Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for “Special Ed.”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.


I was definitely not born a bookworm. When I was a kid, I did everything in my power not to read.

As a child, I was . . . um . . . special. School was not my thing. In school, I was so anxious that I twitched uncontrollably or so depressed that my teachers would have had better luck teaching a bowl of lime Jell-O how to read. I was a profoundly slow learner who couldn’t handle unpredictability or changes to my routine. I hated crowds and couldn’t focus in the classroom. I was also a control freak with zero social skills. Basically, little-me was a hot mess in a fancy dress.





From first to sixth grade, I took classes for “Special” kids. For most of the day, I was in class with the “regular” kids, but before school and during lunch and recess, I had extra lessons. I was in “special” math, reading, and writing classes. I spent hours sitting in hallways, working one-on-one with a teacher’s aide. I’m surprised that I don’t have permanent nerve damage in my ass from doing so much of my schoolwork on hard floors. (I don’t know the current status of the aide’s ass. Maybe she got nerve damage from sitting with me? Would the school have to pay her medical bills? I need to Google these things.)

Anyway, being “special” isn’t great for a twitchy kid’s self-esteem. Adults were always trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Nobody knew why I was such a failure at life. I felt like there was enormous pressure on me to catch up to the other kids and stop being special. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch up. The self-loathing was intense. I was terrified of making mistakes because mistakes just reconfirmed my “special” status.








Then, there were the bullies. Kids look cute on the outside, but they can be vicious little demons. They called me “Special Ed,” “Ed,” “Retard,” and “Fucktard.” For anyone who hasn’t been initiated into an elementary school clique, Fucktard is a clever amalgamation of the words “Fucking retard.” The bullying got so bad that I started getting physically sick whenever the teacher’s aide walked into the classroom. I knew she was there for me, and I knew the other kids would give me crap for needing her help.



Since I didn’t get along with other kids, I was sent to special friendship classes. For Friendship Class, the school counselors rounded up all the “Eds” in school and put us in a windowless room roughly the size of a walk-in closet. Then, they had us make art. This often ended in disaster.

(Oh, I just reminded myself of a random tangent. Funny story about Friendship Class: Once upon a time in Friendship Class, one of my fellow Eds had a meltdown. He started flinging buckets of crayons around our classroom. Since I was an anxious Ed, I immediately lost interest in coloring my Friendship Turtle and panicked. One of the counselors said, “Don’t worry, that boy has ADHD.” I have no idea if she was talking to the other counselor or to me, but nobody bothered to explain what “ADHD” meant. For all I knew, it was a secret code word for We’re about to get stabbed to death with the sharp end of a broken crayon, but don’t panic, the school district will give our corpses proper Christian burials. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Friendship Class.)

Okay, back to books. How did I transform from an Ed who couldn’t read to a bookworm? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. There was no magic Helen-Keller-type moment where someone shoved my hand under a water pump and everything suddenly made sense. Becoming a bookworm happened slowly. My parents and teachers were very persistent. They made me read Every. Single. Day. When I complained, fought, and feigned deadly illnesses, they still made me read.

During forced reading time in fifth grade, I accidentally stumbled across a few books that I didn’t hate. These books showed me that not all books suck. Once I knew my own reading tastes, I was able to hunt down more books that didn’t suck. I eventually discovered that I (gasp!) enjoyed reading. By the time I got to seventh grade, I was reading for fun every night. I was also put in normal classes in seventh grade. I was still weird, but I was no longer “special.”





So, if you have “Eds” in your life, don’t give up on them. I can’t tell you how my fellow Eds turned out, but this Ed read 108 books last year.





Are you a bookworm? Were you born that way, or did you develop your book love later in life?




  

30 comments:

  1. What a horrifying time you had at school...it sounds like a total nightmare. Well done to your parents for never ever giving up on you and look at you the bookworm now! That is pretty great actually. My dad got me into reading at a very young age and read me tons of bedtime stories and my parents bought me lots of books when it became clear that I loved reading. Now I buy all the books and my dad reads them!

