An Open Letter to Educators
I know for the most part, most of you went into this profession to educate the next generation of students. You wanted to help them succeed and lead future generations. You work for less than you deserve and are expected to spend more of your personal time and energy and sometimes money to reach the goal of giving students the tools they need to lead productive lives as adults.
But I’m here to tell you, many of you are failing some of your students. You are failing to live up to your end of the bargain with parents and your students. You see a child who is obviously more challenging because they have behavioral problems or because they can’t communicate as flawlessly as your other students, and you write them off. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe your administration does. But you are still failing that student by not fighting for that child.
I want to tell you some things you can do better. If you have to share this with your administrators, to the district level, at the state level, please do so. Because you can make a difference. You can help these students.
1. Include them in every aspect of your classroom. I know inclusion is hard, especially when your school doesn’t give you the tools, the resources, the flexibility to do so. No one said it would be easy, but you didn’t become a teacher because it would be easy, right? You did it because you wanted to help kids. Helping kids is a LOT of work and it will never be easy.
2. Include them in every aspect of your classroom…. This isn’t just about inclusion. By excluding that student who has frequent meltdowns, you are not giving them a chance to grow and learn. This child should be included BECAUSE they have behavioral problems. By denying them the ability to learn their limits, you are denying them the ability to learn to control their emotions.
3. Include them in every aspect of your classroom! Yes, the other students are going to see this student have a meltdown. But they are also going to see that the kid is kind and helpful and can be their friend and will want to be the kid’s friend. And they will want to help him or her. They will grow and bond and recognize people are different and that it is ok.
Please know that the longer you wait to do this, the higher likeliness that this child will suffer. Not because they have a disability, but because they were never given the skills they need to lead a productive life. Parents can’t do it alone. And I know neither can you.
For you General Ed teachers, no, I don’t expect you to do this by yourself. I expect your administration, the Special Ed department, the district to support you. They should give you personnel to support this student. They should give you supplies to support this student. They should also listen to not only you, but the parent and the child. And you should have a solidified voice with that parent and child.
For the Special Ed teachers, no, I don’t expect you to do this by yourself. I expect your administration and the district to train you. I do however expect you to support the General Ed teacher. They have so many more students and they cannot give this child the same attention that you can. But you need to work with the GenEd teacher to come up with differentiated instruction, to give them ideas on technology and materials they can use. And I expect you to train your paraeducators on how to use these technologies too. Because this is not about you, it is about the kid.
For school administrators, listen to what your teachers and the support staff need. Fight on their behalf with the district administrators. Principals, band together. If enough of you say it, it will happen. And talk to the parents! They will fight the fight with you!
A tired mom who just wants the best for her children and those like them.