As I was going through some of my old blog posts, I stumbled across this reflection piece and found it to still resonate deeply with me. With the school year coming to a close it is easy to get lost in the hustle and stress of it all. I always love finding small reminders like this that help me remember why I became and educator. Enjoy!
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” - Anon
This quote is my first week of school with Kindergartner's in a nut shell. Yes, we have all heard the cute comments that children share with us about how think the world operates and their explanations of the unknown. And I'm sure we have all given the same look to that little genius....you know which one I'm talking about....One hand covers your heart, your head slightly tilts to one side and you just can't help but smile and lightly giggle at their "innocence" of the world around them and then we go and share it with other "adults" who will also find it utterly adorable ( and possibly make the same "oh...innocence" gesture). I don't blame you....they are adorable and sometimes you just can't help but giggle at them, I do it all the time! But this week my students so called "innocence" almost brought me to tears. Not tears of frustration, anger or stress...no these tears meant so much more. These tears are the ones that you would feel flooding your eyes on your wedding day or on the day of your child's birth...they were heavy and meaningful. Let me start from the beginning....
If you did not already know, I have an inclusion classroom meaning that I have "Special Education" students in my classroom with the rest of my "average/normal" students. ( I do not like to call them inclusion students so from now on I will refer to them as "my girls" because they are two adorable girls). I am ecstatic to have an inclusion classroom, but I did worry about how my other students were going to handle it. I worried if they would make fun of them, if "my girls" would be included by other students and if any of my "average/normal" students would befriend my girls. I usually am not a "softy", but my heart always goes out to those who struggle because I too have struggled and been made fun of by other kids ( my one soft spot...we all have to have one right?). We all remember when we saw people not being nice to the "slow kids" at recess, you may have actually been the person making fun of them, and the anxiety and humiliation that many of these children go through. With that in mind, I went in to this first week well prepared to have to defend and scold my students for making fun of others...I even had carefully mapped out what I would say to ensure the result of it never happening again. But...I didn't have to....instead I was abruptly slapped in the face by two of my students actions, both of them boys. ( Since I cannot name their actual names I will call them "Ace" and "Chance"). Both Ace and Chance sit at a table with my girls, and have witnessed tantrums, button charts, being hit/kicked, and having their pencil boxes hijacked by my girls. Now, many other boys at the age of Five or Six would respond with a squeal or simply hit back, but not Ace and Chance. I was amazed how these boys handled themselves at this chaotic table surrounded by Teachers assistants and noise. My first tear-jerker was when one of my girls was having a rough day and had hit Chance multiple times....Chance looked at her and smiled and said"You are doing such a great job of sitting! I know you've had a hard day but if it makes you feel better you can hold my hand." And quietly my one little girl smiled mid-tantrum and took Chances hand and began to sit quietly. I was shocked! First because the Teachers Assistant and I had been attempting to reason with this little girl for fifteen minutes while she yelled and stomped her feet, and here sits a five year old boy who offers understanding and the simple comfort of her being able to hold his hand.
My heart melted and my eyes began to sting as the tears began to fill my eyes, Chance just taught me what I was doing wrong. I wasn't listening to what she needed nor was I even beginning to understand what her day had been like. I viewed her as a student with needs that was having issues with following directions and she needed to be "distracted" in order to sit quietly like the "normal" students. When all that she needed was someone to tell her that they understood her! So here I stand, watching children's so called "innocence" and "misunderstanding" take control of the situation. Later that day my other little girl was having issues sitting on the rainbow rug and keeping her hands and feet to herself. She had stuck her tongue out multiple times and was refusing to participate in the upcoming station time. Ace was in my girls station group of three, and as the Teacher Assistant tried to reason with my little one Ace quietly came over and crouched down in front of her and said "You're in my group! C'mon let's go color, it will be fun and I know your favorite colors are yellow and purple so I will let you have those!". Again, my heart melted and my eyes began to sting with tears. Ace showed me exactly what I was doing wrong...I wasn't listening and again I was viewing her by her disability rather than just another student. I felt horrible! I felt like I was an awful teacher! I went home and explained to my mother that I had done what I promised myself I would never do, and that was to look at a Student by their disability rather than just another student. She quickly reassured me that I was doing what any normal "adult" would do, and that is to do what you are told and what you are trained to do. That's when I realized that this so called "innocence" that we all find so adorable was something that I no longer had. I had been "taught" and "trained" and "told", I could not see the simplicity in my solution. Because I had been "taught" that children with "needs" have special ways of being handled, they need consistencyand are expected to behave like any other student in the classroom. But, I had forgotten what it is like to be a child to look at everyone as if they are the same as you....no labels, no disabilities, no social status....just another kid to play with or talk to.
Where did my "innocence" go? When did it disappear? Will I ever be able to get it back?!
Ace and Chance had taught me a simple life lesson that I wished I had never forgotten....
that everyone, no matter the difference, just wants to have a hand to hold when they are scared. The tears that fell from my eyes on the car ride home were heavy with disappointment because I had forgotten, but also with hope for Chance and Ace in that maybe I could help them to never lose their "innocence".