Sunday, March 11, 2012

Special Ed: A Systems Essay

           Mrs. B is not considered a great teacher. Her colleagues consider her days to be mere babysitting. Her student's parents think her erratic and idealistic. Her students themselves? Well, at least she's won there. Mrs. B gets up at 4:30 am Monday through Saturday. She artfully combines English, Math, Science, and History with daily living skills, social skills, communication skills, and a myriad of physical and orthopedic therapies. She then attaches each lesson to a curriculum goal and adds in test taking strategies for her students who take the state assessments. At 5:30 am she goes shopping. She buys supplies online and in stores all over her big city, trying to find age appropriate yet simplistic materials for her lessons and their many parts. The ones she can't find, she makes on Sundays. Mrs. B gets to school at 6 am, where she sets out all of the materials for the day, briefs her helpers, and checks her schedule for meetings and in-service training. Mrs. B greets each of her students individually, gauges their mood and willingness to work, checks their homework, and calls their parents. She adjusts her plans accordingly.  Then her day begins.
            Tommy spends most of the day staring into space. He listens to Mrs. B because he likes her, but all he really wants to do is go to lunch. At lunch Tommy goes from table to table making friends. He ignores their "ooohs" and "ahhhs" and simple questions, their teasing he doesn't understand, and he smiles to let them know he is willing to be their friend. Lunch is the only opportunity Tommy has to talk to the students in other classes, "regular" classes. He wants to be in science with them and do experiments like the ones Mrs. B does, but he knows he couldn't complete the worksheets or understand the vocabulary. So Tommy prowls the lunch tables. He hopes that one day a girl will gossip about him to her friends, that one of the cool skateboarders will invite him to the parties they're always having in the skate park, that he could go with a group to the movies without his parents or Mrs. B and his class. How would he pay for his ticket though? He'd have to ask for help and that would be embarrassing. Tommy goes home at the end of the day and plays on the computer until his Mom gets home. She helps him with his homework and they go to PT. Sometimes his cousin comes over and they play a board game.
            Mrs. B sees Tommy wandering around at lunch. She asked his mother if she'd like him to be placed in regular science, but when it came time for Tommy's IEP the administration denied both her and his mother. Mr. Jenkins wouldn't let Tommy join his after school science club because of "safety". Mrs. B visits Tommy and her other students on Saturdays. Sometimes she hosts birthday parties for them because their parents have to work. She asks around the school for volunteers to tutor and buddy with her students, but the few that come out ask her to sign their community service hour sheets. They don't want to introduce her students to their friends. Tommy just stares into space. Mrs. B wakes up at 4 am.

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