There is a problem in our schools today with teachers who teach students in special education classrooms. Teachers seem to be too involved or not involved enough. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.
Up until recently, I had spent most of the last two years as a substitute teacher. Since many of the substitutes were unwilling to teach in a special education classroom, and I was one who was willing to work in this type of classroom, I often found myself as a substitute in a special education classroom as either a teacher or an aide. There I saw the interaction of the teachers with the students and heard about it through others I worked alongside.
It seems to me that those who need the most help such as the autistic children or those with Down Syndrome are pushed aside and sort of forgotten about by the teachers. These students are given to teacher’s aides, who already have two or three other similar children they have to deal with, or else the children are given an activity to keep the children busy but not productive. Many of these children do not have parents at home who really care about their educations. Unfortunately, these parents see the school as a free daycare center. If the teachers get involved in the education of these students, these students can do better in school and feel more normal. Sure, most autistic children will never be completely like their peers, but with help, they can interact with their peers and feel like they belong at school. With the teacher’s help, many of them can be a productive part of society.
Yet, there are also the teachers who get too involved in the student’s learning. Some teachers expect very little of the children in their classrooms. I have seen this a lot in resource classrooms where the children are there to get help from a group of adults. In these classrooms, sometimes the teachers and the aides just give the answers to the children. I have even seen a teacher hand the answers to the test to a student and tell the student to just copy down the answers or a teacher on a multiple choice test give the student two answers. When the student picked the wrong one, the teacher told the student to rethink her response. How is this helping the kids?
People who give the students the answers often have the response that the student couldn’t get the answer without that sort of help. I think that’s wrong. I’m not saying this about all students who are in a resource classroom setting, but the problem for some of them is not that they can’t mentally get the answers. The problem is that they are too lazy to attempt it on their own, and they know someone else will give them the answers. I have seen this myself. When I refuse to give them the answers and only help them find the page or the section where the answer is, somehow they are still able to get the answer after extensive complaining about how I am so mean because I will not give them the answer. My thought on this is that if they want a good grade, they need to work for it, just like everyone else.
Helping students rather than just giving them the answers helps them not only right now but in the future. Not getting too involved in the student’s learning helps to give the student self-confidence. It helps the student to be ready for the world after high school. If as a high school graduate, a student still does not know that 10 is an even number and 17 is an odd number, something went wrong in that child’s education, especially if most of their classes were normal high school classes. If a student in high school thinks a “k” is a “c” when naming letters, something went wrong along the way.* Teachers may feel like they are helping a student by helping the student to pass a class and even to get a good grade in the class. In the end, though, the teacher is just harming the students progress.
*These are real instances of high school students that I encountered while substituting in a high school resource room where the students would come in one period of the day for help with homework. These students spent most of their day in a normal classroom setting supposedly doing the same work as their peers. They were only coming into the resource room in a study hall sort of setting where they could get “help” from teachers and aides.