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Laney Smith
Standard Two: Learning Differences
Whale Talk discussion questions
1) Who were your favorite characters in this novel? Select three of your favorite
characters and describe them, supporting your description with references from the
Educational Psychology and/or Inclusion texts, other readings, class discussions, or
personal experiences where similar individuals were described.

My three favorite characters were TJ Jones, Georgia, and Chris. TJ is an extremely
passionate, and emotional young man. He had a very difficult childhood (pre-adoption) and is
still struggling with many subliminal issues in his teenage years. The interesting trait in TJ is his
desire to help those in need. His quest to help Chris (sought out) and the other Mermen (by
chance) is extremely interesting-he regularly helps those that are getting bullied and makes it a
mission to help those that want letter jackets but havent been able to obtain one on their own.
Its evident that his adopted parents have had a fantastic influence on his life. He is following
his mother and fathers examples and has chosen to assist the outsiders for the greater good.\
Chris is a great character. He is singled out by the jocks throughout the entire book.
Despite the feeling of being ostracized, he continues to have a optimistic outlook. His entire
school career has been a series of misfortunes and lack of understandings. Its fascinating to see
the swim team, TJ specifically, begin to see Chriss full potential; however it is disheartening to
see the example of seating charts (placing Chris at the end to signify his disgrace of academic
performance). Simet does a great job of making Chris feel included and valuable by assigning
him as a tutor to Justin Delong. TJ pushes Chris to limits well beyond what may have originally
been obtainable at the storys beginning, as well.
Georgia is, by far, my favorite character. She is patient, understanding, and an advocate.
She saves children from an unfit life and helps them overcome their struggles. The story of
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Heidi and Georgia is incredibly sad and moving, as well as eye opening. This book did a great
job of putting perspective on the issues many young children suffer from. Georgia is a great
resource for those in need and an extremely powerful force in improving their lives. Throughout
the book, we catch hints of TJs own experiences with Georgia-its clear that he would not be the
strong, advocating man he is as a teenager without Georgias patience and persistence.
2) If one of these characters were in your classroom, what diverse approaches would you
use to help him/her succeed? Select one of the three favorite characters you described
in question #1 and predict how you might design and adjust instruction appropriate to
his/her learning style, strength or need.

We are currently discussing in our Inclusion course, the concept of teaching to a students
strengths. As an educator, it will be important to discover what drives each student to succeed.
Reaching out to a struggling students parents or additional faculty the student may have will
help you obtain a better grasp of what a student excels at and what will motivate them to do well
in school. In the instance of The Tao Jones, working with his parents and attempting to
understand him will be beneficial and form a relationship with him as a student. Throughout the
book, there are multiple examples of TJs passion and desire to help those who dont have a
voice at Cutter High School.
Mr. Simet found a way to turn that passion (and sometimes nearly uncontrollable anger) into
a resource to help all of the other boys on the swim team succeed. Because TJ was driven by
challenge and competition, Simet used these skills to benefit the team in multiple ways (letter
jackets, building friendships, and creating a voice for the voiceless). I really enjoyed reading the
segment with Simet assigning mentors for those struggling in classes-he found a way to help
every single student contribute to the teams academic success. On the flipside, however,
adopting a teaching style similar to Coach Bensons and Principal Morgans will create hostility,
exclude students, as well as create a detrimental learning environment. Teaching through a
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narrow scope will only appeal to a select few students and have the unfortunate consequence of
forcing some students to feel left out.
3) Did this novel have an impact on your understanding of middle or high school learners
(Standard #2), diverse approaches to learning and performance (Standards #3), or
positive learning environments (Standard #5)? Describe your personal belief regarding
diversity, cultural sensitivity and school learning environments.

As mentioned above, there is a clearly defined concept between what tools should and should
not be used in the classroom. The differences in methods incorporated by Benson, Morgan and
Simet are astounding. It was amazing to see what one or two teachers influence can have on a
student (Barbour and the other football players). A exclusive and in-tolerant teaching approach
creates and extremely hostile and unwelcoming surroudings. It would certainly not be a
positively stimulating learning environment. Applying a well-rounded, non-biased environment
will be a significantly better set-up. Simets ability to teach by using individualized strengths is
a great resource to utilize in the classroom. His expectation to have all students succeeding
helped the students believe in themselves and improved grades for every swim member.
It was astounding to see all of the unfortunate life circumstances presented in this book.
While Im aware that it will be a rarity to have all of these struggles occurring at once, it is
definitely beneficial to recognize what some of the issues students will be battling outside of my
classroom and how it will impact their educational experience.