Eureka and Middle School Math · UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Why we need Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

tacos-245241_1920My daughter and I have found a new way to bond:  weekly tacos dinners.  We don’t agree on the type (I’m for carne asada; she likes carnitas) or our favorite restaurant (I love the local Zapata and she likes to drive to Worcester for tacos at El Patrón), but, if we could, we’d both have tacos for dinner every night, stomachs and wallets permitting.

It’s always a bittersweet joy watching your kids grow up and my daughter never fails to surprise me.  Sometimes the surprises are entertaining (actually, sweetheart, Pennsylvania is the state and Philadelphia is the city, not vice versa) and sometimes they are mind-blowing.  A few weeks ago, while we are having our a weekly order of Zapata tacos, she was telling me about an a-ha moment she had at her job.

My daughter is a supervisor at a program that provides in-home and community-based support for clients with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Behavioral Health Challenges and Mental Health Needs.  She was telling me that one of her staff members had asked her for help, saying that he didn’t know where to find housing for a client.  The location was one my daughter was not familiar with, so she didn’t have a quick and easy answer for him.  This is the conversation she repeated for me:

I told him, “Let’s back this up.  If this was real-life and you just needed a place to live, what would you do?”

He said, “I would use Google.”

“Exactly.”

Her take-away from this conversation with her staff member is that she needs to ask her staff more often to “use their resources” rather than going to her for every answer.  Sound familiar?  I had to laugh because, as she was saying this, I was picturing the UDL Guidelines:

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Ah, UDL.  It’s everywhere…it’s life….it’s why we have to continue to challenge ourselves to teach with the UDL framework.  Without UDL, we create young adults who can’t use their resources to be successful in their jobs.  Without UDL, we create a work force that can’t engage in critical thinking.  Without UDL, we create employees who look to their bosses for all the answers which, in a world that is changing at the speed of light, puts them at a disadvantage.

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It’s certainly important that we use our power as educators to strive to help students become good human beings and good world citizens.  However, once that fundamental piece is done, our next critical responsibility is to work to prepare the students to be viable employees.  An employee who comes to my daughter to be told to use Google….is not one who is particularly viable.  (In all fairness to this particular employee, that conversation was a turning point for him–he has really taken off from there and is working with a high degree of independence.)   We need to model for students and hold them to the expectation to use their resources because they will need to do that when the resources are not videos on how to use exponents but are the expectations for how to do their jobs!  This is why UDL matters so very much.

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