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He’s Just a Goofy Guy

Jake is an energetic first grader with a learning disability. Although he is considered one of the gang by his classmates and is excelling academically during the two hours he is included in a general education class, Betty, his general education teacher, feels he just "wouldn’t fit in" a general education classroom full time. On the other hand, Sharon, his resource teacher, sees no reason why he would not be successful.

 

Betty Armstrong’s classroom is picture-postcard perfect. Her desk, meticulously organized, sits to the right of 20 first grade desks, exactly four rows of five and not one even an inch out of place. In the back of the room is the small-group reading table with two neat stacks of readers and workbooks beside a precisely covered box of pencils, erasers, and crayons. A few selected examples of students’ work, each matted in coordinating colors, are displayed in the room.. Also, prominently displayed is a job board listing students’ names and the classroom chores for which they were responsible. Everything has its place and everything is always in it's place--well almost always.

It was 10:00 a.m., time for reading. Jake and David came into the room as they did every day at 10:00. They went directly to their desks as Ms. Armstrong had always insisted. Jake bumped his desk out of place as he sat down. He cocked his head to the side, put his feet up on the wire rack under his friend Amy’s desk, and gave her a big lopsided grin.

She smiled back, "Hi! Jake!" Jake moved to respond to Amy’s high-five and missed.

"Okay, class, it is time to work on your story projects," Ms. Armstrong announced to her first graders who looked at her enthusiastically. Jake fidgeted in his seat. "We just have two more days to get them done before open house."

Jake excitedly shuffled through the papers inside his desk. "Ah! There they are--my crayons," he said aloud to himself as he grabbed them and put them on top of his desk still holding his desk top up with his other hand. "I will put an octopus on..."

SLAM! Just then his left hand let go of his desk top, and it came slamming down. His crayons fell all over the floor.

"Uh oh!" He hurried to pick up his crayons hoping that Ms. Armstrong didn’t notice. Just as he bent down, his glasses slid off his face.

Ms. Armstrong had been watching Jake out of the corner of her eye. "Boy, that young man sure has a difficult time with organization," she thought to herself. She sighed as she considered the amount of energy it took to try to get him to fit in.

• • •

Betty Armstrong had been a teacher for six years. She was considered by her colleagues, including Sharon, the special education resource teacher, to be a competent teacher committed to literacy who was on top of things concerning curriculum and instruction. Betty often said that it was her goal to make kids feel good about being in school and especially about being a part of her class. She had high expectations for her students and required them to work hard to meet those expectations.

This year, Betty had Jake and David, two students from a non-categorical, special education class. They came to Betty’s class two hours a day for math and reading. Both students had a learning disability, but Jake also had some fine motor problems and behaviors typical of students labeled attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD)--although he had never been diagnosed.

Sharon Moss, the special education teacher in the early education class, checked regularly with Betty to see how the two students were doing. Sharon had been a special education teacher for six years and prided herself on her ability to work with general education teachers and successfully transition students into the general education classroom. Each time Sharon asked Betty how things were going, Betty responded the same way.

"Oh, both kids are doing great academically. David is often the first to raise his hand with the correct answers when I verbally quiz the class, and Jake reads so well! . . But, Jake’s behavior--it’s just not typical. He’s a goofy little guy, you know," she would say with a smile.

"Well, maybe we should consider extending their time in general education," Sharon suggested on more than one occasion.

"I could see David being successful in general education full-time, but, I don’t know about Jake. His behavior is really not what it should be for a general education classroom," Betty would remind Sharon.

"You are always talking about how well Jake does in the classroom. You say he gets along with the other students and he really excels in math. What exactly does he do that makes you think he could not be successful if included full-time?" Sharon pushed, hoping to get Betty to recognize how limited her range of tolerance was for appropriate behavior.

Sharon recalled the last time she asked Betty to elaborate on her concerns:

"Well, during seat work, he never gets started on time. He’s always shuffling through the papers in his desk. He always needs to sharpen his pencil or something. He just can’t keep himself organized like the other kids. Sometimes he’ll even play the class clown and fall out of his desk. You know, he even looks goofy," she explained.

"Is that reason enough to keep him out of the general education classroom? I think not!" Sharon thought to herself.

"I would appreciate it if you gave the idea some more thought," she said aloud to Betty.

Betty shrugged her shoulders and gave a questioning look, "Okay, if you say so."  Betty patted Sharon on the shoulder before turning away to return to her classroom.

Sharon felt dismissed. How was she going to convince Betty that Jake deserved a chance to be included in the general education class full time?  "Betty has always been one of the best teachers for welcoming students with disabilities into her classroom. Some teachers don’t even want our kids in their rooms. I have got to work this out," Sharon said to herself with determination.

 

Discussion/Study Questions

1.    List what you learned /know about each of the characters in the case.

2.    What do you think is motivating the thoughts/actions of each of the characters?

3.    What are the issues/problems in the case?

Additional Questions

1.    How does Betty see Jake? Why?

2.    What has Sharon done to encourage Betty’s inclusion of Jake in her classroom?

3.    What else could she do?

4.    Is Sharon serving Jake adequately?

5.    Can you simply tell another teacher she needs to change her way of thinking?

6.    How would you talk to Betty?

CEC Competencies/Knowledge Areas Addressed in the Case

Major areas:

Demands of various learning environments (e.g., individualized instruction in general education classes.

Teacher attitudes and behaviors that positively or negatively influence student behavior.

 

Other areas:

Similarities and differences between the cognitive, physical, cultural, social and emotional needs of typical and exceptional individuals.

 

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