School in a Small Town

School in a Small Town

by Dezirae

Dez lives in a small town in Ohio. She has many intrests and hobbies such as singing, collecting angels, riding her bike, swimming, and spending time w/her family and friends. She also loves to write and is currently working on her first novel, and she has a poem that is soon to be published in an anthology. Dez also finds time to write the education and careers column at disabilitycentral.com. Oh yeah, and Dez is 15 years old and has Cerebral Palsy.

Small towns are great for raising families in my opinion but they’re certainly not ideal for the education of the handicapped student. How would I know? I’m coming from that exact situation. Hi, my name is Dezirae Kolmerten. I’m a 15-year-old sophomore with Cerebral Palsy. I’m the only student in my small High school, where the average class size is 120, with a physical disability. I consider myself to be intelligent and I have big dreams for my future. My physical condition didn’t really start to interfere with school until seventh grade when I began to switch classes. My jr. high (which has recently been torn down because it was falling apart) was very old and had two upper floors which you could only get to and from by using a steep staircase. Legally my parents could’ve forced the school to put in an elevator, but since the school was going to be coming down within a few years and a new one was to be built, my parents agreed that the money would serve a better purpose if it were put towards the new building. I can’t say that I disagree with my parents’ decision, but I would also be lying if I said that my life wouldn’t have been any easier with the installation of an elevator…

As any jr. high or high school student knows classes go from bell to bell. Being late for a class means missing out on preparation instructions/time and leaving a class early means forfeiting last minute homework reminders or tips. In seventh grade my school’s solution to getting me to class on time and safely was providing me with an aid that would come and help me down the stairs slightly before the ending bell sounded so that I could avoid the “mad rush”. Sounds helpful right? Not exactly. The truth is, I was embarrassed by the fact that I needed any help. I’d always been “the girl who did it all herself and never let her disability stop her”. To me, using the help of an aid illustrated my defeat. I admit I was a lot of the problem but I wasn’t all of it. Since I was the only student who needed an aid the principal didn’t hire a separate person for just this type of responsibility; he had the LDHD aid help me on top of her original duties. This would’ve worked except that the students in a LDHD class often have totally different schedules from day to day and they have to be “escorted” to each of their classes. If you haven’t quite guessed yet this scattered schedule meant that I was forgotten on more then one occasion. I could get in trouble if I went up or down the stairs myself so I was often late for class or lunch. The problem of being late or leaving early is impossible for me to avoid 100% of the time because I am slower then average, but having an aid that already has too many responsibilities certainly doesn’t help the situation!

Eighth grade was much easier as far as getting to classes on time but as in many situations like mine in order to get rid of one “bug” you have to create another, it may be a smaller one but never the less it still exists. In order to get rid of the aid issue Mr. Raach (principal) had the upper floor teachers come to me. This was good except that the three teachers that came to me all taught me in the same room, a room with gray brick walls and no windows. As you can imagine, my peers weren’t too happy with the wonderfully dull room. On top of that, teachers often forgot a supply or two causing class to be delayed. Delayed class might seem cool but all it means is that you eventually have to catch up and do more work in less time. To be perfectly honest I didn’t help my physical health much that year. None of the students were permitted to use backpacks because of all the school shootings, but I was. That doesn’t mean I did. I absolutely refused! I carried my books by hand with my back arched to the max every step of the way, screwing up my spine alignment more every second. Then again, if I were to use a backpack wouldn’t that be yet another example of me openly admitting that I couldn’t do it on my own like everyone else? That I wasn’t “normal”?

Another big issue my eighth grade year was P.E. I think it’s safe to say that most of the student body didn’t consider co-ed P.E. to be one of the most thrilling classes they’ll ever take. Most people dream of being able to sit and do nothing all period and I basically had that. Sorry to disappoint you but it’s only ideal for a few days and then; to put it quite bluntly, it sucks! My P.E. teacher had me take attendance, which I could never seem to do quite right, and keep score. On the days that there was no scoring I sat. Don’t ask me why, but my teacher never understood why I would want to read or do homework instead of just sitting. So, I never did read or do homework he told me I had to watch. To top it all off, I got a “B” both nine weeks. I never could figure out why. My only guess is he knew my opinion of his theory “Just sit” and what else did he have to grade me on? We went to Mr. Raach and his response was “You are not the only one to complain about his grading system.” How supportive huh?

Freshman year was great as far as P.E. was concerned. Mrs. Tedrick was extremely understanding and I got an “A” both nine weeks! Only one slight problem: mods. Let me explain. Remember when I told you we were getting a new high school? Okay, the new high school was being built during the school year and the high school that I was in was being remodeled, one half at a time, so that it could be in tiptop shape for the middle school students come next fall. With one half of the school off limits all year we were short a few classrooms; three modules (trailers) known by the students and staff of RHS as “mods” were placed out side about 100yrds from the building. As you can imagine I was late for eighth period history often. As it happened though I got smart and started using a backpack!

My school does its best to make life and education easy for me, and yes, there are still a few “bugs” to work out but we’ll get there. I just wish that schools with a very small percentage of students with disabilities would realize that they need to make an effort ahead of time. Life’s hard for everyone. Take my advice and don’t make it any tougher then it has to be, I did and I regret it! I know it’s hard but sometimes you have to nag the school board to get what you need. Don’t be ashamed, my grades dropped because I was embarrassed. That’s something that I’m not too proud of now! Let me leave you with a quote from my boyfriend (who is able bodied). I was discussing this issue of embarrassment and being “normal’ with him less then a week ago. He said something to me that really makes sense, “BEING NORMAL MEANS NEVER BEING NOTICED”!

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