Being an inclusion teacher, as mentioned in previous articles, requires a good rapport with the classroom teacher. Both must work as a team in high school (not to be confused with the academic teams at elementary and middle school levels) and both must have a very specific role to play. If either one lacks the necessary training and information, the class situation may turn chaotic very quickly. Students detect immediately the lack of preparation and/or cooperation and take advantage of it by behaving erratically, checking their smart phones, listening to their iPods, or talking loudly while the main teacher tries to start the instruction process.
Smart Phones Anyone?
Electronic devices have become the bane of modern classrooms; in a group of 30 teens, at least 20 if not more are playing, texting, or checking messages inside the classroom. All the signs posted on the wall prohibiting such behavior are for naught; it takes a very strict teacher at the high school level to “scare” the kids into putting their devices away during the class. Strict teachers are rare as most of them refuse to play the role of a cop or tyrant; it takes a lot of time away from the instruction period. Which leads me to the question: Should the inclusion teacher impose discipline in the classroom, thus helping the regular teacher?
The response by my colleagues has been ambivalent; some say they do while others, like me, try to stay away from this difficult task. Allow me to explain before some irate readers start writing accusatory comments. I do try to help but sometimes the classroom teacher is either unable or unwilling to impose order. I even had an unpleasant reaction from a female student whom I tried to wake up; she said that I wasn’t her teacher and to leave her alone. This incident illustrates the perception by many teens that special education is a world apart that should be shunned by “normal” kids. If the regular teacher doesn’t do his/her job, I won’t either simply because I have enough on my plate without attempting to take over an unruly class. By the way, if any of you have never had the pleasure of handling a roomful of hormone-rich teenagers 6 hours a day, I invite you to come and observe: It ain’t easy!
Here is a novel idea: Let us allow students to use electronic devices inside the classroom as long as these are focused on the academic topic! “Right”, says one of my colleagues, “watch how fast they spend their time chatting online or listening to music (whatever that maybe nowadays for them)”; “well”, I reply snappily, “they go to the computer labs and most of them, with proper supervision, do the job properly”. Some high schools, right now, are using tablets generously donated by Apple. So why don’t we get rid of expensive desktops and laptops to concentrate on much cheaper devices?
Sorry, I was off topic! Discipline in the classroom is 90% responsibility of the classroom teacher, not of the inclusion teacher; the latter will help as needed but his/her main function is to assist special education students who struggle to comprehend the lecture. The instructor teaches and gives grades while the inclusion specialist finds ways to help the academically challenged learners.