Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big picture, little picture

Most of my work is little picture work: how do we use a locker? Why are you yelling right now? Let's get that math assignment done. Can we get through 1 day without being kicked out of a class?

Some of my work ha a wider focus such as when I try to help a particular student's longterm situation by teaching problem solving skills, trying to get some mental health support for him or her, building up academic success so the standard failures that everyone experiences aren't traumatizing... But most of my work barely goes beyond this. It's one student at at time and, for the most part, one day at a time.

I like this work and I know it's important. These students need this kind of help right now. At the same time, it's really frustrating to think that every year I'll just have my 8-12 students who need immediate relief and nothing I'm doing will stem the flow. So while I recognize the importance of this work, it's frustrating to feel like a band-aid.

That said, I've joined a committee that is working on making my district more inclusive. This is partly to comply with IDEA 2004 which calls for more inclusion (which in this case means students with disabilities in general ed classes, with non-disabled peers, with access to the same curriculum, in the neighborhood schools as much as possible) and partially to address the problem of having too many students in a self-contained class (which here means in a separate, special education class more than 60% of the day). The committee needs to submit a plan by April 1st and we've begun collecting input from staff at our schools.

While the idea of this has been exciting, it's largely been met by the staff with responses from cynical to hysterical (with a few exceptions). There is one really rabid teacher in particular who claims that the district is lying about how many kids are in self-contained classes and that it's the fault of special ed that her standards haven't been as high for the last 20 years. In my mind, that says more about her than about her students but, what do I know?

So I'm hoping that doing some work that focuses on the longterm and continuing my narrow focused-work with my students will make me feel balanced. I'm not sure what to do if it doesn't work.

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