I (sort of) beat a mentally handicapped 7th grader in checkers… and I’m proud of myself! Mostly because he apparently plays a lot of checkers and I haven’t played in years (I had to remind myself of the rules). Of course, the kid didn’t realize that I beat him. I had more pieces left on the board than he did, but I overtook him at the last possible second with a double-jump that went from him having a 7-6 advantage to my having a 6-5 one. He went first, so fair is fair.

It was a half-day yesterday, because they are about to get “Easter Break” and so they were let out at 1:00 instead of 3:00. Better still, classes ended at 11:00, followed by an assembly and then a meal-party.

The assembly had various community leaders. The first was a high school teacher who basically said “Bullying is wrong, but when you get to high school don’t be the kind of jackass that is going to make kids want to bully you.” The third speaker was a state senator who used to teach at the school, who basically said that you are all beautiful creatures of god and that you need to act like it. The second speaker was perhaps the most interesting one. He was the owner of a couple local fast food franchises. His lecture was basically how to go about getting a job in the service sector. At my high school, they would have had a guy explaining how to get a job outside the service sector. But Redstone is Redstone.

The second speaker’s advice was relatively straightforward. Be respectful, don’t ever think that you’re better than the job you are applying for, and stuff like that. He tripped over a bit on one point, which is that you should avoid getting tattoos or piercings because you will be evaluated negatively on them. The trip-up was that he was essentially saying that books will be judged by their cover, which books aren’t supposed to be, but they are, and so while you shouldn’t judge a book by your cover, people – especially people that hire and people presumably including him – will most definitely judge you by your cover.

Another difference between the middle school and my own middle school is the assumption, in the latter case, that everyone there will go to college. Every mention of college in this assembly was tempered by “If that is what you want to do” or “if you think that is the right thing for you to do.” Because, well, a lot of the kids aren’t going to college. And I suppose they decided it’s unwise to pretend otherwise. Also, they might worry about getting angry calls from parents who didn’t go to college or something.

I plan to write more about special ed in the future, but the sort of low-capability classes such as the one I had yesterday are actually among the easiest. Not because the kids are easy – they have attitudes that run the gamut but all of them have… quirks – but rather because low-capability kids come with paraprofessionals. They’re far better equipped to run the class than I am. I take orders from them.

Paras in Arapaho are basically one-on-one tutors and supervisors. No college degree is required for the job. One of the paras works nights as a waitress. The cultural distinctions between paras and teachers is white collar versus blue doing very similar jobs. While the paras do not measure up in terms of academic accomplishment, they have a certain… toughness. Some of the toughest people I see within the school system. What they seem to lack in finesse they make up for in a willingness to say – and this is a quote – “Jesse, cut that shit out.”

(Which Jesse does. Immediately.)

Category: School

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8 Responses to Winner! Assembly! Paras!

  1. Kirk says:

    One sad thing about my high school was that once they determined you weren’t “college bound” they simply stopped taking an interest in you. You could get straight F’s in everything and no one gave a damn.

  2. trumwill says:

    What kind of high school did you go to, socioeconomically speaking?

    (My high school was so large that they had no idea who was going to college and who wasn’t, though there was the assumption that just about everybody was.)

  3. Mr. Blue says:

    “Bullying is wrong, but when you get to high school don’t be the kind of jackass that is going to make kids want to bully you.”

    If you’re being a jackass, I don’t think it counts as bullying. Good advice, though. Especially when you go from being the King of Junior High to the Pauper of High School.

  4. Kirk says:

    Do you get the comic strip “Dustin”? There are a couple of strips where he’s a substitute teacher.



    Anyway, my school had only 400 people in it. We’re talking farmville. I’d say only maybe ten percent went to college.

  5. Sheila Tone says:

    Oh, when I thought that title I thought this would have a Spanish theme.

    Schools seem to have something similar to paras here, we call them “aides.”

  6. trumwill says:

    I think they’re retiring “Aide” for a more professional sounding title.

  7. Brandon Berg says:

    My elementary school once had a student survey in which one of the questions was how we felt about having aides in the classroom. One of the write-in responses was “Nobody in our class has aides.”

  8. trumwill says:

    We never had aides or AIDS in our school. At least to our knowledge. We did suspect one of our teachers of having an invisible friend who made it so that the teacher could somehow see everything we do.

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