Monday, June 28, 2010
The Chicken and the Egg
It really makes me wonder sometimes about the very nature and practise of schools, as they are. I know that many, many people will disagree with some of my ideas here...but, they are my ideas, so feel free to disagree. It's just that sometimes I feel like the whole school set up is a disaster waiting to happen for a growing number of kids. It is designed for the child who can sit quietly, attend easily, follow directions, take part in large groups, handle the many transitions and routines of a school day, not to mention the noises/sounds of a school environment. Let's face it, this set up is perfect for the majority of kids....but for kids with differences, it is just a disaster waiting to happen.
So, what do we do? Well, let's take a quick look at what we're doing. We're educating teachers about exceptionalities, and they are working really, really hard. We're having alternate learning environments, and filling the school with "accomodations". But, aren't we having to accomodate an awful lot? Doesn't that indicate that the "typical" classroom setting, mode of teaching is perhaps not enough? How many accomodations and exceptions do you have to make before you realize that perhaps the prototype just isn't working.
Imagine if you were selling cars. For one driver, you had to shift the position of the steering wheel and the pedals. For another the seats were too far back. For another, the windshield needed a different tint. For another you had to change the way the cylinders fired in the engine. For your next customer, the radio was all wrong. The next customer simply couldn't function with the interior carpeting.... How long would you go on selling cars before you came to realize that you just needed to shift models altogether???? Can it possibly be that all those drivers are the ones with the problems??? Just a thought.
This isn't an attack on teachers, special educators, administrators or student assistants. I think that people want to do the best that they can. But let's face it, it's hard to make every child successful in an environment that just is tooooooo much, plain and simple. That doesn't mean we don't try...but it may be time to make a paradigm shift. Instead of trying to make all these kids function in school...how about making schools function for kids???? Smaller class sizes, less sensory-overload, etc, etc. The answers I do not know. But I do feel that the kinds of mass instruction and cooperation just isn't possible for everyone.
And what about our use of early intervention? How much of it is spent preparing kids to survive a classroom and school, instead of working on key skills. How much of all our work with children with special needs is spent trying to find ways to make them fit into unnatural situations. I'm not saying they shouldn't be included...it's just that maybe it's not always the kids who need the fixing. I truly believe that all kids should get from school what THEY need most, and that all kids deserve an education that works for them. Not what's easiest to accomodate and to afford.
It's a classic chicken and egg...what came first: the behaivours needed for school success, or the school set up?