Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

Now, about that special ed kid...

Her name is Shelly, and she has somehow made it to the 5th grade despite her kindergarten reading level. She's cute-- not in the way that the Olson twins were cute (while they were still being molded into the bulimic sacks of crap that they are today), but more in the way that Olive, the cute little girl in Little Miss Sunshine is cute. It's more of a "my hair is wild and my clothes don't match and I picked these socks out because they're pink" sort of cute. Blissfully unaware, truly innocent, endearingly obnoxious.

Shelly comes to special ed for reading and math. Monday's task was reading. She had to read a little story about a girl who goes to the store and buys a doll. She then had to complete several worksheets about the story.

One of the worksheets was a sequence exercise. There were 3 illustrations on the page-- one of the girl entering the toy store, one of the girl picking out the doll she wanted, and one of the girl paying for the doll. Shelly's task was to cut out the 3 pictures and glue them to another piece of paper in the order that they occured in the story.

She said she needed help, so I asked her to tell me what she thought was happening in one of the pictures. Every time I would show her a picture and ask her to describe it, she would say something totally random, like "Going to the playground?" and look at me with a big smile under her halfway crossed eyes, which were darting back and forth between the other students in the class, things on the wall, and pretty much any and everything other than the worksheet. Keep in mind that the entire time this was going on, there was another, even more hyperactive special ed student named Mitchell who would yell "I'm done!" then squeal gleefully at an eardrum-piercing pitch, and throw his book across the table every. ten. seconds. There were also two higher-functioning female students working on math at a table, except that they weren't working on math so much as they were plotting a way to trick me into letting them both go to the bathroom at the same time for reasons unknown.

"Shelly, look. What is this girl doing?" I might say while holding up the picture of the girl entering the store, for example.
Buying the candy.
Is she buying candy? What did she buy in the store? A baby doll, or some candy?
A baby.
Right! And what did she have to do before she could buy the baby?
Buy the candy.
No, there's no candy. Shelly, in this picture she's walking into the store, isn't she?
Good! And did she buy the doll before she walked in the store, or after she walked in the store?
Okay, let's try this. Do you see that plant on the shelf?
Do you know how plants grow?
What do you have to do before they grow?
Put water in the pot?
Yes! You put a seed in the dirt and water it, don't you?
Yeah! At the candy store!
....[I'm gonna pretend like she didn't just say that.]
Does the plant grow BEFORE you put the water on the dirt, or AFTER you put the water on the dirt?
YES! That's right! Good job! So did the girl pay for the doll before she went to the store, or after she went to the store!
YES! So glue this picture in the first box.
[Shelly grabs the picture and sticks it to the second box.]

This description doesn't even do it justice. It reminded me of when I was trying to teach my puppy to come when called. Her attention jumps over to the closet door or a sock on the floor or her own paw, and I'm kneeling there with a piece of hotdog, whistling and making smacking noises with my lips and saying "Here, girl! C'mere! Over here! Good COME! Here, girl! Look over here!" Shelly's thought process followed NO logic whatsoever. If I went back to the dialogue I just wrote and broke up every other line with some equivalent of "Here, girl! Over here!" it would be much more true to life. After the fourth or fifth time she grabbed that picture and stuck it to the wrong box, I just congratulated her on a job well done and suggested we take a break. The futility of it had made me numb from the neck up.

No child left behind, no teacher left sane.

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