Redneck Review

Friday, September 23, 2005

Who Is Special?

Here is one where I will step on some educational toes. Put on your
steel-toed boots, baby. I've worked myself into a rant.

We had a Teachers' Inservice Day today, with a guest speaker on
Special Education. She was very good. She believed in what she
was saying. She was a great advocate for the kids. She knew the
law. She raised some questions with me.

I have been a regular classroom teacher. I have taught elementary
PE through high school physics. And that was just in one school.
I have had my share of Special Education students. I have taught
PE to autistic students. One had no idea what she was doing, but
she was game. As long as she could sing her little song, she would
let us help her bat in softball, and fit in pretty well. This was 6th
grade, and the other students were very protective of her.

In the same school, I had an autistic 2nd grade boy. He functioned
a little better, but had great trouble with transitions. And he always
wore brown pointy-toed cowboy boots. Many a day my shins were
kicked by those boots, because he wouldn't want to come in from
PE. He would cry or scream like someone was murdering him while
kicking away at me. He had no aide (excuse me, paraprofessional,
with him). I had no choice but to pull him down the hall like a water-
skier. Hey, he had ahold of my arm, trying to pull me back outside. I
couldn't leave him or the other kids alone, so when we went in, he got
a ride down the hall powered by the SS Hillbilly Mom. I'm sure there
was a better way to handle it, but I did not know of one.

I also taught middle school science at another school, and had
seven BD students mainstreamed into my 7th hour class. Yeah,
7th hour. Most of them had never even had science before. That
is what gets left out, what with the reading and math and special
classes and all. But I had to have them all together so the self-
contained BD teacher could get her prep time. Sucked to be me.
Or the other students in that 7th hour science class.

So here is my gripe. At what point do we worry about the other
kids? The average kid who needs a fair shot at the teacher's
attention. Our speaker pointed out that some of her kids function
on the level of a 1- or 2-year-old. Someone asked why they are
allowed to go to school. Shouldn't they be functioning at the level
of a 5-year-old to attend? Nope. They have the legal right to attend
if they are chronologically 5 years old. She said she has kindergarten
and first grade. Only 4 of her 12 students are potty-trained. That
is one of her main goals for them, to be able to use the bathroom
by themselves by the time they get to high school.

I know parents want what is best for their kid. Our speaker said
she had an IEP meeting with 27 people present. About 7 of them
were lawyers. People know their rights, she told us. But at what
point do their rights infringe on others rights?

Here is my gripe. I have a kid who is gifted. Oh, but our school
had to cut out the gifted teacher due to budget problems. So for
four years now, no one has been tested for the gifted class. They
offered an after-school program for gifted, and my boy went two
days a week. But now they have only 2 students who were tested
and identified as gifted. So they are letting students into the after-
school program who have been recommended by their teachers.
My boy wants none of that. He says if they are letting anyone in,
it will not mean anything.

More of my gripe...How much do we spend on the other end of
the spectrum? We have Title I Reading and Title I Math. We have
MR and LD and BD and At-Risk and IEPs and 504s for others
who don't fit neatly into those categories. We have an after-school
remedial program that even serves supper. But where is the money
to help MY kid? Why should he be kept working at the level of the
"average" students? I have never told him his IQ, but it is definitely
above average. I will mention it a little later. I don't want him to see
it if he walks in while I'm typing this. When he was 9, he was reading
at 11th grade ninth month level. But they didn't have any books at the
elementary library for him. So he read 4th grade books for his
STAR Reader or Accelerated Reader or whatever it was that
they take computerized tests on. Sorry I don't know that elementary
reading program lingo. But he was consistently in the 99th percentile
and was not challenged at all.

Lucky for me he's a self-motivated kid. He was constantly on his
computer at home (when he wasn't taking it apart) looking up
stuff like the space-time continuum or reading technical computer
stuff. I got him subscriptions to computer magazines. But don't
you think that when a kid tests at one forty-eight, he should get
some type of special help to reach his potential? Maybe you don't.
But I do.

So don't go boohooing how these other kids need inclusion and
mainstreaming and least restrictive environment, or remediation to
get their test scores up, while leaving MY child to his own devices
to educate himself when he must be dying a slow death of
boredom on the inside while the school days slip away without
anybody shedding one little tear about helping him achieve his
potential. Is it fair to help one end of the spectrum but not the
other? Oh, but life isn't fair, is it?

