“Boys and girls, it’s time to go over our number line. First we’ll do it on our whiteboard and then we’ll do a human number line. Does everyone have their whiteboard?” asked Jefferson Middle School teacher Paul Baker to his students as he projects a number line on the screen. “Let’s look at the line on the board. What number should I start with on the line?”
“O!” says a student.
“That’s right, good job. Now, I’m going to put a few numbers up and then we’ll figure out which numbers are missing,” said Mr. Baker who writes a number “1” and a number “3” leaving the other spots blank. “Now, what number should go here? When you have your answer, write it on your whiteboard” as he points to where a number should be. The students write the number down.
“Okay, on three hold up your boards with the correct answer. One, two, three!” The class raises their boards. “Wow, great job everyone got it right, the number 4!”
The enthusiastic math lesson was part of Mr. Baker’s 12:1:3 special needs inclusion class. To finish up the number line, students put a number on a string around their neck and physically place themselves in order by number. He also randomly pulls out two students and asks the class which number is bigger or smaller. Mr. Baker uses humor, caring, and most importantly, enthusiasm to keep his students on track and learning.
“I love my job. I started out wanting to be a police officer but worked in a YMCA camp over the summers and started working with special needs students. It just came so naturally to me and I had so much fun doing it I knew this is what I was meant to do with my life,” said Mr. Baker.
Mr. Baker concentrates on both academics but also on life skills with his students. He works on everything from self-grooming skills to learning to tie shoes to knowing how to tell time. Mr. Baker also uses workstations for math and English Language Arts to help work with each student in their correct skill levels. The students have a very structured routine including “job” assignments that vary each day including passing out materials, erasing the board, line leaders and putting carpets away, along with structured academics. The varying skill levels in the class requires individual attention for each student and can be challenging but Mr. Baker and the class paraprofessionals do it with positive reinforcement and caring.
“I love Mr. Baker,” said Jefferson student Keinna. “He’s funny and my favorite teacher because he makes it easy to do work. I like helping out the other kids when we do our jobs and I like everything that I do in class.”