Wednesday, January 9, 2008

SPED Stories, Volume 2

Disclaimer: Some details have been tweaked so as not to identify specific people; however, the gist of the events is true, especially in the outcomes.

An epilogue to volume one. Although the entities involved are different, the question remains.

I’m working in a special motivation program in a high school where the demographics include high percentages of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, high school drop outs, school violence, and indigenous student populations. The students in this program remain for the entire day; four teachers, two aides and 40 kids in an ALC - Alternative Learning Center ( the kids themselves call this Assholes Last Chance). We become very close, a type of family one could say. This did not come about easily. I was, of course, placed here my first year of full time teaching, following the statistics of the least experienced teacher being placed in the most difficult lines (http://www.publicagenda.org/lessonslearned/). But this story takes place during my third year.

The kids speak freely around me and rarely leave the building. It is lunch and I am having a conversation with two of my male students. One is SPED, with a specific learning disorder (SLD) and he is 19 and in his fifth year of high school. When I started three years before he walked up to me and said, “I cannot read or write. Can you teach me?” Well, that’s a whole different story, how a child can pass through the system, SPED or otherwise, and reach high school with a K/1st grade reading ability. At any rate, on this day, he is pissed off and wants to go beat some guy who disrespected his little sister. But, he’s 19 and knows he can get arrested. Still, he’s leaning towards doing what he has to do, that’s the way things work in his world.

The other student is his cousin. He’s 16 and also in SPED, but he’s EI (emotionally impaired). What he’s been through in these first 16 years could take a blog or so in itself, but ultimately, and put way too simply, he has anger management issues. Since his anger is a part of his disability, he can only be suspended a small amount of time for fighting, as it is a part of his disability (see SPED stories volume 1). He not only knows this, he works this. He straight up tells his cousin in front of me that he will take care of it because he’s already been suspended his quota of days, “they can’t do anything to me." He might have emotional and pyschological problems but he's smart especially street smart. Although I refer them to counseling, it is only to humor me and out of respect that they go, it is just later rather than sooner that the whole scenario takes place anyways.

Fast forward three years later. I am working in another high school but in the same district. It is the first day of school and I am taking attendance and I notice one of my students has the same last name as the EI student from the above story. I ask him if he is related and he replies that EI is his cousin. I ask if he can say hello for me and how is he doing. My new student informs me that his cousin is in prison for assault.

1 comment:

Oz Girl said...

Wow. Kudos to you for teaching these kids. My daughter-in-law is a 2nd grade teacher, and we hear her stories all the time. Some are funny, some not so funny but sad. She has had some students with real life issues; I am shocked at some of the issues these very young kids have, a sign of the times we live in I guess.