Taking the “Dis” Out of Disability

By Madeline Egan

On Thursday, April 2nd, Professors Judy Bently and Maria Timberlake presented a sandwich seminar entitled, “Disability Studies and Special Education: What’s the Difference?” The information presented was beneficial for students of all majors. As someone who is in the Inclusive Special Education program, this presentation was an eye-opener for a future educator like myself. The world of disability is constantly changing, and the ideology behind disability studies gives a unique perspective for special educators.

The concept of “disability” has a negative connotation. What disability truly is, is a form of diversity, such a gender or ethnicity. Diversity is what makes up an individual, it is not something that needs to be fixed or changed. It was interesting to hear that the goal of special education is a way for people with disabilities to be included, but it might have created a barrier.

School districts allow education for everyone and students with special needs are included, but are they really? Most of the times students with special needs are learning in the same high school as their peers, but the special education classroom is separate in the school. As a special educator, you want to give assistance to a student who needs it. However, Professor Timberlake bought up the concept that “Yes, I have a label, but that’s not who I am, I just need to be educated.” The disability isn’t something a student needs to overcome.

One idea that was acknowledged in the presentation is that knowledge can be considered a privilege. Knowledge is a privilege for people who can easily obtain it. If you are not smart enough, then you do not deserve this privilege. The contrasting argument that both professors made was the difference between “strength and weakness” and “strength and need for support”. All students need support, but that doesn’t mean where they need support is a weakness. Drawing all this attention to the disability is just further creating a barrier. People with disabilities want to be educated, not pitied. One example that Professor Bentley bought to my attention was certain inspirational ads.

Sometimes you will see quotes on the Internet of “if he can do it, you shouldn’t have an excuse” and it would have a picture of a person with a disability overcoming an obstacle, like a blind man climbing a mountain. The disability studies stand that Professor Bentley took was “I’m not your inspiration,” instead it’s just another person accomplishing a task. The social construct that has developed from disabilities draws so much attention the disability and not the person. Can you honestly say that you would look at a girl who climbed the mountain that the blind man did, and have the same reaction to her accomplishment? Once again a disability is just another form of diversity. It needs to become a universal understanding.

As a future special educator I have learned to go into each task I do with a plan that works for people of all needs. When creating a lesson plan, I create each objective and activity with the mindset that any person can complete what I’m asking for, whether they have a disability or not.


West Virginia’s Science Standards Question Climate Change

By Sydney Carlucci

Climate change has been on the forefront of American news for a couple decades. Only in the past couple years has the controversy kind of died down. It has not, however, completely disappeared. In fact already this year West Virginian school board members passed new science standards with one very controversial aspect; the new standards are to cast doubt on global climate change (Valentine, 2015).

It is true that in past years many scientist have come to doubt global climate change, but still 97% of climate scientists think that the current climate issues are “’very likely’ caused by humans,” and no one can dispute that 14 of the hottest 15 years on record have happened in the last 15 years (Valentine 2015). It cannot be proven, however, that the warming is definitely caused by people and this is why one board member asked for a change. He does not believe global climate change should just be accepted as truth, especially as far as humans causing it; Sounds fair enough.

My issue with the change is not in whether global climate change is fact or theory, I believe skepticism is a good thing, but there is a problem. Whether or not humans are the cause of global climate change is irrelevant. The issue is that a lot of what we do is harmful to the environment.

I fear that if the students are taught to doubt that the humans are a problem at all, they will not care to take care of the environment. After all, our schools shape our young people into well-informed and caring citizens. As citizens it is our civic duty to care of our land and air and water and the students most understand this. The new standards are biased. It’s fine to teach skepticism, but teaching that it is false, which is basically what the standards point, at is not the way to go.

Valentine, K. (2015, January 15). West Virginia Alters Curriculum To Cast Doubt On Climate Science.

Educating to Create Citizens

By Sydney Carlucci

Arizona recently passed a law requiring all students to pass the United States Citizenship test on civics before they graduate from high school. They are the first state in the union to do so. I personally think this is a great idea. There are too many young so-called “educated” Americans out there that could not pass this test. It is literally ridiculous that the country mandates people pass this test to become a citizen while many Americans would not pass the test themselves. We expect foreigners to know more about aspects of our country than what we teach our students in school and it is not right. We should hold American-born citizens to a higher standard, not a lower one.

