The High School Years
Continued Weekly Tutoring
This practice continued along the same lines as previously described.
These key strategies helped to keep Karen on track with her classmates. However, in order to keep up with her classmates, Karen regularly worked several more hours per week outside the classroom than many of the others. Her parents used reward systems such as movies, trips to grandparents, and trips to the beach, to motivate working towards certain goals. Special food treats were not used as motivators or rewards.
High school choices were looming ahead and so were the fears of returning to a less flexible public education system. Fortunately, Karen had been able to demonstrate good learning and studying skills and was able to take the high school entrance exam for St. Mary's Academy.
Admissions staff at St. Mary's were encouraged to come to St. Pius to observe Karen in the classroom in order to help them make a determination on acceptance. They complied with that request and determined, based on their visits, teacher recommendations, and Karen's test scores, that they would admit Karen to the freshman class.
St. Mary's Academy is the oldest school in the state of Oregon and it is the only all girl school in the state as well. Founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names, the school has a strong value system for teaching all girls who want to learn. However, they had not admitted a student with Karen's diagnosis in the past. Karen was a first for them. There was some conflict on the faculty as many were concerned that the college prep environment would prove to be too difficult for Karen. At the start of Karen's academic career, she had 100% support from about 50% of the faculty. It was up to her and her parent's system to make this adventure a successful one.
Teachers' Aide and the Binders System
The system previously described was used, upgraded for the high school years. Depending on the class content, the teacher's aide attended class with Karen either every day or on an "as needed" basis.
The teacher's aide scheduled a separate meeting with each teacher, Karen and her parents prior to the start of each school year. The course outline for the year was reviewed with special emphasis on the upcoming quarter. Karen's preferred learning style was reviewed without the teacher, as was the role of the teacher's aide. The need for advance notice of assignments was discussed and a method for communication of those plans was worked out.
In addition to the initial planning meeting, the teacher, the aide and her parents met at the start of each quarter. The teacher's aide managed the communication on a day to day basis in the interim, using the binder system daily. Karen, the teacher's aide and her parents met on a weekly basis at the school at a predetermined time. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss priorities, upcoming projects, further information that may be needed from the teachers and study aides that may be needed and how they would be done.
Her parents and the teacher would work together on developing study aides and review sheets to use in helping reinforce key concepts for Karen.
Extra Set of Books
Karen continued the practice of keeping an extra set of books at home during her high school years for much of the same reasons she did in her early years. In addition, for some classes, the teachers provided material from the teachers guide that usually accompanied certain textbooks. In a college prep environment, the teachers did not tend to use this supplementary material in class, however, it proved to be very helpful in clarifying concepts for Karen.
This was especially true for her high school biology class. The additional exercises provided were very structured and helped to reinforce the material presented. Karen was able to lock in concepts through the repetition of true/false, fill in the blank, and multiple choice type questions.
Videos for Reinforcement
Karen's parents realized early on that Karen was a very visual learner. They used this knowledge to their advantage as much as possible. The teachers, especially in History and English, were very helpful and resourceful in this regard. They recommended videos that were right on track with the subject matter and it made all the difference for Karen. She remembers vividly the Saturday and Sunday afternoons in front of the TV watching a video version of "The Merchant of Venice" with book in hand. She would watch a chapter, read a chapter, then watch again and discuss it with her mom, dad or brother. Her aunt was an English major in college and sometimes pulled Shakespeare duty. By the end of high school Karen loved Shakespeare, even Hamlet and MacBeth!
The Perfection Learning Corporation (800) 831-4190 is a valuable resource for literature, classics, Shakespeare, contemporary, and others. They have a service called "Retold Classics" in which works such as the "Scarlet Letter" is written in straightforward concise language. Supplementary quizzes and discussion exercises are available to help teach and reinforce concepts. Many of Karen's required assignments for English literature were ordered the summer before from Perfection Learning. These were the key strategies that were used repeatedly during Karen's high school years to help her keep up in the academic environment at St. Mary's.
© The Karen Gaffney Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
We Need Your Help.