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    1. I wish my parents read. I’m the only person in my family who does.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. This is such an important post. Thank you for writing it!
    Megan @ http://wanderingsofabookbird.blogspot.co.uk/

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  3. The fact that you don't remember any Helen-Keller-type moment and that you were able to read well enough in seventh grade to be in with general ed kids means the assistants and teachers who pulled you out for remediation did something right.

    As for bullies and the mean things they say, I understand where you're coming from there as I was bullied in elementary school clear to my senior year of high school due to having learning difficulties. But my parents fought the school in second grade when testing was first brought up as an option. They didn't want me "labeled" and allowed me to flounder in school until fifth grade without any extra help.

    The intention was good, but that meant my general education peers and teachers did the labeling my parents didn't want the school system doing. Instead of receiving the label of "special ed" or "learning disabled," I was called stupid and lazy by those around me. At the beginning of fifth grade I had zero friends and would have appreciated having any kind of club to go to, even if the kids did throw crayons or pitch fits. In sixth grade people made animal noises as I ran by. Kids actually threw rocks at me on the playground that year.

    As an adult, I read and write well enough to say I've overcome my learning difficulties. But I have kids of my own with learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. My youngest daughter was reading on a first grade level when she entered fifth grade about a year and a half ago. She was mainstreamed in the general education classes and didn't receive the help she actually needed to read until a vary caring and competent special education teacher bucked the inclusion trend and began pulling her out of the gen ed class regularly for at least an hour of remediation daily.

    She caught up to the other kids and is now reading at grade level.

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    1. I’m glad your daughter got the help she needed. My teachers probably made the right decision when they put me in special ed. Even though it was difficult at the time, I was able to catch up to the other kids by middle school.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. Kids can indeed be evil to one another. For a short time in elementary school, I was bullied and it was no fun. One teacher thought I needed "special attention" socially so she asked if I wanted to have a "Big Sister" and since I had no idea what that meant, I said, "sure." I met a few times with an older woman and it was "fine" but I felt weird because none of my other friends had a Big Sister. I was having a hard time because my mom was bi-polar (and back then no one knew what that was). I guess I grew out of being bullied and turned out just fine. I'm actually quite outgoing and am successful enough in a my career. Labels can be so distructive for kids and so can putting children in boxes. Sounds like you have many gifts and talents and needed someone to help you recognize and focus on those. So glad you found a love for reading (and writing!) You have much to teach the rest of us! Have a great weekend. Found you through the A to Z Challenge. www.dianeweidenbenner.com

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    1. Being a kid kinda sucks because you’re powerless. The adults make decisions for you, and then you have to deal with the consequences.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. strangely, I find this entertaining to read, especially friendship class, seriously, I would have run out of that room when that kid starts throwing things around and who thought it is a good idea to put kids into a room/closet with no windows?

    I like that reading is something that you grew into and even if it's a little bit forced, it's still a good thing. I think reading is the most wonderful thing in the world.

    have a lovely day.

    ~ my S post - Seven Silly & Strange Questions ~

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    1. I agree. Books are the most wonderful thing in the world.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. Some of your post made me sad and some of it made me laugh - so a great way of writing and holding attention. As a teacher in charge of Special Education not only in my own classroom but also overall in the school, I have always given support to those children struggling as well as those excelling - this then stops the thought that only those that can't get to go out for extra lessons. I also didn't do set tables - children chose the level they thought they were at and tried - if they couldn't do it they recognised this as learning - if they could do it they recognised this as being too easy and had to challenge themselves further. Even 5 and 6 year olds could understand this - it was the adults who sometimes had a hard time!! I am glad that things have turned out alright despite some pretty horrible years and as others have said already I am sure your post today gives lots of hope to the parents of students who struggle at school. There is much more to life and learning doesn't stop when you leave school! http://pempispalace.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/s-is-for-solitary-sapien-solar-system.html

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    1. I like your system. None of your kids feel “special,” and they have some control over their own education.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. I just want to give little you a virtual hug or something. It sounds like your early school years were not a fun time for you.