The country is falling behind in all aspects of education. If we can get all of our students to master the basics of American government and history, it is a great step forward in our race to the top of the world’s education.

Passing the civics exam also helps prepare young people to be better citizens. People are more likely to participate in government if they are informed and understand how it all works. While the United States civic exam does not go into to great detail, it covers enough about the government to make sure the elementary aspects are understood.

Personally, I think lawmakers should go even further. Mandating harder tests or even mock elections to teach students about how voting and our government really works. Getting kids engaged in hands on learning is always a good way to teach them if it really needs to be engrained in their minds.

Works Cited

Associated Press. (2015, January 15). Arizona requires civics for high school diploma.

Bullying in the Classroom

By Sydney Carlucci

This week a child in my class absolutely broke my heart. The students are doing a project on bullying. There is one student in my class who is bullied often, and often by the same couple of kids. So I’m sitting at a table with this student, we’ll call him Bob. One of the bullies, we’ll call Fred, and two other students are working on this project. Bob starts going on about getting a petition signed to make bullying illegal. Fred interrupts him mid rant and just goes, “Sit down, that’s dumb.” So, dumbfounded, I said, “Fred, that wasn’t very nice, let Bob talk.” Then Bob goes, “We are doing a bullying project and you are bullying me right now.” At this point my host teacher got involved and took Fred outside to have a discussion about what was going on. I took Bob, who was visibly upset, off to the side to see if he was okay, and he proceeded to tell me that he gets bullied every day of his life and goes home every day and cries. It took a lot for me to not start crying with him or to give him a big hug. After having a little chat and after he calmed down, we went back to work. Fred apologized, and he actually seemed sincere, and my group got their work done. I do not know what my host teacher said to Fred, but I haven’t seen him be mean to Bob, or anyone for that matter, since the incident.

I learned a lot that day about how cruel kids can be to each other, but also how much they can care for each other. There were more than a few kids who came over to see if Bob was okay, and even Fred was upset that he had been so harsh. Bullying is a big issue in our schools, I only hope that when I teach, I handle as well as my host teacher does.

School to Prison Pipeline

By Madeline Egan

On Friday, November 7th, 2014, SU Professor Anthony J. Nocella II gave a presentation entitled, “Is Special Education the New Eugenics? Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline and the Rise of Hip Hop and Disability Justice.” (According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “The School to Prison Pipeline is a nationwide system of local, state and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system.”) It was both informative and honest, giving feedback, especially future teachers, on how to achieve “education before incarceration” for their students.

Something that struck me was his interest in life skills. Sometimes teachers have this idea of sticking strictly to curriculum, because they feel this pressure of test standards and preparation, but engaging in life skills is crucial to the success of all students. As a teacher, you are not just educating your students on how to answer a math problem, but you are also there to set an example to show how people are suppose to succeed in this so called “real world.” Therefore teaching ethics, morality, and empathy are all key.  Developing a relationship with a student is so important because you want your students to be able to trust you, otherwise you are just another person of authority telling them what to do, which usually involves limiting creativity. One way to develop a relationship is to show your students that you are interested in what they love. For example, a teaching strategy that has been praised for teaching students with Asperger Syndrome is incorporating their specialized interest into the lesson plan.

Another life-skills goal that Nocella mentioned was the need to figure out how to get your students to navigate through their anger and violence, which includes creating nonviolent strategies. Nocella II contributed to the development of the idea of school to prison pipeline by stating that some schools look like a prison; therefore students become caught up in everyday routine of the same walls and same types teachers and same lessons, that eventually they lose their creativity. Therefore, curricula need to ignite the creative mind. So how do we do this? Nocella II made it clear that we need add the positive to our lessons about how people became successful. We become so caught up in the horrific events of history that we forget to talk about the accomplishments that have been made. Slavery becomes such a major part of the history curriculum, but what about successful people like Madam CJ Walker, who invented hair products and was the “America’s first self-made female millionaire” (Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises).

