STORIES OF A RESOURCE KID AND THE DYING PHENOMENA OF THE REMEDIAL EDUCATION PROGRAM IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS!
On a chilly summer morning I found myself walking to school with my friend and her little girl as I had promised to be there with them when she signed her daughter into kindergarten. As we approached the red brick structure and began walking passed the new playground and down the halls past class room doors that shined with fresh coats of paint, a flood of memories came back. This very school is where my friend Laura and I had started school ourselves together thirty-three years ago. We decided to walk into room eight. Now a class room for third and fourth graders with its carpeted floor, neat rows of desks and battered lockers, it bears little resemble to the kindergarten room we walked into those many years ago. A room that seemed to shrink over the years and became very tiny. I remember the first day of kindergarten and the play house buy the door painted brown and white with big flowers, the little tables and chairs placed sporadically around the room, and the big circle, a bare section of the tile floor were we would sit in front of the teacher being taught lessons. I remembered the dress I wore that day, green stripes and green flowers printed on it. Upon meeting my new teacher she said to me, “You cannot be Jennifer S, there is another Jennifer S. you have to be Jenny S.? I looked at my mom in total confusion. So began my career in elementary school as Jenny S. the last initial added to all Jennifer’s or Jenny’s names to tell one from another. Also Jenny is a name I’m none to found of, but learned to live with till high school when I was again Jennifer. I soon found out my kindergarten teacher wasn’t so bad, hey she had treasure box full of toys that we got for being good.
There was many other memories to explore as well from my kindergarten years. The badges we earned for learning tasks like tying our shoes, to finishing your first reading book. The elusive jump rope badge that totally escaped me that I never managed to get. Laura’s Heathcliff lunch box and her peanut butter and pickles sandwiches that still make us laugh to this day. She loved those sandwiches. In actuality we spent two years in room 8, for kindergarten and junior first. The Junior First program was an extra grade in between Kindergarten and first grade at the time, with a mix of kindergarten and first grade work. Junior-First was extinguished over the years in favor of Pre-Kindergarten. This time would also began my career as a resource student in the public school system, an aptly named title for children in the Remedial Education Program. A totally different program than the Special Education Program often grouped with it, were children with very special needs who are mentally, physically, socially and emotionally delayed. Where is, The Remedial Education Program is for children who have high intellect , but who are not doing well in school do to learning disabilities , and this program allows them to get the little extra attention they need to succeed. For me I was in a regular class room, a regular kid who went for an hour or two a day to a second room, later a trailer, with a second teacher to get assistants in math and spelling. My first memories of going to the other teacher, were in Kindergarten and the puppets.
I recall going to the resource room with two other children at the beginning, and laughing at these puppets. Oh we laughed and laughed and laughed. I believe we also read off flashcards. As the years went on the resource room would become hard work, frustration and a total nuisance. Upon going into my first grade year one thing that changed was Laura moved on to a different elementary school and I would continue on into first grade without her. Second the resource room, became the resource trailer as the original room still to this day is a teacher’s lounge. Somethings do stay the same, as the library was still the same, a place where I found one of my first loves books and made a great friend in the librarian. Two rooms down from were Laura and I were is room 10, my first grade class room as we walked buy it I remember this teacher Mrs. Judy Doolittle as the greatest teacher I ever had in elementary school. I just loved her, all the kids did. We drew pictures for her and I brought her roses not apples. Good thing there was a rose bush near my house. I remember her holding my hand and walking around the playground with me. She always made it alright that I was who I was. I was never singled out as the one causing trouble and if one of the kids told on me, Mrs., Doolittle would say “I do not see her doing anything”. She had lunch with the class in the lunch room, and if we had to follow a rule she felt she did too. And we all got the chance through getting that first A on our spelling test to go, four students at a time to have cheeseburgers for lunch with the teacher. She was the first teacher that I had, that had computers for us to work on in her room. And there was the big 4. Basically it was sitting at your desk with your hands folded and your feet together.
