This summer the Justice Department accused Georgia of segregating students in special education into schools with fewer or non-existent resources. More specifically, Georgia was accused of segregating students who have emotional/ behavioral disorders. While I could feign shock and surprise, this isn’t a problem exclusive to Georgia. This is a nationwide issue. It’s an issue happening in the state where I pay taxes and in school systems where I’ve worked. Students with behavior disorders are often placed in a more restrictive environments based on their challenges in the general education or even in public school special education placements. Those more restrictive programs, in my experience, are not equal to the educational experiences of non-disabled peers. Not even close.
While we’ve come a long way with our inclusionary practices, we haven’t figured it all out yet. We haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg with managing resources for special education, providing the necessary professional development and training for all educators, or developing a strong understanding of the complicated children we lump under federal disability categories. We do a lot of things right in special education but there is also a lot of room for improvement. I’m a bit excited to see what comes out of the situation in Georgia and to see if a ripple effect across the nation will indeed occur. In my humble opinion, it certainly needs to happen.
A beautifully written article about all the reasons why we should be including all students in the general education curriculum to the greatest extent possible. In the wise words of Lisa Dieker, “inclusion isn’t something you do, it’s something you believe.”
A few of my favorite quotes from this article include:
“Inclusion isn’t something you do,” explained Lisa Dieker, referring to the practice in which children with special needs are included in general education classes. “It’s something you believe.”
“A child who is not included in general education classes is missing out on the full-range of educational and social experiences that prepare other students to be as successful as possible in their adult lives,” said Ricki Sabia
“Inclusion teaches everyone in the classroom to accept students with disabilities and value their contributions, to adapt to challenges and celebrate strengths.”
“…learning alongside his peers gives him the opportunity to live alongside his peers, as independently as he is able and chooses.”
“At its best, inclusion is about relationships, high expectations, and perseverance,” said Cindi May
“The biggest risk of not including a child with disabilities is that we limit everyone’s potential as human beings,” said Nicole Eredics
“A truly inclusive classroom is modified so every student is part of the instruction.”
As we move into our last week of DOOO, I am both excited and overwhelmed.
Initially I envisioned my website as a place where I would develop my professional online presence. I anticipated posting my vita, courses I was teaching, as well as helpful resources. Moving forward, I still want to include not only the professional pieces I initially envisioned, but I also want to incorporate opportunities to engage with my students. Because of the readings in DOOO, I took a step out of my comfort zone and began using social media to interact with students. To date, it has been a success. Last week I realized I could take this engagement a step further by having students blog about their assigned readings rather than posing questions on social media where they go to die… unanswered. Not only would blogging and integrating students’ blogs into my own website be more engaging, but it would also provide me with a more streamlined approach to doing what currently takes six or seven steps. The teaching opportunities are endless and consequently, this makes me feel overwhelmed.
I have a terrible habit of jumping into technology, fully committing, only to learn later that I’ve actually made my life more difficult by adding additional steps (and juggling new passwords). I am cautiously hopeful about trying something new and integrating coursework into my website. I just need to make sure I’m not biting off more than I can chew and actually complicating what should be simplified.
A few weeks ago in our DOOO meeting we discussed using Twitter in our classrooms. This is not a new phenomenon for me as it relates to education. For years I’ve heard about teachers who engage students in high school and higher education by using hashtags to discuss political events, current events, or to engage in live Q&A sessions. It has never been something I envisioned for myself though.
While I understand that the very nature of social media is public sharing, I’ve always kept that public piece a little close to the vest. My social media presence is as private as possible, as least as private as public can be. I use pseudonyms for my personal Twitter account, I cannot be searched on Facebook, and don’t ever name my children or hometown on my personal blog. Exposing myself with a public account, and one that I would share with my students (gasp!), was not easy to wrap my head around.
I’m here to tell you I’ve survived. So far. I started a professional Twitter account- @Jen_D_Walker and I shared it with my freshman seminar students as a way to engage with them about current events in education. To date, most of my tweets have been retweets or links to educational news articles or research. I have ever so slightly opened the door to share a little about my own interests… the sunshine, sleep, my love of California. Maybe not terribly personal, but it’s something.
In return, my students have tweeted back to me. They have reflected on research in education and tweeted me their thoughts, they have favorited my Tweets about a recent book publication, and they have, of course, Tweeted and requested I cancel class because, well, it was morning. Tweet denied.
I’m not sold on interacting with students on Twitter, but it has been an interesting experiment so far. I can say that I know a few of my students better than I would have otherwise, so that’s something worth considering if I do this again in the future.
At the core of my professional identity, I am a special educator. Not a PhD, not a professor, a researcher, or a member of the higher education landscape. I am a special education teacher. The wise and experienced public school educator in me absolutely panics at the mere suggestion of public sharing. As teachers, particularly special education teachers, publicly sharing professional information can be disastrous. Because our business is children and their documents and information are legally covered under federal law, sharing professionally is… tricky? I was always coached that saying less, or nothing at all, was the best course of action.
As can be expected, blogging and sharing publicly feels a bit scary and brings a great deal of apprehension. But, here I am. I’m taking one baby step at a time. Of course, I should mention that it took me five weeks, one day, and five hours to complete this entry and hit post.
Excuse me while I sit and worry about what I said that I shouldn’t have.