Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It’s been a while since I blogged… for a variety of reasons, some were tech issues, others just an overwhelming sense of despair and resignation of some situations. Today’s entry will be threefold – 2 accolades of things you might enjoy, and then, I will end with some closing thoughts for the 2011 year. Enjoy…

First I want to start with a short book review/ recommendation. I just finished Where the Sky Doesn't End by Ron Nichols. The book parallels two middle school students, each a social outcast for their own reasons, and how their lives become intertwined as they search for their own dreams. The two characters were believable middle schoolers who both tugged at my heart as I read about their struggles. I found myself immersed in their lives, anticipating the conclusion/resolution. This would be a great read-aloud for middle schoolers. While some students might be able to navigate it as an independent read, much of the vocabulary would challenge any struggling readers. I was intrigued when Nichols sent me the book, and delighted when I finished it. I look forward to more similar genre novels from this new writer!

My next recommendation is for a cool new online math tool called Percentage Calculator. This simple but multi-faceted tool will help your students learn how to calculate percents in the form of _____ % of _______ is ________ by allowing the student to enter any 2 of the fields to have the other calculated for them. The tool is followed with a succinct explanation of the process.

It is somehow reassuring to start this post with positives that are happening peripherally to education. I find myself more negative, overwhelmed and disenchanted as time goes by. My biggest frustration now is inclusion. I’ve been a long time advocate of inclusion. I think all students benefit from being a part of the greater whole, learning from those ‘smarter’ and those who struggle. I see the plusses for both sides. However, inclusion is NOT always the best solution, not always the ‘least restrictive environment’ for a student. For some students, trying to force them to keep up academically with their peers is liken to torture. But now, with states going to the Common Core, with NCLB requirements rampant, schools are being forced to squeeze every student into that perfect mold. On paper, that all sounds swell. Every kid deserves every chance to learn every skill. Wait…. Make that every kid WILL learn every skill. How unrealistic is that expectation?? So now… we have students of all abilities thrown together floundering along, trying to master skills so far above their higher possible thresholds all we are doing it creating chaos. We’re forced to reach so far above, we cannot meet their true needs.
In the meantime, we are also doing a disservice to students who COULD master those concepts as we try to drag along the struggling students, holding back the others. We can try to ‘make accommodations’, provide support, but we’re just putting a bandaid on an amputated limb.
Moving beyond academic struggles, we have students now ‘included’ in regular education classes with severe emotional issues that are posing a danger to all students. The last day before Christmas break, a student became so distraught over a small issue, he picked up a student desk and threw it across the room. Luckily, no one was injured, but this is an ongoing problem, not an isolated incident, and one which will continue, I fear, to replay itself until someone IS hurt.
Inclusion is NOT an end all answer for education. It’s like expecting every student to play varsity basketball. No matter what coaching is in place, no matter how much practice time they get, there is simply no possible way EVERY student will ever make that team.

We wonder why parents become disillusioned with schools and search for alternatives – homeschooling, charter schools, etc….

As a parent, I wonder if my own children were in school now, what choices would I be searching for, because the choice in front of me as I walk in the doors of school each day is not one I would be proud to have for my children.