As great a teacher as she was, others I would have would not be as understanding. I continued to have extra help in spelling and math up through sixth grade. I have little memories of going to the resource trailer in first, second and third grades , I know I went with two other kids in class those years and we did our spelling tests there and we had help finishing out math assignments. And there were activities like this Christmas tree I made, that mom still has to this day in her decorations. The few memories I do have is one time, when I went to the resource trailer and there was a substitute for the resource teacher. We were doing a coloring activity and I got accused of coloring with my left hand when I was right handed. Stunned I stammered: “but I’m left handed”! She continued to argue the point with me, even trying to give me a pair of right handed scissors and insisting I was right handed. I eventually won the argument and got my left handed scissors. Not without the teacher ordering me never to color with my right hand again. I will be honest I can cut and color with both hands. But I only write with my left hand. So does that make me slightly ambidextrous? I learned to cut right handed when left handed scissors were not provided in class. Another day comes to mind at that time, one where I was in the resource trailer writing and a fly landed on my right hand. I did not flick it away because I was busy writing. The fly eventually flew away and I hear the teacher say “We do not play with flies, there dirty and smelly and gross.” I still laugh at that to this day, but even funnier was the day we had the spelling word “Hump”. Every time the teacher said the spelling word, us kids being 8 and 9 year olds giggled and laughed. The teachers face got redder and redder. Serviced to say we were not thinking of the word as in the camels hump as we should have been. All giggles a side, by fourth grade my elementary school days would become a lot harder and I grew more frustrated.
One thing that always bothered me about being a resource student was at the beginning of every year my teachers would name off the kids who went to the other class. I hated it because it made me feel different. And it was at this point in fourth grade I did not like leaving the class room for another room and missing what was going on there. I also did not like having to go anyway, for extra help when I did not have an assignment that I needed help with. I would end up coloring on some art project and thinking this is a waste of time and wondering what I was missing in the class room. Things would began taking a negative turn in the class room as I was scared of the teacher. One day I asked her for help with my math assignment as I was just learning long division. She slammed my text book down and yelled at me the whole time I was doing a math problem on the blackboard. As a result of this I never asked another teacher for help until well into high school days. This teacher was always screaming and slamming things around and one day I was reading out loud and I read a name in a book that was also the name of one of my fellow class mates. I saw it as cute and laughed. The teacher took my head and shoved my face down in the book, saying, “We do not care about names.” She was the most frightening teacher I ever had, but not the worst. That would be my fifth grade year, I was plain miserable that year.
Before me and Laura and I left the school, she wanted to show me one more class room. The discovery room, little did I know I was walking back into my worst nightmare. Room 5 was my fifth grade class room. A year I would choose to block out in my memory. My fifth grade teacher hated me. I sensed it and had a hard time doing good work for her. I wish she would have tried to be understanding at all of my learning disabilities and struggles, but no I was considered the resource teachers problem not hers. Most teachers felt that way, they should not be involved with what is going with a child who needs extra help. When it is very important for all teachers and both parents to be on board with this. It is sad that even today upon researching there is still not a teaching course for the up and coming teachers for the average kid as they call them about children with learning disabilities. A major hole that needs to be fixed, sense a big part of the resource program is for kids to remain in the regular class room and only go out for a couple hours extra help. If these teachers are taught anything its very little. My first day of fifth grade was the only good day, I remember. The teacher asked me to take the role sheet to the office on the first day. This teacher had systems. Like the wows and zaps. These pieces of paper were giving out as awards for either good deeds or a reminder of bad deeds. The Wow’s were to be saved up as money. The more you had the more you could bid on the teachers little prize auction at the end of the month. The Zaps just mint you had to stand on the wall at recess. Yes I came from the era of you either got your name on the board, or you stood against a wall at recess watching the other kids play when in trouble. The only reason for her to give out those Zaps was to remind her who to punish. With our names having to be written on them before handing them back to the teacher of course. Also she would dock you Wow’s. She would decide how many Wow’s with our names written on them, you would have to return to her for whatever in fraction you incurred in class. If you did not have the Wow’s to give back, she had you stand on the wall at recess for every Wow you owed her.
Well I devised a plan once to keep all my Wow’s for the upcoming class auction. I was told by the teacher I owed her a number of them. I told her I did not have them. I thought well if I stand on the wall at recess for all the Wow’s I owe her, I can keep the Wow’s I have earned, some 15 at this point. The day of the class auction the teacher saw me take this fat envelope of Wow’s out of my desk , snatch the envelope from me, counted out a bunch of my Wow’s , handing me three back, declaring I owed those to her. I was so disappointed, ousted out of the auction as usual. But what was the point it was always the same kid with all the Wow’s winning all the prizes anyway. Just like with the class room spelling bees that I hated. It was always the same kid every year that won it, so what was the point. Being that I had a learning disability in Spelling. So I was one of the first to spell a word wrong and have to sit down. It was always mortifying and embarrassing. Now I have another memory of these Zaps! The teacher gave me one during class that year and at this time I was fed up with the whole thing and her zapping me all the time. I decided when I wrote my name on the thing, I would write another Jenny’s last initial on the Zap and then turned it in. Bad Idea, The teacher came at me red faced and ordered me to the office, “Call your mother you staying after school, and you will stand on the wall all recess, all week.
