March 17, 2011
OSSE has released a new LRE Toolkit full of great information for LEAs trying to create an inclusive environment. We have a link to the whole text below, but one phrase on page 9 jumped out at me. In an inclusive setting “general educators do not relinquish responsibility for students with special needs, but instead work cooperatively with special educators to provide high quality program.” It captures, for me, the hardest part of creating a truly inclusive program, one where a SPED teacher never gets a call or email asking them to create material for teaching “their” student or sits in a meeting with a teacher who wants THAT student out of their classroom because it is impossible to teach with them there.
Don’t misunderstand me, I have the utmost sympathy for general education teachers, who often come into schools lacking the skills necessary for teaching in a diverse and challenging classroom environment. Add a student with special needs into the mix and it is no wonder they feel overwhelmed and look to the SPED teacher to do the bulk of the heavy-lifting for those students. The truth is, however, that just as sending a student to the principal’s office for discipline undermines a teacher’s authority so too does relying on another teacher for instruction. If a student doesn’t consider you “their” teacher, they have no incentive to buy-in to what instruction does occur in the classroom.
The tricky part, then, is helping classroom teachers recognize the line between seeking support and abdicating responsibility for their students and understand the consequences of crossing it. Because until there is buy-in from the teachers and a basic belief in their ability to help their students, the most beautifully crafted toolkit out there won’t make a difference.
OSSE’s Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Toolkit