Wednesday, March 7, 2012

B.C Teachers: you want to help? Get out of the way!

Holy smokes, the B.C. teachers are now on strike and a great deal of the whining going on is about the number of special needs students popping up in the classroom. It seems the integration movement has its drawbacks.

Is an everyday classroom overburdened with its "special needs" students? If so, maybe the answer lies in building an everyday, normal classroom setting for the special needs students; like, say, a Conductive Education School!

Speaking as a parent, I don't believe my boy's classroom ever went at his pace. The work was never the same for him, and the goals in his "IEP" were always vague and ridiculously easy; somewhat like a horoscope reading for the day.

Speaking as a teacher, (13 years now in an independent school) there is a megatonne of value in a school developed to serve one category of special needs students. For 30 years now, the Purpose Independent Secondary School has been successfully operating a program with over 40% "special need" students. It's a happy place, nobody feels left out; and parents are always remarking that great things happen here that just weren't possible in the 'normal' system. We get most of our students because they have given up and dropped out of the normal schools. The curriculum is the same; the atmosphere is different.

Now Purpose wants to open the Purpose School of Conductive Learning; the PuSCLe as I like to call it. Everything is in place but the 10 primary / elementary students necessary to start a new independent school.

Maybe it's time to stop thinking there is something scandalous about 'segregating' students. As the Purpose Secondary School shows, they can get into the same rhythm and progress together. After all, they don't demand that the football team have a volleyball player or two at each practice. And wouldn't the volleyball players all have more fun playing the same game? AND, aren't all these players engaging in sports anyway? SO, maybe the integration issue isn't such a big, fat, hairy deal to us: the families of these special nerds. After all, segregation has the same root as congregation; and a conductive classroom is a very gregarious place, bubbling with laughter and cheers at a rate unheard of in the normal school room.

Maybe we'd like to be free from the irrepressible good-will and endless talk of a system that perhaps may need our kids more than the reverse. After all, $36,000 per kid is some tasty temptation to a school board. When a boy who has been literally standing up and bearing his weight since toddlerhood is given no choice but a sling and a lift at toilet time, just because he's in school and they refuse to facilitate the use of his own body; well, it seems to me the tail may be wagging the dog. Or at the very least, someone is doing something to the dog. Poor beast.

In his book, Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today, Richard Gerver suggests that schools were structured for teachers first and children second. I must say that I've seen more proof of this than I have of its inversion. I must say that I'm tired of hearing about the teachers' woes. And I must say that I'm not asking for anything more from the school system. I think it's time to just embrace the "volleyball players" as a team, and let them have their own practice, their own space, and their own coach; and their own fun.

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