To belong, to fit in, to be suitable, to be appropriate or to be a member of a club, organization, or set; this is what we all want for our children. So nothing hurts worse than when your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom.” What you hear as a parent is a statement of your child’s failings. What I hear is an admission of a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child. Let me give you a few examples of what you are not hearing but is implied in this statement:
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the school will not provide the appropriate aides and supports necessary to educate your child;
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am not capable of educating your child;
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to take the time to differentiate my instruction and find the method that your child learns;
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the District has increased my class size to 45 students and has not provided me with a paraprofessional to help lessen my load;
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to follow his IEP because it takes too much time and energy;
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the School District refuses to spend money on children with special needs; and
- Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am a bad teacher.
The last example I want to explain, because I realize that I may have angered many educators. Just like every profession there are a few who are great at what they do, a few that are awful at what they do and many that are somewhere in between. Teaching is no exception and if you have uttered the phrase, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” you land solidly on the far left of the bell curve in the well below average category of Teaching. Even if you made this statement due to constraints caused by the School District, this statement is not acceptable. We all have the right to belong, and we also all have the right to be educated. This doesn’t mean I believe every child should be educated in a mainstream class; inevitably, many school districts will not provide the necessary supports needed for inclusion to be successful. I do however feel that every child deserves to be respected and to tell them or their parents they “don’t belong” is not appropriate.
About a month ago I went to my son’s back to school night. This is his first year in Middle School so we spent about 5 to 10 minutes in each class. The second class I went into was his social studies room and the Teacher started her discussion by stating, “I am going to set the bar really high this year for every student. I don’t care that this isn’t my honors class I am going to set the bar high and every single student WILL move higher than they thought they could. They might not all make it to the top but I will take them ALL as high as they can go.” She then read this poem:
She then walked us through the various methods she uses to teach including visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. To determine how each of her students learn she conducted a learning style assessment on the first day of school and used those results to modify her teaching style. If you haven’t realized it yet this Teacher lands on the far right of the bell curve in the well above average category for Teaching.
The morale of this little exercise is that there are good teachers and bad teachers, good school districts and bad school districts. So, if your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” it’s time to find a new placement. It’s time to find a new placement not because your child doesn’t belong but because your child deserves better. Your child deserves a Teacher like my son’s social studies Teacher who is going to push them and help them fly.