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Classroom Scouts in Special Education
A Scout Program
As a teacher of special needs kids in a new school and in my second year there, I wanted to give my students a worthy education. I had attended college and been a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity while I was in attendance there. Our fraternity had close ties with Scouting and it was only natural that this was on my mind when I saw a room full of boys. I knew that besides the usual educational courses, the boys would benefit from the good values that scouting provides. I applied at the local scouting center and was awarded the title of scout master of my new special education class. The principal was delighted that we would be including this in our class schedule and I managed to find another teacher to be my assistant in leading the new scout group at the school.
We started immediately into the handbook and began to learn first aid, safety in hiking, camping and identification of poisonous plants and reptiles. We studied first aid and how to help those who may be injured in many circumstances. We learned how to earn badges in the scouting program and that the scouts had a long and proud history. My new kids were really eager to become scouts and began to show much pride in themselves and their abilities. The day that I brought a huge bag of used uniforms to the classroom, my principal remarked how I looked like Santa Claus. I piled the bag full of clothing onto the floor and I will never forget the genuine looks of joy on the faces of the kids who were diving into the pile of clothes. They were trying them all on to try and match the tops with the bottoms. After a while we all found matches that could pass for regulation Boy Scouts. The kids were told that they could wear the uniforms on Wednesdays and they were elated to show off their new troop membership.
After I visited a few organizations in the community I was able to get money to purchase sleeping bags and two new tents. Later I got a cooking stove and lanterns. I checked with the scout center and manager and got permission to take our new troop out to an official scout camp ground. I will never forget our first trip and how we had to tie tents and bags on top of the two cars we had filled with the scout troop members. We had trip after trip on the weekends and those boys had some of the greatest days of their lifetimes. We put up tents, cooked on our stove and made camp fires. We got to hike around a lake there and go fishing. Those kids in that special needs class enjoyed what they were doing so well, they could hardly wait to get to school each day. I have to admit, those were some of my most fond memories that I have of the more than twenty-five years I spent in teaching special needs kids. One of our scouts actually saved a friend over the summer one year and was acknowledged for this in a school gymnasium in the Fall. He pulled the other boy from a creek and saved him from drowning. The kids that were in our scout program the two years that I was at the school, showed me how taking a little time with children can make a difference in their future lives.
The principal was sorry to see me leave that year and I know the boys missed me. My assistant was still at the school and took over for me after that. I knew that the boys were in good hands and would get to enjoy more years of scouting to come. This was perhaps my greatest experience in teaching school, and I will never forget the wonderful times we all had in our in-school scouting program. Over the years I have thought back on those days and how my own scout leaders inspired me to better my own self and always be prepared. It was simply my time to pass it on, and I hope they would have been proud of my attempt..