I’m currently taking a class on teaching students with special needs, which is, as our professor told us the first day, an “attitudes course” rather than a content course or methods course. We are learning the correct attitudes toward special education, primarily the idea that inclusion of students with special needs, rather than putting them in a self-contained class, is morally, legally, and in all other ways the right thing to do.
We’ll leave aside for now the weirdness of being in a class that teaches you, and assesses you on, a certain set of values.
After a week of substitute teaching a self-contained class, I no longer need to drink the Kool-Aid. I am a true believer.
I was really surprised to find out that the school where I’m student teaching, a progressive high school that is affiliated with the Coalition of Essential Schools, has these self-contained classes. Into these classes goes any student who may be difficult to teach, including English language learners, students with speech and language disorders, students who can’t sit still long enough to write down their name, and students with serious behavioral issues.
Despite all of this, I would say that the students in the self-contained class (those who didn’t cut class, anyway) learned as much about the Industrial Revolution last week as the students in my “regular” class. I had to make some modifications, but the content remained the same.
Still, it was the most exhausting week I have had so far. Their regular teacher broke her arm and decided not to come back for the rest of the year. I can see why. To have all of these students with all of these very different needs in one class is not fair for anybody. The kids are aware they’re in the “special class,” which does not encourage them to work hard or be nice.
When the principal announced that the regular teacher would not be coming back, the other teachers began to freak out. If a permanent replacement could not be found, then all of those students would be coming into their classes. I’m secretly hoping that this will be the case. In the meantime, I will continue to sub, and continue to do the best I can.