Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Special Education

Funny how kids get Pigeon-Holed into group classifications in high school. Just about everyone was a member of one Click or another. Let's see how many I can remember: The Jocks, Hoods, Motorheads, Preppies, The A/V Boys, Special Ed. Kids, and The Future Teachers. I guess I belonged to a few of the groups at different times, depending on the events in my life.

When my athletic endeavors ended after my Freshman year due to permanent injuries, I drifted between groups for a while. Never really comfortable with any group initially, I was used to The Locker Room Mentality. You know, loud and boisterous, snapping towels at each other and making fun of other boy's misgivings in The Shower Room. Swearing wasn't optional, it was mandatory to fit in.

Fortunately for me, I befriended The Special Education teacher, who happened to be my Freshman Track Coach. He asked me to help out in his class instead of going to any Study Halls. All I did in Study Hall was play Table Football with a triangle made out of notebook paper anyhow. Little did I know, the next three years would change my life. This teacher and those kids had a profound effect on me.

To say I was energetic in high school is like saying Speedy Gonzales jogs down the road. I was downright Hyper, OK? Always looking for something to do and always asking the Special ed. Teacher for my next task. He finally became exasperated with me and said," Look, I brought you in here because I trust you. You can do whatever you want, within reason, if it benefits these students or the welfare of this class. If you bend the rules sometimes to get things done, don't worry about it. I'll back you up." That was Music To My Ears! An Adult, let alone a Teacher, completely trusting me! I promised him I would never let him down.

One thing led to another and we discussed the idea of taking the kids to Disney World, since most had never left the confines of The Mahoning Valley. After months of planning and fund-raising, four cars pulling tent trailers, left Struthers for two weeks in Florida, including two days at The Magic Kingdom. What an amazing trip it was with the kids being on their best behavior and we all had a Blast!

In retrospect, I learned a lot more in Special Education Class than the students. For the first time in my life, I felt proud of myself. I gained the respect of others and truly felt the warmth of volunteering to help others. More than once, I jacked up a kid in school for making fun of a Special Ed. Kid, telling them those kids were my friends. Hmmm...guess I wasn't the Hardened Bad Ass I thought I was.


  1. You would have been my hero, if I had known you in school. I am constantly telling high school kids, "It takes nothing for you to be kind to someone, but it can make a difference in someone's life." I pray every day for the teen-agers who struggle. You made such a difference not only to the kids in the Special Ed class, but you made some other kids aware and it had a ripple effect. Reading this really made my day.

  2. Diane, it really wasn't me. Chad Rudzik, the Special Ed. Teacher is who inspired me and gave me the faith when he trusted me. I think more than anything, I picked up the trait of trusting people until they let me down. I majored in Special Ed. At YSU, unfortunately teachers were a dime a dozen then and didn't get paid well. I'll always wonder what might have been if I had carried on his Legacy.