I had been warned about Brian. “Low, low,” they said. “In fact, so low that he can’t tell the difference between a 4 and a 6! Good luck with this one. There’s only so much you can do. And frankly, you can’t save them all.” Thus began my first special education teaching assignment in public education.
They were right. This amiable first grader was a challenge to teach. Print of any kind was a huge obstacle. In fact, he didn’t recognize his letters or his numbers. Since I was also trained as an art teacher and had subbed a lot in special education classrooms, I had been hired to teach in this resource room because of my ability to do hands on activities to promote the learning of these highly challenged youngsters.
Story time was Brian’s favorite. He especially liked the activity time after the story when I would set out a variety of papers, glue, scissors, markers, and random collected items with instructions to make, draw, or design a way to tell me about what we had just read. That became a glorious time of day when this challenged little boy became a skilled designer of three dimensional space shuttles, haunted houses, and pilgrim villages.
The reading table was a different story. Brian’s desire to read and learn and please his teacher was impressive. But the outcome was much less magnificent.
As I sat across from him and watched him struggle, always willing to try, but plodding and strained, it struck me, “It’s the eyes! Wow, look at those eyes! No wonder he can’t recognize letters and numbers, let alone put several together! But wait, he’s been screened by the school nurse! Everything is 20/20! Still, if I could just get behind those eyes and see what he is seeing, I think I could help.” Continue reading “Brian’s Story”