Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

Thank You for Having an IEP


One of the greatest gifts that I have been given as a teacher is a student in my class with an IEP. They have taught me so much about what true learning really is (and more too about myself as a person). They can be challenging & often go two steps forward one step back in the learning process. But they are the most valuable students that I can have in the classroom. As I take in new students with IEPs again this year I want to say  “thank you” for the privilege of working with them….

Thank you for issues with remembering – You have taught me that there is more than a ‘written vocabulary’ test to show what you know. You can point to the correct picture when you hear it. You can choose between two options when you hear them and tell me which is the correct word for something. You can tell me if the word I’ve asked about is the correct word for the object. And you have ensured that all students in the room get the opportunity to show they’ve learned words not just by writing them down. You also made me find key visuals and other supports – including more comprehensible input – to ensure that you ‘get’ what the words mean.

Thank you for not being a visual learner – This is especially true in teaching a langauge that does not use ABC’s. You have taught me that learning characters is not something that all students will do in 3-4 weeks as I used to ‘demand’. That you will be accessing your chart  throughout the term – not as a first option but rather after you have attempted writing some without using your chart. You made me realize that this is a ‘long term’ issue for not just you and that any student may still need occasional support throughout the semester. You also led me to record my ‘reading’ pieces that require you to decode information and that hearing & reading at the same time is a powerful way to tap into learning. You made me more attuned to varying paces of learning for all of my students.

Thank you for struggling with writing – You have made me look at how you demonstrate ‘composition’ in my class. Maybe you use the word & phrase bank that I provide for you to do that . Perhaps you use my peer tutor to scribe for you. Sometimes you dictate to me as well. Thank you for teaching me that you will attempt to write just as ‘all the other kids do’ but then you will also come and talk to me about what you want to say. You have taught me that written output is an option for some – and that if you can put together what you want to say in any way in the presentational mode – you are meeting my expectations. In fact it is because of you that I now use ‘modes’ of communicating and not the old-fashioned task categories of ‘reading/writing/speaking/listening’.

Thank you for your challenges working with others – You have made me really look at the value of teaching ‘how to communicate’ in all of my classes. You have helped me to see that all students need assistance in talking with others – from follow-up questions to basic eye contact, or not. You have taught your classmates that not everyone expresses themselves in the same way. You have also reminded me, and your more outgoing classmates, that finding partners or talking to new people is not an experience welcomed by all. So I have worked to have multiple ways to ensure that you, and all students, always can find someone to work with and when you do – you know how/what to do to keep the communication going.

Thank you for making me teach/play the ‘long game’ in my classes…Thank you for making me realize that teaching is not about finishing 5 units in a semester. And learning doesn’t happen because I say ‘well that should be enough for them to know it’. Thank you for showing me that learning is a ‘long game’ that takes time – more time for some than others – but time none the less and that it’s what you have accomplished by the end of the course that counts …not what you learned in my 3-4 week Sumo unit. Thank you for making me provide time for learning.

Thank you for teaching me to play to YOUR strengths as a learner – they make me honour the strengths & challenges of ALL my students.



  1. As always, I am awed, humbled and inspired by your thoughtful approach to teaching and reflection. Thank you!

  2. Liz, I would be nowhere without the advocacy & support of Learning Services teachers such as you…thanks for all that you do help us learn!

  3. Colleen – Thank you for sharing your powerful reflection that so clearly and eloquently communicates the potential for both teachers and students when teaching and learning is approached from strengths rather than deficits. I appreciate how you care to see each of your students as individuals and have been reflexive in working through how to best support their learning. Arigato Sensei !!!

  4. This is a really powerful post, Lee sensei! As I read, I was thinking about particular students in my classes for whom I could work ‘better’. Thankyou.

  5. Thanks Jan for your kind comments…I have learned a lot about how to work with ALL of my students ..and it’s still very much a work in progress! がんばれます!

  6. Thank you Jill – every day is not roses, unicorns & sunshine for any of my students but working with my kids with IEPs has made me a better teacher for all my kids – and I like your ‘teaching from strength’ comment – I will use it when discussing work with them!

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