I have been tutoring special education students at my high school for more than a month, and I can say I have learned a lot since I published my last blog post about my experiences being a peer tutor. I have begun to interact with the students more and more, with my experiences filling my head with new ideas and thoughts.
I’ve also recently read and discussed the topic of ‘community’ in my English class, relating it to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter. The book focuses on how Hester Prynne, who has committed adultery, is disowned from her community, being labeled as a sinner.
In the special education class, I see many kids who can relate to Hester Prynne in a way. As I get to know these students, I see that they are treated differently than other kids their age. In some cases, special treatment may be needed in the classroom depending on their abilities. It’s what I see outside the classroom that saddens me.
One of the students I work with comes by every day where my friends and I sit during our lunch break. He once told me that his life ‘sucks’ and that he constantly finds himself wandering from one group of people to another. He only wants someone to be close with. I told him that if he ever needed me, I’ll always be here for him.
Hester is labeled with a scarlet colored ‘A’ on her chest. The special education students are labeled by their peers as ‘inferior’ to the general ed students. Hester is shunned from her society because of something she did that was considered unorthodox. The special education students are also shunned, but only due to the fact that they were born different; they can’t change who they are.
Every day when I talk with that one student during lunch, my friends just sit around us, not even acknowledging his existence. The only time they talk to him is when he asks them a question, but they reply with a half-hearted answer. This infuriates me greatly; if only they could understand how difficult it is for him, along with all the other special education students, to socialize and communicate with others. It’s not their fault they stutter when they speak or that they act differently than other kids their age.
It breaks my heart seeing these students not able to find someone to talk to outside of the classroom. These students are the ones who need interaction with the general ed students the most. If they don’t have that interaction now, how are they supposed to prepare themselves for life, and things such as job interviews and relationships?
Just like Hester, the people of the Puritan society in The Scarlet Letter have all committed some sort of sin, but decide to punish Hester because her sin isn’t hidden. I see many people who won’t give the special education students the time of day because they are different, but in reality, everyone is different. Each of us as individuals have our own flaws and quirks; it’s what makes us unique.