CGI in a Full-Inclusion Class
Teacher: I work with a special-ed teacher, because my room is a full-inclusion classroom for ELL and Special Ed… First year it was 28 kids, it was working with new people—one of them being the Special Ed teacher and then the ELL. So, we have a real mix of kids in the 28 kids I have. And the Special Ed teacher, my teaching partner, was very much direct instruction. And I’m, I guess you could say, opposite. So, we came from very different ideas of what should be happening, and it was very interesting because both of us came to the notion when we first heard we were going to work together [thinking], “You’ve got to be kidding. Do you know what you’re doing?” And what has been so exciting is it has been so much fun working with each other and thinking about kids as our kids, and what does that mean? And how to construct—what it means for both of us—and the roles we play in the classroom and what it means for us to team teach … and just watching someone who is such an incredibly direct teacher be so into kids’ thinking and learning, and watching this whole idea of special ed and full inclusion become a model for “all kids can learn, and, oh my god, I never knew kids could learn like this and think like this,” and the incredible conversations we have, thinking about kids’ thinking. And I’ve learned so much from her, and I think she learned so much from me.
And now that the English—the second-language learners, it’s just a whole new piece that’s come into play too. And what I think we’re finding out is that it’s just really thinking about the kids and their learning and really getting to know every kid and starting where they’re at and moving them forward.
Interviewer: Give an example of something you’ve learned from the special-ed teacher and then something that you think she’s learned from you.
Teacher: Well, … I think about all the things; I’ve learned a lot from Kay. I’ve learned—she came to our relationship with an incredible sense of organization. And [I value] the way that she could look at the children and she could think about the kids and how she could assess and keep track. So, … she had different tools than I do. Now, her tools and the way she could organize was very different from what I was used to, and I think my tools—you know I keep a lot—when I’m watching kids and I’m thinking about kids, I’ll keep a lot of it in my head. Or I’ll write things down, but then I don’t really—it’s there. But, as we talked about with the tools, we both started to talk about what is it that we’re looking at. And I think what happened was our conversation became more fine-tuned about—I had to talk about what I looked at and why I was looking at that and what is important. So, I found that I really had to verbalize what I was really thinking about, and it became more fine-tuned in my head. She also then had to do the same thing for hers, and we had to decide what was important and what wasn’t important or if we were looking at the same thing or different things. And then some of her organizational tools were pieces that really fit well, so that when I was looking at things, it’s like, “Oh, that’s really going to help,” because then as we sat down to have to grade kids—we would sit down and do our report cards together—everything just kept falling into place. Or through the eyes of this person, through the eyes of that person, [I would] say, “Oh I’m not so sure about this child because I don’t have this piece on him,” and she’d say, “Oh, you know what, this is what I noticed: this, this, and this.” [I’d say,], “Oh, you’re right.” So, we’ve got different sets of eyes with different pieces coming into play, and it’s very powerful.
Interviewer: And something you think she’s learned from you or from working together.
Teacher: I know, because she tells me all the time, she’s learned that kids don’t have to be told and taught how to do mathematics.
Interviewer: Even special ed kids?
Teacher: Even special-ed kids. And it’s just really fun because she also talks about her own child, and he’s a child with an IEP, and she talks about all his different strategies, because she goes home and she’s like, “You know, I can’t believe it. Before we were partners, it used to be so easy because I could just do X, Y, and Z with the children, and I know if they could do this. And now I have to ask them these questions, and now I have to … because I know that they can do this or that, and I have to follow through ….” You know, it’s a responsibility of—when you understand children’s thinking and build upon children’s thinking, there’s a different sense of responsibility you have for teaching. So, I think within our classroom, the children are really seeing models of learners; the adults are learners. It really is a place of learning for kids and adults. And everybody’s having fun learning. And we talk so much about the strengths and weaknesses that the children have and the adults have, and we all start off talking about being 100% smart, and “so what are your smarts?” And then the children, we share the bigger, the proportions, of where the smarts are. And then we talk about “well we’re all in this room because, you know, we all have different smarts and different strengths, but we also have different weaknesses. And so you know, your job is to figure out how you’re going to use your strength to help someone else’s weakness become a strength.” And then at the end of the year we did it again, and we looked at both [initial and end-of-year] charts, pie charts. And the kids were just amazed. They said, “Look how it changed; look at—now this strength has now gotten, it has evened out a little bit.” And it’s so nice because we talk about how it’s not about being smart. You’re not smart or you’re not stupid, but it’s about effort and it’s about practice. And the kids will buy into that right away. The child who came in with … really reluctant with mathematics or with reading but they were good with football or basketball, well, why is it?
Child (C): Because I really like to play and I practice a lot.
Teacher (T): Yeah, but … do you like to read so much?
T: Do you like math so much?
C: Well, not really.
T: So, if you’ve got to chose what would you …?
C: Oh, I’d go shoot baskets.
T: Oh, so what if you put that much effort into your counting or your math or whatever you’re working on? Well, guess what, pretty soon you’re going to get better at it, and then it’s going to be more fun and you’re going to want to do it more.
So, we talk about effort—really putting in the effort and how it’s an effort piece.