Dear John: Letters from Angela—2
What is the early context for this series of posts?
[I posted a note that was essentially the content of a letter I received from a student whom I knew in the mid 1960s. In this post, I give a bit of context. After this message, I’ll return to letting Angela tell her own story.—JohnL]
Angela was a child I first met when she was about seven years old and I was volunteering in a primary age classroom for children who were identified as have learning and behavior problems—it was multi-cat in more contemporary terms.
I want to remember Angela here, because her story is one of great struggles, bravery, accomplishment, and plain ordinary sadness. Despite her difficulties, she had a lot of a winner about her.
I met Angela in 1966. I liked this child and I admired the young woman that she grew up to be. I suspect many readers will, too.
I shall present her story through letters that she actually sent to me. Thanks to my colleague and friend, ReNita Parrish, I have the transcriptions of Angela's letters. After I gave ReNita Angela's hand-written letters, and she reviewed them, we talked about them. We agreed that she should type them exactly as Angela had written them (in her careful scrawl)...ReNita would include the misspellings, agrammatical segments, and etc. This was not to “dis” Angela.
As you read Angela's letters, I suspect you will come to understand why showing her actual communication reflects well on her. That she read and wrote so well is an incredibly positive commentary on her accomplishments. She may have had problems, but she was a learner, and she learned a lot. And she wasn’t afraid of letting people see what she was like, how she communicated, the way she was—without hiding anything.
I think her story can help special educators to understand something about the nature of disability, education, and humanity. And, I think that her story can also demonstrate how much individuals with disabilities can accomplish.
Readers should not mistake this story for an actual case study. I shall employ original source material, primarily in the form of letters that Angela wrote to me. There will not be psychological reports full of test scores, opinions of psychiatrists, interviews with people who knew her (most of them have passed away), nor shocking news stories (never heard any).
It's just the story of a little girl with lots of problems who learned a lot in school, grew up realize that she really did have issues, continued to seek help, communicated with me without pretext about both those problems and some pleasant aspects of her life. Angela told her story honestly and openly. She even got married.
Before starting along the path with Angela's letters, I shall provide a little very subjective background. That comes in the next installment.