Teacher Collaboration Essay, Research Paper
Included as defined in the Webster s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary is a verb meaning to take in or enclose. Today many times children feel excluded because of their differences, whether it is the way they look or a learning disability they have. This exclusion has forced the education system to reform their ideas about how are children should be educated. One of the newest reform ideas is to encourage “inclusion” special education programs. Teacher collaboration and inclusion is beginning to be encouraged by many of the education journals and more information is accessible to help move this idea in a positive direction. In Childhood Education, a five-page report was dedicated to teacher collaboration in school reform. An education journal, Young Children also published a telling article, “Children Blossom in a Special and General Education Integration Program,” on the collaboration of a daycare and a school that benefited all the children who were involved. An education Internet sight included an informative article, Inclusion! The Bigger Picture, about the meaning of inclusion and how educators should view their students. Although the three articles suggested different strategies to collaborate and include everyone, all of them defined the reform as a necessity to the school system.
All three articles held that the schools could not reform the special education system alone. Teachers, parents, administrators, students, and the whole community must get involved in classroom collaboration in order for progress to take place. Schoen, Auen, and Arvanitis report named the disabilities of special needs children to be: down syndrome, autism, and physical, behavioral, and cognitive impairments (58). All of these disabilities appear in the public school system, yet many schools are having difficulty collaborating. For many normal children, the only place they are around special needs children is in school and many times they are unsure of how to react. In the same report, many programs were outlined that schools might implement to successfully achieve the integration of special and general education programs. Many group activities were integrated into the curriculum. While this change was sometimes stressful on the teachers, it encouraged the children to become involved and interact with one another. Another positive change made in the classrooms was that the entire room was labeled with words and pictures to match. The labeling enabled all the children, no matter what their capabilities, to learn to read and make decisions quicker about which center they wanted to participate in. While Gable and Manning s article focused primarily on two types of collaboration, direct and indirect, while their approaches could be applied to other school situations. Indirect collaboration takes place usually before or after school or during a common teacher preparation period. Usually two or three teachers will help each other devise a plan to help accommodate a child who is having difficulty in class. Direct collaboration, brings two teachers together too equally plan and instruct a group of students. The article defined several cooperative-teaching methods, from shadow teaching to team teaching and suggested the teachers choose the best method for them (221). Several basis were listed in order to assist the teachers in choosing the best method, things such as the needs of the students , the amount of time available, the amount of prior training each teacher had, and the nature of the relationship between the teachers were suggested. Forest and Pearpoint s article focused on the meaning of inclusion which can be applied to every classroom and later to each student s everyday life. According to the article, inclusion is about learning to live with one another. Inclusion means being with (1). The article points out that children do not normally have a problem accepting children who are disabled, it is the adults around them that do. The author s suggest that inclusion should not be used as a label for disabled children, rather it should be used to celebrate the differences of each child.
In Gable and Manning s report, the suggested approach was based much more on the role of the teacher, rather than the role of the child as proposed by the report of Schoen, Auen, and Arvanitis. Gable and Manning believed that teacher, grade-level, subject area, and multi-classroom collaboration is necessary to effectively achieve a total integration of the special and general education (220). Well-organized cooperative teaching methods were suggested, as well as calling for a school change that would encourage community involvement. Schoen, Auen, and Arvanitis suggested an innovative program, independent or group activities, and peer support to bring the general and special educations together. The special education teacher observed the preschool room her students would be going to and collaborated with the teacher in order to help her design a schedule similar to a typical preschool schedule. The observation helped her to prepare her students, so that they would be comfortable in their new environment and in turn be successful. Newsletters, parent information sessions, and open houses were held to inform parents and students about the new approach to education (61). Forest and Pearpoint view inclusion as the responsibility and participation of everyone. They suggested using new and exciting educational concepts such as cooperative and adult education, whole language and phonics, computer technology, and critical thinking (1). They believe that everyone should be educated to include each other and suggest that the exclusion of people, especially teenagers, leads to gangs, suicide, and violence because they are desperate to be included. Finally, Forest and Pearpoint demand community involvement, especially in schools, to celebrate diversity and teach the children to accept everyone. Since most public schools have not fully enacted any of these methods, it is unclear which strategy will prove to be the most beneficial.
While schools cannot be solely responsible for enacting the collaboration in classrooms, they can alert the need for parents, politicians, and television networks to pull together in a concentrated effort to reform the school system. The knowledge that many children blossom and become more accepting through special and general education should be enough to gain the needed support. Since this reform is also a political goal, schools should receive ample support from the President, Congress, and every state governor. If this support is not received the politicians must be held responsible. Also since many disabled children have normal siblings in the home, parents must join the effort for success to be an option. Parents need to be strong role models and express to their children that everyone is unique and that it is good to be different. It is the responsibility of everyone to bring out the strong points of every child.
While the successes of Schoen, Auen, and Arvanitis approaches incorporate typical classrooms, revised lesson plans, language interaction, and loads of attention which is something the children look forward to. These strategies seem to stress long term effects, which are ultimate goals in integrating special and general education. Gable and Manning s strategies offer a sense of shared decision-making and create a climate in which all students are successful. Forest and Pearpoint also stress that inclusion is not something that we have to agree on; instead, it celebrates our diversity and differences with respect. Once everyone realizes that teacher collaboration is needed, our children will definitely blossom and begin to celebrate their differences.
Hopefully, education journals and articles will continue to address the needed reforms and offer solutions to educators across the nation. As the Young Children, Childhood Education, and Internet articles proposed, schools need to initiate reforms with the support of the parents, community, and politicians. Without a joint effort, the integration of special and general education programs will cease. Also, as shown in these articles, the lasting effects need to be considered. Schools may choose to use the tactics introduced in the Childhood Education Journal to address the immediate reform and use the approaches from the Young Children Journal to be used continuously in the classrooms. The views of Forest and Pearpoint s article can be included in every classroom regardless of whether the class includes disabled children or not. Regardless, each school must devise a program that is unique to their environment. If these programs are successful, our children can be assured a future with more cooperation, participation, interdependence, friendships, acceptance, and love, allowing them to blossom and survive as a global family.
Forest, Marsha, Jack Pearpoint. Inclusion! The Bigger Picture. Inclusion Press International. June 1996: 4 pgs. 8 Mar. 1999 .
Gable, Robert A. , M. Lee Manning. “The Role of Teacher Collaboration in School Reform.” Childhood Education 73 (1997) : 219-223.
Schoen, Theresa Maloney, Jeanne Auen, and Mary Ann Arvanitis. “Children Blossom in a Special and General Education Integration Program.” Young Children 52 (1997) : 58-63.