By Sarah Caroline Bell
When I accepted a part-time position teaching students English as a foreign language, I was thrust into the world of education, and all that comes with it. However, it wasn’t until relocating to Incheon, South Korea in 2011, that I encountered learners with disabilities. Unlike my earlier teaching experiences, where learners were allocated to level-based classes after taking a standardized test, all learners were lumped into one class with a single, fixed curriculum based solely on their age.
I immediately noticed that children whose pace didn’t match the standard were, essentially, left to flounder. To counteract this trend, I dedicated countless hours and my own resources to planning additional learning opportunities for struggling students to complete alongside their peers (while they worked on a higher-level task); as 1:1 lessons in my own time, or as additional homework tasks set at the learners’ true level.
The problem is not just about learners with special needs “lagging behind their peers”. Oftentimes, these students possess abilities that exceed other children their own age, with some able to learn content years ahead. Their difficulties manifest themselves in the classroom as disruption. Every class has a few learners like this, requiring extra preparation at the learners’ advanced level, in order to prevent exceptionally fast students from finishing work early and disrupting other students.
Needless to say, teaching was exhausting. In 2015, I considered giving up teaching children and young adults, and instead focusing on adult education and professional coaching in a 1:1 environment. I considered this because it felt more effective to tailor plans for individuals, then juggle multiple needs in a group setting. The problem with teaching is the sheer amount of time educators spend planning lessons, when that time and energy could be better expended on meaningful educational engagement; this is an experience many current and former teachers identify with.
Upon discovering ONEder, I was filled with renewed positivity, even considering specializing as an educator to children with special learning needs. I am sure many passionate educators, exhausted from the struggle of managing learners, would indeed benefit from a learned-centered, monitorable, technology-based program. Providing an outstanding opportunity for all learners to reach their full potential, regardless of the “classification of their needs”, ONEder is paving the way in modern educational design, and I applaud it for taking the initiative.
Sarah Caroline Bell is a writer and teacher based in Seoul. Sarah is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, amongst other publications.