1. Leila Sackfield

    Thank you for your many insights but more importantly your passion for sharing and promoting connecting with each other.

  2. Pamela Hollingshead

    There is Nothing Average about Teaching

    I can appreciate this article for its intent, however, I see a faulty comparison or a weak analogy. I know, from a high school teacher’s perspective, that we are in need of authentic solutions for what ails the American public education system. I read the latest from the so-called experts on a regular basis searching for the silver bullet, but I wonder as I read if they are truly trying to rehabilitate the dysfunction, reinvent the wheel, or just get published.

    The weak analogy:

    This analogy could be logical if it were between the cockpit seat and a desk and chair in the classroom. I do not see a correlation with a student’s ability to learn, however. It is much more complex than that. If we want to truly be “learner-centered” then we need to bring up what the experts are avoiding in order to remain politically correct. The truth is avoided on a regular basis in most of what I read with the exception of one educational author, and he is blacklisted as being rebellious. To be “learner-centered” and use IEPs as they were intended, student populations per teacher should be much smaller in order to dedicate the necessary attention to high needs students. Every classroom with a special education student should have two teachers in it—or, at least, an educated aid.

    I do not know why the writer “left feeling [he] was lazy and dumb” other than his placing responsibility for it on the school. He did not go into any details other than he was not “average.” Who is? What does that even mean? Average does not live in any heterogeneous population. This term has been misused in educational settings. I think what the writer may have been trying to articulate here was that he could not learn by the method of “teaching to the middle.” Unfortunately, because of a lack of support from administration, the student’s lack of communication, the lack of parental/guardian involvement in the student’s education, AND students’ refusal of accommodations or modifications (because of self-esteem issues) some students will not learn in order to fulfill their destinies. I have taught in three different school districts and the above can be said for all of them. I also have friends in other states where these sentiments are similar from K-12.

    If you have not figured it out yet, I am alluding to the inclusive classroom and the heavy load of responsibilities, some of which have been handed to us by parents. This social experiment has gone awry, at least in my geographic area. I am NOT against it, but I do think it needs some fine-tuning. My colleagues and I figured out that we actually make just above minimum wage when we include all of the extra unpaid time we devote to customizing lesson plans, phone calls home to speak with parents/guardians, electronic communication with nurses and parents about students’ health conditions, time spent in ARD meetings, summer training, professional development related to the inclusive classroom, and before and after school tutorials for kids with IEPs. No, I am not doing this for the money, but I would also like to have a life. I did not elect to teach special education/learning disabled students (as it was when I went to college), I was told I had to.

    The Disadvantages of Inclusive Schooling

    “Certain disadvantages can be found when looking at some inclusive programs. “Full inclusion is not the best placement for all students. The general education classroom is typically not individualized” (Bateman & Bateman, 2002, p. 3). Many full inclusionists feel that all students with special needs should be fully integrated into the general education setting even if that student may be disruptive to the other students. One large disadvantage is that if a student is so disruptive that the teacher cannot teach, it is not good for the students in the general setting because they are not learning at the pace they should be. Educators and parents of children in general education worry that full inclusion will lower the standard of learning for the class and make it less of a priority than socializing (Irmsher, 1995).”

    I have compassion for all people, but I also know my limitations. I am being pushed beyond my comfort zone and I am not rebelling, but I am ONE person. I am married and have 3 children and chose not to have 25-30 on purpose because I knew it would be impossible for me to take care of each one in the way each needed and deserved. I waited until all 3 of my sons graduated from high school before I even began teaching because of how important I believe that is. So, to put any teacher in the midst of 25-40 students, all of whom have a diverse assortment of academic and emotional needs is not fair to the teacher who does not have the extensive training to help the student with disabilities like an education specialist may have. If a student is fully included all day they may lose the one-on-one time that they need to understand academic areas that they are lacking. Nevertheless, the blame seems to fall on the teacher when a student fails. Why is the teacher always the fall guy? Where lies the principal’s responsibility in this? *Crickets*

    I do have some lazy students, but I also have students with full-time jobs because they have lazy parents. How can it be the teacher’s fault that students are falling asleep in class after just getting off of work at 6 am? I don’t see how it is my job to chase each lazy student down because they are not keeping up with the classwork that was clearly outlined in the syllabus. Yet, administration and SPED people will tell me that I should give the poor kiddos extra time to complete such rigorous work. RIGOR—let’s not even go there. I point blank asked our SPED man just a few days ago what “extra time” really meant. He said that it was “up to teacher discretion.” What??? Talk about being avoidant!! This is especially disturbing to me because of the legal ramifications involved in not properly adhering to IEPs.

    Moving on… How can a teacher be blamed for a student’s poor academic performance when the student, for example, has a brain disorder, a diagnosed sleep disorder, a chemical imbalance, or a personality disorder that causes him/her to blurt out obscenities that disrupt the entire class? How is it that now a student who has not passed the standardized test by the time he/she is supposed to graduate can merely turn in a “project” which demonstrates his/her mastery? Yet, the teacher still gets thrown under the bus in the meantime.

    My heart goes out to all who feel they fell through the cracks of the education system of any country, but liability cannot be placed on this or that because it is usually a complex combination of things. When does the student take ownership? Does he/she realize he/she has a voice in the matter? When do educational authors look at this for what it is and that there is not a pat “one-size-fits-all 10 simple steps of this or 50 simple steps of that” answer found in the latest book or seminar? It would be nice to be able to read one book in order to solve the problems of humanity in as few of steps as possible, but that book is no longer PC. Even that book tells us that it won’t be easy. We have moved too far away from common sense to impact this generation and that has given us a needy group of unprepared, unfocused young adults.

    Coincidentally, I served in the United States Air Force and my husband was a fighter pilot. The USAF has strict criteria for pilots because of the demands of the job, yet that was not mentioned in the article. They can pick and choose who gets into the coveted seat. The candidates have to prove they are up for the task by rigorous physical and mental training. How is that for a slap of reality? Nothing “average” or below accepted. The typical public school student is nothing like this—maybe the students at an elite private “hoity-toity” school or a Japanese school (where I lived for 3 years) could come close. If we are teaching students to assimilate into the “real world” we do them an injustice by falsely claiming that everyone is equal in ability. We can all be the best we can be by doing the best we can do. However, we will all have some sort of limitation based on our thoughts about ourselves, how others see us, or by physical limitations. I understand the writer tries to appeal to other marginalized students but the analogy is fallacious, at least from my perspective.

  3. […] I really understand the concept. I truly understand the idea.  I understand the desire, I understand the passion to teach and learn out of the box. But the reality that at times sets in, is that it is not always possible and it has to be tweaked. So I think about how to tweak something that motivates me but won’t get me in hot water. I still feel that way even though my job description is “substitute” teacher. Whatever role we have in a classroom our driver is what’s best for our students. So many personalities, so many needs, such different learners. How to get to all of them? How to instill the love of learning, the love of wonder in the box (in this case covering the curriculum). There are so many creative and dedicated teachers finding their way to do just that, as they slowly break down the box. I tried to do that with hands on exploration, read alouds that led to incredible discussions that at times created discomfort as we explored our feelings and understanding of the story.  And then there was #geniushour the voice and choice that lead to crushed boxes, literally and figuratively, (dare I say that). When we teach out of the box we look to disrupt, gather information, create knowledge and make our own path that feeds our passions and in turn empowers our students to do the same. So I thought of this post from @gcouros on Learner-Centered Design . […]

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