Thursday, January 24, 2013

Politically Incorrect

I subbed in a school today that had a significant number of special needs students.  These students came to the classroom I was in for math.  There were 3 or 4 classes at the grade level I was teaching and this teacher had the lowest group of students.  There were approximately 26 students in the class, 4 of whom were special needs students.  An additional special needs student was absent.  There were 4 aides.  Three of the special needs students required one on one aides and the other two (normally including the absent student), evidently could be helped with just one aide.  One of the special needs students could do part of the day's lesson, with help from the aide; the rest could not and were working on things that were unrelated (one was working on days of the week; one was counting dots on a die and trying to say the number; the third did nothing, as far as I could tell).   

I have no objection to special needs students being in the room when aides are provided for those who need them, and most especially, I think they belong there if they can do all or part of the lesson with adaptations.  But I am not sure why the students who were utterly unable to do the lesson - or anything even close - were there.  The special needs students sit separately and don't/can't interact with the other students.  Even that would be fine, except one of the students was evidently unhappy about something.  He spent most of the class period moaning and groaning very loudly, and occasionally emitting a high pitched, drawn out whine.  It was very disconcerting to me and it was extremely difficult for the other students to hear me talk above the nearly constant groaning and whining.  I was supposed to lead the students through one worksheet/hands-on exercise and then teach them how to play a game. 

I feel the other students were short-changed - at least today.  Perhaps they could concentrate better than I could, because they were used to the constant noise.  But it left me with nerves jangling and feeling that I couldn't adequately help the other students, when they couldn't hear me.  26 or so students in a classroom is a lot, anyway, and when they need more support than other students, the addition of the special needs students seemed a bit much.  I feel that the class should somehow have been significantly smaller or the students who were unable to participate in the lesson and were making nearly constant noise should have been removed.

I guess I am completely politically incorrect.   And the regular teacher must be a saint.


Additional thoughts, upon further reflection:
How do we determine what is fair in the classroom?  Treatment of students can NEVER be equal, since each child is unique and has unique needs and experiences.  Do we attempt to treat them all the same and say we were fair?  What does the "least restrictive environment" mean in terms of children with severe disabilities?  What does it mean in terms of the rest of the children in the classroom?  

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