This writing unit is dedicated to my students in Developmental English I at Hillhouse High School. My experiences with them this year have been an education in themselves and have motivated me to learn more about the special needs of the developmental student. I faced challenges this year of every conceivable variety as a regular classroom English teacher who is uneducated formally in the diagnosis of ED/LD or special needs problems.
Teachers of the lower strata in the hierarchy of English classes often operate by gut-level instinct when they encounter the special or exceptional student. It was because of this instinct that I began the year with much trepidation as to how I would manage these two classes which included twenty-six newly mainstreamed ED/LD and special education students. The average reading level was fourth grade and the scores ranged from second through the fifth grade.
These are the students who very few others want to deal with. A high stress level is inherent in coping with the developmental student. They exhibit an unaffected nonchalance toward formal academics and traditional teaching methods. They are the perennial losers in education who think that they cannot succeed because of their history of failure. They are quick to tell a teacher that they don’t care for nor need the subject matter being presented. This statement is usually accompanied by emotional outbursts of frustration and anger.
Yet they jump quickly at the opportunity to relate what is happening in the projects, the streets, and other neighborhoods. Thus, I know that they
interested in the world around them, and expressing how they feel about it.
The trick, then, for me as an educator is to make the school and the classroom as interesting as the student’s environment. I have learned that I cannot sit back and watch and assume that learning is happening. I need to be active, vocal, and definite about what will happen in the classroom. Students must be actively engaged in something relevant to their interests and relative to their needs. It is towards these ends that I present the following unit objectives.