Warning, no cute pictures in this entry. But please read, this means a lot to me. Especially if you are a mother or father of a child with special needs who is going to school in the future.
Some things slip by me. Especially post pregnancy and delivery of a certain toddler. Things take longer to sink in, and concepts once so readily available in my brain- are now just out of reach.
So today, when all of a sudden I realized that Evan is going to be okay in school, I felt a little dim for taking so long to feel that way.
This is what happened. Try to follow this spectacular train of thought. (cough) I am a special education teacher by trade. I taught for 11 years and then took two years off to be home with Evan. I have taught elementary level almost that whole time: grades 2,3, and 4- resource room and co-teaching settings. An old co worker/friend of mine made a comment to me that her son told her she looked beautiful and that it made her day. That brought to mind the time that a certain student told me he liked my headband and gave me a compliment. Without thinking twice, I felt myself reminiscing and I told her it was one of the best moments in all my years of teaching. In 11 years, the memory of this little third grader telling me he liked my head band is what stuck with me.
Let’s call him C. C was a student who had to work harder than the majority of other kids his age. He was smaller in stature, could be riddled with anxiety, and struggled with different learning disabilities. C did not enjoy participating in class and would rarely initiate conversations, but would respond when spoken to. He didn’t have a slew of friends, but he did have a few classmates who would stick up for him, help out, and be by his side on the playground and classroom. I taught him for two years in the resource room setting. In my school district, resource room refers to a “pull-out” educational program where a child receives certain academic subject in a separate classroom at the same time his or her peers is receiving instruction in the homeroom setting. Or as we call it, the general ed setting. I taught C math and language arts. His anxiety could get so intense that he had to wear gloves on his hands because he would pick at the skin until he bled. C’s voice was gravely and he often would speak very quickly and without regard to grammar rules. Often his attempts to communicate would be riddled with frustration, almost as if it annoyed him to have to answer your question or speak at all.
And I still do. He provided some unique challenges in the classroom, and some days were tougher than others. But, I loved him. I stuck up for him in IEP meetings. I smiled wide when he would participate in social studies class and I happened to be there to witness it. I would talk to my mom about my students and relay story after story of C’s progress. I had the highest respect for his step mother, who would do anything for him, and did just that day after day.
One day, I was teaching in front of my small group of 6 boys in the resource setting. C sort of half raised his hand, and half pointed at me. I called on him, thinking he might have had a question. He simply replied, “I like that.” Having no idea what he was talking about, I asked for him to repeat his question. He pointed again at me, and said, “That, I like that.” I then realized he was pointing more towards my head, so I absentmindedly touched my hair and felt the pink scarf I was wearing in my head. He said, “Yea, that. I like it. You look good.”
Then a small shy smile, and that was it.
I thanked him, and he got embarrassed and I knew not to push it. Inside I was bursting at the seams. My heart was completely full. With just eight words, he had affirmed why I teach. C did not compliment you. He especially did not do it spontaneously. He ESPECIALLY did not do it twice, because you didn’t hear him the first time.
I remember that I shared this compliment with everyone I knew, particularly the teachers who also knew C, and had worked with him before. They all shared in my joy. If I remember correctly, I also wrote his step mom a note because I knew she would also share in my joy.
C is now 17 years old. I am friends with his stepmother on Facebook so I have been able to see him grow. I’ve seen the pictures of his braces, his first horseback ride, his first FORMAL DANCE.
C is not the only student I have felt this way about. I have connected very deeply with other students as well. One student I taught in third grade, and tutored for years and years after. She is going into her senior year of high school now, and I share in her accomplishments like she is a part of my family.
My child will be loved
Your child will be loved.
How do I know this?
Because for eleven years, before I gave birth to a child who has special needs, I taught and loved my students. My students with special needs. My students who struggled harder than the majority. My students who had trouble making friends. My students who fought me tooth and nail to write a sentence. My students who threw books on the floor, and spit on the desk in anger. My students who wrote me secret notes, telling me that they didn’t like school, but they loved my class. My students who would poke holes in their pants out of a need to release their anxiety.
My student who told me he liked my headband.
I had days where I felt like I couldn’t do it again the next day. But I loved those kids. And I still do. Enough to go back to work in the fall.
And guess what, there are PLENTY of teachers like me. Plenty. I’m not claiming every teacher is perfect, and believe me, I had had some B.A.D. days. But overall, teachers care about your kids.
My child will be loved.
Your child will be loved.