She told me
year she went
all her buttons
she would remember
sun felt like.
This is my third year as a teacher of young students with cognitive disabilities and it has been the toughest one by far. Not the teaching part—I love sharing in the learning process and helping my students make discoveries about themselves, their environment, and so much more. It’s the “everything else” part that’s so tough.
I’m not even talking about writing IEPs. I’m not going to say it’s my most preferred activity (the computer program we have here in Virginia makes it arduous sometimes), but I know that I’m doing it to shape my students’ entire learning trajectory in a powerful way. Some of the plans come together like lovingly made mittens at this point and it’s very satisfying.
I’m drained by the politics. Not petty lunchroom stuff, but top-down stuff. I’m frustrated by what I perceive to be a lack of accountability for teachers who aren’t making things work and a lack of support for teachers who are. It’s difficult for me to be an advocate for my students when I feel that my school’s practices are sometimes not in their best interests.
But I don’t have to paint my buttons yellow to remember what the sun feels like; my students do that for me every day. Even today, after a series of very tough interactions with a tough new student, my kids shined right through. We did a sensory exploration walk around the classroom that had us looking under tables with magnifying glasses, listening to the clatter of our own maraca/tambourine/bell/triangle/cymbal marching band, tickling our noses with feathers, and taking in the taste and scent of some (quite stale) gingerbread men.
We played in the sunshine on this mild winter afternoon and laughed and ran and slid and jumped. I stopped feeling trapped by all of the “everything else” things for a few minutes as we marched a crooked march around the classroom and squinted in the sunlight on a playground bridge.
These children are why I slog through everything else. They are why it’s worth it.