Making Memories

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to




I assume that the majority of people who read this blog are either teachers and administrators who are responsible for students with disabilities or parents who have one or more children with disabilities. What will your students and children remember about this school year? Most of us have a few very specific memories of every school year. If we are fortunate, we have that favorite teacher somewhere along the line who blessed us with multiple, good, warm memories of that particular school year.

As an adult, don’t you still think of those most memorable days with a little smile on your face? I know I do.

Unfortunately, we all have those memories of school that aren’t all that pleasant, too. Those can be painful. I often wonder what it would be like if parents and teachers could always have uppermost in their minds what type of memory a child is creating with each new experience we introduce to them. I don’t think that type of constant consideration is even possible, but I do think we should work toward creating some positive memories with our students and children every year of their lives.

In my wife’s first grade class, they always built a paper maché dinosaur that they painted in bright colors and hung from the ceiling. She also did wonderful science projects with her students and even took them bird-watching in the spring of the year. I’ve seen some of those students, all grown up now, hug my wife’s neck and tell her they still remember the particular type of dinosaur they made and some of her best science lessons. Of course, her priority was to teach all of her first graders to read, but she took the time to help create those beloved memories in other areas, too.

When I taught eighth grade language arts, I found that my students had trouble following directions. I am very skill oriented, so I set up an in-class project especially to work on the skill of following directions. Students could either learn to crochet, or they could put together a complex plastic model, complete with paint and decals. You might think most of the girls went in for crochet and the boys worked on the models, but that simply wasn’t the case. I brought in some ladies from the community to teach them to crochet.  I helped those who decided to build models.

What a tremendous time we had. In the model division we had cars, trucks, planes, and human bodies. In the crochet division we had everything from potholders to bikini tops (hopefully never, never worn in public). It’s rare when I have a year go by that some former student doesn’t mention that following directions unit. We had fun, involved community members, and they learned a lot.

I don’t think teachers should have to be clowns who stand on their heads to entertain kids. Teaching is stressful enough without that added pressure. I do think, however, that teachers and parents should be creative enough a few times during each school years to develop skills-building projects that will not only teach students valuable lessons but also make pleasant memories that will remain with those students for the rest of their lives.

Many students with disabilities have difficulty with school, either with the lessons themselves or with the rules and structure of a school setting. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a few times each year we go out of our way to help them develop some very positive memories of their school experience. They will certainly have some type of memory of their experience with you.  What type of memory will you help them create?


Grant Name:   CVS Community Grants for Public Schools – Creating Inclusive School Settings

Funded By:  CVS

Description:  To ensure that we make a positive impact, the 2010 Community Grants Program will focus on a few key areas. One area is on public schools for children with disabilities that promote a greater level of inclusion in student activities and extracurricular programs. CVS is devoted to supporting organizations that enrich the lives of children with disabilities through inclusive programs. Through the Community Grants Program, CVS works to ensure that students are not left behind in school. Proposed programs must be fully inclusive where children with disabilities are full participants in an early childhood, adolescent or teenage program alongside their typically developing peers.

Program Areas:  After-School, Disabilities, General Education

Recipients:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  10/31/13

Proposal Deadline Description:  Grants are accepted January 1 – October 31

Average Amount:  Up to $5,000.00 for community grants


Availability:  All States

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