I think my career has been framed by two laws. The first one Congress enacted in 1975., the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), That enabled me to get a job in 1978 just a year after New York City was bankrupt and president Ford told New York City to drop dead. That's probably more history than I meant to put in this blog. But when I was desperate for a job, jobs as teachers of "handicapped children" were what was available. I had a vision (as many Ms. America candidates do) of teaching "special children." Life doesn't always work out as you imagine it to.
Several years ago we relocated our summer school program to a nearby high school complex, built within the last decade. It was fully air conditioned and our building had no air conditioning. It had elevators too. And also a program for students with the kind of disabilities I once imagined I would teach.
They needed the elevators.
We just liked using elevators.
I was riding the elevator with three of my street smart, algebra not so smart students. A teacher and a student with multiple disabilities joined us. The young man leaned into me and told me with great pride that he looked at inappropriate websites. I expected loud guffaws from my company but instead, Jeremy said, "Hey, buddy, we do too, we just don't tell the teacher that."
The other group got off.
Then my students broke up.
"Laugh if you must," I replied. "That's whom I thought I'd be teaching, in 1975."
"Instead you got us!"
"Just how old are you Teacherfish?"
"If you can't figure it out, I ain't gonna tell you!"
The second law that framed my career- No Child Left Behind.
No explanation needed here. I (and just about every other blogger in the edublog world) have been complaining about testing this month.
Today Pepito was absent. He got suspended last week. He didn't wear his uniform so he got a one day suspension. He was supposed to pick up his suspension letter in the office but when the administrator told him to get his letter from the table he didn't want her to know that he couldn't read which one was his.
So he threw a chair.
Maybe she would think he was an angry young man instead of a stupid one.
Now Pepito is suspended for a week..
Today we were working on the courses for next year. Pepito's teacher asked if we would be offering functional math and life sciences.
"No," the principal answered. We would be offering geometry and chemistry for Pepito's grade. The special ed teacher would be required to modify those courses to his needs.
I guess we are not supposed to leave Pepito behind.
Two laws frame my career.
And the second cancels out all the good from the first.