Today I went to a district training. It was put on by an outside source and geared specifically toward special education. I am fairly picky with my trainings…I expect it to be meaningful and useful. Then, oh no I felt the stab of let down. See, we were learning all about a program to lift up students with disabilities and gear them for the real world. Promoting tools for the students to become better self-advocates for themselves. Yep, this is right down my passion alley. Unfortunately, I could sense we were actually leaving my students behind. Wait what?
The program would be super beneficial for all, however the work and time it would require for a student with apathy is: a struggle to happen in the middle school curriculum where we are extra focused on standards of learning and academic achievement. The current education system won’t allow room for that fuzzy warm stuff. Not in an hyper-focused academic setting. That stuff is for classrooms where there is time to spend on real life skills, increasing self-efficacy is the curriculum, and transitions into the real world are essential. That is not a special education classroom in middle school for a student labeled with a learning disabilities, OHI or ADHD, or an emotional/behavior disorder. Those students require placement, services, and accommodations so they can access public education alongside their general education peers…and what are general education peers working toward? Why test scores and academic achievement!!! So then what gets left out for those students? The self-determination assistance they need to become high-functioning and productive citizens.
It came directly from the trainers, this program would benefit all…unfortunately I heard way too often how this would work great for a student on the spectrum or a student with intellectual disabilities. Many times these children get more out of the system, their needs conjure up warmth and sentiment. What does an angry, bitter, negative 14 year old conjure up? Warm fuzzies? Not at 8:35 am when the bell rang and you already got cussed out, that’s for sure. Yet these kids can also benefit from the self-advocacy and self-regulation tools. How in the heck can I focus on what they need, when someone in Curriculum & Instruction keeps telling me the students need to know academics foremost? Well I left disgruntled and discouraged. The year hasn’t even started. I will go to sleep tonight, conjuring up ways I can incorporate these tools into a self-contained math classroom.
This quote kills me and I have whined and relayed it often…it leads me to the feeling that special education has become a sham, “consider adults with disabilities in our society; their unemployment is above 60%; their home ownership is less than 5%, and more than 50% of the US prison population has disabilities. While the US is currently spending more than $160 Billion a year in support of K-12 special education, identifying successful results is a challenge.” Please read more on the current state of special education. It is mindnumbing. About 12% of our student population has been identified with a disability, yet our prison population is made up of 50% of that 12%. Where in there are we doing anything effective?
So, I recognize the training was for a grand and noble cause. I loved every idea and nugget of love it promoted. Sadly, in our current special education system that lacks effectiveness and efficiency and zero support where it is needed, I left frustrated. A new year begins and I sit on the frontline of the special education collaborative and self-contained classroom at the table with the disgruntled, neglected, over-looked shut-down learner. Hoping, I can make a difference in the big stuff and not so much the math stuff.