When the system fails…

Musings on my education.

Maybe I’m just not a team player. Maybe I’m an introvert. All I know is that I liked my education better when I wasn’t in a large classroom…

The other day, as I was sitting in my Adaptive Physical Education class, which teaches us how to adapt physical education for those who are disabled in some way, I began to think upon my childhood. I thought it unappealing that there is so much put into legally protecting those who are below the commonly accepted standard of “normal,” and there is much effort made to accommodate their condition.
Now, I have no problem with that, I think is it a very good thing to do.

In fact, part of our class is a weekly practicum experience working alongside some of the students from the special education program in the Waco ISD, developing programs to allow them to get some activity in their lives, which really is enriching to their daily lives. The activities are geared towards things that are needed for daily activity, such as limb extension, cardiovascular fitness, etc. It’s a good thing.

We’re adapting the activities and the teaching for their level of ability and comprehension. We are bringing the education to their level – that’s the entire point of the adaptive class. It’s about people who are labeled as being deviant from the “norm” in such a way that is hindering them from achieving all that they are able to, and thus taken from the norm and put into a class that adapts to their level to enrich their experience in a way that they can take in. This is done frequently for those who are considered below the designated average. It is done to raise them up, and that is excellent!

I think it’s a great thing, yet it frustrates me. Perhaps this will sound arrogant. It’s not intended that way, it’s just a place of frustration in my own life.

When I was much younger, in elementary school, I lived in a small town, and a very small school district. We’re talking one high school, two elementary schools, two junior highs (at the time). Quite small.

When I was in elementary school,  I was given a wonderful opportunity. I was put in an adaptive class. I was seen as deviant from the norm, and put in an environment to adjust to my special learning needs. However, this was a unique program, and as I grew, I watched it get utterly slaughtered. It began in first grade, with maybe three of us. We were removed from class because of our higher-than-normal deviancy, not falling under the norm, but high enough above it to elicit special attention. We’d probably be labeled as a different kind of deviant in today’s system… those of us who were quickly bored with the material, quickly understood it, and as such, quickly passed on to other activities that kept our attentions and stimulated our minds, and didn’t know the difference.

Up to first grade, I had often been put under disciplinary action in school. I know that might not sound as much of a history, but I had entered preschool early, and attended two sessions a day instead of the half-day that the typical kindergartner attends. I stayed awake exploring when most kids would be out for their afternoon nap in at home. Mom probably enrolled me this way because I wouldn’t take my nap at home – my older and two younger siblings would be put down for the afternoon, and I would always escape, and I think she was getting tired of finding me hanging over the ledge of our loft, or climbing on top of the refrigerator.

I still vividly remember being  confused as to why all of the adults in the room were so impressed when I wrote my name upside down and backwards in preschool. Several of us were in a group on the floor in preschool, and we were coloring on a piece of butcher paper. I specifically remember being on what would be considered the top of the paper, and so I accommodated my actions to supplement for this position – I drew things upside down and backwards so they would appear correctly in line with what was on the rest of the page. So, if the T-rex’s feet indicated “down,” then my letters ought to be oriented in the same direction, even if I was approaching from the other side of the paper.

I thought of that the other day as I was walking out of a building which had glass doors. The outside of the door had the words “PULL,” and I was opening the door from the inside, but I so easily read the words backwards that I was briefly confused when I tried to pull as the door was clearly labeled (though backwards) to do. I had so easily read the words backwards that I hadn’t even noticed that I was reading them backwards. Oops.

In 1st grade, instead of keeping me in the normal class all day, they would remove me for a portion of the day and put me in a type of adaptive class. This was a class that was accelerated towards students viewed as deviant above the norm. Out of, I think, 5 first grade classrooms of perhaps 20-25 students each, there were 3 of us that I remember that first year being placed in the “SATS” program. I had to laugh inwardly when my friends in sixth grade were learning basic algebraic expressions – the idea of an “x” standing for a number, and I recognized the worksheet they were using from when we had done it in first grade. This is what we did in that program; we learned freely. We spent time solving puzzles and problems and using creative methods to approach problems. It wasn’t work, it was enjoyable. It was graded, but it wasn’t something that felt like it was going to count against us, and we did it just to do it. It was enjoyable labor. We looked at patterns and detected the themes amongst them. We discussed theoretical topics… in first grade. It wasn’t some honors class to get a higher weighted credit for a GPA or to look good on paper. We got to go to the depths of things because we enjoyed it and we were with other people who sincerely enjoyed it.

This carried on through elementary school. Slowly, some more children were added to the program. There was a point when it no longer felt right to have them there. In 4th grade math class, out of all of the students, one other student and I were allowed to work at our own pace and test out of that math class. He was a little more motivated than I was, so he ended up testing out of 4th and 5th grade math. I skipped up into 5th grade math but more-so enjoyed the position as an opportunity to do other things I wanted to do during math class, as I didn’t particularly enjoy math…

But then came 5th grade year. All of the sudden, instead of just the two of us being in advanced placement, there were like 7 of us! When did this happen? And by 6th grade, there was an entire class of nearly 30 people. I was not a fan. All of the sudden, I went from getting to challenge myself and work at my own pace, back to having to move at the group rate. This was not enjoyable and quickly killed any motivation I had to excel.

Anyways… I have to go to class, so that is all I’m going to say for now.

Edited to add this point: I spoke with my professor about the points in this entry and she agreed completely with it. Also, class was very interesting and on a lot of the points in this entry as well – timing for cognitive development…

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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