Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Inclusion Assignment: A very intersting set of articles and a little story

Educational Alternatives Connect the Dots #2: Perspectives on Inclusion
Margaret Roth
September 21,2011

Reading Assignment for Connect the Dots #2 includes:
Chapter 13 from the textbook
The Unintended Side Effects of Inclusion of Students with learning Disabilities: The Perspectives of Special Education Teachers
The Unintended Side Effects of Inclusion of Students with learning Disabilities: The Perspectives of School Administrators
Middle School General Education Teachers’ Perspectives on Including Students with learning Disabilities

Assignment: Discuss the different perspectives of general education teachers, special education teachers, and administrators in considering inclusion of students with learning disabilities. Which aspects of effective teaching practices are most relevant to your classroom?

It seems that from ever level of the educational process, from classroom teacher to district law makers, a different perspective and approach to the inclusion of students with learning disabilities is proposed. In these texts the main perspectives that were discussed were the perspectives of general education teachers, special education teachers, and school administrators.

To begin with, lets discuss the perspective of the general education teacher, in my opinion, the teacher with the most comprehensive understanding of how students as a whole, regardless of additional needs or not, interact and experience effective learning. Overall, general education teachers are supportive of the inclusion and incorporation of students with learning disabilities into their classroom in theory, however upon implementation have many struggles amassing the necessary resources and adapting their teaching style. The teachers involved in the Ornelles study discussed that their main problems were feeling that they were less than equipped with the knowledge of what to do with SPED kids (a term clearly displaying their feelings of discomfort), that they struggled with integrating student accommodations when state testing opposed these accommodations (calculators), and that they struggled with always keeping the student aids in the loop. Most importantly, the general education teachers have realized that by having more adults in the room and including the students with needs in their classes, the overall performance of students has improved and the stigma of “special ed” has been removed. In summary, the mentality of general education teachers seems to be that if you can give a student to make him successful and make him understand the big picture, he should be allowed these resources and included in the general education classroom. More importantly, it seems that general education teachers agree that by making these types of accommodations, they have been forced to push the boundaries of their own conventional ideologies and develop more interesting and engaging lessons for all of their students and ultimately improving the academic success of all of their students.

Probably the perspective which sees the most diversity in opinion is the perspective of the special education teacher who’s role as an educator has been dramatically altering over the past few decades of educational theory due to changes in legislative implementation. As addressed in the Tankersley study, many general education teachers feel that inclusion practices have benefited their students while possibly negatively damaging their professional life. The main points that the special education students shared with the investigators were that they were able to “get out of the basement” and stop being viewed as outsiders to the school communities, and that their students have the ability to learn from general education students and as special education teachers they have the opportunity to learn teaching strategies from the general education teachers. However, in the face of positivity, many special education teachers feel that students needing special education services are not truly getting what they need due to the lack of training of the general education teacher and the lack of collaboration between the two. It seems to me that the other main problem that special education teachers have with inclusion practices is the amount time that their professional lives reach into their personal lives and that general education teachers do not have an understanding of the difficulties of being a travelling teacher. Most importantly, special education teachers feel that they and their students do not always have the support necessary to be successful, but that this will likely improve as inclusion becomes more the norm.

What could likely be considered the most distant perspective of special education inclusion in classrooms is the perspective of the administrators. In the Crockett study it is first noted that school administrators are the most essential aspect of successful inclusion practices. In the study many of the administrators reported that they, in all forms, are held more accountable for their actions regarding all students including special education students. While their perspective is immediately distant from the classroom, administrators may have the greatest comprehension of how inclusion of special education students affects the school community as a whole. The administrators seem to have a neutral opinion on it, for they see and hear the stress that it causes the teachers and some of the students, as well as the benefits it has for general education and special education students alike.

As discussed in the Ornelles article, I personally am most affect by the co-teaching segment of the discussion. At this point in my teaching career I am acting as a co-teacher in an inclusive general education classroom. In each of my classes I have a minimum of four students with IEPs and a maximum of seven students with IEPs, therefore all of my classes have at least two adults and up to four adults in the room at any given time. Personally, I feel that while I am really enjoying working with all of the students, I am also the adult given the least respect initially. This is due to the fact that my co-teacher really is the one doing the teaching and that I am assisting all of the students when they need help. Furthermore, all of the IEP aids have been with these students for several years, so I am the most unknown face in the classroom. It is not that the students are disrespectful, it is just that they are more comfortable with me and see me as an intermediate between the teacher and them. The aspects of effective teaching practices in relation to special education inclusion that are most relevant to the classroom that I co-teach in is the interaction between special education students and general education students and the effect of increased adult interaction on all students. Due to the fact that there are often three or more adults rotatating to help all of the students in our classroom, the students stay on task more and are able to have many one-on-one opportunities every day. I personally make a point to stop and talk directly to each group of two students a minimum of once each class period. Probably the most important aspect of the benefits of inclusion that I have seen so far is the inclusion of an autistic student in our upper level seventh grade language arts class. Not only does he excel and participate actively in the class, but all of the other students are supportive of him and understand his many ticks as though they were part of their everyday normal lives. That is the best part, they are normal to these students and they respect the student’s differences. Because this student has been in with this group since they were in fourth grade, he is able to be completely included in all activities. Even though this little tangent is off topic, I will now describe a moment that really touched me and was probably the first time I truly understood the value of inclusion. At recess this student plays four square with everyone else, however the student is not the best at four square and sometimes falls and trips up. There was one incidence where the student fell onto his hands, it looked painful to me, there were no scratches or blood, but he sat on the group and looked at his hands. He had the face of tears, I was afraid it was coming, that I would be dealing with my first crying student. However, his classmates knew how to deal with this, like it had happened before. One of the girls got down with him to tell him it was okay and showed him that his hands were fine it just hurt on the inside. At the same time many of the other students were also saying consoling and soothing things to him to make him feel better and they helped him get up. As soon as he was up he was happy and fine again and jumped back into the line to play again. In a place where inclusion was not the norm and there were students that did not understand and support this student, he would not be able to have such a happy and supportive experience in his school. It made me very happy.

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