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Becky Young Arlin, M.S - Mentor Teacher

By: Becky Young Arlin

Becky Young Arlin M.S.

Becky Young Arlin, M.S. is the middle and high school learning specialist for The Churchill School and Center, a K-12 school and resource center for children with learning disabilities. Mrs. Young Arlin, a Washington D.C. native, came to New York to attend SUNY Binghampton, where she majored in Music and English. She received her Masters of Science in Special Education at Bank Street College of Education in New York. Part of her job is to help teachers individualize instruction and ensure that lessons are planned for different types of learners. With almost 10 years experience as a special educator, Mrs. Young Arlin has a deep understanding of individual learning differences in children. In addition, she is an Associate for "Urban Schools Attuned", a program developed at Bank Street College in collaboration with Dr. Mel Levine.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Parents often ask, "How long does my child have to be here?"

A: The staff at Churchill tries to be very upfront and clear with both parents and students when addressing this issue. Every timeline is different. Every stage in the learning, relearning, or new learning process is completely individual to that student. We stress an open dialogue about the purpose of a placement in a school for children with learning disabilities.

I'll explain that all of us- parent, student, professional staff - are now part of a team; a working team with no surprises. When students first arrive, they say, "I can't read this book, I'm dyslexic, I'm learning disabled." The teacher might say, "Well, that's what you are here for, let's start to break it down." The other students in his or her classroom might say, "Hey, that's what I said when I first came here!" But then it's time to get to work and get to understand how best to learn. As we get to know the student and the student gets to know the staff and the other students, he or she usually realizes that every student is figuring out the root of his or her disability. It's not long before the student is developing his or her strengths. It is not long before parents and students develop a sense of ownership about their school and begin to advocate openly, loudly, for what they need in order to feel good in and out of school.

Q: What do you give your kids to help them feel special?

A: We give them opportunities to develop a balance between working on their weaknesses and expanding their strengths as far as they want to take it. Take the example of a student who writes a report and cuts a music CD on the computer to go along with it. That student, whose learning disability impacts his writing, starts to feel secure. He starts to take risks academically and feels more brave about other areas of his life.

Churchill realizes that teachers are clinicians and they give their students the tools they need to do their jobs.

The Churchill School meets kids at their interest level. For example, we might have a Literary Circle - group reading that's based on a book club approach. The kids get to control the type of book and we'll help them decide how to learn about it. Another way to help the kids develop self esteem is Project Heroes, where students interview and learn about heroes with learning disabilities.

Q: How do you keep going?

A: People always want to know if this "wears me out." Even if I have a morning that I think, "I can't get there, I can't get to work," once I get here it's showtime! We deal with their issues about having a learning disability, and any other issue. We help our students negotiate anything, you are in the process with them. We are also in the process with their parents, discussing with them how to set rules, and how to set the stage for learning both academically and emotionally.

Q: As a middle and high school Learning Specialist, what kind of social issues do the kids face and how do you help them?

Churchil School

A: Some of their issues are typical teen issues. They are in the process of discovering, or creating, their identities, especially in relation to their peers. Added to that is the issue that they are teens with learning disabilities and that is huge. They often say, "Am I smart? Do people think I am stupid?" Their self-doubt gets rolled into one big package and impacts all their other insecurities. We really take time out to deal with social maturity and emotional issues. We don't gloss them over when they come up. We define what a learning disability is in relation to their intelligence, we talk about advocacy and the realities of growing up learning disabled because it's not going to go away.

Q: What strategies can you give to teens with learning disabilities regarding reading?

A: Find books with high interest topics and consider where the kids came from. Churchill students are sophisticated urban kids. Our challenge is to suggest or give them books with subject matter they can relate to.

Although abstract thinking is stressed at these ages, start with the concrete and relate to their lives. Then guide them to the semiabstract, then the abstract. Choose from a variety of reading comprehension strategies and encourage book discussions.

Featured in a Disney Channel video about excellence in teaching, The Churchill School fosters a school and community environment where children with learning disabilities can become confident, active learners, while acquiring important social skills and advocacy skills. The school's Churchill Center provides national outreach training programs for parents, teachers, and other professionals.

This September the school relocates to a newly renovated, 71,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility in Manhattan. Each floor is color coded to help young children navigate the school hallways. Although the gym is currently covered with sawdust and the giant scoreboard is sitting on the floor, soon this tremendous room will be filled with cheering children and bouncing basketballs. The library is ready to shelve its extensive collection of books and seat inquisitive children as they learn in the school's two computer labs. In addition the new facility has 3 science labs, 3 art studios, a rooftop playground, greenhouse and working garden to help children with learning disabilities achieve more successful school experiences.

Other materials:

Read Teaching Tolerance by Churchill School teacher Harriet Arnold

Becky Young Arlin (2001)