one of their neighbors moved home to take online classes this semester they are hopeful that they will have as much fun and connection in their living- learning community as in the fall. (Have you enjoyed the ACES living-learning community in Smith-Steeb? Why or why not?)

We discussed the challenges of online learning and the transition back to in person. as a first year Payton has only had the opportunity to take classes under pandemic circumstances. She is concerned that while her grades are strong she isn’t really learning content. This is a particular worry for her pre-major and major courses. I shared with her that I was feeling the same and new of many others who were also concerned. I mentioned that I found making study guides helpful for retaining the content. She said that she did to and it was helpful for her in her bio course. (What kind of study habits have you developed? Did they work successfully in the fall?)

Payton has joined CHAARGE, Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls. The student org provides opportunities for students to learn about health and fitness. Payton participates in a small group that meets over Zoom to complete at home workouts together. She’s enjoyed trying different types of exercise. Most recently they had a yoga session which she liked much more than she expected to.  (How have you gotten involved on campus?)

For the rest of the semester Payton plans to stay involved in her student orgs, be proactive in her academics and seek professional development opportunities. (What kind of goals have you set for yourself for this semester?)

Supporting Literacy in a Junior High Class for Students with ASD

In autumn of 2020 I was placed in a self contained junior high class at Haugland Learning Center (HLC) through Ohio State’s First Education Experience Program. The course culminated in the presentation of a semester long service learning project. For my service project I supported literacy instruction in my CP’s Reading and Language Arts classes through lesson planning.

View Project Here