I’ve been thinking a lot this week about teachers and nurses. This is what got me thinking…
In schools, teachers deal with everyone – those that are straightforward to teach and those that are not – much like nurses. If someone was admitted to hospital with, say, a broken hip, and was found to have cardiac problems or cancer or ebola, the nurses would not be expected to deal with that on the same ward with the same staff and nothing more. A specialist would be called in.
Now, if you get a student in class who turns out to have dyslexia or dyscalculia or emotional problems or behavioural problems or autism or any one of myriad other things, you’d best keep your finger crossed. And if you are that child’s parents, prepare yourself for an all out battle.
Because the number of specialists in our education system is getting lower by the year.
The things that were previously in place have been cut, Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) are run off their feet, schools have limited funds for staff training, getting a Teacher Aide requires an incredibly high level of need, and you’re bang out of luck if you need a child psychologist unless you can cough up your own $120+ per hour.
The Ministry of Education says: “Students with learning and behaviour needs may receive support from physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists from the Ministry of Education, Special Education (SE), or school specialist service providers (SSPs).” I love the cunning use of the word “may”. It’s a bit like those adverts that declare you can get “up to 60% off”. Yeah, that clever phrase “up to” that means you may get nothing at all. That’s what “may receive” specialist help from the Ministry means. In truth it is hard to access such help.
I know parents at the end of their tether fighting what seems to be a very unhelpful system. They want the best for their children but hit wall after wall. They are often very sympathetic of classroom teachers who are also wanting help but not being heard. Imagine having a child that has no arms but may or may not get a teacher aide or any other specialist help. Imagine being told to brace yourself as you apply for funding to support your brain damaged child when he starts school. Imagine a two-year fight to convince the powers that be that your child is severely autistic, only to get the highest level of funding after that fight. Two years later than the child needed. Two years of stress for the parents.
How could nurses do their job if there were no specialists available? What if they had to try to treat everything from broken legs to brain tumours with no specialist training, equipment or staff?
Better still, what if any specialist equipment needed, had to be bought by either the parents or the teacher or it just doesn’t happen. Imagine the uproar. So why is this happening to our children?
To best educate all of our students, we have to have full and proper support in place for those in need of specialist help.