This paper consists of three reports from interviews conducted with service providers in the education sector. The interviewees have all dealt with special or exceptional students. They were subjected to a series of questions that sought to give more insight into the quality of service provision in the education sector with particular focus on exceptional students. The responses given by the interviewees were not altered in any way.
The scope of education is getting wider and wider every day. The number of stakeholders involved in the education sector has increased and so has the scope of duties and responsibilities of educators. There are various categories of educators, for instance, those whose focus is on special students. Special students refer to students who are either exceptionally gifted or those who usually lag behind their compatriots in class. In many schools settings however, the mechanisms of differentiating between special students and normal students are not well defined and therefore, the best strategy to ensure that both students are well catered for education-wise is to enact a philosophy of inclusion whereby every student in every learning institutions feels accepted, safe and deeply valued. More schools are emphasizing on a criteria of inclusion which is very different from what was the case back in the day.
Descriptions of Interviewees
1. Mr. M- Age- 53, General Education Teacher, 25 years’ experience, Bachelor of Arts (Education) from Northwestern University.
2. Mrs. J- Age - 41 years, 14 years’ experience, Bachelor of Education (Special Education), Loyola University, Chicago
3. Mrs. K- Age, 54, School Principal, 30 years teaching experience, Bachelor of Education, University of Mississippi.
N.B: The names of the interviewees have been changed to protect their privacy
Interviewee No. 1 (Mr. M)
The inclusion criteria adopted by Mr. M is relatable to the suggestions of Friend (2014), who in explaining the importance of inclusion states that inclusion ensures that all the students in a particular school are educated with their typical peers in an environment that is least restrictive.
According to Mr. General Education teachers such as himself, actively collaborate with special education teacher and other service providers to foster the spirit of inclusion. The school holds special meeting between the various parties where the main subject of discussion is the students and in these meetings, strategies are enacted on how to approach and deal with students whether in the classroom or outside the classroom. Collaborative teaching is used for instance between a general education teacher and a special needs teacher whereby they partner to share the responsibilities for designing and delivering as well as evaluating instructional models for a diverse group of students in a general education classroom (Walter-Thomas et al, 1999).
As a general education teacher, Mr. M has several roles. One of these roles is to develop and also implement lesson plans that are supposed to facilitate the learning and participation of every student. His other role is to evaluate and monitor the progress of each student. The third role of Mr. M is to maintain communication with families or parent of students. Out of these roles, Mr. M feels that the most important is that of developing and implementing lesson plans because it is this role that forms the core of not only the school’s inclusion philosophy but also his own philosophy.
I wanted to know if he had ever dealt with extremely exceptional students and he recalled a former student of his who was a genius in electronics and who would often make robotic toys for his classmates. The student went on to study at MIT and is currently the owner of a huge electronics company at the tender age of 18.
Interviewee 2 (Mrs. J)
In her school, the management has put in place a collaborative strategy that adopts the “co-teaching design”. This is a special education service delivery method whereby two or three certified teachers (special and general education) share joint accountability and instructional responsibility for a particular single group of diverse students through partnership strategies (Rapp, 2005). This, for instance, includes the different parties exploring potential changes to be implemented to enable each student to participate more (Lombard et al. 1998).
As a special education teacher, Mrs. J has several key responsibilities. The first is to provide the general classroom teachers with information regarding a student’s medical concerns, disabilities as well as equipment operation. In addition, she serves as a case manager and develops and implements and also evaluates some of the designated student’s individual learning programs. Her third role includes collaborating with special education teachers in adapting or changing the curriculum, creating relevant modification, ensuring that modifications are implemented and the assessing the leaner’s progress. To her, the third role is the most important as it is the one that leads to the enhancement of optimum learning environment for all students.
It appears that Mrs. J duties resemble those stipulated by Friend (2014), who states that the success of a general education teacher in regards to exceptional students id dependent on the information provided to this teacher by a special education teacher about some of the basics needs of the student that may not be so easy to see but which a special education teacher is trained to identity.
According to Mrs. J, she has the ability to deal with exceptional students but she reiterates that the support of the management is crucial in implementing a philosophy of inclusion that clearly lays out guidelines for the inclusion started and that avails the required resources for implementation.
Interviewee 3 (Mrs. K)
According to Friend (2014), an IEP collaborative team should essentially be comprised of four key parties and these are the special education teacher the general education teacher, the student and the parent. Mrs. K states that this has been one of her primary initiatives to ensure full collaboration between the four mentioned parties.
Among the primary responsibilities of Mrs. K as an administrator include the coordination of the scheduling of teachers and their respective classes (teacher assignments and classroom placements). She is also actively involved in the hiring of both general education and special teachers. She also evaluates all the lesson plans and instruction models to ensure that they are fully inclusive. Mrs. K states the latter is her most important role because it enables her to drive forward her agenda of full inclusiveness in her school.
According to Mrs. K, she has been in the education sector for more than thirty years both as an educator as well as an administrator. Because of this experience, she feels that she learnt how to deal with exceptional students and the success of her inclusive policy in her school is proof of this.
In conclusion, it is clear that the best education policy is one that has an element of inclusiveness. According to Friend, (2014), in the education programs of the 1950’s and the 1960’s, exceptional students were considered to be incapable of education or learning and in many cases, they were assigned meaningless tasks such as raft activities or coloring. Inclusion is however gaining precedence in modern times. All the interviewees have shown their involvement in the formulation an inclusive strategies in schools that considers the interest of both regular students and exceptional students. It is also clear that to get the best possible outcome; collaborative efforts between general educators, special educators and other stakeholders such as school administrators are required.
Friend, M. (2014). Special education: Contemporary perspectives for school professionals. (4th Ed.) Pearson Higher Ed.
Walter-Thomas, C., Korinek. L., & McLaughlin, V. (1999). Collaboration to support students' success. Focus on Exceptional Children, 32(3), 1-18.
Rapp, W. H. (2005). Inquiry-Based Environments for the Inclusion of Students with Exceptional Learning Needs. Remedial and Special Education, 26(5), 297-310.
Lombard, R. C., Miller, R. J., & Hazelkorn, M. N. (1998). School-to-Work and Technical Preparation: Teacher Attitudes and Practices Regarding the Inclusion of Students with Disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 21(2), 161-172.