As we tend to do in education, my first thoughts as I assembled this post were to find out what the research community’s thoughts were about teacher assignments and teacher efficacy related to teaching assignments. As educators, I think this is where we go for corroboration (or not) of our thoughts.
I went first, of course, to Google Scholar where I found an article by Rori Ross-Hill (Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, Vol 9-3 2009 188-198), who examined the exceptional student services of East Baton Rouge Parish system, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Although some of us would not agree with her opening remarks about the good fortune we had when then Secretary of Education T.H. Bell (1981) recognized, with the help of President Ronald Reagan, that the US education system was at risk, we may ultimately agree that one of the benefits of an outcome directly related to this event was the 2001 NCLB (NCLB United States Department of Education, 2001) policy that required students with disabilities to be granted access to the regular education curriculum. Ross-Hill (2009, p1) says that it is “evident that the legislature align both acts, the NCLB (2001) and the IDEIA (2004) to ensure the success of the laws’ requirements”. Ross-Hill’s (2009, p1) article examines the idea that the ultimate success of the laws lies on the knowledge and attitude that teachers portray in the inclusive classroom.
Not willing to pay $35 to read the entire text, I drilled into the databases at Rutgers’, The State University of New Jersey Library, where I was able to read the entire text. Ross-Hill (2009) says that regular education teachers’ attitudes towards the implementation of inclusion in elementary and secondary classrooms is being studied. (Good to know, except her article was the only one that turned up in my scholarly searches related to teacher attitudes toward coteaching and teacher efficacy….hmm…this is 2015…) Further, researchers Bender, Vail & Scott (Ross-Hill, 2009) say that inclusion students cannot be successful without the proper attitude of the general education teacher. (Any inclusion teacher learns that week #1 on the job.) As educators, administrators, and supervisors, we know that there are many possible factors that could contribute to the challenges faced by the general education teacher and the inclusion teacher: curriculum deficiencies, legal implications, social implications, and of course, standardized testing. But, additionally, the attitudes toward the inclusion student and the presence of an inclusion teacher set forth additional burdens which can weigh heavily on the inclusion teacher. In many cases, the inclusion teacher works around the general education teacher, particularly in the lecture based, teacher-centered classrooms, where power struggles and teaching styles may conflict. ( A topic for another day….) IDEA (2004) required school systems to complete an individualized educational plan, detailing the extent to which the student will/will not participate in the inclusive classroom including which types of services the student will receive. (Ross-Hill, 2009). IDEIA (2004) raised the degree of regulation and compliance from the inclusion practices being the sole responsibility of the inclusion teacher to now include the general education teacher, too, as a responsible party. (This is not lost on the inclusion teacher; this can also create an unspoken blame-game between the two teachers. More stress…)
Ross-Hill (2009) was clearly written a few years ago and the work of inclusion has moved, to some degree, forward. However, I am here today to say that having been placed in a particular inclusion class assignment for the last 5 months and, this week, being given a new assignment for reasons unrelated to my work, has given me a new lease on life.
I write this on a beautiful Saturday morning. I woke up (thank goodness!) and met my husband in the kitchen with dancing and singing. The real Chris Duane is back in the universe! As my husband would readily attest, this assignment weighed on me 24/7. No longer in the assignment, I feel as if a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders. For many reasons that I cannot speak to here, this assignment was, without doubt, the most stressful assignment I’ve had in my 20 years of teaching. (Yikes! 20 years! And I’m still trying to change the world…) But my experience is a testament to the importance that lies at the foot of individuals when making inclusion placements and pairings. It would be naive of me to say that there aren’t times we just have to take the assignment and do the very best we can. It is also a testament to the stress some of those assignments put on us as individuals who absolutely go to work every day to do what’s best for kids… even when it’s just not what’s good for us.