The idea to write this dialogue was inspired by the Special Ed video by xtranormal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrapFXnZIDE
Original publishing date: September 20, 2011
A: Good afternoon! We need to discuss how Juan is doing in school.
B: Yes, let’s discuss John.
A: No, his name is Juan, not John.
B: He is in America, and in America his name is John.
A: Okay, Mrs. Birkenstock.
B: (looks puzzled)
A: Okay, do we have all team members here to discuss Juan?
B: No, but let’s proceed and we’ll fill them in later at lunch break. I collaborate with my ESL teacher in the hallway when I take my students to the library.
A: Is the ESL teacher here?
B: No, she is busy administering a language screener to 800 students.
A: Are the parents here?
B: No, they didn’t show up.
B: I don’t know. I sent them a note home, like I do with all kids with Spanish, Hmong, and Somali last names.
A: Do the parents read or speak English?
B: No, but I sent the note home translated.
A: What languages did you send the note home in?
B: Hmong. And English on the back.
A: You sent the note home to our Spanish family Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez in Hmong and English?
B: Yes, our Latino parent liaison was busy translating IEPs for 15 families.
A: You have 15 Latino children in Special Education?
B: Yes, they all struggle in mainstream class, but speak fluent English with their friends. There must be a learning disability. So, we put them in Special Education.
A: (shakes head in disbelief) Okay, back to Juan, in what areas is Juan struggling?
B: He is struggling in reading. He does not understand a simple story about baseball. He is a very fluent reader, but cannot tell me what a homerun is. I’m suspecting a learning disability in comprehension.
A: He cannot tell you what a homerun is and you are suspecting a learning disability?
B: Yes. I just want to help this kid. He can use all the help he can get.
A: When did Juan come to the United States?
B: Six months ago.
A: Where is Juan from?
B: Hmmmm… he speaks Spanish, he must be from Mexico
A: No, let me check. Country of origin: Ecuador.
B: That’s strange. Where is that? I thought all kids who come to us speaking Spanish are from Mexico.
A: (sigh) Never mind. They don’t play baseball in Ecuador, they play soccer.
B: Okay, soccer is a good sport too. I should try it.
A: Soccer doesn’t have homeruns. What interventions have you tried to help him with comprehension?
B: We cut back on his ESL time and gave him more phonics.
A: You cut back language development time and gave him more phonics?
B: Yes, the National Reading Panel identified phonics as one of the Big Ideas of reading.
A: Have you tried to teach him background knowledge to help him with comprehension? Did you show him what a homerun is?
B: No, we gave him a timed reading test and more phonics. He needs help with decoding.
A: But you said he is a fluent reader, and you still gave him more phonics? Have you talked to the ESL teacher and asked why he might be struggling with comprehension?
B: Yes, I collaborated with her on her way out the door when the ESL teacher was running to another school to provide instruction to 33 students there. Yes, she said we need to build background knowledge and then she was gone.
A: So, have you been doing that?
No, I have a 90-minute reading block and I have to spend time on phonics. The National Reading Panel said that.
A: You spend 90 minutes on phonics and expect children who have never played baseball to tell you what a homerun is?
B: Yes, every kid in America knows what a homerun is.
A: Thank you for this productive meeting.