Stories from the Field
Edited By David J. Connor and Beth A. Ferri
11. How I Learned to Be a Teacher in Room 137
Room 137 was a special education cliché. We were a group of nine 14–16 year-old students, a novice teacher, and a salty paraprofessional, all gathered together in a classroom located in the basement. There’s the kid who I’ve only seen with his hooded head on the desk; his friend, who speaks for him; the talkative, eager student (why is he in this class, I wonder?); the social butterfly who comes late every period so his “upstairs” friends don’t see him going down the stairs; the student who is entering her third school in as many years and alternates between giving her classmates gifts and suggesting they are not as cool or as tough as those in her last school; the football player who is in a constant flurry of motion; and the kid whose sardonic stare and silence is meant to intimidate. Thinking back twenty years later, the beige of the painted cinderblock walls, the maze of desks and tables that just barely fit into the rectangular space, the burnt and dusty smell and steady metallic rattle of the forced air heating, and the image of my students have long lingered in my memory.
Room 137 was located in a small, public suburban high school that housed a magnet program for students labeled with disabilities. In 2001, this meant that the top two floors were primarily occupied by students in grades 9–12 who were attending school in their hometown. About 90 students,...
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