He doesn't want me to make a big deal about this. He says, "Mom,
that will just make them take it out on me. Don't say anything."

Yeah, we have No Child Left Behind. Why can't we have
No Child Kept Behind.


  • At 11:21 PM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    So here is my gripe. At what point do we worry about the other

    I'm with you, HBMomma! I struggle to prepare one lesson plan for each of the FOUR preps I have, but because of this wonderful "inclusion" idea, I really have to have 2-3 or more versions of the same plan in order to cater to the genuises as well as the special ed kids, all of whom are in the same classes. I have kids who finish every task before certain others have managed to comprehend the expectation of the assignment, much less get finished with it!

    First of all, it's not a fair expectation of ME. It's insane to expect me to effectively teach special ed children--something I've had no training in, mind you--at the same time that I'm teaching the average and above average students. Secondly, it's not fair to the special needs students. They spend the entire confused. It reinforces their negative self image and confirms what everyone has been telling them their whole life--that they're stupid--when in reality they could succeed in the proper environment with the proper instruction, which they are not going to get in First Year Teacher Ms. Ann's English class. Thirdly, it's not fair for the average and above average kids. I don't have time to answer their questions many times because I am so busy catering to the special needs kids. It's also hard to maintain the illusion of consistency in a 7th grade class when one kid is told he should already know the material on the test, and at the very same time I'm REQUIRED to read the test aloud to a special needs student and allow him to answer orally. To the kids who dont' know the situation, it looks a hell of a lot like I'm giving him the answers, or some very special treatment at the least.

    I think it's unfair to the "special" children, more than anything. And it's such a joke that this is the solution we've come up with for handling them. "Inclusion" or "mainstreaming" are politically correct code words for "We don't want to spend the money on an appropriate program, so we're going to say they've got the right to the same education as everyone else and then nobly uphold that right by throwing them all in the same classroom."

    No Child Left Behind is a JOKE. We still leave them behind--we just don't leave them behind ALONE.

    I've got kids who are 16+ years old in my 7th and 8th grade classes, and they are only there because the new law won't allow them to drop out until they're 18. For the love of God, let them drop out at 16 if they want! They're only decreasing the value of the experience for the ones who can still be taught.

  • At 11:33 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    Yay, Miss Ann.
    We in the trenches KNOW what's going on. If I had a special needs child of the other type, I think I would rather he get special attention, not be thrown in with everyone else. He can socialize at bowling, or Boy Scouts, or 4H, or some other activity. Teach him in the way he can learn and feel success. Don't lower the grading scale or expectations to accommodate him. Let him be with a teacher trained to teach him, who will fight for him, not just tolerate him.

    But that's just me.

  • At 10:02 AM, Blogger jules said…

    I've experienced this from both ends of the spectrum. I'm a paraprofessional (glorified aide) in Special Ed, and I totally agree with what you're saying about the regular kids left out! And we totally shortchange our special ed kids in the "other" classes, like science, history, etc. My own son was special ed, and didn't get these classes, due to going to resource, etc. It's totally messed up. I've often thought the US will soon have all special ed classes, with one class per grade level for the "normal" kids.

  • At 2:55 PM, Blogger MrsCoach2U said…

    My husband teaches too. Our son is 7, reads on a 5th grade level and yet no one bothers to make sure there are appropriate reading materials available to him. None of his teachers take the time to realize because he has his work done and done right that he isn't also struggling. He struggles to make sure it's perfect each and every time. When you ask him why, he'll say "because my dad's football kids can't read and write and I don't want to be stupid when I'm 17". Now, where is the funding to keep the "smart" kids smart, it's not there, if they get done before everyone else because they work they are doing is so far behind thier grade level just give them something to color. Seems to me a lot of the kids will finally quit reading ahead in their books or making 100's because they are bored. If they fall behind their teacher gives them the work 3 times and all her time to help them with it. A lot of our LD kids need some parent one on one and a little less teacher one on one.

  • At 6:33 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    I agree. There is special help for everyone these days, with just a few "regular" kids left. They get short-changed. Seems like there was some reason we started the special classes in the first place. Now they want everyone together again. And neither group benefits.

    Mrs. Coach,
    Yeah, they don't do any enrichment with kids who are ahead. I teach At-Risk kids, and some of them are VERY smart. But they have given up on doing work because they are bored. They get more attention by not doing it.


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