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My Educational Autobiography

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Deborah Centeio

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Chapter 2: No Child Left Outside

Chapter 3: That School Is For Bad Kids

Chapter 4: Diversity or Not?

Chapter 5: What Happened To All My Friends?


Chapter 2: No Child Left Outside

As a child I spent my entire early education at the O’Hearn Elementary School. The O’Hearn was a rather small school located in my own neighborhood, and about an 8 min walk from my urban home. I attended this school from Pre-K until the 5th grade and my happiest moments were spent there.

The building was a small one-floor structure in the shape of a complete circle, with a courtyard in the center, in which every classroom faced. There was absolutely no getting lost there! The classrooms were very simply numbered from 1-10, approximately 25 children in each grade, with at least two teachers assigned to each class. Occasionally, one was placed in a mixed classroom with two grades sharing a room. This can seem rather complex and hectic but it worked out pretty smoothly. The class did most activities and lessons together but then spilt up when grade specific learning occurred. For example, math classes were held with students of your grade level.

Since the school was small the relationships built here were very special and memorable. Every student knew every student no matter which grade one belonged too. Teachers in the building would more than likely know your name before you even introduced yourself. My elementary school was then what we all know now as an “inclusion school”. Mixed in our classrooms were students from diverse ethnic, linguistic, and ability backgrounds and students who had disabilities learned in general education classrooms with their nondisabled peers.

At the O’Hearn there was no such thing as segregation. I would be sitting in the same class and learning with my peers who may have one or more of several disabilities including, Down Syndrome, Autism, blind, deaf, learning disabilities, or speech impairment. My earliest memories of learning how to read and practicing reading aloud was pairing up with friends and reading aloud whether a nondisabled peer or a disabled friend. Our disabled friends were assigned additional adult support and had hours where they left for one-on-one workshops. There was nothing wrong with being different as an O’Hearn kid and at young ages we learned how to support our peers.

I almost forgot to mention that my principal at the O’Hearn was blind! Looking back at the way he would walk down the halls cane in hand, with his talking watch, and cheerful ways is now so inspiring. He had a great strength in recognizing voices and could tell which student or teacher you were just by talking to him. His memory was so good, I remember going back to visit to do community service with some friends I graduated with 5 years later and he was still able to match our first and last names!