42Story "Overcoming Adversity"

Discussion created by joe.isenberg on Apr 6, 2013

42Story  "Overcoming Adversity: A Special Needs Student"
Teaching is my career and students are my life; especially the ones who need the most help. Two years ago a young boy was placed in my 6th period reading/ARI/dyslexia class. Being he was a special needs student I received his paperwork outlining his Individual Education Plan (IEP) and was informed that he was emotionally disturbed. For legal reasons I cannot include his real name and to play it safe- I won't mention my school district either. I will call him "John" for this composition.


John came to me as a seventh grader who could read only sight words. As mentioned earlier, he was  emotionally disturbed and spent the morning hours at a special "Transition" school for students with severe problems. John was driven over to our campus after lunch for his three remaining afternoon classes in an attempt to mainstream him back into a regular social setting.


From the start John proved challenging! But I enjoy challenges and thus made him my "project" that year. After meeting his mother I further understood his emotional disturbance. John had voiced an interest in baseball and it was through baseball stories that I was able to get him to pay attention to reading. I approached his mother at his home after school one afternoon with an offer to pay for him to play Little League Baseball through an outside organization since the school did not have such a program. Once I got past the Rottweilers and other guard dogs I could smell marijuana and I knew that she was not "June Cleaver."

John's mother agreed to the arrangement after I explained to her the benefits of his playing the sport but was hesitant to commit to taking him to practice and could not promise to get him to all the games. Again, I extended myself further by offering to deliver and return him for her provided my administrator would approve of the arrangement. She accepted the idea.


Mind you, these arrangements are not so easily accomplished these days in light of all the "bad" teachers that have taken our roles under more scrutiny. After signing multiple pages of agreements through Human Resources and attaining a District License/Insurance, John was on his way to baseball practice.


John never missed a practice or a game! He did not excell in reading progress that year but he did excell at baseball. It was heartwarming to see his development in social skills (strongly needed) and self-confidence. I would like to report that his team won every game and he scored homeruns each week but unfortunately that is not the case. The "Eagles" lost most games and John never hit a homerun. But...his experience on the team brightened his life a great deal.


Eighth grade was a better year for John and by the spring semester he was transitioned full time to our middle school campus. His reading progressed and peaked at 3.5 before leaving us. Yes, he played baseball again in 8th grade (my treat) and now plays for one of our district's two high schools! I do see John from time-to-time as he stops by on his way home if he sees my car in the parking lot.  It is amazing how this sport helped change a young boy's life.


Joe Isenberg