Today I was a special education teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. This was my third or fourth time substituting for this particular teacher, so I already knew what to expect, and I was glad to be available to sub for her again.
Her schedule is set up so that she and another special ed teacher work with four or five students throughout the day. During some of the periods they are in the special ed room and during other periods they are in the regular classroom. I spent the bulk of the day working with one boy, going with him to classes to offer supports as needed, or working with him in the special ed room. It was really neat seeing how well this works for him. He is a very bright kid and very earnest in his efforts, but he is also easily distracted and forgets to bring his supplies to class. Working with a teacher one-on-one has had great benefits for him. He learned today that he got an A on a recent social studies test and, from the reaction shared by just about everyone, I think this may have been the first time he had had a success like that.
There is definitely a great benefit to working one-on-one. Unfortunately, the realities of the profession make such opportunities hard to come by. There simple isn’t enough money in the budgets of the various school and government organisations to provide tutors for everyone. We are blessed in our community to have volunteer tutors from the university, paid tutors from America Reads, and parents who give of their time to work with students after school. While there are still not enough resources to provide the support that everyone needs, I have seen that what is available is being used to the highest degree. It reminds me of the proverbial story of the boy tossing starfish along the beach back into the ocean. Critique the story as you will, the moral is still true: it may not make a difference for everyone, but it does make a difference for the one.