Inclusion: A Comment on Tom Whitby’s: “A Third Rail Education Issue”

Tom Whitby has a very interesting post on the issue of Inclusion.

This is an extremely complex issue. A look at my classroom highlights some of these complexities.

Deaf and hard of hearing students at the high-school where I teach are placed in regular homerooms, but the time they actually spend learning with their hearing peers is compleltely individual. Some learn all subjects except gym (and homeroom hour) in the self contained small classes, with special teachers (by subject matter) situated  in the school, while other study varying degrees of hours a week with their homeroom class,   depending on the subject. There are 70 deaf and hard of hearing students and approx. 1, 700 hearing students at our school.

Some of the students came to the high-school from self contained classes in regular schools. Others were completely mainstreamed  till they came to us in 10th grade. Some of these transferred because of academic difficulties. Despite receiving tutoring, the older they became the harder it was to keep up with their hearing peers. Others did very well academically in the mainstreamed classroom.

Regardless of academic succes (or the lack of it) all of the students who came to us from the mainstream were lonely. Some students had hearing friends but felt, as adolescents, that their hearing friends could not understand them and be a “real” friend the way their hard of hearing peers could. Some students study most of their subjects with hearing students yet spend every second of the breaks hanging out with the other hard of hearing students.

I teach ALL70 students. This year we don’t have a single student who can deal with studying English as a Foreign Language on a high-school level with the hearing students. I know for a fact that some deaf and hard of hearing students that are mainstreamed take exams at the highest level of English and do well. But this is a minority. Studying English when the teacher talks, sings and lets the students talk in  a foreign language which is hard to lip read is a nightmare for many. The level of English of some of the pupils that come to me from the mainstream is very low.

Back to Tom Whitby’s post. He writes: “…but sometimes fairness to all, means unfairness to some.”

Now, lets look at Inclusion within the special classroom.

Some parents would rather their child be labeled as “deaf” of “hard of hearing” than other things. In recent years I have been getting pupils whose hearing problem is really the “least of their problems”. For example, a pupil who is hyperactive and when frustrated or angry by a small thing erupts in violence needs my full attention to keep him on task. What about the other pupils in the room? What about the sweet, polite girl who is really weak and needs my attention as a specialist but  I’ve  constantly got one eye on  this pupil or else “all hell will break loose” literally?

And what about the pupil who has organic problems and is sensitive to noise? Classes of deaf students are not (as you may think) quiet places. I teach in the format of a learning center. Hard of hearing students may talk too loudly. Deaf students tap their pens or their feet unaware that the noise is annoying. This student throws temper tantrums when the noise causes him to feel a headache.

Neither of the pupils I mentioned rely on sign language for communication.

I’m told that as a special ed teacher I must be “inclusive”. However, there are days which I wonder who we are being fair to with their placement.

2 thoughts on “Inclusion: A Comment on Tom Whitby’s: “A Third Rail Education Issue””

  1. Hi Naomi,
    What a fascinating insight into your classroom! I’ve often wondered how you go about teaching deaf / hard-of-hearing students. I had a friend a couple of years ago who was teaching blind students too, and it was interesting to think about what you have to change to adapt the lessons.
    Do you teach the students simultaneously or are there smaller groups in your learning centre at any one time?
    Your comments on inclusion are also very thought-provoking – I admire your patience with your students.

  2. Sandy!
    In other subjects the teachers teach frontally to groups of 8 – 10 students with a hearing loss. But in English, when I get the same groups which are sort of homogenous in regards to the subjects taught in Hebrew, they are at TOTALLY different levels, ranging widely from those struggling over deciphering the word “supermarket” (even though it is a cognate) to those who are working on writing an essay about the influence of media on teenagers.
    So they work alone, or in pairs, and I move around. some lessons i have a young teacher’s aid and sometimes I have a volunteer.
    I’m very excited about the strategies I’ve recently learned here on blogoshpere, such as Reverse Reading and Disappearing Text which are good for frontal activities with students at different levels (up to a point, though).
    My main adaptation is to turn everyhting into an individual activity – I’m eager to try out your stamps idea, for one! Already prepared a few stamps!

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