I am unaware of any iconic member of society who has made more of a difference regarding how we parent our kids then Dr. Benjamin Spock. After an experiment of some 68 years we can, now, see some of the benefits and some of the drawbacks to his view on how kids should be parented. Parents,in general, have given way to Dr. Spock’s philosophy of ‘let them decide for themselves’. The problem is we, as parents, have not done a great job of preparing our children how to do that. Instead, parents have stepped up to protect and manage their kids lives, and by doing so actually relieve them from any responsibility for those decisions they might make. We have done this with ‘the best of intentions.’ We have worked hard at protecting our children’s supposed fragile egos by not saying “no” when “no” would have been the appropriate response. Assuredly,their egos are just fine. Actually we harm their egos by not allowing them the opportunity to learn from the decisions they make. We have done this with ‘the best of intentions.’ Our kids can be rude, they can be bullies, they can be disrespectful to others’ property, they can be lazy, they can be careless, they can disregard any type of authority and we, as parents, seem to find a way–an excuse really–that explains away their behaviour with little chance of them learning some valuable life lessons. We do it all ‘with the best of intentions’.
So I present my recent head scratcher. Inclusive classrooms. I guess this term is the latest example of ‘politically correct double speak’. I don’t understand why parents would insist on having their challenged children moved into a classroom with quote-unquote normal students or students who have not been assessed or labelled as slow or problem learners. The only plausible explanation is that some parents want to have their child exposed to a regular school curriculum but with what expected outcome?? Their child has been tested and assessed. They struggle with understanding or participating in the same way as other kids. To demand that they need to be situated in the same learning environment as ‘regular’ students is a prime example of the ‘with the best of intentions’ idea gone awry. They seem to have little idea or understanding of how it will affect their child and the learning environment of the other ‘normal’ students. My understanding is that, not only is the teacher in that classroom now responsible for the day plan for the class but he/she also needs to prepare a day plan for each of the other students who are not mentally or emotionally equipped to process what is taught to the regular class of students. That could mean preparing five or six separate plans each day. If we consider this just from the practical side or the efficiency side of things it is not practical or efficient–for anyone including the students in that classroom. So. ‘With the best of intentions’ EVERYONE in that classroom gets short changed–EVERYONE. At the very least it provides a great deal less time for ANY of the students to get the needed help and support that is often necessary when new information is introduced.
But even more of a concern to me is the social aspect of it all. The challenged kids are in a space that is so foreign to them. They are in with other kids who may not understand the difficulties that some students have when learning. Certainly the challenged kids could become targets for ridicule and bullying. How difficult might it be for a child who is 13 years of age but functioning or learning at a 10 year old level to assimilate into the social structure of the classroom. How do they make friends? How do they share the same concerns with other classmates? How do they communicate? What do they FEEL when they realize they are treated and seen differently from the other students. It would be very difficult to build any kind of a peer support group.They could be isolated, alone, depressed perhaps. This is not a healthy set up for the kids. It may satisfy some parental need but the miracle that they, the parents, are hoping for is not going to happen. All this ‘with the best intentions.’
And what about the other students. They see a group of ‘special’ kids being treated differently. Double standards are applied in some cases as a result of their learning and behavioural challenges. It appears that it’s OK for THOSE kids but not for us is a common resentment among the ‘normal’ students. The classroom isn’t the place for teachers to spend valuable class time trying to explain the tolerance and acceptance lessons that parents need to be dealing with at home.
So where do we begin:
* We need to allow teachers to manage their work space. They know better than anyone how to do that. They have been trained to do that and we, as parents, have not. Let’s let the experts take charge of our kids learning requirements.
* Teachers need to be granted the opportunity to deliver the curriculum in a creative and innovative manner.
* Parents need to stay OUT of the classroom. Let’s let the teachers truly earn the money they deserve.
* Parents need to support the teachers and the teachers need to work in concert with the parents. Lets everyone put their egos aside so that our children receive the best experience possible.
* Teachers need to be trusted with the responsibility of restoring some accountability in the classroom instead of being side tracked with criticism and fear for their own safety-literally. In many schools students really do run the classroom and often with the support of parents who feel they are exercising their best intentions. That’s just plain wrong. It teaches them that being disrespectful, threatening and violent are superior tools to use when you want to get your own way.
* The focus needs to be on preparing our kids for the real world. Many studies will show, clearly, that isn’t happening using the current system. Not everyone ‘should get a ribbon’. Our classrooms need to model the real world complete with appropriate expectations of what they need to do to be competitive in it, to excel in it and to survive in it.
We, as a community of caring people, need to get working on a new paradigm concerning our children’s education. We need to start deciding with our heads and not our hearts. When we can do this ‘our best intentions’ will work in our children’s favour to produce the best results possible and not hinder their opportunities to be successful.
Anyways, that’s how I see it–all the best–James
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You can find out more about how to purchase my book: ‘A Man’s Work Is Never Done: A Novel About Mentoring Our Son’s’ by going to my web site: jamescloughley.com