As we mentioned before, it is very hard to find a teacher who enters the field with an openly racist, sexist, homophobic, or anti-social justice attitude. I think the same goes for attitudes toward students with disabilities. I am very careful to use people-first language and have the same conversations with my students who say "That's so retarded" that I do with "That's so gay."
However, I also have a long way to go toward the inclusive, participatory, democratic classroom that Shayne is described as having.
This year I have more students with special education needs than I ever have before. My school very much aspires to a full inclusion model. Granted, these are considered "mild/moderate" needs and nowhere near as "severe" as some situations described in the article, but as a beginning teacher, my lack of experience with these students makes me feel very inadequate.
But as I am writing this I am seeing, too, the way that my brain has been trained to think about students with disabilities. Classifications and categories. Putting students in such boxes makes things "easier." Having separate classrooms makes things "easier." I found an article from the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition that elaborates on this idea, explaining the two models of disability: the medical model and the social model. While the first model asserts that "disability results from an individual person's physical or mental limitations" the second argues, "that disability stems from the failure of society to adjust to meet the needs and aspirations of a disabled minority." They compare the social model to the "doctrine of those concerned with racial equality that 'racism is a problem of whites from which blacks suffer.'" They also provide an example, "If a wheelchair user cannot use a bus, the bus must be redesigned." Sounds like something Johnson would say.
All of this leads me to the John Lubbock quote: "What we see depends mainly on what we look for." If we as teachers look only for kids doing exactly what is instructed and has been said is typically accepted as "proficient" we might miss out on the opportunity to see (Gardener's) multiple intelligences. Rather than "entreprenuerial individualism" (72), we need "a set of values based on respect, humility, and creative listening" (73). The story of Shayne's creative listening to Isaac affirms the necessity of an asset-based lens. Her classroom started from the viewpoint of valuing something very different, which was a "distinct shift away from mere school tolerance of diversity defined by resignation and benevolence," instead "recogniz[ing] diversity as the norm" (79).
Throughout this school year I have said several times how unprepared I feel to work with the special education students in my class. However, I need to recognize that "We have our basic core in common" (88) - yes, our "common core" - and it is not a matter of being unprepared to work with them, but rather unprepared to see them.