“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is how we do it

So I heard through the grape vine, from a very reliable source about a Southern California Christian college that is trying to start a program to prepare teachers to work with students with moderate/severe disabilities. A student teacher supervisor was working with a candidate, doing student teaching. For a year, the candidate did nothing. The supervisor from the Christian college tried and tried to get the student teacher to educate the students with severe disabilities but he did nothing. The student teacher supervisor told his supervisors at the university that he would need to flunk the student teacher because he wasn't doing anything with his students. The response from the CHRISTIAN college? Hire another supervisor that would pass the student teacher because they are trying to get the moderate/severe teacher training program established and they didn't want any bad press for the new program. In other words, "We as the Christian college don't give a damn about the education of the students with severe disabilities. We just want to expand our programs into other areas of Southern California."

I have seen this approach numerous times in state unviersities. Many state universities although they have moderate/severe programs haven't the foggiest idea what they are doing in this area. I know because I speak to students from those universities, and at times have assisted state universities with inservices about the most basic of things, that you would think their students would have learned in introductory classes.

How are students with moderate/severe disabilities ever to have a fighting chance at an education when teachers are poorly trained? What does it say to future teachers in that program about quality education for students with severe disabilities? I will tell you what it says. It says that we want to train babysitters for the mod/sev classrooms of California. As much as I want Christian colleges to wake up to the lives of people with disabilities in the community, literally, for God's sake, Christian college, do no harm! You are God's representative to the community, so please for His sake, do no harm. But you harm by your diminishing the importance of education for these students.

What would it imply to you, if I said that the education of your child was not important enough to ensure that teacher of your child was doing anything for a whole year that they were in the classroom. But that is what this Christian college is communicating, and get this...they are communicating this so that they can stay in the business of educating teachers of students with severe disabilities!

I personally have had some student teachers that I have really liked as people as friends. However, because I desperately want them to be the best teachers possible, I have tried to move them to a particular, high standard that I have for teachers of students with severe disabilities. I am looked to as the university expert, as their trainer. If I am more interested in pumping out teachers so that my program stays alive than I am that the teachers are of a certain quality, I am doing evil to the students those teachers will teach in the future. So should my mod/sev program die because of the quality standards we aspire to at the little Christian college where I teach, so be it! At least we will walk away from such a program trying to do our best. Are we perfect? Of course not, there are always areas we are trying to improve on all the time. However, we will do our best to ensure the highest level of quality we can because we care about the students with severe disabilities more than we care about their teachers chafing under rigor and going elsewhere. Trust me, if you want to be a teacher of students with moderate to severe disabilities, there are places that you can go that will be easier than our program. If what you want is ease, please do go elsewhere. There are those who have. I know of at least one Christian college in Southern California that is interested in training slackers.



Jason said...

As the husband of someone with a disability trying to further her education in grad school, I greatly appreciate your commitment to quality.

Anonymous said...

I know how hard it can be to make progress as a new teacher in a difficult enviornment like mod/sev. The last 15 months of my life have been excruciatingly (is there spell check somewhere on this page?)frustrating for me in the Non Public School where I have been serving as a student teacher/intern.

Its been a hard place to work for many reasons. Students with the most desperate need for excellent service come to a school serving 35 districts, sit in classes where the student populations are incompatible (13 year old ED/Autistic in the same class with 20year olds, severely cognitively challenged 21 year old, tiny, non-verbal female in the same class as 3 males with a propensity for violence), poorly trained and selected staff, and the oppressive awareness that I work for a company that expects to produce a profit at year end. All that before lunch.

Jeff is my supervisor and my progress has been delayed because of the standards he holds me to. Some of my peers marvel at(and wonder how I can tolerate) Jeff's insistance on at least approaching structure and consistency in my classroom. I marvel at their attitudes and dispositions toward their students, and it saddens me to see teachers just getting through the day, joking about their students, accusing parents of not caring and simultaneously (spell check)complaining about the ones who challenge them.

In all the time I've been here I've known I have fallen far short of the mark I am called to reach. I don't resent Jeff pointing that out to me and holding me accountable for the outcomes I promise, by accepting my job, my students.

