Our country’s Education system is failing our students with disabilities. We are going to continue to fail them because their needs cannot be adequately met through a computer. That is not an indictment; it is my professional opinion.
As I watched my twitter feed during the past 10 days, I can say with 100% confidence: None of the U.S. schools were remotely prepared for operating during a pandemic. Because I can acknowledge that, without personal culpability, I can also state that we are woefully unprepared to serve students with disabilities. Those are my students.
Much to my surprise, there are still a large number of rural and urban schools that do not provide students with take-home devices. There are also barriers to accessing reliable internet service. Given the aforementioned issues, why is anyone in our field claiming they are either serving all students? Or, worse yet, hosting webinars/podcasts with solutions to serving students like mine? The weekly conversations on Twitter almost always omit my students. Why the sudden interest?
Everyone’s an expert…
Put simply: There are opportunists waiting to present themselves as experts during this unprecedented time. Parents are stressed and vulnerable. They are searching for solutions to teach their children, while continuing to work. I get it, as I homeschooled for a number years.
Enough is enough. We should not mislead parents, now or after the pandemic ends. I will not sit by and watch opportunists misrepresent how students with disabilities can learn virtually.
I am an experienced Special Education Teacher. I have taught at both the high school and middle school levels, in both traditional and charter schools. I am good at what I do; I cannot be replaced by a computer, software program, or tool. The work I do requires 180+ days of commitment; not just a few days of curating tweets. I would never present myself as a knowledgeable expert in any other field, especially if I never engaged in conversations about or received training in that field.
As a Special Education Teacher, I am acknowledging that it is impossible to meet all the academic, behavioral, social, and other needs of students with IEPs. Speech, Occupational Therapy, Behavior Therapy, etc are things that need to be conducted by a human, in person. I will even admit that it is impossible to meet half the needs of students with IEPs.
Do you even know the difference between Accommodations and Student Supports?
For example, the ReadWrite extension on Chrome can provide the read aloud accommodation, but it cannot engage in a call and response with students to check for understanding. That is an accommodation only a human can provide. A computer program cannot monitor students’ expressions during a lesson to determine who is ready to proceed or who needs additional instruction. That is an accommodation only a human can provide. I may be unaware, but is there a tool that paraphrases questions for students? I doubt it. That is an accommodation only a human can provide.
Accommodations are not tools; tools are not accommodations.
It is painfully obvious that certain people are vying for attention to remain relevant. If your every day (Education-related) conversations (intentionally) exclude my students, we do not need your situational concern now.