Two weeks ago Michelle asked: “. . . I have a question for you about when you were in the regular education classes—aside from how the students treated you at times, how did you yourself feel sitting in the regular education classes? Was the work too hard? Was it over your head? Did you understand what was being taught? Did you have modified work? How did it make you feel if you weren’t doing quite the same work as your classmates? . . . I’ve been told that during some of the time in the regular classroom the teachers/administrators feel like since the work is too hard for her right now and she’s not doing 3rd grade level work, that it’s just making her feel bad about herself and as she gets older will cause low self-esteem."
Hi Michelle this was a great question I’m glad you asked. Here’s my answer:
In the regular education classes I felt fine and comfortable. Sure, the school work was hard but I had asked them to adapt the work to my strengths and to my level. The work was exactly the same they just modified it. And it actually made me feel like I can learn. It really helped me a lot. And I learned a lot of new things. I remember in Geography class in high school, we were learning about different kinds of rocks and the work wasn’t adapted so I raised my hand and I asked my teacher to try to adapt the work to my level. Then the next day in class we all used all sorts of visuals that my mom had made to help me learn, and it was really fun.
This should NOT make you have low self-esteem, or make you feel bad about yourself, you need to adapt the work and if they can’t do that then what you should do is to fight for it. And if the work is too hard try to strike up a compromise where your kid / child can learn. And if they have quizzes or tests then you can use those regular pullout sessions to the resource room as extra time for your kid or child to finish the quiz. Then when they’re done, your kid or child can go back into the classroom. Your child or kid is learning. No child should be denied the adaptations to learn. They need to learn. They have the right to have an education.
In a segregated classroom it’s hard to learn, in a segregated class you’re not really learning and you’re not really making new friends, and your separated from your friends that you grow up with and play with. But in a regular class you are learning, in a regular class you are making new friends and being with your old friends. In a regular class you feel a sense of belonging and being connected with all the students. In a regular class you work all together. Other people can learn from your strengths and gifts.
Nancy’s says: if they are saying the work is too hard for her, then they have identified what they have to do—modify it! The first response should be modify, not remove. Inclusion is NOT and never has been about everyone doing the same thing or working at the same level.
This seemed to be something I had to reiterate with Jessie’s teachers: OF COURSE she won’t be doing the same level work in every area. She is not in a classroom with her peers because I think she is exceptionally bright or because I think that she doesn’t have an intellectual disability. She is in a regular classroom with her peers because I think that is the best place for her (and her peers and her teachers) to learn and to create a learning community.
The bottom line is that including all students teaches all students (those included and their peers) that all persons are equally valued members of this society, and that it’s important and worthwhile to do whatever it takes to include everyone because everyone has something important to contribute. There are always exceptions and variations, but I think the starting point has to be inclusion. And inclusion only works when we accept that we have diverse learners in our classrooms and diverse people in our society.
I think being fully included all the way through school gave Jessie two key qualities: resilience and a very strong sense of herself as a valued member of a community. While you could call it self-esteem, I think it goes much deeper and stronger than that and is related to her place in the world.