In Celebration of Teaching and Teachers

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    In Celebration of Teaching and TeachersAuthor(s): Mary PoplinSource: Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter, 1983), pp. i-iiPublished by: Sage Publications, Inc.Stable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 12:24

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    This spring the field of 'learning disabilities' will celebrate the end of its second decade. Thus, it was in April of 1963 that Samuel Kirk, addressing a group of parents of neurologically hand- icapped children in Urbana, Illinois, stated that he preferred to call the disorder 'learning disabilities' as this term was more descriptive than medical/neurological jargon of the problems these children faced. Later that evening the attendees of the conference formed an organiza- tion for parents and other advocates with the purpose of seeking more and better educational services for 'learning disabled' students. That organization was the Association for Children (and Adults) with Learning Disabilities (ACLD). Five years later, educators began a profes- sional organization within the Council for Exceptional Children--now our own Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD). These developments, along with the general expansion of special education services in the schools, started gradually to shift attention away from a historically medical orientation to the diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities (previously called minimal brain dysfunction, hyperkinesis, brain injury, and neurological handicaps). Soon the tremendous role educators were to play in the identification and remediation of learning disabilities became clear.

    For better or worse, the field of learning disabilities has become one of this country's fastest growing educational disciplines. Today the most important professional in the lives of children and adolescents with learning disabilities is the LD teacher-specialist. Every day these teachers enter classrooms where students come for a bit of respite from the various challenges of the general school environment in addition to whatever learning-teaching exchange can take place during the few precious hours LD specialists and students spend together each week.

    Over the years added emphasis on the education of students with learning disabilities and in- creased regulation of special education programs have expanded tremendously the roles and responsibilities of the LD specialist. This makes more difficult the single most important role of the LD specialist, i.e., to be a teacher of students with learning disabilities. At times the added responsibilities of the LD specialist seem to loom larger than the primary task itself. Such secon- dary responsibilities, added to the teaching of our students, include IEP development and meetings, formal and informal testing, evaluation meetings, screening meetings, teacher meetings, conferences with parents and teachers, etc.

    In addition to these tasks, most schools have now so expanded and centralized special education administration and supervision that some of our teachers no longer have the flexibili- ty to even choose their own curriculum, methods, or materials. Unfortunately, many of the decisions a teacher should make are often dictated by people who may never have taught LD students. Out of the sheer necessity to comply with institutional regulations, these outside demands on teachers often receive priority over student needs. Students require teacher atten- tion in other ways, thus, teachers eventually end up paying in some way for misplaced priorities. However, so do students.

    In addition to facing this often uncompromising administrative structure, LD specialists (like all special teachers of students who are exceptional, bilingual, remedial, etc.) operate due to their own interests, inclinations, roles, and training on the fringes of the educational establish- ment. Teacher advocacy roles demand that they continually confront an even more inflexible system than the special education bureaucracy in order to make 'regular' classrooms a bit more responsive to the needs of students who are different. Teachers who self-select such disciplines represent a different breed of educators. Often they are more talented, creative and stimulated by the challenges of teaching students with problems. To further compound their inherent dif- ferences from other educators, LD specialists are usually peppered lightly throughout a school district. Thus, they have few colleagues in any one school building and often no one with whom to discuss concerns and share ideas during the week.

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  • Creative, enthusiastic teachers dispersed across many schools and placed in teaching en- vironments that dictate goals, objectives, curriculum, student placement, methods and/or materials find themselves stifled, unable to grow as professional educators. The most devastating result of too much structure and too little collegiality is a loss of belief in, or denial of one's own intuitions. If teachers doubt the objectives they are implementing, the classes their students must attend, or a curriculum or material they must utilize, they are forced to subvert their own good judgments in order to conform. That is, they become victims of the very parts of the system in which they disbelieve. Consequently, they have no choice (unless they are successful in changing or subverting the system) but to leave or, as teacher trainers and ad- ministrators are so apt to say, to 'burn out.'

    Good teachers, however, do not burn out, they are burned out by the protectors of stagnating institutions that have so little confidence in them that they feel they must police the profession with inflexible rules and senseless administrivia leaving teachers powerless and ex- hausted. Not providing atmospheres in which teachers are allowed and encouraged to experi- ment and grow is no less a crime than not allowing students with learning disabilities to enjoy poetry or science because they cannot read the English literature and science texts.

    In order to grow as professional educators, LD specialists-teachers must have (a) the freedom and power to make the critical decisions regarding their students and their classrooms and (b) opportunity for collegiality that renews confidence and shares and fosters new ideas. Progress towards recapturing control over our classrooms is a long-range goal, which we must all work on together. Educational systems are rarely affected by single individuals; however, the networks we create to nourish collegiality can eventually influence them.

