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Heather Strong, a third grade general education teacher, began the first day of school with enthusiasm. When all of her students were seated and ready to begin, Ms. Strong began to teach the classroom rules and procedures using the games and songs she had developed. A knock on her door interrupted her, and she paused as the principal waved at her from the door. In the hallway with the principal was a very nervous-looking boy in a wheelchair. The principal introduced John Russ to Ms. Strong and told her that John would be in her room this year. He explained John was late because his parents had taken him to meet Ms. Blankenship, the special education teacher, first. "According to his IEP," the principal told her, "John is to be fully included in your classroom and not be pulled out to the special education room. Ms. Blankenship will collaborate with you to help meet his needs in your room."

Ms. Strong was quite surprised because she had never had a student with any type of physical disabilities in her classroom, but she quickly recovered and welcomed John into her room. She was dismayed to find his wheelchair was too tall to fit under any of her student desks. John had to sit at the back of the room where there was sufficient space for the wheelchair. Ms. Strong introduced John and proceeded with her lesson. The students sneaked glances at John, curious about the new student with the wheelchair. As she went over her rules, she kept an eye on John at the back of the room. He seemed to listen and pay attention. Even so, Ms Strong felt apprehensive and unprepared.

Later that morning when her students were settled in music, Ms. Strong went to Ms. Blankenship's room to gather more information about John. Ms. Blankenship could tell by the look on Ms. Strong's face that she was not very happy. Ms. Blankenship apologized for not letting her know about John. She told her that John and his family had moved into their district from out of state, and his IEP had just arrived. Ms. Blankenship said. "I really don't know that much about him." Ms. Strong asked for his special education folder and returned to her room.


  1. What is reasonable to expect Ms. Strong to know about teaching students with physical disabilities in her classroom?
  2. What roles do the special educator and principal have in communicating about new students to teachers?
  3. What might have been different if Ms. Strong had been notified about receiving John as new student?
  4. If you were Ms. Strong, what would you most want to know about John at this point?

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