Thursday, July 14, 2016

Get My Kid Out Of That Class!

Several weeks ago, the happiest time of the year commenced. Final report cards were distributed and summer fun was about to begin.   But before I could purchase the sunscreen and locate the beach towels - there was one end of the school year ritual that I dreaded.  Quite frankly I try desperately to avoid it.  It is the annual "What class is your child in next year?" discussion. I know, it seems completely benign.  But to a parent whose child is in an ICT (Integrated Co-teaching) class, it is a big deal. You see the ICT parent knows, that all the other parents freak out if their child gets assigned to that class.  And the ICT parent is left with a pit in their stomach.  We know that the parent will, as they are entitled to do so, will try to get that child re-assigned.

What is an ICT class?  ICT classes are classes compromised of two types of students. The first is the standard general education student. The second is the general education student that has a learning challenge (ADD, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy etc.).  The percentage of standard general education students without a learning challenge is always higher.  The concept is to not isolate the learning challenged.  The hope is that if you keep them in this integrated environment it will make it easier once they are able to move on.  This class is always equipped with two teachers, one general education teacher and one special education teacher. Both teachers work equally with all students throughout the year.  The overall class size is similar to the other classes in the same grade.

As an ICT parent, this object to the ICT environment concerns me.  One of my daughters has been in an ICT class since kindergarten.  My daughter had a speech delay and writing issues.  However, now heading into the 5th grade she no longer requires speech or occupational therapy. But the ICT class is the proper environment for her at this time.  And my hope every year is that the class be comprised of students at varying aptitude levels, creating a more realistic learning environment. I also hope the students change every year. A sort of fresh start.  However, every year we see students come and go from the class. I wasn't so aware of this at first, and made the mistake of telling my daughter that a particular student was going to be in her class next year.  She was excited, as this was a really nice student that had been in her kindergarten class. Only to find out that the child was removed as the parent complained to the principal about the ICT environment.  After the first day of school, my daughter informed me that this student wasn't in her class. I let her think I made the mistake - she was too young to understand the truth and all of its nuances.  Also, I don't ever think people are rejecting the class because of my daughter. Their concern is colored by their own understanding of "special" education.

Now, I don't take issue with the parents desire to provide their child with the best learning environment they can. You see that is my goal too. I just have a bit less control over it than they do.  When they choose to remove their child from the ICT class it changes the mix of the class.  And indeed that is my problem, not their problem. I also understand that the ICT class can be a bit chaotic as children are pulled out throughout the day to go to various therapy sessions.  It is also true that some kids are put in ICT because of behavior issues and those issues can be distracting. I get it.  But I think there are things you should consider before calling the principal and demanding removal.

Class Size - The presence of two teachers in the classroom shrinks the student to teacher ratio. And if there is also a Para assigned to a particular student the ratio shrinks even further.  Just do the math.

Point of Contact - You have two points of contact should an issues arise not just one.

The Substitute Situation - We all know that when a substitute is brought in, the day will not consist of rigorous learning.  However, in an ICT classs when one is out the other one is there.  So a more productive day can be had

Real World Learning - The ICT class with its mix of students is a better reflection of working within our society than a GATE (Gifted and Talented Class) is.  GATE classes are great, but they remind me of a sort of Think Tank.  The rest of us work in a world of high level, mid level, and low level performers.  Learning how to complete teamwork with other classmates of varying aptitudes creates a foundation for future successes when not all team players are at the same performance level.

Tolerance - We all shudder when we hear a story about a child who is being bullied because of a learning impairment.  Learning within an ICT environment teaches children to exist, work, and play with other students despite their differences.  If anything it will teach them to respect those students despite the difficulties that are present.

As parents we all want the best for our children.  But, I implore you to consider taking the road less traveled.  Our world is not perfect and our ability to succeed in an imperfect world is important.  What better way to set your child up for success than to allow him/her to be in an ICT class at least once during their Elementary School career.  Before you make that impassioned call to your Principal, pause and re-consider how you define the perfect class.