Saturday, January 30, 2010

Out of the Cage

My father took our school careers seriously. If we had schoolwork due we rarely ventured out of the room we were working in (which was probably the dinette, the alcove off the kitchen that contained an oval wooden table with a notch in it, where my father incurred the wrath of my mother by once sawing through whatever he was sawing -straight into the tabletop. Honestly, I never remember my father sawing anything ever again).

But I lose track of my story here. If we strayed from the notched, oval dinette table for a breath of air, a sneak look at the tv or a bathroom run - he would yell
"Get back in the cage!"

My father was not so much a disciplinarian as a comedian. He categorized the world into kvetches and kibbitzers- those who whine about the foibles of life and those who make jokes.

He was most definitely the latter.

And so I thought of my father this Regent week as I was confined to the overheated, under-decorated dean's office, doing the "read aloud Regents."

One of the accommodations available to students with Individual Education Plans is "questions and directions read aloud for all exams other than those measuring reading comprehension."

Really- all the state exams are tests of reading comprehension. I just looked online to see if the state had posted this week's Living Environment (Biology) Regent- but they had not yet so I paraphrase. One question described in three to four sentences the mandible of two different blood sucking insects before getting around to asking if insects are herbivores, omnivores or producers. Oy!!!

But if the exam isn't actually an "English Language Arts" exam the "questions read aloud..." modification, allows students with significant reading disabilities to have the questions read aloud.

And I am stuck in the cage.

Take Jonathan for example. Usually students with reading issues are masters of disguises. They have a whole wardrobe of disguises to mask their inadequacies with the written word. Their eyes are tired, they just weren't concentrating, they just don't like the teacher that reported their difficulties, so they refused to cooperate.
But not Jonathan. Jonathan went up to his adviser the first week of ninth grade and told her he couldn't read.

Jonathan arrived from an English speaking Central American country right before the start of the school year two years ago. He had not attended school in his native school for a while. Tall, and physically well developed, Jonathan had worked as a butcher for the last several years, until an aunt had somehow managed to bring him to New York. The fact that had come from a part of the world where English is spoken, immediately disqualified him from the programs that service English language learners who are SIFES, (students with interrupted formal education). Why such programs do not exist for native English speaker? You'd have to ask Klein/Bloomberg.

So Jonathan struggles along. Last year I got him an IEP and made sure the questions read aloud modification was stipulated. Jonathan takes his education seriously. Trading in his butcher knife, for a pencil means he doesn't squander the opportunity of acquiring a New York State Regents High School diploma. He made me read the questions slowly carefully and I watched him sweat through documents about Neolithic advancements in agriculture, consecutive odd integers, and the effects of distant galaxies on wave length measurement. (All the while praying he and the others would pass and I would do nothing that would put my so-close-I-can-taste-it pension in jeopardy).

A whole week of reading aloud Regents, four hours in the morning, four hours in the afternoon.

Thursday the principal pulled me out to sit in a conference as the union rep. Then it was time for the afternoon's Regent. I heard the voice of my father.

"Get back in the cage!"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for you comment. You summed up my life very nicely. I probably should stop using the description "work" friends. They're just friends.