If you have been following me on this blog or on twitter, you have noticed a change of tone in my posts. I have been delving into issues concerning special education more and more. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for those who know me, since I have had to pursue my special education license with the acceptance of my “new” job here at the juvenile center. This has been a struggle for me, my journey in education was never intended to take this path- and I still want to cling to my title of mathematics teacher rather than special education teacher. I continue to struggle with this difference daily, but one thing I am grateful for is the fact that since I have taken this journey it has caused me to question a great many things.
The first nagging question for me was the concept of an inclusive classroom. From the reading I have done lately, there is a heavy emphasis on what we do with students with learning disabilities. At the same time, the types of strategies and accommodations they suggest are such that would benefit all learners in the classroom, not just those identified as needing special services (and I blogged about some of this here). Personally I can tell you that while I do have students with IEPs in my classroom, I know of many students who should qualify, but do not have a big enough discrepancy between IQ and performance. With this knowledge, how can I lie to myself by thinking I am providing the best education for my students without changing my classroom practices? The hardest thing for any of us is change, and many of us fear it. We need to quit justifying what we are doing in the classroom and know is wrong- we are not doing what is best for the students, we are doing what is best for ourselves. The last time I checked, I wasn’t doing this for the fame or money- I am doing this because of the kids. Remember that when you are faced with new programs, curriculum, or assignments. There will always be a lot of work up front, but once you get that accomplished you will find that you are enjoying what you are doing more and students are learning and having fun.
The second question that has come up is how general education teachers do not want to talk about how they purposefully design lessons for students with disabilities. I co-moderate #msmathchat on Monday nights, 9EST, and while it gave me a wealth of things to think about- there were a lot of voices who remained quiet or provided “safe” answers. I love msmathchat because its a fluid conversation, where we can throw out ideas and talk about them in a safe environment. It has been the best PD I have found for a long time. The past two weeks were different, and that could be my fault as a moderator but I also have a feeling that it was because of the topic. We need to start purposefully designing lessons with these students in mind, and it can be used for any class. Don’t run the same subject class two different ways because of the presence or absence of students with learning disabilities, always run them as if you do have them! I have yet to come across research that proves students are hindered with these accommodations, yet I continually find research that says these interventions provide positive learning opportunities for all students.
I would like to hear of what teachers are doing to provide these positive experiences in their classroom, please send me links or comments!
The struggle is real, for me to define what kind of teacher I really am as well as how I haven’t purposefully designed my class with these interventions as a norm. Time to make that struggle an accomplishment.