Sunday, January 13, 2008


Recently I was in a group of parents talking about the challenges facing their kids who receive special education services, and as usual, someone in the group lamented that teachers are just not prepared to work with kids like ours. The parents all nodded their heads and then someone said (as someone always does) that this is just not what teachers expected to do when they were in school.

I nearly bit my tongue in half not to jump in with an inflammatory response—but that’s what a blog is for, right?

People say this about teachers all the time and it drives me NUTS! If I were a teacher I would be incensed!

First of all, the law that sent children with disabilities to school was passed in 1975, not last week.

Secondly, we live in an age of change.

I’m a nurse. Since my graduation back in the dark ages there have been huge changes in my field. The politics of healthcare are different, the economics are different, what we know about the body is different, the medications are different and treatments are different. Even our day-to-day activities have changed: we do all of our charting on a computer now—I couldn’t even type when I got out of school.

My friends in that particular conversation were an engineer, a business owner, and a computer specialist—fields which have also changed drastically in recent years (remember Cobal?)

Beyond this, when a nurse comes to me and says that she or he does not know how to do something we look it up together, I talk them through it and I arrange for further training if needed. If that same nurse came to me with the same issue 6 months later it is likely that there would be disciplinary action—up to and including the possibility of termination. And this is for an LPN who has had less than a year of vocational training!

All professions change and all professionals are expected to keep up. Teachers actually have an edge—they specialize in learning! In most cases teachers have kept up with their professions as much as the rest of us have.

The teachers in my district are excellent. They have masters degrees, they have mentoring and staff-development. They are completely committed to educating kids—my three children who have vastly different learning needs are all learning well. However it is not always easy.

When we nod and accept that the problems with educating our kids is that teachers are unprepared we insult teachers. Worse than this, we stop looking for the actual barriers to education. Things like administrative commitment, availability of support personnel, availability of pertinent trainings, availability of appropriate technology, political pressures and the like.

If, instead of being resigned to pseudo-problems, we addressed some of these actual needs in our schools we could create success for everyone.


Lilly said...

Am I the only one who hears the
the heavens singing hymns of praise?

Thanks for giving me the power to say what needs to be said!

You are a dear soul.!


Terri said...

Lilly, thank you for your kind words and encouragement! We do need the power to say what needs to be said. If we don't correctly diagnose a problem we can't find the correct treatment--for individuals or systems.