Friday, August 18, 2006

Welcome to Our World

For those readers who are not participants in the wacky world of education, there is something out there called an "inclusion class". An inclusion class is, quite simply, a regular education class (say, math or reading) that has special education students in it. The goal is to move special education students out of special education classes (where their classmates are all special ed as well) into inclusion classes where there's a mix of kids. To help, a special education teacher comes into the room to help the special education kids with a bit more one-on-one assistance.

At The School there are three seventh grade teams. This means that the inclusion classes are rotated from team to team so that one teacher doesn't get stuck teaching the inclusion classes year after year. I say "stuck" because many of these regular education teachers don't teach special education students on a regular basis and, as a result, aren't used to having them. In fact, most of them are used to teaching at least one advanced class every year so having a slower class tends to freak them out.

This year my team has the inclusion classes and Mrs. Math, Mrs. Language and Ms. Reading are freaking out big time.

Granted, we have some low kids. Painfully low kids. Kids who have an awful time just getting their agenda filled out at the beginning of class.


Mr. Social Studies and I teach special education kids EVERY YEAR. After all, science and social studies are two subjects for which there are no special education classes so the special ed kids "come out" for our two subjects. And we have NEVER, EVER, seen a special education teacher or an aide grace our doorway. Each and every year we have these kids, each and every year we modify assignments, come up with notes for the kids to highlight or copy from their seat (since many have trouble copying from the board), make modified tests, try to give the kids a little one-on-one time and hope the rest of the class doesn't go insane in the meantime, and so on. And each and every year we do it all by ourselves, with just us and the kids. And even though there isn't, technically, an inclusion class for our subjects there might as well be since a lot of the special ed kids are taking the same classes and therefore have similar schedules. It's not unusual to have 3-6 of them in a class. Most years we end up with a few that are hard workers and then a few who've figured out that they can do nothing and pass because it's written in their IEP that we have to pass them.

And this year Mr. Social Studies and I are thinking we're really lucky because we ended up with a good crop of special education kids who work, who try, who ask questions, and who are as nice as could be. They are a dream!

And we sit there at lunch and listen to the others on the team whining and complaining about how low these kids are, how hard it is to teach them and the other kids in the same class, and on and on.

So today the whining and wailing and gnashing of teeth are in full form and Mr. Social Studies and I are sitting there with big huge grins on our faces. We are truly enjoying wathcing these three get worked up over something that we do all the time with absolutely no help whatsoever. Mrs. Math sees this and snaps, "What?" (I'm sure we were looking rather smug.)

"Welcome to our World," we say.


HappyChyck said...

I hear ya! I worked in a school where 30% of the students had IEPs. I think some of that was actually behavior problems kind of issues, but with those numbers I had SpEd kids in every class. Most of the years I figured it out on my own and could rarely get any support from the SpEd teachers. It was frustrating in those early years when I didn't know what to do because I was not very experienced and didn't have much training. But at least I tried, which, amazingly a lot of teachers don't. When the times came that we refreshed our SpEd department with new teachers and new plans for dealing with our population, it was so nice! Although I knew more about teaching SpEd than some of them did and could practically conduct an IEP meeting with a parent, it was nice to have another teacher to collaborate with on best techniques.

Oh! And in my 7th year at that school when I actually got an aide in my classroom, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! That aide was there really for a specific student, but you know that aides cannot really be hired for ONE student, so she did help with others--and I happened to have 4 other SpEd in that particular class. And wouldn't you know it? They all happened to be in the class with about 5 of the top students in that grade. OY!

You're so lucky to have some good kids who actually want to try. I know I'm preachin' to the choir here, but nothing is more frustrating than to go through all this extra work to help out a SpEd student only to have him not try and/or decide to be a behavior problem instead.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Tell me about it. I had a few last year that were nothing but oxygen theives. Of course the fact that their parents couldn't be bothered probably had a lot to do with it - if mom and dad don't care about their education, why should they?