I have a friend who works as a school nurse in an unnamed district here in Minnesota. After an early morning soccer game, the team parents went out for breakfast which included a bloody Mary and that midwestern "bump" tradition (which in and of itself is another blog). Anyway, this friend was very impressed with her school's special education program largely due to the monumental efforts of this particular teacher. I have met this teacher and she is fairly spectacular and extremely dedicated. But it would have taken more Bloody Mary's than I could drink to explain my problem here.
The amount of labor that a teacher employs with her students doesn't really make for a great program. Especially when one labors so hard that the mainstream can rest assured that "those" students are getting what "they" need with the added bonus that no one without a disability has to be inconvenienced by their presence. It is especially easy to lay that blanket on those who have trouble communicating, like barely verbal kids with autism. How about one poor deaf kid who has been mislabeled as autistic, when what he really is, is deaf.
These teachers like to sit in their room, have lunch and chat. These poor students are safer with their teachers, aren't they? Show me one middle school boy who would rather have lunch with a middle aged woman than his peers and I'll show you the progeny of the Stepford Wives. When the teachers are working really hard, and the credit for the program goes to that dedicated teacher, there's something missing...that kid with a disability and his right to be included in the mainstream.
When other students do well, we are likely to give at least some credit to the students. But when kids with special needs do well, we tend to hand that kudo to the teacher.
Yes, I would rather have a hard working teacher than a lazy teacher, but as in all things there needs to be a balance. The tipping of the scale either way indicates that there is something amiss in the balance. The balance between ensuring a free and appropriate education and to getting that education in the least restrictive environment is an ever moving target in a fluid and dynamic sea. If we never let em into the ocean, they will surely be safe and never drown, but they'll never learn to swim either.