Tuesday, April 17, 2012

IQ and Labels

IQ(Today’s post is for the letter I in the A-Z challenge.)
IQ isn’t all it is cracked up to be. It also seems like it isn’t as prevalent as it was when I was growing up and even when I went to college. Or maybe it is but they call it something different now. It scares me when I hear some teachers talk about some students in relation to their IQ. For some reason in my classroom, IQ never really matched with who was a good student, who studied harder, who was better behaved, who learned easier than others, who was more motivated, or even who liked to learn.
Years ago, I had this teenage girl in my high school class that had been tested and because of her IQ and other factors; she was classified as having a learning disability. For years she was assigned to a self contained class with other students who also had learning disabilities. She learned job skills along with improving her reading, math and writing skills. Her willingness to try and not give up really helped her go further than her family expected. In fact, many times her grades were better than some of the others in the class. Then it was time for her 3 year reevaluation and testing was required. All of a sudden, her IQ was much lower and she was switched to a class for students with mental disabilities. These students learned more functional skills rather than academic skills and were much lower academically than what this girl was used to. Within the year, she ended up pregnant and dropped out of school. I was so disappointed and angry because I felt like the school placed too much emphasis on this girl’s IQ rather than what her needs were.
Now fast forward through time, in another self contained class where students of all different disabilities were grouped together. Again, students had to be classified with a specific disability (it sure helps get federal funding) but I didn’t focus on their labels as much as I did on their needs. I had this girl who was classified with a mental disability because of her IQ but she probably was the sharpest student in my class. She loved a challenge and worked hard to grow in her knowledge and skills. She always completed her assignments, did her homework, and came for extra help if she needed it. Often times, I would hear her encourage other students, help them with their work, and even fuss at the others if they weren’t doing what they should. On a field trip, I could always trust her to remind me when someone needed to get their medicine or if we needed to be at a certain place at a certain time. She was a joy to teach! She also taught me that it was more important to teach to a student’s needs rather than to their IQ.
Many times when my students were assigned general ed classes, I would have that teacher come running to my room and try to explain why my student should not be there. Without even meeting the students, all that was seen were IQ scores and labels of their disability. I hope with better knowledge and understanding that general ed teachers can look beyond these factors and look at the individual student. I am not asking that the curriculum be watered down for my students but that a teacher is willing to make accommodations and let my student try. Sometimes we need to have higher expectations for our students and help them rise to the occasion rather than to lower our expectations and not help our students grow.
How do you see IQ, labels, and teaching fit together? Please share!
Image: 'the principles of the divine'

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