    For the first time in CLD's short history, individual LD specialists have the power to create and mobilize local organizations, as well as to become partners in state and national CLD. In her dynamic message that follows, CLD President, Virginia Brown, explains the change in status that allows such flexibility toward which our national and state CLDs worked for over five years. At long last we have a structure that encourages the establishment of local CLD chapters without committing members to state or national CLD or its parent organization CEC. Only by action at the local levels can we bring about the changes that affect the teaching-classroom set- ting. This is a momentous occasion in the history of the field of learning disabilities and of CLD. The fact that it comes on a twentieth birthday makes it even more joyful.

    It is in this spirit that our sixth year of the Learning Disability Quarterly sets out to celebrate teaching and teachers. In recognition of these most important professionals, we inaugurate a new continuous feature, Application of Research and Theory in the Classroom. Each quarter this feature will contain a section on classroom ideas for and by teachers. In the past, much of the LDQ has been devoted almost exclusively to research. New theories and research, however, can only advance our field if its results are effected between teacher and pupil. It is to this end that we seek ideas from teachers-from grassroots, local CLD members-that repre- sent the current state of the art in research and theory.

    I am deeply indebted to my colleagues in the local Claremont Area Council for Learning Disabilities for their untiring encouragement and assistance in bringing such ideas to fruition, not to mention the inspiring and enjoyable TGIF parties from which many of these ideas emerged. These individuals have exclusively developed our first Applications section as a model both for the new feature and the new emphasis on local CLD organizations. Special thanks to Marilyn Goldstein who has edited our first Applications section and spearheaded the Claremont CLD.

    I hope those of you who work directly or indirectly with students find the ideas as interesting as I do. And, perhaps, even more, I hope their example of establishing local networks of LD specialists who work toward common goals and share ideas for the classroom will cause many of you to create similar local CLD organizations that will develop and contribute ideas to the Applications section in the future. Let 1983 be the year for new pledges to continued progress in the education of students with learning disabilities and a celebration of teaching and teachers!

    -Mary Poplin


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    Article Contentsp. ip. ii

    Issue Table of ContentsLearning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter, 1983), pp. i-ii+1-100Front MatterIn Celebration of Teaching and Teachers [pp. i - ii]1982-83 Presidential Message [pp. 1 - 2]Handicapped Labels and Instructional Segregation: Influences on Children's Self-Concepts versus the Perceptions of Others [pp. 3 - 11]Nonverbal Communication Signals in Behavior-Disordered and Non-Disordered LD Boys and NLD Boys [pp. 12 - 19]Sociometric Status and Related Personality Characteristics of Mainstreamed Learning Disabled Adolescents [pp. 20 - 30]LD and Normal Adolescents' Causal Attributions of Success and Failure at Different Levels of Task Difficulty [pp. 31 - 39]The NJCLD Position Papers (I-IV)Introduction and Commentary [pp. 40 - 42]Learning Disabilities: Issues on Definition. A Position Paper of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, January 30, 1981 [pp. 42 - 44]Inservice Programs in Learning Disabilities. A Position Paper of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, September 27, 1981 [pp. 44 - 47]Issues in the Delivery of Educational Services to Individuals with Learning Disabilities. A Position Paper of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, February 21, 1982 [pp. 47 - 50]Learning Disabilities: Issues in the Preparation of Professional Personnel. A Position Paper of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, September 26, 1982 [pp. 51 - 54]

    The Effects of Illustrations on the Reading Performance of Learning Disabled and Normal Children [pp. 55 - 60]Learned Helplessness in Learning Disabled Adolescents as a Function of Noncontingent Rewards [pp. 61 - 66]Learning Disabled and Nondisabled Children's Strategy Analyses under High and Low Success Conditions [pp. 67 - 74]ReportsEffects of Test Modifications on the Minimum Competency Performance of Learning Disabled Students [pp. 75 - 77]Separate vs. Combined Categories for Mental Retardation and Specific Learning Disabilities? [pp. 77 - 79]Teaching Road Signs and Traffic Laws to Learning Disabled Students [pp. 80 - 83]Sources of Information in the Learning Disabilities and Special Education Literature [pp. 83 - 89]

    Application of Research and Theory in the ClassroomPutting the Whole Body into History [p. 90]How to Overcome 'And-ITIS' [p. 90]The "Magic" of Science [p. 91]Teaching Reading by Recording Dreams [p. 91]Experiencing Concepts [p. 91]Understanding Attributes [pp. 91 - 92]Creative or Expository Writing [p. 92]Bias, Discrimination, Prejudice [p. 93]Language: Inner, Expressive, Written [p. 93]Role Shift [p. 93]Group Efforts in Creative Writing [pp. 93 - 94]Theme Reading [p. 94]Life Markers Time Lines [p. 94]About Prepositions [pp. 94 - 95]Mapping for Reading Content [p. 96]

    Back Matter [pp. 97 - 100]


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