Tag Archives: Special Education

The students and the educational system Left Behind

28 Feb

When I first imagined a Masters in International Education I thought I was going to compare and analyze different educational systems across the world. I had it all planned out in my mind, I wanted to write my thesis about how U.S. educational system is designed to fail its students through their absurd obsession with standardized testing. Nothing happened like expected and there was no thesis to be written.

A couple of weeks ago two friends brought to my attention two similar articles about the realities and consequences of standardize testing – the unpreparedness of students going to College and how standardize testing hurts children with disabilities. I strongly recommend you to read them.

As a former special education teacher I can confidently say that I was one of those teachers getting low evaluations because my students wouldn’t show a “significant” progress. A certain percent of the entire school special education population had to get above certain score in order for the school- and for us the teachers- to make it to safe heavens. My students were often treated more like numbers and labels rather than capable students. Every progress (personal or academic) they made was often diminished by those absurd standards set up by standardize testing. Subsequently, most of my students, just like the girl from the article, felt incompetent and stupid when taking such tests. Those two weeks of testing were the worst two weeks of the year for them. Their self-confidence was at its lowest and this kind of testing was a perfect trigger for anxiety and panic attacks.

I knew my students well, I knew what they learned and what not, the way they learned better and I know that the ways in which they grew personally and academically could not be measured by a standardized test. Parents, general ed teachers, and students themselves knew and noticed such progress, but the pressure is such that before their eyes the “real deal” was their standardized test score. It was very painful and heartbreaking to see my students go through the entire process. I ended up spending my time teaching to the test (not by choice…) – a set of “skills” that students will actually never use in real life. After teaching for only two years I became bitter and helpless and I left the system disappointed.

I honestly believe that the inclusive education model (and perhaps the entire system) needs to be revised and reformed to better and truly serve our kids. The day our education system stops being so politicized MAYBE that will be the day when we will stop failing our students with disabilities and we might then treat them more as capable human beings rather than just as a label with a price tag. And that absurd obsession with foolish standardize testing and their guidelines and modified tests for kids with disabilities means nothing to them or to their families. It’s a mere bureaucracy and a misuse of time.

I have very strong feelings against standardized testing in general, but when it comes to students with disabilities, I think it’s the most absurd thing!! It’s just a political thing and a huge waste of students’ and teachers’ time. If we look into it, I am pretty sure we can find other ways to measure and assess student achievement and teacher accountability. But then again I guess standardized testing is a multi-million industry…

An open letter to ALL of those who use the R-word

25 Oct

Ann Coulter’s “retard” remarks to President Obama on Twitter are the product of mere IGNORANCE. Even more sadly is the fact that it is a misconception that unfortunately a big fraction of the population holds. As much as this country does to integrate and mainstream people with disabilities, mere physical inclusion is NOT enough.  Bullying children with disabilities at schools is at his all-time highest and  my former students can speak to that. Public perceptions MUST change, but it won’t happen unless people  gets educated about disabilities or have gained enough perspective through family members or friends with disabilities to know that having a disability is NOT a determinant of stupidity and dumbness.  To degrade and belittle someone because they learn different than most, because it takes them a little more time to process information or because they look different is disgraceful. People are NOT their disability, they are people just like you and me, but then again many many people can’t see further than a diagnosis.

The moment people understand the meaning of having a disability, it will be the moment they are going to open their hearts and minds and gain ample understanding of things such as respect, humanity and kindness.

Sadly, topics like this go unnoticed in the media. Clearly, in this time and era people are more interested on their Facebook lives or on TV reality show more than anything else. Apathy is an ill-state that has taken over our society.

John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete and global messenger,  wrote a response letter to Ann Coulter. His inspiring letter was brilliantly and thoughtfully written. If you read John’s letter and touched you I am going to ask you to please share his letter with family and friends.  A piece of truth and art like this must be seen by everyone.

In retrospective… I miss teaching

21 Sep

I grew up in a Mexico – USA border town, Juarez-El Paso. Lived the first half of my life in Mexico and the other half in Texas, so if you ask me- I am from the border. I have moved from place to place since 2004 when I first set out to find my way. From Culinary School in Austin to the Disney College Program in Orlando to study abroad in Florence, Italy to a full time job in D.C. to graduate school in NYC. Home is still the the border. I have a B.A. in Special Education and worked for two years at an inner city high school in Washington, D.C. as a 10th grade Special Education Teacher. While I thoroughly enjoyed working with my group of high school students, I soon discovered that the educational system is full of loopholes. The absurd obsession with standardized testing, the lack of teacher’s autonomy, the power struggles, the misrepresentation of special education kids, the countless lies, but overall working for the system instead of working for the students is what took a toll on me.  Despite all that, leaving my students was one of the hardest things. My students became part of my family away from home and I became their “safe space”.  I miss fighting with and for them, I miss coaching girls soccer, I miss being around them, I miss laughing and crying with them, I miss struggling with them, I miss talking with them- I miss teaching.

Having been educated in two totally different educational systems I have always been interested in learning about comparative international education. As a student with a minor speech impediment in elementary school in Mexico, an English Language Learner (ELL) student in high school in Texas and my experience as a  Special Education teacher inspired me to further my research in inclusive education practices, or lack of, in developing countries. A Masters in International Education with a more practical approach brought me to NYC, even though I thought I would never live here, but life happens and here I am, a semester short from graduation. My passion is inclusive education and my research so far has been in the area of child protection, education in emergencies and I am now about to immerse in the area of (de)institutionalization of children with disabilities in developing countries.

The first year of grad school was quite an experience; transitioning from a full time job to being a full time student was hard. Having to adapt to NYC life while getting in the habit of reading tons of pages per week wasn’t easy either.  I spent nights trying to make sense of  Mr. Marx, Mr. Weber and Mr. Foucault with little luck at first, posting on group discussions right before the deadline, sleepless nights and endless days at the library. I just finished a summer internship with UNICEF and as my studies come close to an end, I am excited for what the future might bring.

Soccer summer camp 2010