The series that I’ve blogged on for the past several days has been a stroll down memory lane for me. I have had many, many students over the years and more stories than I can possibly tell in just a few short days. Each of my students touched me. Each of them special in their own way. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them. Being a special education teacher has been an adventure. An adventure I am still on. Most of the time when people ask me what I do, I reply “I’m a wife and mom with all the challenges that come with that, a home school teacher, and I teach in special education.” Then a lot of the time I get this response…”Oh, it takes a special person to teach kids like that.” Hmmm…… I’ve given that response some thought. I don’t consider myself all that special because I teach individuals with special needs. The truth is I feel blessed to have had the opportunity. It sounds like a pat answer, but it isn’t. I truly mean that. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination….and there were many days that were frustrating and I felt like giving up…but than again nothing in life of any real value comes easily, does it?
Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve had educators tell me that they didn’t really see the point of having my students in their classrooms. “They aren’t going to learn anything anyway.” “I don’t know what to do with them.” (As if they were a thing, instead of a person!) At first I found it extremely frustrating. After awhile I realized, if the teacher could not look beyond the disability to see the child, then it was their loss. Not all teachers were that way. Thankfully, there were many who reached out, worked hard, and met the challenges that special education entails. Both the students and the teachers walked away from the school year having learned something new about each other. I’ve learned that special education isn’t perfect. It’s a lot of trial and error. Sometimes it’s going back to the drawing board and figuring out something new to try. It’s about not giving up.
One of my greatest treasures of the “special ed world” has been getting to know my student’s parents. Sure there have been some… um…..how shall I say this, interesting ones. Yet, most of the parents I’ve met have been good people. I consider it a privilege to know them. Are parents of children with special needs perfect? No. Do they sometimes get angry, or frustrated, or feel sorry for themselves? Sure. They are human. Are they thankful, and happy, and see even the smallest improvement as something to celebrate? Yes. I don’t think parents are perfect. I do think they are real. Many of us will never know the pain of watching our child struggle to eat without a tube. We won’t understand the feeling of knowing that our child can’t be on the local soccer team because he/she can’t walk, much less run. We won’t be able to commiserate about what it is like to see our child struggle to read or write and not have them feel dumb or stupid….or different. Or what about the parent that has a child trapped inside his/her own head, who is smart and funny and creative–but is unable to communicate it, because autism has stolen that from her? Every time, over the years, that I met with a parent I kept this thought foremost in my mind. These parents love their child, imperfections and all. They are requesting my help because they want their child to meet his/her full potential. Whatever that may be for that particular child. They want a chance for their child, just like any other parent. That’s it. So, if there are any parents of children with special needs that are reading my blog today. Thanks goes to you. Really. You are the ones that deserve it.