Danny walked in my classroom, reeking of sweat that smelled like beer. He was the first alcohol syndrome child and one of the first elementary school children I had ever taught.
I looked at this sweet child with gangly arms and slanted eyes, wondered what his life would have been like if his mother hadn’t drank during her pregnancy. Would this child be in my gifted class in the morning instead of my behavior disordered class in the afternoon?
Danny took his seat in the first row and smiled up at me. He was noisy, but he tried. He was not only in my behavior disordered class, but he was also mentally handicapped. No one had a lot of hope for Danny.
I had just moved to South Georgia and switched from drama and high school English to gifted and behavior disordered. Everyone laughed when I told them what I taught. Honestly, I liked the variety.
So far, I had all kinds of plans for my gifted kids, but I was struggling with my small group in the afternoon. How could I teach them? How could I help them reach their potential?
“Do we get to come to gifted, tomorrow?” Danny blurted out.
His question took me off guard.
“What?” I asked just to give me time to think.
Matt, the boy next to him who was very bright but had trouble getting along in the classroom, interpreted, “We got a guest speaker tomorrow. Do we still get to come to gifted?”
Suddenly, I realized that this class thought they were gifted. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do, and then I said, “Well, this isn’t exactly gifted. We call it enrichment.”
“Enrichment?” Matt savored the new word. “What does that mean?”
“Well,” I said, “it means that we take what you do in the classroom and make it more fun.”
Matt thought about it for a minute and then said, “Neat!”
That was the beginning. My enrichment class met every afternoon doing hands- on activities, reading aloud, and playing games to review the material they studied in the classroom. Anytime anyone called the class anything other than enrichment, they were corrected. My little behavior disordered class believed they were special because they were pulled out to come to my class, so they acted as if they were special. By the end of the year, most of them were working above grade level; no one was working below grade level, including Danny.