    I can remember when I was at school we were put into ability groups but so that none of us knew which was the top group and which was the bottom, they were given colour names. Of course, despite being children, we weren't idiots and we knew that the children in Red Group got the thick books and the children in Yellow Group got the thin books with one sentence per page. So naturally, 'yellow' became one of those insults that would get thrown around the classroom.

    As for me, I've almost always been a reader. I used to memorise my books when I was little but my parents couldn't quite tip me over into reading by myself until I started school, at which point there was no going back.

    My brother, on the other hand, struggled and like you didn't read for fun for the longest time, because it just wasn't fun for him. Then he found some books that he liked, and more books that he liked, and then he too became a reader. I wonder if his experience was a little more like yours.

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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    1. Reading was stressful for me when I was a kid. I loathed it because it made me feel stupid. Everything started changing when I found some books I actually liked. I was willing to try harder to read those books instead of just giving up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. I read Born on a Blue Day about Daniel Tammett. What amazes me to this day is how his teachers didn't try to fix him. They just tried to accommodate his special learning style. I'd like to send a copy of his book to all your earlier teachers.

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    1. I’ve never heard of that book. I’ll look it up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I have been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. I have friends who are not but once they found something they enjoyed, it became easier. I think we do our children a disservice when we pressure them to keep up with others. I think the extra help you received and the regular practice probably are more helpful than any label or competition (intentional or not) can be. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. Yeah, bullying was not helpful. I dreaded school. Everything worked out in the end, though. I learned what I was supposed to learn.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. Oh I'm sorry to hear this. I hate bullies. Power over others is weakness in disguise. I love that quote so much. You're awesome.
    I wasn't born reader too. I developed my passion in reading since junior high school and have been reading since then. Almost all of the members of my big family don't like reading (they're into fashion and traveling), so I'm one of a very few ones. I felt awkward sometimes but I'm more proud of my uniqueness now. Just because we're different doesn't mean there's something wrong with us.

    Anyway, I love this post. Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. Exactly! I’m the only reader in my family. They don’t understand why I like it so much.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. You were SO cute! Yeah, I was a bookworm as a kid. We didn't have smartphones back then...I always say that if we had, I might not have read after the age of 12 or 13. Books were great boredom-fighters when I was dragged along on week-long relative visits when I was a teenager!

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    1. We didn’t have Smartphones when I was a kid, either. Life would have been very different if we did have them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. okay, did you star as Mary Poppins in your school play (that top pic of you in a fancy dress looked like Ms. Poppins to me). Schools can get things so wrong, I'm glad you survived!

    http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2017/04/s-is-for-summer-constellations-scorpius.html

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    1. LOL, not Mary Poppins. I was trying to be a passenger on the Titanic. (I was a very strange child.)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. I'm with Stephanie - what a cute kid! I love that your story, with it's painful turns and twists, ends up a love story, between a girl and books. When you have love, you have everything.
    ----------

    Eli@CoachDaddy

    S is for Six Words

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  14. Your story is very upsetting, as both a teacher and a mom of kids who struggle in school. I am so glad you made it through, but so angry that you had to deal with all that. Kids can be absolutely vicious. I find that the middle schoolers I work with will be awesome with kids who are clearly, obviously physically and mentally challenged, but the kid who just a little bit "off"? No mercy.

    Your pictures, on the other hand, are the best. Love the poodle skirt.

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  15. I always remember reading. My mother, her mother, my aunts and uncles - all readers. My kid was reading by age 4, and is actually responsible for me retuning to pleasure reading. She even asked me to contribute to her blog (since she and all her co-bloggers are too busy with college). Loved reading, until all that required school reading and work reading, and now, I own it again.
    Sam @ WLABB

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  16. Thank you for sharing your story. Kids can be cruel and I am so sorry that you had to deal with the bullies at such a young age. I am glad that you found books that you liked and that they have become such an important part of yur life.

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  17. Oh, wow, this is so incredibly sad, but it's also really encouraging to me. My youngest can't really read yet (he's a bit more extreme than you---in 6th grade, he's reading at a 2nd grade level). Sometimes it's easy to think that it just might not happen. This story reminds me that we never know what the future might hold.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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