Am I in the thicko’s group?

17 Dec

Having been a team teacher in a particular mainstream lesson for a while now, a few members of the group were clearly struggling with the class dynamic. There had been several requests to ‘come out’ of that room, etc. So I formulated a plan. Divide and conquer I thought. With some consultation, a small group of four was decided upon, and I asked them what they thought of the idea. Smaller group, quieter room, potential to get more done. One member of the proposed group asked me ‘Am I in the thicko’s group then?’
This comment has been on my mind for quite some time. I have concluded that the institution and us as teachers are to blame for this thought. Consider for a moment the idea of ‘special needs’. SPECIAL…. what does that mean to you as a term? What does that mean to students as a term? Here is seems to mean:
·        I am not as bright as the other students
·        I must be in the bottom set
·        I can’t do the work without the help of an adult.
·        Getting help from an adult is a clear sign of weakness
·        I am isolated from my peers if I need ‘help’
·        ‘help’ is BAD
Then I wondered, what must it mean to class teachers? Here are a few offerings:
·        The student can’t cope with the work alone and need LSA help
·        They have an impairment
·        Their impairment means they are not as bright as everyone else
·        They would usually be in the bottom set
·        They need separately prepared work
Bear in mind for a moment, I have not always been a special needs teacher, so I have tried to look at it here from the other side of the fence too. Regardless of that, the two lists are remarkably similar, are they not? So are WE to blame for destroying the self esteem of special needs students? What do you think?
Here are a few web definitions I came across for ‘SPECIAL NEEDS’
·        Wikipedia: ‘In the USA, Special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe Individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological’
·        Wikipedia: Special education is the education of students with special needs in a way that addresses the students’ individual differences and needs
·        www.charlestonctc.com/s.htm: ‘Needs generated by a person’s disability’
·       http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Schoolslearninganddevelopment/SpecialEducationalNeeds/DG_4008600The term ‘special educational needs’ (SEN) has a legal definition, referring to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn or access education than most children of the same age.
It is my belief that the last one is closest, but even here, attached to it is a tone if ‘disability’ wouldn’t you say?
What would YOU define as special needs? I would be interested in your thoughts.
It angers me that teachers see special needs as a DISABILITY. Just because they are defined as having a special need does not mean that your responsibility lies in merely ensuring that they reach first base. NO! They should have the right to reach their full potential too. In the case of this student, yes, they have a special need, but they are also one of the brightest people in this particular class. Why do they not know that, or even believe it? It makes me so angry!
Back to my student who asked were they in the thicko’s group, my response was this: ‘No, you are not, in fact you are in the extension group. We are going to make sure that you reach your full potential and get the best grade possible.’
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