I was in a classroom last week subbing for the teacher. Upon arriving to the room, the lesson plan for the day was on the desk as was the required handouts and materials. In this classroom there were two students who had learning disabilities, including one who also had physical disabilities. We started the day and progressed through the subjects. At various times, I had two Educational Assistants in the room and one resource teacher. I had yet to be informed on the conditions of the students until before recess the resource teacher pulled me aside and said “student X has Asperger’s Syndrome“. I was thankful that this teacher provided me with some information for now I knew how to respond to this student in ways that would benefit them and to understand that the student was simply being who they are and were not acting out.
I know that as a substitute teacher, I do not need to see a student’s Individualized Education Plan, but I would prefer to have information about students I will be working with if they may need adaptations etc. Even a simple folder saying this student needs more support here, or they may do this or that, and here are some tips to help them learn.
I also found that when I gave a spelling test and was writing on the board, the Educational Assistants were administering the test to the student they were working with, or they were also taking notes so that the class could continue on while that student caught up. I even asked, should I keep going or should I wait – I was told to keep going through the lessons, etc.
I know that many schools in the province are moving away from alternative classrooms for students with disabilities of all types and are moving towards inclusive classrooms. I support inclusive education and classrooms but during my experience that day, it did not feel like an inclusive room. Maybe the regular classroom teacher displays and leads an inclusive room, but I did not feel that I did a good job at including all students that day.
I felt underprepared to effectively work with those students in the classroom and that I may not have responded to them as effectively as I could have. I had met these students last year when I observed them in their classrooms when I was completing internship at this same school, but I did not know of their needs at that time either. At the end of the day, those students, and the entire class had a good day – myself included. Needs were met, adaptations were met and lessons were taught but could I have done a better job? I think so.
I hope to observe and work in inclusive classrooms throughout my career. It seems that if this is one example of what an inclusive classrooms looks like, there are steps that can be taken to help prepare classroom teachers, substitute teachers, Educational Assistants and everyday practices so that all students’ needs are met.