Teachers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. They are expected to cater to the needs of every student in their classroom, including those who are above grade level, those who are on grade level, and those who need special intervention. Teachers are stretched to an almost unimaginable level. Now, in addition to increasing class sizes, classrooms are being integrated with special needs. Teachers are required, usually with help of a special aid, to cater their lesson plans to all the students. This is an important issue in education, and one that I believe needs to be discussed and understood.
In high school, I had a close relationship with a boy with down syndrome named Joey. Joey was full of love and life. He lifted every individual he came into contact with. I loved seeing Joey at school. Joey is a wonderful example of the joy that can come through integrating those with special needs. His presence enriched both our education and his. He was able to become acquainted with the way in which classrooms are typically run, and the students in the class were able to learn from him about how to interact with those who live with disabilities. From an outside perspective, I can easily see the immense joy that Joey brought to each classroom he entered, but as a future educator, I see this integration with new eyes.
Joey’s teachers were stretched to a new level. They were required not only to deal with the average needs of any classroom but also with the far greater individual needs of this young man. Those in the classroom may have learned important lessons about acceptance, but did they learn the prescribed subject? Are teachers simply stretched too far with open, packed classrooms to correctly accommodate those with special needs?
I can see the merit behind both sides of the issue. There are those who believe that those living with disabilities should be a permanent part of the classroom and those who believe that integration places too heavy a burden on education. I cannot say what is right because in each circumstance the answer may be different. But I believe that the tough choices must be made to ensure that all of the students are receiving the proper and necessary education. Where students with special needs fall in that spectrum is on an individual basis and should be handled as such. I am interesting in the seasoned teachers perspective on this issue. Feel free to comment and share your wisdom!