Two Student Success Stories

By: Cathy Gibbs

Ms Gibbs shares the stories of two of her students.

Cathy's comments:

Special education students need to be convinced often of their capabilities and need to try out new skills with the benefit of a safety net. The greater their belief in the likelihood of their success, the greater their effort is likely to be. That increased effort generally will result in greater success, leading to greater effort. Once that cycle can be established, student achievement is more likely guaranteed. Following are two of the student success stories from this year.


Betty's essay

Betty will complete her diploma requirements in June. This is Betty's first attempt at a university entrance course. Many times she was convinced she should not tackle such advanced material because she couldn't handle it, but with constant support from her English teacher, Mr. Choules who put in the necessary accommodations for a special education student, she was successful. Mr. Choules assigned Betty's class a 1500-word essay on Hamlet. He worked closely with me to understand Betty's learning needs and created a environment that would meet those needs. He allowed Betty to leave class and work on the essay in the special education room. Here Betty had access to a computer and special education resource help. He also evaluated and provided immediate, detailed feedback for Betty on each stage of the writing process. That permitted Betty to bring the feedback to me so we could rework the essay to meet the requirements set by the teacher. When Betty was overwhelmed with other school activities, Mr. Choules gave her an extension on the essay, allowing her to continue to do her best when the timing was better for her. Betty took advantage of these supports, and responded positively at each step in the essay process. With these accommodations, Betty earned a final mark of 82% on the essay. Here is her introductory paragraph.

The catharsis of King Lear

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not there is catharsis in King Lear because of its overly pessimistic ending. Some argue that King Lear is too sad for true catharsis because of the way in which Cordelia dies from being hung by one of Edmund's men. In addition, King Lear, being too old of a man to handle the ongoing pain of guilt and the death of his daughter, dies of a heart attack. The ending is so sad that it is hard to see or feel a purification of emotions, only sadness. However, some critics like Bradley have tried to suggest that there is catharsis by interpreting the ending as a burst of joy that mitigates King Lear's pain or like Stampfer who sees that there is a lesson learned by the audience. All critics agree, however, that if there is catharsis in King Lear it lies near the ending when Cordelia and King Lear are about to die. But it's impossible to see King Lear's death as having any of the redeeming characteristics Bradley and Stampfer suggest. There is no catharsis in King Lear because Lear lived as a fool and died as a fool. He did not learn anything about mutuality even though Cordelia forgave him. Another reason for no catharsis is because King Lear died before any actions could take place to create the catharsis.


Kevin will graduate this year and credits special education support as the reason he will earn his diploma. Written in Kevin's earlier education plan was that he was never to do any oral presentations. Just the idea of standing up talking to a class made him so anxious that it was debilitating. He would drop out of a course if such a presentation was required. The Special Education teacher had to arrange for an alternate delivery mode each time a presentation was part of the evaluation. In the fall he made a presentation to an auditorium full of parents of special education students new to the program. He spoke eloquently and confidently about his experience in special education, encouraging parents to be involved with the school and relaying what a positive difference special education could make to the success of the younger students. What empowered Kevin to make this presentation was giving him the practice at delivering to first a single person, then small audience, then larger group, each time giving him helpful, positive feedback about his delivery.

LD OnLine exclusive