Sunday, May 14, 2006

Reprise: Like minds.

I must first apologize for the confusion that I created with this post. It was not one of my best bits of writing. I think I could say my rambling was almost embaressingly disorganized. So, I'll attempt to summarize and clarify my points with this post. I also must apologize for any offense I may have caused with this exceptional example of poor planning in writing.

Apologies stated, let's see if I can correct my imperfect statements earlier.

Me re-reading my ramblings. ---> S: . o O (Boy, this was poorly written. Sr. Margaret Ellen would've had my hide if turned this in for homework.)

Ok, I have a few points that I was trying to state and perhaps if I phrase them as short and sweet as I can, it will convey them better then when I ramble on the soapbox.

1. Learning disabilities and autisim are two different things. I can not argue with this point of fact. Autisim, however, is viewed as a learning disability by the New York State educational system (or at least that's how my employers have explained it to me).

2. A very high percentage of people with learning disabilities are frighteningly intelligent. Many of the geniuses of the world have some type of learning disability. While I'm not a neuro-physiologist, I'm inclined to suspect that they are intertwined and probably a situation where you can't have the brilliance with out the brain being wired differently then everyone else. This will lead to differences in learning modes.

3. All people with learning disabilities deserve to be adequately educated. They should have every opportunity to reach their fullest educational potential as a student.

4. The learning needs of all students must be met in a manner that encourages them to continue learning and growing intellectually. I belive that this is key to the success of a person, any person. Nothing is more vital to you then your ability to think.

5. Learning disabled students need their learning needs met in a fashion that is supportive to the way they learn. Thus, visual learners need information presented in a fashion that allows them to learn visually. Students with A.D.D. need their environment such that will allow them to focus on their lessons and remain fully engaged in the task of learning their lessons.

6. Mainstreaming learning disabled students enmass into the current educational system will create an environment that is not helpful most of the students. Teachers that do not have the skills or the flexibility to accomodate a wide range of learning styles in their teaching methods will be rather obviously ineffective in coping with the range of needs presented to them.

Now, I feel that this is not a problem due strictly to mainstreaming LD students. I did not intend to present the idea that LD students would slow down classes at large. I actually think that LD students can benefit a class, but not in the present educational system that we have now. Our current educational system is focused heavily on rote learning of facts and the ability to regurgitate said facts onto a standardized test.

The flaw in our current educational system is that it fails to give all students the aid they need. Either you are brilliant and they press you into the more challenging classes (usually taught in the same format as the ones with less sophisticated material) or you have "special needs" and are shipped off to the Resource room. Once in the "special education" system, you may get lucky and have a teacher that works well with you. Usually, you get teachers that are:

1. harried by the wide range of material they need to handle;

2. struggling to keep up with the myriad of students that are about them;

3. attempting to mitigate the chaos of interacting with peers that are ignorant about learning disabilities;

And 4. are forced to keep up with the administrative hell of
the various forms, paperwork, and simmilar materials that need to be attended to for each child.

The teachers that are being pulled in these different directions may get a little bit of time with their students to focus individually on their needs, but not as much as the student needs or the teacher would like to give. It is a problem in the special education portion of the nation's educational system, but it typifies the problem that is epidemic through out the entire system.

Teachers that are being called on to do things outside of their scope are unable to do their job: teach. On any given day, I see the teachers I work with spending at least a third of their day on just the pain of keeping up with the latest administrative nightmare that the district/the state dropped on them. I think I have lost track of how much time my co-workers spend getting ready for the newest state requirements for their area. Sometimes it seems like the NYS educational department changes their standards for teachers on a weekly basis. This creates the problem of arranging for what ever training that needs to be done to keep up with the state requirements on underwater basket weaving materials, for example, and takes the teacher away from teaching the students how to just do simple weaving.

And then you have the insanity of expecting that if you have an educational degree that you can teach any subject. If you have a great deal of difficulty in Mathematics and you chose to get your teaching certification in English in recognition of your limitations, shouldn't it stand to reason that you won't necessarially do well teaching Math? Then why do schools expect for the proverbial English teacher to be teaching Math? And this is a daily expectation for the teachers that work in special education departments.

The population of teachers at large are not trained on how to work with students that have learning disabilities. It's a sad thing because I'm certian that the population of "borderline" learning disabled students is alot higher then the education system officials are willing to admit. If you applied many of the techniques used to help learning disabled students, which generally boil down to working within the learning style of the student in question, I'm certian we'd see an incredible flourishing of successes. Instead, teachers are given a large stack of information that will be on a state test at the end of the year and are expected to push the students through it. No consideration given to if these students master the subject or not.

That callous lack of concern for the mastery of subject matter is part of the cancer in the educational system. That is why students with learning disabilities are given aides that are unprepaired to work with them, often only having a cursory glance at an IEP before they are sent out to work with the students. That enormous level of disregard for the student's needs is what prevents the educational system from focusing on taking time to make sure that the students truly understand the concepts, rather then parrot the answers and forget them a month later.

I think that the whole thing could be summed up by this:

The educational system is severely broken. It disregards the needs of the students in all areas (ranging from the most "gifted" to the most severely learning disabled) in favor of turning out a set of numbers they can uphold as progress in the form of test scores. The needs disregarded are: the development of the skill set required for learning, the mastery of subjects taught, and the the development of rational thought. If children were taught in a fashion that meshed well with their learning style and encouraged them to explore the inter-disicplinarian elements of the subject matter, I believe that they would be highly successful. If subjects were taught for mastery rather then accomplishing the minimum required to pass a test, the students would be able to build off their skills and succeed. If students were taught how to think critically and rationally in a given situation, they would be able to confidently handle almost any situation presented to them.

If you've made it this far through my ... tract, thank you for being so patient with me. Please accept my humble apologies for the confusion I created with my earlier post, for any offense I may have committed, and the proliferation of spelling errors.

My next goal is to stop typing when I only have 3 hours of sleep. :) Thank you, again, for reading and keeping me honest. :) Constructive criticism is the writer's best friend. As per American Literature's 1st day with Sr. Margaret Ellen @ CND & the entire English department.

PS: I'm sorry for all the grammar mistakes. :)

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