Sonoma County Office of Education

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Teachable Moment: Jordan Johnson makes classroom connections

03/26/2020 -

Jordan Johnson connects with his students at Maria Carrillo High School by playing music on his ukelele, reciting poetry, and leading art projects with mainstream students from the high school. “We also have a pretty rich circle time,” said Johnson. “Their experience may not be the same as mine but that doesn’t mean it’s not a rich experience.”

Johnson teaches students, ages 14 to 22, who need specialized health services. “My students are typically non-verbal and non-ambulatory, some have intellectual disabilities as well as physical disabilities.”

“A lot of my students are really focused on Barney and Elmo,” reflected Johnson. “I want to give them the opportunity to appreciate things like creating art, poetry, and listening to different music. I think that’s one of the sad things that happens with students with severe disabilities is people think of them as children, even when they’re 22.”

“A teachable moment is different with students with severe disabilities,” remarked Johnson. “I do have students that learn and you see that development of a skill and that trajectory that we as teachers want to see, but not all my students are like that. Some are even losing some skills. I find that those students, like the others, are also in my mind and my heart.”

Johnson talked about a student who recently surprised him by eating independently. “A staff member was encouraging her to pick up her spoon and eat independently. We had been assisting her and holding our hands close by as she brought food to her mouth. One day she just started independently scooping and eating in a way that kind of shocked us all. And we took a video of it and sent it to her family who were also surprised to see it. As far as what we did to make that happen, I don’t know exactly. What we did seems minimal in comparison to what that student was able to do.”