Richard M.Cash – Preparing Teachers for Back to School

Aug 9, 2017 by

An Interview with Richard M.Cash – Preparing Teachers for Back to School

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Cash, first of all, tell us a bit about yourself, your education and experiences.

I had never thought of being a teacher. In fact, my first degree is in theater—I wanted to be an actor. However, I didn’t have the drive and willingness to suffer for my art that is required to successful on “the boards.” After many attempts to find the right fit in a career, I landed in a post-baccalaureate degree program in education. My first teaching position was with middle school gifted students. I learned quickly that being the teacher did not mean having all the answers. I spent 10 years in the classroom and another 15 years in administration. Currently, I’m a consultant, working internationally with all kinds of schools and educational groups.

2) Now, it is almost time for teachers to go back to school–some teachers face it with dread, others with trepidation, and others major concern about being about to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse group of students. How do teachers prepare?

I always say that it doesn’t pay to worry about what you can’t control. Every year, a new class of students cross the classroom threshold and they become “my kids!” No matter the abilities, dispositions, issues or differences they are the ones I’m charged to educate—regardless of their circumstances. As I get to know my students, I seek out for those unique qualities that makes each child an individual. Knowing that every child has a talent worth developing, I set out on my journey to find it and nurture its growth. When challenged by any student’s difference (whether it be in abilities, capacities or behaviors), I seek out help from my colleagues. Work with the people around you to ensure each and every child in your care is supported with all the resources available.

To answer your question, the best way to prepare for the new school year to come is to take these last few days of summer to relax and enjoy what makes you happy. Any teacher knows that during the school year, we don’t get time to attend to our fun. Additionally, set a plan for taking time out of your school year to have that fun and enjoy yourself.

3) It seems that teachers are increasingly being asked to work with emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered students. How can a competent caring teacher best work with this population?

Students with real emotional and behavioral difference (EBD) are more common now than ever before. We have to see each child as an individual and wanting of love. In my opinion, no child is naughty from birth—they are sending us all kinds of messages about what they need and want. In some cases, EBD may be a symptom—we need to find the source. Learn about the child’s background; where they came from; about his/her family history; the day-to-day routines or lack of routines. Your job is to provide consistence, care and competence in the child’s life.

4) I have noticed more and more students with a 504- they have some type of chronic medical or other condition (such as ADD) are we asking too much of teachers nowadays?

When we signed up to be teachers, we weren’t guaranteed all the “easy” kids. We are charged with the teaching and learning of every child who enters our classroom. No matter the differences of our children, we must take on the challenges. Having a 504 or an IEP is there to secure what the child needs to succeed. We (teachers) should look to those regulations to assist us in making the best experience for all of our children. Again, use the resources provided by the 504/IEP’s regulations and the assistance we can gain from our colleagues.

5) Some students are mainstreamed into the regular education classroom with esoteric kinds of conditions- genetic- (16qd ) and medical *(sucrose isomaltase deficiency ).   Is it reasonable for schools to ask teachers to teach to such low incidence conditions?

In the public school system, we don’t have the luxury of saying whom we will or will not teach. What we do need to do is learn more about the issues of our children. Learn what can be done to make sure the child is successful. Each time you encounter a uniqueness of a child, you will benefit future children in your classroom.

6) I have heard some strange things in my day (as I suppose you have also) . But do certain genetic conditions require a special learning style? In other words are kids with Down Syndrome abstract random or concrete sequential?

I’ve not heard this idea. But I do know that every child learns differently. Our job is to figure out what that difference is and try to attend to that learning orientation.

7) Fear seems to permeate some schools- children are aware that their family is here illegally and may be deported- How does the average classroom teacher cope with this?

The best thing we can do is to build a loving and caring relationship with each of our students. When students know the classroom is safe, welcoming and a place of belonging, the challenges of learning are lessened. We can’t control the child’s life outside the classroom, but we can make the learning space reliable, relationship oriented and individually nurturing.

8) As you know, kids with autism seems to be increasing. What kind of differentiation training do teachers need?

Learn as much as you can about students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Small/flexible group learning is one of those differentiation strategies that works well for kids with ASD. Ask your special education resource teachers about other specific strategies that work. Additionally, teach other students in your classroom about the unique differences of ASD students so they are empathic and supportive to all students.

9) What books have you written that might help and provide some insight?

My most recent book Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn ( has a wealth of ideas for understanding how students learn and in what ways we can move all students toward learning autonomy.

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