I did what I was told. Called my mother crying the whole time and explaining the situation. Upon returning from recess, the teacher marched up to me in front of the class snickered at me and said “I heard you cried on the phone to your mom. “ Then went off to her desk. It was bad enough the kids did not get along with me too, but now the teacher was at their level. I will never forget what she said to me. When mom came to pick me up after school. I was still there with my head down at my desk. After mom argued with the teacher about my punishment, I was called to her desk. She looks down at me and says, “Why are you such a trouble maker? “ I then burst into tears. Needless to say my mother took me out of the room glaring at the teacher. Another thing I despised was are discussion sessions every Friday. The teacher had this marker board on the wall were the kids could write down if they had a problem in the class to put it on the list of topics to talk about. Whose name do you think was on the topics list all over the place, complained about? You guessed it me. It was a list of Jenny S, called me this and that or did this or that. So how can I do this many things to this many people when I spent my time all by myself, even walking the playground at recess alone. It listed up to like 26 different complaints. Most if not all fabricated. Here Friday came around, here I am in the middle of class, with teacher grilling me on all these complaints that I had no idea what the kids were talking about. All eyes on me like I was this horrible child. Now I’m not perfect as know one is, and I’m sure there were a few incidences were someone called me a name and I called one back. We all know two wrongs do not make a wright. But to a child’s mine to wrongs make an even. But those few times were often forgotten buy Friday at the end of the week, if not in hours after it happened. I spent a lot of time standing at the wall that year for actions I did not even do. Even having to re stand by it at times when the principle felt I did not stand by it good enough the previous time. To be bullied in this way, have all these kids make things up to tell on me about and have the teacher not believe me and tell me at one time I lied in front of the class. Was humiliating and served to alienate me even further from my peers. If that was not enough she had me put my desk by hers in front of the room so she can keep an eye on me.
As for the remedial program I still went every day to the resource trailer. Rain or shine even when I did not want too. This year I went in the late afternoon during history and science. So I had no idea what they were doing in those subjects while I was away. I would come back to be handed an assignment and be expected to do it without no instruction at all. Things went on like this until I did a history assignment wrong, then the teacher decided I did not have to learn history or science that year. As a kid I loved that I got out of studying History and Science. I would not realize until later that this decision would put me behind in those subjects for at least the next year and a half. As I said earlier I found it very hard to do good work for a teacher I knew hated me. Even with the extra help the remedial program gave me I still managed to flunk math on a quarter report card. I just did not care anymore. To this day I do not look at my old report cards. Not because of the grades, but because of the teachers comments. It makes me feel like I was complained about and totally misunderstood by many of my teachers. And still pretty much still hurts me so I do not bother with them even though mom saved them with loads of my old school work. I did learn a trick to doing long division that would make it so much easier to work the problem out. The real reason long division is so hard to learn is because when bringing down the numbers from the dividend to subtract, you often get the rows of numbers all mixed up. So the trick is to make an arrow from the number in the dividend you are bringing down, pointing to the spot where you are adding it to be divided. Do this with each row till the problem is figured. This trick saved me from failure in Math and ultimately helped me raise my grade.
I did however move on from fifth grade to my final year of elementary which then was sixth grade. I would get along very well with my sixth grade teacher and was able to graduate to middle school with the help of the Remedial Education Program. Which I totally credit for helping me all the way through school, even with its kinks, till I did not need it anymore by my second year of high school. When Laura and I left school that Day I noticed the trailers were no longer there. She had told me the program was no longer in the school. I had expected the program to be better than I had, the problems I had to be remedied for future generations, not a total abolishment of the program. A law was passed in 1975 , The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , which requires all school districts to identify , locate and evaluate all children with disabilities regardless of the severity of their disabilities. What it does not require is for schools to have the programs in place to help the children through school without struggle. Over 4.6 million school age children are born with learning disabilities in the United States alone and only 2.4 million are diagnosed of these children. With schools lowering budgets by cutting these programs out and the Government funds not being there and this new idea for School Vouchers , that threatens both children in the Special Education Program and Remedial Education Program to giving up their rights , it fails the saying “No Child Left Behind.” And that begs the question what is to become of our future? Because all the children including those in need are our future!
Originally published at medium.com on April 29, 2017.