In 2018, is there still a Special Ed Stigma? Consider this a shout out, dedicated to those who suffered through Education that wasn’t Special, from me (Class of P.S. 136).
I believe following my 3rd grade expulsion from P.S. 36, I spent 4th & 5th grades in Special Ed, first at P.S. 118 and then at P.S. 136. I don’t remember the reason for being expelled. I do remember being utterly unstimulated in class and not putting away my baseball cards after the teacher told me to do so, repeatedly. I do remember the principal, Mr. Downy, chasing me around his desk, snarling, “Come here, you little [N-word…with a hard R].”
Back then the thinking was that you made the student adapt to the teaching, rather than tailor the teaching to fit the student. Hence, a lot of brilliant kids were teased for being slow because they were in Special Ed. I was one of those kids. Special Ed was used not only as a designation for those who swam at a slower pace than “mainstream” students, but also a place to warehouse those considered to have “behavior issues.”
The truth of the matter was that I didn’t need to be in Special Ed. My standardized test scores were unfuckwittable. What I needed was for my teachers to step their game up. There’s two brothers and a sister on my timeline that are teachers. I see how they approach the learning process and customize the curriculum to best suit the needs of those in their class. I could’ve used that in elementary school.
I could’ve used a teacher who said, I’m not sending you to Mr. Downy’s office–go head and have your tantrum and I’ll sit here until you’re done. I could’ve used a teacher who said, if either one of us died unexpectedly my homework assignment would still be due; or a teacher, who found a way to work the Middle Passage into the lesson plan. I could’ve used a teacher, who didn’t call my moms to school because I blew her away (not with a gun, but with a comment).
In P.S. 136 we were once asked why we’d want to be president. My response was that I wouldn’t want to be president because the WHITE House was for WHITE people. The teacher found this comment to be very disturbing. (Me having a gun probably would’ve been less disconcerting.) And my mother was called to the school for an emergency parent-teacher conference. I think she smirked when the teacher told her what I had said.
I really have nothing more to say, other than: Cue my fade out music–the song by the patron saint rapper of Special Ed students, “I Got It Made.” I hope by now things have got better and they’ve made it so that “Special Education” is no longer a misnomer.
I’m done. And in the immortal words of Harriet Tubman, We Out.