Or is it? We use so many labels in our politically correct society that it's hard to tell any more.
Right up front, doesn't SPED sound more like an accelerated class than a special education class. It sounds like it should mean something else. The history of such classes is fraught with identity crisis. The kids and the classes have been pinned with many labels through the years, some of which have become saturated with negativity, name-calling, and mean-spiritedness. Sometimes that's what labels do.
We've all heard the terms. When I was in school, back in the 18th century, kids were referred to clinically as retarded. Yeah, I know, the word hurts; in fact, it hurts just seeing it on the computer screen, but it was a clinical term. It was a literal term that meant "slowed". The word referred to the child as being incapable of keeping up with "normal" kids. In that sense, the children in that class were saddled with the idea that they couldn't catch up or that they couldn't learn much at all in a year's time. I didn't know that when I was a single-digit-American. In fact, I didn't know enough to pick on those kids, which is a good thing. I suppose others did, but I don't remember.
As I understand things, terms like idiot were also clinical descriptions of kids who were believed to be without much hope of learning. That was before my life began. Since that time, other names also referred to the children: learning disabled, learning impaired, and other, more specific terms appeared in different places at varying times. Most seemed to be labels on the students and not on the programs in which they were participating. People said those students were learning disabled or emotionally disturbed, naming the children by the accepted labels of the period.
I can't say that labels in themselves are bad things. They are titles. They are identifiers. They are names. But they should not define the student. Our labels should define the behavior, the performance, the program, the classroom, the situation, or something else. The labels are not who the students are, but what they are experiencing, how they are performing, the challenges they face. Never should a student be called by there unfortunate circumstances, any more than we would call someone a cripple.
With that, I think some people believe that SPED is an acceptable term in 2016. I think they believe the new abbreviation for Special Education comes with less sting. But they ignore the fact that they are still labeling the students and not the program. Now they are our SPED kids, when it should be sufficient to say that they are students in a SPED program. See the difference?
But that's not the extent of this Professional Pet Peeve. You see, it goes further than that. Think with me for a moment about the implications to the rest of us. First, there is still a temptation for some to call the rest of the class a normal class. One may even hear, normal kids, in contrast to the special kids. Are you implying that students who are not special are not special? I know that's not true, but it sure sounds like it.
How about labeling the kids who are not SPED, as GenEd, or General Education. That makes me a GenEd teacher, and I don't like that either. General sounds average, and I like to think I push to be above average. I don't ever want my students to be middle-of-the-road pencil pushers; I want them to be special.
Or there is always Regular Ed. Regular? Not small or large, but Regular. Huh-uh. I don't accept it.
By labeling some kids as SPED, we inadvertently have labeled other kids as mediocre. It's a snowball!
I'm not out of joint because of the terms, but I like I say, words mean something. With a little bit of effort, we might be able to see a simple solution. If we really believe that all students can learn at high levels, we must stop "identifying students" and start identifying needs instead. They are not Special Needs Students, but they are students who have needs.
In fact, all students (and teachers, parents, etc.) have needs.