I have been a high school teacher for fourteen years....2 schools....probably a dozen different classes....upwards of 2,500 different students. I LOVE what I do. I have had the opportunity to teach some great kids. I've also taught plenty of at-risk students. Students who carry heavy burdens. Students who are raising their younger siblings because mom and dad are home, but can't (or won't) parent. Students who face significant challenges just to get to school every day.
Then there are all of my special education students. Students who work so hard to learn how to to learn. Students who will re-take test after test just to improve by a couple of points. Students who would give anything to know what it feels like for school to be easy. I have always felt copious amounts of empathy for my students who struggle. I try hard to encourage them. I search for ways to modify strategies for them. I try to figure out the source of their behavior. I try not to judge. I learn from them.
I'm now raising a child with high functioning autism and an IEP. A precious boy who loves tractors, Matchbox cars, playing in the dirt and mud, farming with his Papa, and creating incredible Lego projects. A little boy who loves watching funny You Tube videos, tormenting his sister, riding his bike, and tries desperately to make friends and feel like he belongs.
A boy who currently hates school. A boy who carries a behavior plan in his folder. A boy who other kiddos just can't quite understand. A boy with a winning smile who loves to tell jokes. A boy who can give me directions to his grandparents house an hour away from the backseat. A boy who consistently scores two grades ahead in reading and two grades behind in math. A boy who will most likely never fit the mold in a traditional classroom. A boy who needs his teacher to try and understand where he is coming from and why.
The lines have blurred for me. I want what is best for my son. I want his teacher to want to try and understand. I want his teacher to see all his strengths. I want his teacher to offer encouragement and find ways to reach him. I want my son to like school, to have friends and to achieve goals.
As a mama who loves her son, it breaks my heart when education professionals try to hammer those square pegs into round holes. The sad news is all too often, the square pegs only fit when they break. My son breaks a little every day when he is nit picked over minor behaviors. He breaks a little every time you are quick to point out his mistakes, but fail to acknowledge his strengths. He breaks a little more when all you see is a behavior and not a person.
We have to do better. We have to see the worth in EACH child. We have to be willing to search for the cause of the behavior and do our best to problem solve solutions that protect children's dignity. We have to treat EACH child like they are someone else's entire world. Because they are. Please.