Brendan is once again trying to learn his times tables.
After intense daily tutoring, he can easily outscore his peers on a times table test, getting 35 out of 40. Yet, the moment the level of tutoring is reduced even slightly, his score drops to 2 or 3 out of 40. Brendan’s retention of facts is almost non-existent.
Teachers have been trying to teach Brendan to retain even a few of his times tables since the beginning of third grade, and he has not yet learned any for keeps. Brendan is now in the fifth grade.
What is that child really learning, other than the hard and often-repeated lesson that he is stupid?
This is institutionalized cruelty.
The District tells me I am to teach the full grade-level curriculum to Brendan, adjusting the style of the lessons to suit his learning difficulties.
Tell me, why are we trying to teach and teach and teach again the chemical formula for glucose to students such as Brendan? More cruelty. Why aren’t we offering him the life skills and vocational training he needs so desperately? What is Brendan’s use of teaching resources relative to other students with more apt memories? Wouldn’t both Brendan and the educational system profit by us doing something for him, rather than to him?
Marilyn still doesn’t know the days of the week, in English or Spanish, her native language.
Teachers have been trying to teach them to her now for five years, using all sorts of strategies. None have paid off.
Marilyn thinks she’s dumb—and she’s right. However, she is also very sweet and very graceful, and extremely beautiful. If ever there was a girl born to be a gymnast, a dancer, or model, it’s Marilyn. It’s too bad for Marilyn that she has been locked into a cruel prison for five years—one that has repeatedly reinforced how dumb she is.
I try very hard all year to raise her self-confidence. I fail.
Why on earth are we trying and trying to teach Marilyn the same old academic things she has failed at for years? How can any administrator or teacher have the audacity to say that we’re doing this for Marilyn’s good?
Okay, a couple of you more smug teachers are thinking “She just didn’t know how to teach to those kids”. Yeah. Fine. You-all just go on thinking that. Although you are a little bit right in that, in my first year, I was the dumb one, obeying my massahs and trying to teach the mandated curriculum. By year two, I wised up and stopped beating my demoralized ponies. I taught whatever each could learn and succeed at.
NOTE: Don’t like the use of the terms dumb and stupid? Let’s go with functionally retarded. (Oh–we don’t say “retarded” any more? Tough.) Because, hon, if your disability is that you have the memory of a long-term alcoholic, you are, for all academic pursuits, more than mildly retarded.
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