English teacher Mrs. G had a dilemma; a new student was added to her English 11 class. The student was quiet, responsible, and had obtained a 3.5 GPA. But, this didn’t matter to Mrs. G. She didn’t want the student in her class when she discovered he was a resource (RSP) student.
The teacher claimed that “it never works out” when she has a special needs student in her class, and she was adamant about keeping him out. First, she approached the student’s case-carrier (often an RSP special education teacher who observes and monitors a group of mainstreamed students with special needs). When the case-carrier refused to remove the student, she pleaded unsuccessfully for the administrators to fulfill her request.
Such incidents are not uncommon. While the trend in special education is to mainstream these students, scores of general education teachers are objecting to it. Their reasons are many; some believe they will not have the time to accommodate them in a full class, or think that the student will have a difficult time keeping up with the academic rigors.
There’s also a group of teachers who simply reject the notion of mainstreaming, for it means they may have to change their teaching style or contend with students they feel will be disruptive and cause behavioral issues in the classroom.
So what’s a case-carrier to do? The key to dealing with teachers who object is to do several things: establish collaboration, educate them on learning disabilities, and/or get the administrators involved.
Objections from teachers can be reduced if the case-carrier collaborates on a regular basis. The primary job of the case-carrier is to ensure that their students are being exposed to the same curriculum and are taught the same lessons as their non-disabled peers.
Collaboration is a method of building a relationship with the case-carrier, specialists (speech therapists or DIS counselors), teachers, and administrators. The case-carrier’s relationship with the teacher is most important. The two will have to work together by supplying help or information that can ultimately help the special needs students.
This particular relationship is more than just informing. It can take on the form of team-teaching in which the general education teachers and special educators team up to teach classes with both types of students. Many schools have incorporated this approach with much success.
However, not all schools have this option. Collaboration may have to take on a more creative form. This process may include lesson planning with the general education teachers; weekly or monthly meetings between the educators; or incorporating a pull-out system in which the case-carriers takes the students out for an hour or two to teach them certain academic basics or study skills.
Pull-out systems were once the rave. However, the movement to fully include special needs students (especially RSP students) has been embraced by most schools. Still, there are times when this system is needed; especially if the students need speech therapy, district in service (DIS) counseling, or a quiet environment to take an exam or complete an assignment. This is often the case-carriers office or classroom.
Also, collaboration may involve other techniques and technology. Special educators may supply the students and teachers with devices meant to help the students. One such item is the FM speaker system in which students with auditory processing disorders or hearing impairments wear headsets and receiver that picks up and amplifies the voice of the teacher (the teacher wears a microphone).
Educate the Educators
A big problem in mainstreaming is the perception many general education teachers have of this particular group of students. Many focus on the behavioral issues while some believe that the students are not intellectually equipped to handle the rigors of general education.
The cause for this belief is apparent: many teachers don’t understand the type of learning disabilities that exist, or have misconceptions – even biases – toward special needs students.
Case-carriers need to take the time to educate the teachers on what students with special needs can or cannot do. They also need to show them tactics or accommodations they can use to help the students.
In truth, many of the special needs students – especially those who have been mainstreamed – will have the intellectual ability to learn in a general education setting. However, they may need more attention in order to get the most out of the curriculum. This is something case-carriers need to educate and general education teacher with.
Another area that special educators need to teach the educators is on the matter of the law. Special education is one of the most litigious parts of the educational world. If students with special needs are not being accommodated, there’s a possibility that parents with lawyers or advocates can take legal actions and sue the teacher, as well as the school (for more information on special education law go here).
Get the Administrators Involved
Some teachers, such as Mrs. G, simply don’t want to work with special needs teachers. They’ll refuse to accommodate them, or not take their disabilities into account when assessing them. And, these teachers may seek ways to have the students removed from their classrooms. Even the threat of a law suit will not convince these teachers to taking such action.
In these cases, an administrator – in particular, the one who heads special education – needs to get involved. This is precisely what happened in the case of Mrs. G. An administrator had to step in and take action (in this case, reminding her about laws pertaining to special education).
Taking punitive actions is not always the reason a case-carrier should contact the administrator. Sometimes, the teacher is simply not a good fit for the student. In this matter, the case-carrier can have the student removed and placed in a classroom where a teachercan offer the accommodations, educational services, or the willingness to work with students with learning disabilities.
Luckily for Mrs. G, she ended up dropping her complaints and allowing the student to take her class. As it turned out, the student passed the class with a B+.
This objection has left many special educators in a quandary in which they must balance the needs of the students with the professional relationship between the educators. However, a special educator in this position must realize one thing: the student’s needs come first.