For the life of me, I cannot figure out why educators insist on sameness.
We spend most of a child’s formative years insisting to them that they are special, they are unique, they are individuals with a right to their own ways of being. And then they go to school…
They go to school and learn to become like everyone else, learning the same things, at the same pace, regardless of where their interests, talents, and abilities lie. Every student must take algebra, every student must take foreign language, every student will be proficient in x, y, and z.
I’m not sure when the trend toward standardization began in schools, although I have a feeling it’s been there since the beginning, because it’s easier and cheaper than individualizing instruction. The inherent problem with this is that kids are people, and there are no two people who are exactly the same. Therefore, everyone has special needs. I need a map if you are giving me directions, otherwise I will get hopelessly lost. The Man learns by doing – you can give him all the instructions you want, but he needs to play Euchre before he can actually learn all the rules. The Boy needs breaks and incentives throughout his day to get his work done. And he needs alone time with an electronic device to decompress.
So why the soapbox post today?
Recently, I have heard some teachers in full-inclusion situations say things like, “They do just fine, until they don’t,” or “He’s on those video games as soon as he gets into the car after school. I wish his mom wouldn’t use them as a crutch, a babysitter.” In the full-inclusion world, any kid that visits the resource room more than 45 minutes a week is “severe”.
Think about some part of your daily work that requires all of your concentration and effort. Now think about doing that task for six hours a day.
My kid with autism works so hard at being like the other kids in the classroom, and he has made great strides. There are still times where he escapes, lashes out, or just isn’t absorbing much, but he is working really hard. His ASD classroom provides a space for him to just be without the trappings of societal expectations. Does that mean the learning stops? NO, in fact, more learning goes on in that room because he doesn’t have to try to be someone he isn’t. In the ASD room (some may call it a resource room), they have the ability to slow down, speed up, back up, and stop if necessary, providing those little pit stops on the way to encourage the work being done. My kid with autism has thrived with this IEP recipe.
And maybe that kid with autism who is on the video games in the car is seeking respite from working his butt off in your classroom all day long. Maybe his mom lets him have that time to be himself because that’s what’s best for him.
Is full inclusion bad? No. Of course there are kids who will thrive in that set-up! We want our kids to have full access to the curriculum and the right to full inclusion if that’s what’s best. But I’m not sure why it has to be all or nothing for every kid — It’s pretty rare when “all or nothing” is a good idea in education.