Some teachers and I were discussing the difference between today’s students and those 25 years ago. One colleague suggested that modern children (and their parents) feel a sense of entitlement that did not exist before. To place this statement into perspective, let’s go back to yesteryear when taking a note home from the teacher was often the equivalent of a good spanking or something similar. Parents did not question teachers, and students usually did what they were told by both. Authority, whether right or wrong, had the last word.
They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Placing disabled kids in inclusion classes allows them to mingle with their non-disabled peers, a practice that benefits both as the first enjoy a boost in self-esteem while the second learn tolerance toward physical and mental differences. The classroom teacher, however, struggles to adapt his/her lesson plan to address the varied needs of all students. The addition of another teacher, a professional in special education, reduces the strain of differentiated teaching if both instructors mesh in harmony.
A good inclusion teacher will do his/her best to motivate his or her students, especially the ones who are struggling or who refuse to do the work regularly. Sometimes, a non-disabled teen will reject the help, it has happened to me, believing erroneously that I am not their teacher or that it would place them in the same category as the special education classmates. Yes, there is a certain stigma attached to the label “inclusion student”; the perception is probably due to the lack of comprehension by both regular students and classroom teachers. The question I am asked most often is “What exactly does Learning Disability mean?” I try to clarify the best way possible to my teaching colleagues that these students do not perceive stimuli normally, even though their intelligence level is average-normal. It would take a trained psychologist to give all the details, I am not, but the tool we use to detect such learning disability (LD) is a series of tests which show severe discrepancies between the potential and the actual academic performance. For example, if a child’s verbal ability is calculated at 100 and he/she performs at 85, we call that a learning disability in reading comprehension.
Some schools have eliminated what we know as “resource” classes (also known as self-contained) to place these students in inclusion classes. Teachers know very well that their students come with diverse backgrounds. School districts on the border receive quite a few “new” students from Mexico and Central America who have very little knowledge of English (many come as a result of the violence). Special steps are taken to assimilate them into the system and most of them fit quite well after a couple of years. But others do not fare so well; their reading level is equivalent to second or third grade. They suffer from a gamut of disabilities, from moderate to severe, and often exhibit a very low I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient). As a result of the move to regular classes, classroom teachers are overwhelmed with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans). They simply cannot cope by themselves and require the support of Inclusion Teachers who are certified in Special Education.
Are we teaching our children to “adore” and “venerate” artists and athletes as if they were supernatural beings? Look at the outpour of adulation toward Joe Paterno, a good football coach without a doubt, but his fans clearly are ready to build him a mausoleum in spite of his troubling lack of action in the pedophile scandal. He was just a coach, a weak old man who enjoyed the adoring multitude at every football game. The same is happening with politicians who compete for the Republican nomination; looking at the photographs of Newton Gingrich at a political rally one can detect the rapt attention of his followers who seem to believe that he walks on water. A movie star like Tom Cruise will be mobbed wherever he goes by demented crowds anxious to get a glimpse of the action hero. The same applies to villains: Madoff, at the end, was pushed and shoved by avid photographers and had to fight his way through curious passers-by who surrounded him.
Rick Santorum just destroyed public education in a recent interview with Bob Schieffer (CBS) last Sunday. His recent rise to prominence at the expense of Mitt Romney, the moderate Republican candidate to the White House, has allowed the public to hear more details regarding his various ideas to improve our nation. He managed to insult President Obama’s religious beliefs by mentioning a strange theology in reference to contraception, a practice espoused by the vast majority of American women. By the same token, he proposed leaving education to parents and local communities and doing away completely with both federal and state governments’ intervention.
Some parents, too many unfortunately, “dump” their children at school from 8 to 4 so they can pursue their own careers. They are not particularly interested in their kids’ behavior and/or information and/or learning process. It is, after all, kid stuff, not worthy of adults who face their high-level responsibilities in the real world. A father told me a year ago that his son should have only one goal: to pass his classes. Nothing else was expected of him at home, not even to participate in chores. The parent was clearly indicating that school was a separate entity, separate from family affairs. Getting good grades was the only concern, not learning, or acquiring social skills, or playing sports, or discovering historical heroes, or bonding with teachers.
Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt (Shakespeare)
NCLB (No Child Left Behind) was enacted in 2002 with the best intentions, though we all know that Hell is also paved with the best intentions. After 10 years of mixed results, it is time to part with it, as witnessed by the Obama administration granting waivers to any State willing to accept it. The head of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan, recently said that NCLB is so broken that it actually is an obstacle to educational improvement. Imagine that! The federal government itself is condemning the law, yet still applies it to all public schools until Congress gets off its large behind to change or eliminate it.
The excellent response to the first Inclusion article moves me to continue on the topic and explore its hidden facets. Inclusion in the classroom, as mentioned before, means that there are two certified teachers dealing with the 20+ students in high school (Elementary and middle schools offer a different scenario such as team teaching and/or co-teaching). While one teacher gives the class with a lecture followed by specific assignments, the inclusion teacher, certified in special education, will walk around and check the students’ work, focusing mainly on those who are academically challenged.
In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years. ~Jacques Barzun
Washington let us know that most states are interested in getting a waiver to the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) law that was forcing school districts to face impossible academic challenges. I applaud the measure for two important reasons: 1) The NCLB clause that demanded 100% proficiency on state testing by 2014 was simply ridiculous. As a special education teacher, I know firsthand how much pressure this placed on schools; there are always some students who simply cannot deal with the rigors of the academic world; they possess a low level of intelligence or come from a troubled family background which prevents them from focusing on school. 2) Our Constitution clearly states that education is the prerogative of States, not Washington. The fact that school districts receive federal funding should not turn into a blackmail tool in the hands of out-of-touch bureaucrats.