Special Education

One of the biggest adjustments in returning to the east coast was the harsh winter, especially in New England. We lived very close to the campus and the apartment was so cold that we had John sleep in a snow suit and hat. The apartment complex had its plusses and minuses. The minus was the blaring music and beer bashes at all hours of the night because most of the occupants were students.. The positive was that we had a plethora of baby sitters at our immediate disposal.

Maddy and I had created some valuable allies in our travels and one was a person you would initially not have imagined to be so open to change. Bill was a heavyweight in Massachusetts school politics and for some unknown reasons took us under his wing. The covert land mines in our quest to make a difference were avoided due to his counsel and wisdom. One of the biggest hurdles was the posturing and seeking recognition on the part of some of the University faculty and members of the state department of education. There were constant plots and themes to avoid failure and take absolute credit for any success. Rarely did any of this translate into making life better for students. It was truly amazing how much could be achieved when it made no difference who received the credit.

Workshops with faculties were interesting to say the least and at times quite precarious. We had learned that starting with all of our “do gooders remedies” was not the way to go, and a recipe for failure. We tried to interactively create climates where faculty had the opportunity to be heard. One session began with a negative catharsis aimed at Maddy and I. After being barraged by a tidal wave of negative criticism I offered ‘You just met us so you could not possibly dislike us that much. What are the issues here that are behind your observations about what we are trying to do.?” It was almost magical because they read us chapter and verse about the lack of support they received in dealing with any child that was “different.” We listened intently for hours, and their observations and concerns became the platform for much of what we were trying to improve.

Some faculties were 100 years behind the monkeys in their approach to students. Despite this we never assumed a superior position and treated everyone with respect. However at times we had to bite our tongues. One teacher who had been at the school for forty years told us.” Most of these kids are stupid but they come by it naturally their parents were stupid”.

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