Our next story comes from Daniel Cuellar, former 8th grade math teacher at Washington Academic Middle School (WAMS) and current curriculum support provider at WAMS. He dove headfirst into applying the UDL guidelines to his teaching practices last year and has some wisdom he learned along the way. Check it out!
UDL helped break down the biggest barrier that can ever exist in a math class, the barrier of anxiety. In my experience as a middle school math teacher, starting in Central Unified, and then moving here to Sanger Unified, I have never been shy to try something new, something better. Not for my sake, but for the sake of our students. After experimenting with the UDL framework, I quickly learned what was a good jumping off point for me as a teacher that is new to UDL. At first, I was frustrated at the lack of progress from my students. As teachers we are trained to make data informed decisions, and as my data did not drastically change, my hopes for UDL began to slip. Focusing on only the data was the biggest mistake I made when trying UDL. I was so focused on looking at scores and assessments, that I forgot to look at the most important component of my teaching, the students. The implementation of the engagement checkpoints from the UDL guidelines helped break down the barrier of anxiety for my students. From the UDL framework, I created a collaborative culture within my classroom by adding more whiteboards on the wall to allow for students to work together standing up.
"After teaching with the UDL framework, I would never go back to the old way of teaching."
I created a safe place for my students by bringing out all my supplies to create a supply table where students can access any tool they feel they need at any time throughout the class period. I changed my tone of speaking with my students to make it clear that it is ok to make mistakes while we practice to get better. Because I was neck deep in looking at data and numbers, I missed the fact that all of my students had immersed themselves within the culture UDL helped me create. Students that did not try before, now were trying. Students that were afraid to be wrong, were brave to work to be right. Students felt they had a place to be safe, empowered, and valued for their insight. I had to trust that the data and progress will come, and it did. The progress started with my students with failing grades. For those students where a D was unimaginable they began actually to meeting or even exceeding that mark, all because they started engaging with the content. After teaching with the UDL framework, I would never go back to the old way of teaching.
Sanger unified school district
Curriculum & Instruction department