I've made progress and we are finally signing off on my student teaching. I have a way to go, particularly in the way I manage staff and conflict with those unwilling to follow my program. That is just about finished too. I will be forever grateful to Jeff for keeping me faithful and committed to the standards of achievement my University, and he as a teacher/mentor/friend established for me. Thanks

I respond regularly to this blog and usually use my name. Because I encourage administrators and others where I work to visit this blog (I doubt they do), today I am Anonymous

ArtworkByRuth said...

Christians should always have a higher standard than the world. Great post!

ArtworkByRuth said...

PS: I just might have to go for my Master's degree after all

RachelD said...

Wow-- That really gets me fired up! Sadly, I've come to expect such antics from rinky-dink satellite "universities." But I don't expect to hear Christian colleges write off students with mod/severe disabilities. And by passing an ill-equipped teacher, that's exactly what they're doing.

And the student teacher-- wow-- step up to the plate buddy! Get it together before you ruin the opportunities for dozens of students.

Thank you for your post as well. I'm glad to hear you're putting in the effort. I'm yet to be impressed by a NPS program-- Buckle down! Show us that it can be done!!!!

Natasha said...

I am the wife of the last commenter. :) The information in this post made me so angry!! Granted, I do not have a very severe disability, but I do have one; and the thought that someone student teaching to educate these precious peers of mine would treat it so flippantly burns me up. And the fact that the student teacher's college supported this laziness in the name of saving face is appalling.

Where is Christ in this? Don't they realize that these students are precious and valued in His sight just as much as students who are easier or more "textbook" to teach?

Oooo, I hope the M.A. in Disability Studies ends up being offered, Dr. McNair! We need more Christians out in the world combating this kind of thing!

I am praying. :)

whaddock said...

I appreciate your committment to quailty. As a student myself i know i like to get my money's worth in a class. And as someone who has worked with those with disabilities, i have seen first hand the lack of knowledge in hose who have had poor education. Many teachers pass thier classes, but take nothing form them. It is good your goal is to be sure you "produce" quality teachers.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked and saddened to know that we are not taken more pride in producing more qualified teachers in special education. There has always been a problem finding high qualified individuals to work with special needs children and that is an area that needs to be greatly improved. The university and its professor have an obligation to provide the best high quality program to their students.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed this as well. It is really sad that Universities, along with other higher education facilities, are more concerned about money and numbers than quality of education. I feel sorry for the individuals who are being "taught" by the slackers who only passed because the school was more worried about their reputation being tarnished.
It is also very frustrating as an individual who is working to get my degree to know that people, who refuse to do the work, are also being passed.
Individuals with severe learning disabilities need people who are actually qualified to work with them and give them the help and education that they not only need, but deserve. It is terrible that schools show a total disregard for the well being of others. What is even worse is that this is coming from a religious institution that should have hire standards for not only its students, but every student that is affected by its decisions.

anewoutlook said...

I, know as a woman first, and a educator second, I truly have to step up to the plate, and be the best I can be for everyone.It's time for me to come out of my comfort zone, and launched out into deeper waters (experiences) of life! It's one thing to know what the word of "GOD" says, but living the word out in your daily life is another thing! The word of "God" tells me in Romans 2:11, For there is "NO RESPECT" of Persons with God. The same should be with us. He shows no difference in meeting "Our Needs", because he sees us all as "Precious" in his sight, so where do "WE GET OFF", making someone else feel their not "Important Enough", to Educate, go to Church, or School with!"God Please Forgive Us, Help Us In The Name of Jesus, because no one likes to be "REJECTED", especially by a so called "Christian College", who has "NO PASSION, or LOVE for their Moderate to Severe Students,or the Teacher Training Programs their trying to establish, this is a "Disability within itself! Their only in it for the "MONEY". Those of us who say we are "Christians",and wear the name "which means:CHRIST-LIKE, are we really being "Christ-Like?", Is this something "Christ would do?" I feel pesonally, Myself, the Education System, and ESPECIALLY THE BODY OF CHRIST, need to Re-Evaluate "OURSELVES",in how to "Love ALL of God's People Unconditional, and Accept them for who they are,and not the "Disability They Have To Live With!!!" I, truly "Praise and Thank God for the "Love and Passion he has given to Dr. Jeff Mc Nair, and his lovely wife Kathi Mc Nair, their Ministry of Persons with Disabilities is a Gift from God! A gift "We" all should Un-Wrap, and give life too! May God's Favor continue to "Bless Your Ministry, May His Wisdom Direct Your Path, and His Love Keep and Protect You in the name of "Jesus Amen.