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FEATURE 1
from TALES OF SPECIAL ED
By Andy Clausen

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She asks, "Mr. Andy, what was the weather on March 13,1983?"
          "Very windy. Garbage cans flew in the streets. The dogs were all barking but you couldn't hear them the wind was so loud."
          A week later I asked her, "What was the weather like on March 13,1983."
          Without hesitation she answered, "Extreme wind.
          It came time for the student anthology, I selected two of her poems.
She called me aside, "Please, Mr. Andy, I want this to be in the book instead."
          She handed me a written page: "In 1044 the world had its best chance to stop the disasters of 1512 and 1919 but the destiny of 1985 when I was chosen to walk out of the dark through a door into the world with light shining that was made on January 14,1842, gave all the world a chance to escape into either April 19, 2003 or February 4,1712 which the mystery voices said was like 1955, but it was not, in 1955 people had old primitive things machines were invented twice in 1202 and 1931 The world had a chance but the door of 1985 has closed No one saw, It is October 21, 3000 There will never again be a chance like December 3,1962 for the world to love itself"
          I somehow convinced the anthology censors to publish it. They thought it demeaned her. Administrators would see failure on my part to assist into moments of reality, and her writing would be seen as gibberish.

I think I did a vast amount of good in Special Ed, but at one school I had a couple classes took me to the depths.
          Am I just a requirement here, am I earning my check?
          From this class I was supposed to get a poem from each student, seven to ten year olds, twelve to fourteen students. But I only had, at most, seven around the table or in position in their wheelchairs, and sometimes only three as they constantly needed potty assistance or diaper changing or other problems like tests show a certain child isn't being fed at home. Some of them do know words, some can write a few or copy them.
          One who was eight weighed 19 lbs. He was twisted up and had to be turned over every once ma while so he wouldn't get sores. I played my harmonica to him, just a few notes. He smiled. I wrote down under his name, "I like music. Nike those sounds."
          One of the paras remarked the prognosis was he'd live less than a year.
          Another class had very limited word skills (but thankfully they had adequate potty skills) and were extremely sensitive and taken to long bouts of screaming or repeating one word or sound. It was a victory when I could hold up a picture of a bee and get the majority to make the b-buh-buh-b sound. One boy said , "Honey."
          Ah, we'll have a group poem soon.

Billy was headed for Special Ed, a third grade agitator at an East Village school. He had somehow & where been well instructed on demanding his rights as an African-American. The classes and teachers were ethnically and racially diverse, a real mix.
          Billy would stand on his desk and give racial pride speeches about We don't have to take it any longer, or he'd declare he'd liberated the classroom and his honkie teacher would now have to listen to him. I flashed back to '68 standing on the San Jose State campus lawn listening to Bobby Seale. Billy had the same gestures, the same speech patterns.
          The shrink, a poker face, (never saw him smile once) takes Billy to his office. Billy's back in twelve minutes. If we're lucky we'd make it through the last fifteen minutes without disruption.
          I wonder what the shrink said to him. Textbook stuff I wager. Maybe a little bargain they have between them. It happens every class, it can't keep happening; Billy's headed for Special Ed. One teacher told me his mother was the same way, screaming her son was the victim of prejudice and bigotry. If the teacher was black, then she called him or her a "Tom." Some of Billy's desktop speeches were not only humorous but eloquently dynamic. I could see myself as a kid going for it.
          "Yes we are all Cinque! I will not listen to your false history! I am black and I am a king! We're going to do things my way for a change!"
          He called me, "Mr. Whitey."
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One morning they wheeled in a bent and deformed muscle diseased teenager, tilted head, drooling, little jerks. His serious eyes with pointer on head writing on Ouija board elegant Robinson Jeffers like sea coast verse his para recorded. His spelling, impeccable. He missed all the classes after that in the hospital.

Then there's Robert, ten-year-old had been willing writer, started ransacking the classroom. Had no idea what his complaint was.
          After he was restrained the other kids started picking up the mess, books, desks, crayons, learning toys, school papers, globes.
          Robert being held yells, Anyone picks stuff up. I'll get you."
           The kids all froze in their tracks, I started picking things up.
There was a fourteen-year-old into heavy metal who acted like a bratty Jerry Lewis character, decent student when not goofing off or pissed off over something that often can be figured out. He could have a tantrum over a pencil, someone picking the same topic as he, even if the other person picked it first. A look could set him off, the pronunciation of a word, a candy wrapper. I liked his writing when I got him to do it.
He had a dangerous habit. He liked to push adults unawares down stairways, or out onto the boulevard, off the subway platform.
I saw him push his teacher down a flight of stairs, amazingly she recovered in her high heels without going down, saved by a wall.
He sounded absolutely sincere when he couldn't see a reason he wasn't allowed at Friday's picnic.
"Why? What did I do? It's not fair! I didn't do anything."
There are kids who can recite the four presidents that were assassinated and all about it, but can't tell you what color the sky is today. Kids who can in great detail describe the habitats and habits of the African zebra but can't count change. There are sensitive brilliant polite articulate suicidal students, despondent and profoundly unhappy and disturbed. Maybe something bad was done to them From violent trauma to nutritional and emotional neglect, or maybe they had abnormal body chemisty, Some them seemed to come from good homes."
Often the socially turmoiled and those deemed neurologically deficient are assigned to the same class. Often the angry apprentice psychpath and the despondent oversensitive are grouped together, fhere are cost benefits to this scheme. Differences often enhance earning on a social level, but it sure sets up exploitive possibilities among the students. Think about it, teachers see it five days a week.
had a Bronx kindergarten, not Special Ed, but a little class within a :lass of six out of twenty six. We sat around a little low table in the ear of the room. It was an English as second language Spanish speaking class. The six had been chosen as the ones with the best English skills. We met eleven times.
I had three regular kindergartens also. Kindergarten can be ike Special Ed.
"Hassan, don't bite Mr. Andy's shoes."
They are hyper-physical: little girls who try to rub on your knee. Yet in this little class we did very well. The last day I told them what a pleasure it had been. Told them they may never see me again, ^et my thoughts go with them, and I'm sure they will have wonderful ives.
As I left one boy grabbed my leg and wouldn't let go.
"I want to go with you, Mr. Andy. Wherever you go, I want to go. Whatever you do Iwant to do."
"Juan, you can't come. You have to stay here, you have a
:amily. I'm too old." _
"I would be good. I would help with the work."
"Bye Juan. I got to go to the next class."
A teacher unpried his fingers one by one. I'm thinking, I like thisjob. ________________________________________________________________________________________