For EDU340 lab, I was helping a student at Wellington with an assignment. She was extremely shy, but seemed like a really sweet girl. I sat down with her, after the teacher said “She needs extra help”, and asked “What are you working on?” In a barely audible whisper, she said “I dunno.” This wasn’t a blow-off answer like most middle schoolers would give. It was an honest answer, filled with confusion and bewilderment. I wanted to figure out what was the cause. I began asking her questions. Here are a few of my questions and her answers:
Me: What’s your favorite subject?
Me: Oh? That’s cool. What math class are you in?
Her: Well I’m not very good at math. I’m special Ed.
Me: What’s your favorite part of school?
Her: We have lockers.
Me: Do you like this class?
Me: What do you find challenging about it?
Her: It’s too hard for me.
Me: What do you find hard?
So here was this student, staring blankly at her assignment, confused, with a teacher who seemed too distracted to provide her with the help she needed. She was entirely ignored by her classmates, and didn’t seem to be able to absorb any of the information she was supposed to.
What does this say about pull-out programs?
Before this encounter, I thought they were wonderful on paper. They seemed logical. Why shouldn’t special ed and ELL students be allowed in normal classrooms with sheltered instruction? It would hurt their education NOT to include them. But now I see that this is an ignorant approach to this really complicated issue.
What is a student like the one I helped going to get out of a class that moves way too quickly for her, doesn’t break down info on her level, doesn’t DO anything for her struggles in education, and treats her like a social pariah? Nothing. And it’s ridiculous that she has been in this class for so long without someone realizing this.
So next time we are all supporting integration, lets remember that it’s not all sunshine and roses, butterflies and gumdrops; It’s a complicated and grey subject that requires delicate and watchful handling. So all you future teachers preaching for the cause, don’t you dare think yourself a martyr for taking on these students, until you actually DO something meaningful for them.