Love Is in This Room : Memories of Teaching Special Kids

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-03-06
  • Publisher: Textstream
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Author Laurel Lorraine Lancer, PhD, taught in the public school system for forty-five years, working with special education students of all ages. In Love Is in This Room, Dr. Lancer invites readers into her life and her classroom as she shares intimate stories from her career. She built special relationships with both her students and her colleagues and is a vocal advocate for the merits of this level of personal and professional investment. Many close relationships that she gained in teaching and counseling her students have endured for many years. She describes the changes in education over her years in the public school system, and she decries the "robotic" transformation of teachers by current education methods. She has taught students who were emotionally disturbed, learning disabled, autistic, intellectually disabled, and gifted. She chronicles the development of special education in her district and gives poignant stories about her many individual students. This book relates Dr. Lancer's teaching approach with many memorable students. It is her hope that her love for her students and for teaching shines through her words.


Gentler Times When I first started teaching, teaching itself was a surprise to me. I had not planned on teaching and disliked any and all education classes that I had taken at the university. I was an art major and wished to be a famous painter or sculptor. Educational classes were to be of assistance if ever I needed to make a hard living. There were four of us close friends in college, all working our way through a state university some fifty miles away from our home. During the summer we needed to find employment in the city where we lived, in order to earn money again for the fall session. Sally was the one who would pay to go to the employment office and find where the companies were that were hiring. She would call the other three of us and let us know where she had obtained work. We would then go where Sally was and also apply for work. This was somewhat unfair to the employment agencies, but saved poor students from paying additional employment fees. We, of course, needed to pretend not to know one another - especially Sally - until we had been working together for a while. We shared numerous jobs at a phone company, a credit bureau, a bank, and a transportation company, all during the summers we were in college. After graduation, Sally, who had trained as a teacher, had gotten a contract with a local school district and began teaching grade four in an elementary school. I was unhappily working at a title guaranty company and learning how to do house closings. She phoned me to let me know that they were in great need of new teachers in her school. They were adding an addition on to the building and a position would be available very soon. I had all the required college courses, but had not taken student teaching. The school district arranged with the state university to have me take student teaching at Sally's school while working with the first grade teachers there. I was so lucky as I was paid from the time I started working there, and I was also getting credit for student teaching. The education professor from the university drove to my city to observe me working, and I received my student teaching credit. I spent six weeks with one excellent teacher, and another six weeks with a real witch. Afterward, I was given my own first grade class. The witch was one of those duplicitous teachers we all remember from our childhood or children's horror movie. She had managed to make herself the darling of the P.T.A., and everyone thought she was a fine, experienced teacher. She surely was experienced in manipulating people's opinion and being so seemingly fond of children. I did not know how very bad she was until I took a third grade class the following year. My students, who had been in her first grade class, told me horror stories about how she handled discipline in their class. Mrs. C., a tiny lady with large breasts and who always teetered on high heel shoes, had the habit of putting incorrigible first graders into her teachers closet. In this school, and in those days, the teachers had a built-in closet that was quite large. Now we have only tiny cupboard spaces to hold only a coat and purse, and it needs to have a lock. These new closets would not even hold a first grader. Mrs. C. would also put bad children under her desk, a rather small place next to her high heels and angry feet. The children did not like her much and even feared her. But the mothers that were active in the rather small P.T.A. could be assured that their children received better treatment. One day, while my third graders were at P.E. class, I walked passed Mrs. C. standing right outside her classroom door, her back flat against the wall. I smiled and asked what she was doing. Her index finger went to her lips as she said, Shh, they don't know I'm out here. I'm checking to see how they behave when I am not in the room. I asked if she didn't think they were aware of her being there. She thought they did not. The truth was that when Mrs. C. was out of the building, with illness, conferences, and such, these kids were difficult for the substitute teacher. I'm certain that they knew she was waiting to pounce on them suddenly, catching them at whatever kids can find to do. In preparation for a back to school night Mrs. C. had her students draw an outline of themselves, their total body, and then color it in to look like themselves. It was not great art. Probably the only resemblance to the student was the color and length of hair and the eye colors. These were drawn on large butcher paper that all schools had on large rolls. These paper puppets were set in an upright position (a stick glued along the torso) in each child's chair. I could not help thinking that there was not much difference between the paper children and the subdued and overly controlled students, who sat obediently in those same chairs, with about the same amount of movement, as when Mrs. C. was there in charge. For years, I always told everyone that I kept teaching each year so that at least thirty children would not have a Mrs. C.

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