Saturday, August 05, 2006

"I don't have to, I'm Special Ed."

It’s the kind of frustration that stops you in your tracks. The momentum of education is chugga-chugging along at a reasonable clip and you’ve stopped looking at the clock. You have students putting answers on the board, students jotting down notes, and even the kid who normally sleeps is asking questions. There is a single statement that throws an wrench into the works. “I can’t do that; I’m special ed.”

Excuse me? You were just able to find the mean, median, and mode a minute ago…why are you putting your head down now? “I’m special ed, I can’t do math.”

I hear this, and it simultaneously breaks my heart and burns a rage inside me. These kids are at the last stop in their educational career, District 75 is the most restrictive special education program, the Alcatraz of behavior management. And these kids aren’t oblivious enough to not know this. In fact, they have incredible cognitive ability. They are fully aware that somewhere along the way they slipped through the cracks; foster care, promiscuous sex, parents that refused to advocate for them, abuse, neglect, and a million other reasons why students who should be in high school get sent to PS 371. And they don’t have to work for a diploma here, because they are special ed.

Is this a manipulative excuse?
Is it something they really believe?

I think it’s a bit a both. You can’t look into the abyss without the abyss looking back into you, as Nietzsche said. So how can you work and learn within the special education system without feeling the stigma you’re branded with as a student? And if teachers treat a student differently, handing them with kid gloves or roughing them up…the kids aren’t oblivious to the perception adults have of them.

So how do you walk this tightrope between cannot and will not? What magic words wake a student whose been hypnotized by other’s opinion of what they CAN and CANNOT do?


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