Interview of A Teacher
I interviewed one of the best teachers in our school who is currently in IB(International Baccalaureate) department, it is kind of an elite program in our school, they are provided with the best resources we have in school and parents would complain if their kids don’t go into this program. So in this sense, the IB program is a special education system we have in our school for high achievers.
First I asked her about the definition of special education. She mentioned students at a lower scale and on the high ends (high and low achievers) in a class, she thought the both ends would need special education. This is different from what I thought because I was mainly thinking about the students who need special help in the school as special education.
Then I asked about how do you identify a student for special education? She mentioned students having difficulty with academic responsibilities, or students with emotional and behavioral issues which can not be handled through normal classroom management skills. Also, she mentioned students who are over-achievers, they always finish work early and they can be bored in the classroom and cause troubles. (I think ADHD is the case)
In addition, I asked about what are the signs of a struggling student? She mentioned homework assignment missing, which is also an academic problem; students who lack time management skills, self-organizing skills and also social skills who fails to cooperate and collaborate with his/her classmates.
At last, I asked about are there alternate methods of instruction tried out before referring the student for special education? If yes, what are they? Her answer was definitely yes, no teachers should just stick to one method of instruction and expect all students to adapt to this particular method. It is also a practice of our own differentiated and diversified instructions. So teachers must reflect themselves first before referring to special education, have we tried different methods to accommodate student learning with different styles.
In conclusion, her interview focuses on two things, high and low-performance students with special education needs and teachers should do more before we refer a kid to special education service.
Interview of A Counselor
My school does not have a special education system set up for all the kids, but we do have a counseling department, and in that department, we have 6 colleagues who specialize in psychology counseling, this is the closest part I can find for special education referral process. I first tried to find the group leader whom I know, but he went with all 10th-grade students for an elite course called “Cycling around Taiwan”. So I just went into the psychology counseling office to try some luck, luckily the ladies in the counseling room agreed for an interview.
First question: How do you define special education?
Gifted or disabled, they need extra help with their learning. This part is the same as the teacher I interviewed earlier. So it is not only disabled students who need special education.
Second question: How is a student identified for special education referral?
She mentioned two general categories of special education, which are physical and mental disabilities, but in each category, there are more detailed classifications of each type. This part I think she was trying to tell me the 14 categories of special education which we did in activity 3 of this unit.
Third question: Who takes responsibility for the progress of the child before and after the referral?
She mentioned the person who is referring the student should take responsibility, and also the previous school should write a file about the student who is going to the next school or college, finally she mentioned parents being the main body of responsibility. I think she did not quite get the question, or she also has no idea what it’s like for a complete special education system set up in a school for the referral. However I agree with the last part she mentioned, the main part will still be the parents, I also see in the discussion forum someone posted about a special education TA paid by the parents who will just be there all the time for the special kids in a regular classroom.
Fourth question: What is the school administration’s directive for special education?
She mentioned the process when students are getting enrolled into the school, they will be required to fill out a form with questions about physical and mental health history. She also admitted if the parents and students tried to hide the truth, we would not know the information. So we do pre-evaluation before the students get into the school, can they adapt the life here, can we provide them with the suitable education they need? But after that, I think they can’t do too much to help those who hide the truth to get into the school. This can be a very serious problem for a private school which need to consider the profit of the school.
Fifth question: What provisions are made for students identified for special education?
She mentioned a friendly environment for physically disabled students, every building has an elevator, this is expensive to build and maintain. We have the counseling center and professional counselor for students to go to for their emotional and behavioral issues, so students can have successful future. This part I think the counseling office is more like doctor’s office with psychiatrists, they would help students solve their emotional issues, so they can get back to the original class, there is no long-term special education plan for students.
Sixth question: What is the level of parent involvement in referral process and special education?
She said for the scale of 10 she would give a 5 for parent involvement in my school, so I guess my school does not involve the parents too much regarding students special education issues. The parents will come to school but usually, they will be in denial for what’s going on about their kid. They will keep hiding the truth probably like how they did to get their kid into the school in the first place. So cooperation with parents will be difficult for teachers in China.
So in conclusion, my school will do some pre-evaluation for students to see if they can fit into our school, but we don’t have a complete special education system set up for the referral. To be honest, this is the first time I talk to a psychology counselor in my school for about 2 years. So teachers in my school don’t have this mindset for special education referral process, we will talk to each other and our coordinators about problem students. So hopefully my effort in the school can make it a better place for cooperation between teachers and counselors for special kids.