“The inclusion of children with disabilities in general preschool and child care programs is becoming more and more common. Parents, teachers, and researchers have found that children benefit in many ways from integrated programs that are designed to meet the needs of all children”
Read more on TeacherVision: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/special-education/resource/2942.html#ixzz1urwDGpJW
As the school year comes to an end in two more weeks, I want to take a moment to reflect on the exact role of an inclusion teacher, my job. The modern tendency has been, for the last 10 years, to ‘push’ special education kids toward mainstream, that is to take classes with the non-disabled students, at least at the high school level where I work. Elementary schools have them in regular classes but pull them out at regular intervals to give them additional teaching, while middle schools still resort to resource classes (small groups of special education students).
In other words, the role of the inclusion teacher has expanded considerably, while many classroom teachers still scratch their heads and wonder what to do with the ‘invader’. Our level of influence depends mostly on our credibility and personality, and how well we can negotiate with the teacher who gives grades. There is NO MANUAL or set of rules that define our authority over the students, which is why, I imagine, one of my special ed students said the other day that I wasn’t his teacher (he only recognizes the one grading his work). OK, the kid is a bad student and not the typical disabled teen who studies hard and who accepts my collaboration eagerly. Still, this example shows that my specific role has not been defined except in the vaguest terms.
Sometimes we feel like pioneers and do what the famous Mexican song recommends: Build a path where no path existed before. But the real task is to prepare classroom teachers for the inclusion strategy to work. Too often I hit a wall of ignorance regarding our specific role; many teachers believe that I must be present the whole period from bell to bell. That is simply not possible, except in some very specific cases in which both teachers give instruction, a situation also known as team teaching. In high school, this simply does not work; we are much more consultants than classroom teachers. Our role demands constant contact with parents and the students themselves in separate meetings and/or re-teaching needs.
It is time to tackle the problem head on and actually dedicate pre-service (also known as in-service) sessions entirely to inclusion strategies and requirements. This training must be for BOTH the regular and inclusion teachers at the same time. It is time to end the de facto segregation between the classroom teachers and the special education mentors. Even though we cannot create one model for all, we can establish ground rules that both instructors can live with. If I come late to class, it doesn’t mean I was scratching my belly while listening to Mozart; it means I was busy attending to the needs of a parent, or of a student requiring a change of schedule, or preparing classnotes for some slower kids, or reviewing a possible change in modifications and accommodations.
That is the beauty of the inclusion system; it allows me to follow each student’s progress closely, something the regular teacher can’t do (he or she has 150 kids, while I have at most between 30 and 40). I study their folder extensively with a special attention to their assessment. This is information and conclusions I must share with my regular colleague to devise strategies that will benefit the student. Many of them however do not understand that need and fail to differentiate their curriculum (lesson plan).
We must decide on a national level what we want the inclusion teachers to do specifically while still giving each school enough latitude to adapt the rules to their specific needs. Will somebody take the initiative?