The Reason I Teach
A Student of Mine
The picture above is one of my students. I can't tell you a lot about him, but I can tell you this. He is the reason I teach. This boy, I will call him CJ, was a kindergartner last year. And he will be a kindergartner again this year. CJ began in my special education class at the beginning of the year. Although he was in a special education class, he was a very bright, well-spoken young man. He did have a slight stutter. And he couldn't remember anything. I taught him how to spell his first name. An hour later, he couldn't remember how to spell it.So we would work on it again and again - in many different ways - and he would still forget what order the letters went in. I would teach him to say his numbers to ten. When I would ask him to repeat them, he would mix them up. So we worked on numbers to five. Then numbers to three. And still he would mix them up. He got lost going back to his classroom that first week - it was just five doors away and in the same hall. We practiced walking back to his class many, many times - and then had a buddy walk with him so he wouldn't get lost.
ADHD - But He Tried!
But he tried. He came into class every day with a big smile on his face and ready to learn. He would get his supplies out and do everything he could do by himself. He would write his name on his paper, even though it was often backwards, and the letters were scrambled. He had issues with his small motor control, yet he picked up those beads each day and put that string through each bead, his little tongue sticking out in deep concentration. He would put his pencil grip on his pencil and carefully trace his name. He would take out the play clay and roll it to shape his name.
He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but he sat in his little chair and tried hard to concentrate on what I was trying to tell him. If he didn't understand, he would ask me to repeat it. If he couldn't sit still for one more second, he would say "Can I take a Brain Break?" And when I told him yes, he would go to his tub and grab his racquet ball and do some amazing tricks, bouncing and catching it and tossing it behind his back and between his legs. Then it was back to work, and he was ready to try to focus again.
Mental Retardation - Or Intellectual Disability, As It Is Now Known
Mental retardation, or intellectual disability as it is known today, is a condition marked by a low IQ - generally regarded as below 70. It is also has limitations in adaptive skills, such as academic skills, social skills, and practical skills. Those can be defined as follows.
- Academic Skills - how a person does with reading and math skills, especially language and literacy, time and money and number concepts.
- Social Skills - how a person gets along socially - ability to follow rules, when and how to know they are being taken advantage of, and working with others.
- Practical Skills - how a person cares for him or herself. This would include dressing, bathing, occupational skills, safety, use of telephone and traveling around the community.
Anger Management - But He Tried!
He had some anger management problems, but he was the first to help the little girl with the mental disability and the little boy who had to use a walker. He would set out the little girls supplies for her, and help the boy balance his supplies on the walker. He would be patient and wait when they took more time than he did. He would repeat directions, and then tell them again in his own childlike words.
When someone or something would make him angry, he wouldn't know how to deal with it. I taught him tricks - use your words, slow down and count to ten, watch your calming bottle - but he would forget them as soon as he learned them. I would tell him that he could go to the "beach" to settle down if he needed to - but he thought that it was a punishment and would become even angrier. What usually worked was to just ignore him. As sad as it sounds, within a few minutes he would forget that he was even angry.
Mental Retardation - Cured?
At the beginning of the year, CJ had a diagnosis of mental retardation. But because of his age (his birthday was in August) and the way that the standardized tests worked, he didn't even qualify for special education services by the end of the year. Mostly because he knew the letters in his name, plus a few more - and he could count to 20 - at least on the day he was tested. The next day - or even later the same day, he might not have been able to do the same thing. But because at that moment he knew those things, he no longer qualified for services he still desperately needed.
CJ went to a different school after those first two kindergarten years with me. The school district redid the school boundaries and his home was no longer in our boundaries. He goes to a brand new school now - with brand new teachers. Teachers who I hope will love him as much as I did - as I do. Teachers who will watch over him and continue to monitor him - who will make sure he will get the help he still needs.
It's boys (and girls) like CJ that make my job the best job in the world. They are the reason I teach...