Author Marc Kerble working with a student in 1989
Fifty years ago, I entered Bridgewater State College’s special education department as a freshman. I knew there was a new law, and that people (professors) were a bit excited, but what did I know of the significance of Chapter 766. However, by the time I graduated, special education took on significant importance in school districts. My first year, I was assigned to a moderate special education room in a middle school in Peabody. Room A-4 was a mixture of students who had either learning disabilities, language difficulties, or cultural differences. No curriculum, no weekly team meetings, no guidance, no mentor, no supervisor, and a teacher with no experience. I played a lot of sports, so I knew about working as a team, so that is how I set up my room. I took over for a teacher on maternity leave and each student had individual lessons. I planned each night for several hours for the next day. After a while, I ditched the individual plans for groups and taught reading, math, English, social studies, and science. I ran my own annual evaluations for outgoing students and incoming students. I was good at writing behavioral objectives and strategies to meet goals. I survived year one.
I was assigned to my own special education class at an elementary school (same one I attended as a kid and my sixth-grade teacher was now the principal). My class was behind the stage, and you had to walk through my class to get to Cindy’s special education classroom. Cindy had a few more years of experience than me, so she became a mentor. My room was the former shop room with lockers at the back. My teaching assistant (who worked with me for fifteen years) and I painted the room off-white and painted Star Wars characters onto the lockers. Above the lockers, we printed the multiple times tables on the walls. At the time, I violated a lot of union rules for maintenance workers (“I was doing their jobs.”). Good thing I was a Peabody athlete and likeable guy. I got a slap on the wrist.
I taught special education for sixteen years in Peabody, before I became an administrator. So, I learned about Chapter 766 in college and then evolved with the changing attitude toward special education during the 1970’s. After a few years, my special education classroom was “mainstreamed” within the building (no classrooms were behind the stage or housed in closets), and so were my students. IEP plans became more sophisticated as well as student assessments. Families became more involved in all aspects of their child’s education and placement. I saw a lot of changes in the 70’s, while still in my 20’s.
I spent my last 7 years teaching special education in a middle school up to 1993. The concept of co-teaching was introduced, and I co-taught science with my students in tow. I spent additional time with my special education students to keep them afloat. Everyone worked hard to make this concept work. When it was my turn to teach, all the students liked my approach, because I said everything three times. Of course, I was targeting my own students. New strategies about teaching students with difficulties was in vogue, and I was still learning!
Fast forward – It has been fifty years since I graduated high school and Chapter 766 was born. The services for students today are amazing. The different technology, therapies, and equipment are amazing. What families can do to support their own children in school is also amazing. The possibilities for our students at the Kennedy Day School are endless.
Thank you, Chapter 766! You look pretty good all grown up.
Interim Director of Kennedy Day School