I remember the days in the 1960’s and 70’s when Special Education was not even a word, and anyone that had disabilities was rarely seen or heard. I’m so thankful today that we have so many programs that help students with disabilities, but as state budgets get tighter, the push for more special support staff reduction is becoming the norm. The result seems to be larger class sizes, less Para support and an unreasonable higher rate of Inclusion than ever before. Seasoned teachers are reporting that this trend has been steadily climbing for years and has reached an alarming rate of concern. Many are wondering if we really are serving the “best interest of the child”. Under the blanket of Inclusion, it seems that we as a nation have put our children more at risk than ever before for being unsuccessful inside and outside of the classroom.
Inclusion at Any Cost?
Almost any teacher out there has had incidences where a child was put into Inclusion and emotionally drowned under the pressure. We’ve all been there. I myself have recently found myself on the other end of Inclusion. While I’m all for Inclusion and will fight with all I have to keep it, there are evidently incidences where Inclusion is not the answer. Teachers and Paras struggle to meet the needs of all their students, but questioning what’s best for the child doesn’t always come with answers in a way that we expect. After my first experience with this type of situation, I had to ask myself, “When is inclusion NOT the best option?”
Experts will say that there is a time to include, and a time to consider other options. Many studies have posted expert advice on the subject, yet what teachers are experiencing more and more children that are being put into the regular classroom when it seems that it may not be the best option.
Elephant in the Room
The elephant in the room is that we no longer can afford to do what’s best for children, so we have moved to doing what is best with the amount of staff and funding that we have. The result is devastating, and where the real tragedy lies is that there seems to be no reversal or end in sight in improving the situation. Staff will be more and more stressed to the limits in trying to reach all students, and yet more and more will be left behind.
In the Meantime
In the meantime, what we can do is just keep trying to do the best we can. Teaching is becoming more difficult than ever before. It is not for the “faint of heart” by any means. We still love what we do, but we need to realize that we cannot fix all of the lives and academic weaknesses of our students, nor can we overnight, fix the educational system. We can persevere. We can work towards contacting our legislators to implement change and keep the lines of communication open within our schools. Giving up, however is not an option.
I am so thankful that the educational system has changed from the 1960’s and 70’s. We have come so far, but we still have far to go until we can properly place all students in programs that work best for them. Inclusion at all costs, however, is not acceptable. Inclusion can be a beautiful thing if used properly. The success of the child is our goal and should be the goal of our nation, inside and outside of the classroom.