I don’t think this is happening intentionally. But it is happening.
Special education students (SpEd students) are being written off almost entirely by many teachers in the general education setting.
There are some GenEd teachers who have an incredible ability to change their lessons to meet SpEd students where they are, while also maintaining the passion for truly reaching out to those students.
Others, however, know that SpEd students already have a network of support from their special education teachers so they don’t give them much time or attention. In fact, I’ve noticed that, often times, there’s not much of a purpose whatsoever for SpEd students to spend time in the GenEd setting, other than for interaction.
Initially, I thought this theory was all in my head. A mistaken perception.
But as the school year went on, and I was able to work with more and more SpEd students, I started to realize how differently their time looked in the GenEd classroom.
They’re often physically grouped together at tables for all those times when group work is necessary. I understand that a lot of teachers are thinking about how difficult it would be for some SpEd students to work with GenEd students who might be three years ahead of them in academics. I get that.
However, isolating those students to where they are only able to ever work with each other is not beneficial to their growth. It prevents the “normal” students from having to carry them on their backs, but it does not provide them with the opportunity to rise a little higher.
It also steals the opportunity for GenEd students to be able to learn about diversity and work with other people who are neurodiverse.
I also noticed a student this year who became newly diagnosed as a “special education” student and then was subsequently written off by her teacher.
Sometimes, a teacher adopts the mindset that says, “He’ll never catch up, no matter how much I work with him, so I’m going to devote my time to these other kids. He’ll get help during his SpEd time, anyway.”
(Note: SpEd students spend most of their time in the GenEd classroom, but are allotted a certain number of “minutes” for each subject that they need SpEd time for. That’s the number of minutes they’re pulled from the GenEd classroom to work on lower level skills. The only exception to this is when a student requires so much intervention academically or behaviorally that they’re in a secluded classroom. These students do not attend a general education classroom.)
I understand that classroom teachers do not have limitless time.
However, there’s a reason that SpEd students are not pulled out of the classroom all day long. If they’re in your classroom during a certain subject, that means they have been deemed eligible by the state to learn that subject at grade level with their peers. Using the crutch that “they’ll never get this” is harmful to that student.
Their opportunities to learn are being taken away, and they’re not even aware of it. And most of the time, their parents are aware of it, either.
It’s a casual (often gradual) descent into not addressing their needs.
It is literally the job of a general education teacher to meet the needs of every student in their classroom, no matter what that requires. That doesn’t look like occupying a student with something menial while actually teaching to the rest of the students in the room because you don’t want to have to teach it six different ways.
That looks like teaching it to the classroom in a way that 70% of them will understand, and then spending individual time with the students who need to work a little differently or be instructed a little differently.
As stated before, not all teachers struggle with this. Some of them are phenomenal at managing ten different learning levels at one time and somehow teaching the same concept to all of the levels. Those teachers are precious jewels in the world of education.
Others, however, only seem to see the 70% as worth their time.
What have you guys noticed in the world of education with special needs students?
If you have a child who receives services for special education, do you feel like they’re being incorporated into classroom lessons appropriately?
What ways can you suggest to help other parents make sure their children are being taught at all times?
Let me know!