Teresa is a wife, mom to two boys, and Exceptional Children’s teacher.She didn’t realize that she would use the training she received as a teacher of special needs children for her own children. With one child diagnosed with Autism & the other with a Communication delay, it’s never a dull life here!
In my blog, I write about the struggles and triumphs we go through with my oldest son, aged 5, who has Autism. Sometimes I touch on my worries about my younger child, who is only 17 months old. Rarely do I talk about my job and how that impacts everything.
As an Exceptional Children’s teacher, my job is to help the children who have a harder time than their peers for whatever reason. They may have a Learning Disability, ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, an Intellectual Disability, or any number of things. I always explain to them from the very start that my heart is in my profession. I’m very up front with them about my son, about how protective I am of him, and his struggles. I do this not because I want their sympathy, but because I want them to understand who I am. I want them to know that I’m in their corner, that I will stand behind them when they’re right, give them tough love when they’re wrong, and protect them against those who treat them as lesser persons. I am their advocate. That’s my job. And I always struggle not to get emotional when I say this to them. But I feel it so deeply that it brings tears to my eyes to think about the very possibility that I will need to defend them against those who refuse to understand them.
I think the thing that bugs me the most as both a teacher and the mother of a special needs child are the parents who bully their own kids. The parents who are emotional and/or physically abusive. The parents who come to IEP meetings and tell me they know their son doesn’t REALLY have a low IQ. He’s just lazy. He can do better if he’d just try. All of this after me witnessing a whole year of their child trying and struggling. Or how about the parents who constantly tell their kids that they will never amount to anything? As if that will make them work harder.
As a teacher, I see and hear things about my students’ home lives that you only read about in the paper. Unfortunately, I feel this happens most often with our Special Needs children, and it breaks my heart. I had a student whose father is an alcoholic and physically abusive when he drinks, but who feels bad for getting his dad in trouble with Social Services and wants to go home to help him because he’s sick. I have a student whose parents openly hate each other and cannot get it together because they’re too busy arguing over whose fault it is that their child isn’t being successful. I have a child who doesn’t feel loved at home, but gets love from us at school. And, probably worst of all, I have a student who was repeatedly raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and somehow still comes to school, does her work, and has the sweetest personality.
Because my students often hear words of discouragement from their parents, relatives, and peers, last year I came up with a list of phrases they were no longer allowed to say. Basically, they’re not allowed to be negative while in my classroom. The rule is that they get one warning, and then they get sent out. When asked if I’d really send them out of they called themselves stupid, I asked why they’d want to do that. Don’t they have enough negativity around them without putting themselves down? Of course, I have never sent a child out for saying those things. I’ve never had to. They understand that I want them to be positive for their own sake. And I practice what I preach by always remaining positive with them.
My heart is in this job, and how couldn’t it be? When you sit on both sides of the table, you understand both positions. I want my children to be treated a certain way. I try to make sure they feel loved at home because so many of my students go without that love. And I try to make sure I have enough love to spread to those who need a little more. I make sure my children know they are loved as they are, and when I say, “my children,” I am never just talking about the ones I gave birth to.
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