Friday, July 18, 2014

YOUR students

About two months ago, a girl I am friends with on Facebook (whose name just happens to be Molly!) posted this. She works at a consignment store here in Arkansas. It touched my heart more than words can describe, because not only is it just the sweetest story, but because I had an autistic student in my class last year. 
Student X was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, a form of autism that didn't really "fit" with any one diagnosis. He stuttered with his speech, had the most crazy unique stories, and liked to watch Doctor Who and "shoot guns" on the playground - which of course we diverted as soon as possible. There was, also, many (many) outbursts. He would scream at the top of his lungs if he didn't get his way, and soon the principal was walking into my room and taking him for a "walk" to cool off. 
My days were a constant struggle with him, and every morning when I saw him turn the corner to come to our class, I secretly cringed inside because I was so unsure how the day was going to go. Some days were terrific, others were absolutely horrible. There was wine. Lots and lots of red wine. We learned about each other and the outbursts slowly decreased. Although it seemed as if he never listened to me, and never did any work for me, he somehow learned so much. By the end of the year, he was ready for first grade. 
Because I moved back to Arkansas (from Oklahoma) I will never get to see Student X again, but I will always remember and love that boy. Now, onto my friends story (go grab a tissue):

I had one of THE greatest experiences of my life today
I was straightening up stuff at the end of the day at STA, and a lady walked by with her 5 year old granddaughter.
Me: "Hey pretty girl!"
Little girl: said nothing just looked at me
Grandma: "Sorry honey she's not being rude, she's autistic and doesn't speak. So we sign to her."

So I squatted down in front of the little girl and signed "hello". Her eyes got three times bigger and she smiled SOOO big! She signed "hello" back, and then started signing her ABC's, so I started signing them with her. She laughed so loud, grabbed my hand and just put it on her cheek, rocking back and forth. I looked up at the grandma and her eyes were watering and she said "You don't understand, no one besides me and her therapists has ever been able to sign and interact with her, even her parents. You really don't understand. She doesn't let people touch her, let alone touch them." She told me her name was Mia, then I signed my name, and she put her little hand on my cheek and just sighed.
I was looking at her but talking to the grandma, I said "You don't understand, Mia has made my whole day!" I looked up and her grandma was bawling and she said "You just really don't understand how special you are. She never let's anyone interact with her."
As they were leaving I walked them out, squatted down by Mia and signed "goodbye", she threw her Tigger and giraffe toy on the ground and grabbed me and hugged me. She then grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the street, and her grandma said "Oh Molly, she's wanting you to go with us!"

Although Student X could talk, his speech struggled and you could always tell he just couldn't get out the words he wanted. He could tell he just didn't fit in. 
This story reminds me to ALWAYS look for the best in your children. Student X may have been screaming so loud, the gas station across the street could have heard. He may have been running down the halls with teachers chasing after him; but he was still MY student. As much as you may dislike them, as much as a pain in the you-know-what they may be, you may be the only hug or even acknowledgement they get that day. You may be the only thing that makes them smile (with your silly songs and movements of course). 
When you get your new batch of students this year, think about Student X or Mia. Although they might not be special or autistic, who knows what they face when they go home. Love them for what they are, and teach them to the best of your ability. At the end of the day, YOU took this job because you knew you could do it. And you can. Go for it!

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  1. Thanks for the great story and reminder, Molly! I had a student exactly like your little Mr. X. and days could be a real struggle sometimes. I agree with you though - he was still MY student. Thanks for the reminder to be open and ready to greet our new darlings coming in with open eyes, arms and hearts.

    Spotlight On Kindergarten

  2. This is such an amazing story! I have had experience with special needs children and am continuing my education for special needs. It is very true that we don't know what children have to deal with when they leave our care and that's scary but as teachers we all do the best we can to make sure bag while they are with us all of their needs are met.

    Thank you for this!

  3. Thank You for sharing this story! I made me smile and tear up! I know exactly what you are talking about... I teach in a very rough area and I KNOW my students do not have the best situations at home. I have one student next year who literally does not have a place to call home. They live in their car for a month then in an aprtprmt for a month. His father is in and out of jail and his mother is a bit off. This student was placed in my class for this upcoming year because of these Nd because of the way I teach. I consider each and everyone of my students to be my children... I cherish those little ones and do everything I can for them when they are with me. I make sure they feel safe and loved in classroom. I am looking forward to the school year starting!

  4. Thanks so much sharing this very touching story. I had a TK student last year, that will be with me again this year. He is "on the spectrum" and there are days when I start to get frustrated when he is telling me for the 15th time that "Johnny" is absent today. However, he is the sweetest child and has made a lot of progress. Thanks for reminding us all to always look for the best in our students.

    Luv My Kinders

  5. Thank you for this! My nephew is autistic. He is mostly non-verbal, but is able to mimic most statements. He is so smart though and is able to read aloud when prompted. He is 7. He LOVES technology and is better at it than any of his adult family members. He is absolutely obsessed with elevators and often calls me number 8 because that is the floor I live on. He continues to amaze me daily. He does not attend the school that I teach at, so I'm unable to keep an eye on him. We have been blessed to have the kindest and most compassionate teachers spending each and every day with him. They have done a phenomenal job with him and for that...I'm truly thankful!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'