The list just seems to keep growing, doesn’t it?
I have talked about NCLB and its effects upon the severe population ever since the it forced everyone to align with it through the use of the alternate assessments. While I have always had individual lesson plans attached to data sheets, I’m now required to turn a set in every week that includes standards, standard numbers and eventually I will have to follow some sort of centralized mandated format. The all-wise powers higher up the chain are busy deciding what format we all have to follow. Heaven forbid that we actually have anyone be an individual or deviate from enforced conformity! Novelty, creativity and originality are frowned upon in this new paradigm of education.
The biggest casualty has been community-based instruction. The high cost of diesel along with NCLB have successfully obliterated this last vestige of relevant instruction for students with severe disabilities. Those with moderate intellectual disabilities are the biggest losers here. When I began teaching, we had many moderate students in my program and we went to actual jobsites where the students did actual meaningful work. Some of those students managed to get actual paying jobs right out of high school as a result of their successful experiences. However, those days are gone. NCLB, at least as our students have interpreted it, mandates teaching the core academic subjects on grade-level with grade-level materials. There is no time for job training or community-based instruction (CBI). When I started 8 years ago, we went out every single day. Now, we have not gone anywhere yet, and school has been in session for 3 weeks. There seems to be no real urgency to begin CBI for these students. They will be required to learn literature, algebra, history, economics, biology, geometry and chemistry just like everyone else. And when they leave this institution, they will be dumped back on to their parents or on to the street with no employable skills.
Those that I teach today are on the most severe end of the intellectually impaired spectrum and they have always been shunted off to the side and marginalized. However I have felt an increasing marginalization myself, as the shift toward the standards and academics has taken over. My students are not helping to increase test scores or increase the graduation rate. So as a teacher, my role as a teacher has become increasingly isolated. The self-contained setting has always been a somewhat desolate and lonely condition. But I’m feeling it even moreso this year. It just hit me all-of-the-sudden this week, as I was trying to get my “advanced” group to identify their own names and pictures of themselves that this academic crap is just a huge joke. At first, I had mixed feelings about being irreplaceable. “Hey! I’m important!” But that isn’t the case at all. The reason why I can’t be replaced isn’t because of the stellar job that I’m doing. It is because no one else wants it. And that is singularly depressing enough.
I do feel the administration has been as supportive as they can be given the fact I only have 7 students while everyone else serves close to 100. I don’t blame them for keeping me in place for another year even though I requested a move as it is a good strategy for the short-term. They figured that it wouldn’t be too disastrous, as I’m likely to put student interests ahead of my own. I would do the job and do my best, no matter what sort of students I’m serving.
They all can learn, but not at the same pace, the same time or even the same content. These kids with severe cognitive impairments; we need to look at reality and admit that they are not going to college. We need to admit that there are plenty of very happy people who have never gone to college and quit trying to guilt parents, teachers and the students into conforming to a standard that fails them. My kids will not be reading on the 12th grade level no matter how rich of a literacy program I expose them to. No matter how highly qualified their teacher is, they are not going to solve for X. But they might learn how to answer the question “What is your name?” or respond to “Do you want more?”
I feel fairly confident with what I do. I pretty much know how to deal with most of these students even though I still get nauseous from all the noise. A poopy diaper barely phases me anymore. It is just a significant part of what I do and separates me from the folks who can’t hack it. But I am ready for a little different life to choose me and since it won’t be at this school, I need to be looking at other schools.
Anyone else ever had to effect a transfer like this, where your present supervisor/employer is reluctant to let you go?