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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

ALL Our Children

I'm annoyed.

There's a game we special education teachers are forced to play sometimes and it's this: Try To Soften the Blow For Regular Education Teachers Who Don't Want "Issues" In Their Classes.

Now don't get me wrong, I very rarely come across a teacher who makes it clear that he/she doesn't want kids with special needs in his/her room, it's behaviors that they don't want and quite often, kids with special needs also have behavior issues. What makes it easier for them to target the kids with special needs is that they have a case manager like myself to whom they can plead to have the child removed from the class for various reasons.

Case #1 I had a girl who was not dressing for P.E. I figured out that she had no P.E. clothes at home and was living in "one of the most disgusting houses I have ever seen" according to another special educator. Rather than admit to this, she masked her pitiful situation with defiance (as many children do). The P.E. teacher was sick of her and asked me to remove her from his class since she was going to fail anyway. Removing her wouldn't have benefited her at all at this point, it would only have benefited him in that he wouldn't have to deal with her. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he made no attempt to understand her or even listen to me when I told him my findings.

Case #2 A technology teacher gets to teach a fun little class with fun students who are interested in what they're doing. One of my students with Asperger Syndrome LOVES computers and so I put him in the class. I give her my usual "Here's student X" bio of his strengths, weaknesses and any behavior concerns to keep an eye out for through e-mail and I get about five back in the first day stating many different reasons why it would be best not to put him in the class. This is before she even met the kid. He ended up being just fine and she enjoyed having him.

Case #3 Same tech teacher. I'm giving her another student this year and yet again, I get the five frantic e-mails. She even tried to make it seem like the difficult text would be the best reason why my student couldn't join the class. I requested a copy of the book from her and she handed it to me in her best "boy-isn't-this-the-most-huge-and-intimidating-book-you've-ever-seen" way and I said I'd just go over the material with my girl before she even gets to class so she'd walk in with a confident step. No problem.

I actually like this teacher, she's a nice woman, but I'm sick and tired of this attitude that "those kids" are just mine and that no one else has to adapt to incorporate them and include them in the class' structure.

Case #4 I'm sick of instances like a speech therapist who say she won't see my student because "he doesn't want to see me, and I'm not going to work with a student who doesn't want to work with me". Wouldn't that be nice??! Oh my God, all this time I've been coaxing and needling and bonding, I could have just cut them off like a gangrenous limb and left them to someone else? I can understand that many teachers who don't have the luxuries I have (I rarely have to design lessons, I rarely have to grade) may not have the time, but if they've got someone like me who DOES have the time, who is willing to help them understand the child and facilitate his/her education in their room, they shouldn't dismiss it because it doesn't fit into their idea of what a good classroom looks like.

These may not be the kids of yore with the polished apple and a "please sir" obsequious tone, but they are OUR children and we have no right to avoid teaching them because we're too lazy to care.

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