Though many of the buildings still stand—including several here in New Hampshire—and a few are still in operation scattered around the United States, the one-room schoolhouse is pretty much a vestige of the past as an educational model. It was far from ideal, of course, with limited resources and curriculum, entirely dependent on the education and skills (or lack thereof) of one teacher.But in other ways, the one-room school did possess some positive qualities and values that our public school systems are struggling to recreate. The teachers in those tiny schools must, of necessity, have known every student in their classroom—not just their names, but their families, their histories, their individual challenges, and the worlds they lived in.Above all, the one-room school was a model of inclusion. Children of different ages, abilities, readiness, and social backgrounds mingled and interacted and, to a significant degree, were likely to take an active role in educating each other. Without separate classrooms for separate grade levels, student progress had to be assessed and rewarded differently. Standardized tests were not the sole or primary determinant of what a child had learned and understood.
I don’t mean to romanticize the past, simply to point out that inclusive classrooms, differentiated instruction methods, cooperative learning, and accommodated assessment are by no means new or revolutionary concepts. In fact, they are all time-tested ideas that merit our consideration and our efforts to adapt to the requirements and the opportunities of the modern schoolhouse.
This is a big part of what I am striving toward in my teaching and through books like Special Needs in the General Classroom: Strategies that Make it Work. I hope you’ll come back and join me as I explore some of the ideas and practices that I have come across and developed, myself, for creating inclusive general education classrooms.