Teachers are remarkable people. We have the ability to create the next generation. If we do a good job, we leave the world in better hands than we found it. Our scientists will be prepared to create cures for the most difficult diseases, poverty will no longer be an issue, and our jails will no longer be places used to mend our mistakes.
Teachers can help achieve this future only if we are willing to meet the needs of all our children. If we fail even one child, we leave society no better than it is today.
Special education teachers once suffered from the “Statue of Liberty” syndrome. We offered to provide education to everyone who has difficulty learning. Now, since most children with special needs no longer learn in a self-contained special ed classroom, all teachers must assume the responsibility of providing appropriate education to all children.
In 1984, Madeline Wills beautifully articulated that point in the Regular Education Initiative, which called for all educators to be responsible for educating all children. We cannot deny that responsibility just because a child carries a special label. This concept has been put into law repeatedly as IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) legislation is renewed. IDEA’s concepts of “inclusion” and the “least restrictive environment” remind us that all children, not just the easy ones, are ours to teach.
Getting back to the dumb question, there really are two answers. Being a professional educator requires that we meet the needs of all children by providing an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. We also are responsible for making the world a better place for the next generation of adults.
You are required to provide whatever support is needed to educate a child. If a disruptive child needs extra help, extra help is what you must give them. Just as you didn’t ask to have that child placed in your class, the child did not ask to be born with greater needs than others. The disruptive child is more challenging to educators, but we knew there would be challenges when we selected our profession.
The standard of excellence we must always strive for is not met when we educate only easy-to-serve students. We achieve that standard only when we meet the needs of the most difficult children too. He or she may well be the one who represents our greatest success!