non dual teachers that in this day and age of ‘No student left behind’ and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for special needs students, we all want to achieve the best education possible for these students. Mainstreaming has been proven as an effective means of accomplishing this goal.
There are many benefits that the IEP student receives as a result of mainstreaming. These include improved social skills, exposure to curriculum that might otherwise be unavailable, and an overall higher standard of education. And the list goes on…
The downside to mainstreaming is what teachers must deal with on a daily basis. When a teacher presents the class material to 24 students, and 2 of them have special needs, there is usually additional attention and time required for the 2 students to be able to keep up with the class, and the teacher must figure out a way to help those who are struggling while at the same time, not boring those who are at or ahead of schedule. There are several strategies that teachers use for mainstreaming and more coming to light as educators continue to think ‘outside the box’ about improving education.
Time. The pressure is on for teachers nowadays to not only perform for the Fully Included students, who will have varied levels of abilities as it is, but also the additional mainstreamed students. Teachers feel it like a vise. No matter what strategy for mainstreaming is utilized, it is very frustrating for teachers that have, for example, 22 students waiting in class for what’s next while time is spent with the IEP students on review material. This is not a negative statement about IEP students, but only the admission that students with special needs require extra time and resources from the teacher, and that it can be a frustrating situation
All teachers I know wish they could spend an adequate amount of time with every student, including the extra time needed for those who struggle the most, but it is just not possible to be effective to all at the same time. Let’s take a look at each strategy to see how they solve the time issue and compare it to cost.
Teacher’s Aides, while an effective means of helping a struggling or IEP student, has a limited reach. Great for the one or two that they are helping at the time, but when there are others that struggle, they might tend to get missed. I’m sure that all teachers would want every student that struggles to have their own tutor, but school budgets in this economy often are making cuts in this area rather than bolstering it. Even in good economic times, there usually are not enough School Aides to go around.
Co-Teaching strategies are an example of teaching teamwork. This is where two teachers will combine efforts (and classes) and both teach the class. This has a similar effect as the Aide, but two certified teachers in the class can organize and facilitate groups based on abilities more effectively. There are several challenges to this approach. One is a class size that is now doubled, and the other is teacher’s ego. With a doubled class size, there is still a high student to teacher ratio and it is still difficult to attend to all the students according to their need. Teachers can also be very possessive of their classrooms at times, and it takes open communication and shared authority to make it work. Although it would seem that this option would cost less to a school than having an Aide assist.