I was making good progress on the “My Stroke” posts — that is until three days after Labor Day when the school year kicked in. As many of you probably know, I left the magazine industry (in the nick of time, I realize in hindsight) back in 1992, and eked out a living as a freelancer while I returned to school to earn, first a degree in teaching and then a degree in special education. I then obtained a certificate of advanced studies in special education and almost immediately went to work, first as an instructor for college-aged students with multiple disabilities run by National Louis University, and then to a therapeutic day schol, where I worked for five years, and finally to Youth Connections Charter Schools. In a nutshell, YCCS takes the students that CPS (The Chicago Public School system) has given up on.
Currently, I work as a special ed teacher at West Town Academy in Humboldt Park on Chicago’s West Side. All of our students wear a school uniform — green shirt emblazoned with the school logo and khaki pants. Discipline is strict, but “consequences,” (i.e., detention, in-school suspensions) become fewer as the weeks progress and students start building positive relationships with their teachers.
And at West Town Academy, as at most “alternative” schools, the degree to which a student trusts his or teacher makes a huge difference because many of our students have been betrayed on multiple occasions by people with whom they have placed their trust.
To truly illuminate the beautiful, complex souls, not just of my West Town Academy students, but also of all the students with whom I have worked, is far beyond my capabilities, so I will be content to show you just a small sampling of them.