The most intriguing concept Nocella II proposed was the achievement gap. He explained that the only way to eliminate an achievement gap is to eliminate racism. He argued that the idea of an achievement gap, in part, is part, misleading:  African American children are the ones achieving the most. They do everything Whites do, but have it harder. They go to the same school; only it takes them five buses to get there. Their parents forget to pay the electricity, but they are still getting through school without the lights on. I thought this was the most moving statements of his presentation. He showed that some people have it worse, but still have perseverance and grit.

Nocella explained that students are going to relate better to teachers who share a common state. For example, if you are a black male living in the projects, the best way for you to get through school is to have a black teacher who grew up in the same neighborhood. His other example was if you have a disability, you could relate to a teacher who has a disability; this applies the idea of empathy. Unfortunately, a student-teacher relationship like the ones mentioned above are hard to find. So what do you do? Well, solutions include smaller classrooms, coteaching, diverse student body, conflict transformation courses and trainings, therapies.

Above all the biggest solution is to BE RELEVANT; which means developing relationships with your students, knowing what they like, hate, love, do after school, who they hang out with etc. By knowing all these factors you can incorporate it in lesson plans and connect better socially and emotionally with your students.

More than Just A Service . . .

By Crissana Christie

In life we come across many different people in service. There are people who complete service for recognition, people who complete service as a requirement, and people who do it to build connections with their community. I remember when I was a freshman as a SUNY Cortland student; I was enrolled in a class called CPN 102: Writing Studies in the Community I. The class was a 4-credit-hour course in which service-learning was incorporated into our learning curriculum. Also as a requirement of this class, all students were each required to-do 30 hours of community service.

Initially coming into my writing studies, my whole attitude was that of a person who just needed to complete service as a requirement. I thought of it as me just completing my hours and saying so-long to my placement site. But I remember the first day, I went to my volunteer site Randall Elementary. I had so much fun interacting with the kids, and I was able to see how much those kids really enjoyed having someone to talk to, play with, and have fun with. It was that moment that I realized that this is more than just a requirement for me.

This is my responsibility.

Over the next 3 semesters, I volunteered at Randall Elementary until this current Fall 2014 semester. Initially I decided to take off from Randall this semester being that I am registered for 20 credits and I wouldn’t have the time. But having built connections with the children at Randall for over 2 years, not being there this semester not only made me feel like something was missing, but I also missed being there. Then I remembered for me this is more than a service but now, it’s a part of who I am as a person, student, and future physician.

Managing Classroom Behavior

By Sydney Carlucci

Service learning has been such a crucial part of my education. Most of what I have learned about teaching and classroom management I have learned from being in the classroom with the kids and observing the teachers in action.

The past couple weeks I have learned a lot from my host teacher about dealing with behavior in the classroom. The kids like to talk and they like to talk lot. My host teacher constantly has to wait for them. But, even on the worst days, he does not blow up at them; he waits patiently and asks them to be quiet. This usually gets them on task for a while. At my last placement, the teacher would yell at the kids and the kids wouldn’t respond. I’m finding that the respect has to be mutual for there to be any at all.

If a student is having a behavior problem, my current host teacher does not handle the problem in front of the class, he pulls the kids aside and handles the problem just between him and the student. He never embarrasses anyone. For instance, last week one student was refusing to do his silent reading and kept ignoring both the teacher’s pleas and my pleas for him to start reading. The student then threw his book on the table and crossed his arms in defiance. Instead of blowing up at him like I was trying my hardest not to, my host teacher calmly and quietly asked him to step outside for a moment and they talked it out together. His patience is more than impressive at times. This is something I hope to adopt in my own classroom.

Besides the hands-on experience I get in my field placement, service learning is also great because of the good it does for the community. The teachers love having extra adults in the classroom to help with management, and having the ability to split the class into small groups. While the SUNY Cortland students are getting invaluable experience from the host teachers and students, the class is also getting extra help it wouldn’t otherwise have. It is nice to feel helpful while I’m there and to learn so much.