One of my favorite groups of students is a 12th grade Participation in Government class. These are not mainstream students. They are classified as Special Ed, and take courses labeled “Diploma Studies.” When speaking to them, you’d never know they have learning disabilities. On the surface, these kids seem to be as bright as anybody else, and are funnier than most. However, when you look at a sample of their writing, you get a better understanding of just how limited they really are.
The other day, I was helping one of these students edit a poem he was submitting to the student poetry book. (If it’s ever completed, I’ll reserve a copy for you, Doug!) The poem was quite creative (written from the perspective of an imaginary son of President Bush, who questions his father’s actions), but the spelling was atrocious. If you heard this young man recite his poem, you’d be impressed. If you read it, you’d be appalled. For example, it took me a while to figure out that “sime” was supposed to be “seem.” Really basic stuff is beyond their abilities.
Many Diploma Studies students have disciplinary problems as well as learning disabilities. They have explosive temperaments, and get into trouble outside of school, as well as inside. When they are in the computer lab, however, I find them to be extremely likeable. They can be very sweet and endearing. They joke around and always make me laugh, although sometimes it’s not intentional on their part.
The following is an exchange that took place between a student and his teacher in the computer lab earlier this year:
Teacher: What is the 4th of July?
Student: A holiday?
Teacher, Yes, but what kind of holiday?
Student: (after a pause) Jewish. (He was dead serious.)
Another time, a student was being admonished by the teacher because he was surfing the Internet instead of working on his assignment. They argued back and forth until finally the student said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get the work done. You know me, miss. I’ll cheat if I have to.”
A couple of days later, the same student (Dennis the Menace) was teasing a classmate who had found all the answers to the questions for their assignment on one website, and was hurriedly scribbling answers on his paper. Dennis considered this to be “cheating,” and announced that he had answered 60 of the 100 questions before he resorted to cheating himself.
Then there was the time Rodney wore a new pair of jeans to school. When I pointed out that he hadn’t removed the price tag, he said, “Miss, I paid fifty dollars for these jeans, and I'm going to wear them with the price tag showing!”
A couple of weeks ago, Lloyd and I were having a conversation during which he said, “Miss, I need a shorty” (girlfriend). I assured him that he was a good-looking guy, and shouldn’t have any problem in that department. He went on to say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand, miss. I need an older woman.” I swear I did not see where this was headed. I figured he meant he was looking for a twenty-year-old. Therefore, I told him to go for it. He gave me a big smile and asked, “So, how about it?”
Back to Dennis. On Friday, he was once again wasting class time on inappropriate websites. The boy sitting next to him asked what he was doing. His reply: “Looking for your mama on the Internet.”
Speaking of mamas, if you are one, have a Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow!
Song of the Day: Yo Mama by Frank Zappa