Progress & Special Education: What some people don’t understand

Girl

A young girl with curly brown hair and a beaming smile looked up at me and handed me this letter:

Der     mis

fre       I      So        LiKe    TO.   

WerK       Wef.

You.

And automatically my stress of the day was erased and I was reminded yet again how good it is to have my job. I was filled with love and pride.

I eagerly took the note home to my husband who looked at the note and was baffled. I had to translate it like it was in a foreign language. Clearly, it was a sweet note that read:

“Dear Mrs. Ferry,

I so like to work with you.”

“What grade is this student in?” My husband quizzically asked. As I replied, “third” I knew what my husband was thinking. He was thinking I had my work cut out for me. He didn’t see what I saw.

When I was handed this note, this is what I noticed:

Yes! She got all her sight words correct (i.e. like, you)

Finally! After months of practice, she now understands all words need to include a vowel!

Woo-hoo! We are making progress – at least she is trying to include punctuation marks in her writing.

Would this writing be considered “passable” for third grade? Absolutely not. And sadly, most people do not view a failing grade as showing progress.

Do they really understand Special Education?

And does the media or politicians understand how hard our children work or do they just see the test scores? Can someone walk into our school system and tell a teacher they are ineffective because a third grader isn’t writing a well developed, mechanically sound, seven sentence paragraph? Will they ever know how much progress was made from the beginning of the year when a student struggled to put pencil to paper just to produce their name and now they are writing a full thought while following basic principles of phonics?

It is easy to judge. It is easy to label and criticize.

However, through the eyes of a teacher, we see hope. We see progress. We see effort.

We have to give our children a chance and we have to believe in their abilities. We should continue to set the bar high and then push our student’s to reach that bar; genuinely believing they can do it. We should recognize and celebrate improvement – even if that means they raised their score from a 12% to 49%.

Melissa

Written on 2012/05/24 by:

Melissa

Melissa Ferry is a special education teacher for Mt. Pleasant Public Schools. She earned her bachelor's degree from Michigan State University with an endorsement in learning disabilities. Melissa is continuing her education at Central Michigan University in pursuit of a Master's Degree. Prior to her career as a teacher Melissa volunteered at Friendship Circle for seven years.