one can say, of course, except each for himself, but I believe that it is
possible to say at least this in general to all of us: we should go with our
lives where we most need to go and where we are most needed.” (Frederick
Buechner, Secrets in the Dark, p.39)
like that quote, a lot. Buechner is, maybe, speaking of something else, but I
think he is also speaking in an, albeit, roundabout and unbeknownst-to-himself
kind of way, about special educators; our calling; our day in and day out among students who
are differently-abled. Maybe you are not so much into thinking that what you do
every day is a calling—something that you did not choose, but something that
chose you. Maybe you are.
way, I don’t think any of us would deny that there is something unique and wonderful
about what we do. There is something that we cannot quite describe, something
we cannot quite put our finger on, something we cannot quite make sense of in
what we do. I’m not trying to set us up on some ethereal plain unattainable by
those teachers in the general education classroom. What I am saying is that not
one of us who teaches in special education classrooms—either self-contained
or resource or as a co-teacher—thinks for a minute that we are in those places
by accident. We may have each one taken a different path to getting there (my
own path took me through Bible college, a few churches, the unemployment line,
a video store manager). I’m glad I took the path I did because all of those
steps have prepared me for what I am doing today and will do every day for the
rest of my life.
here I am—entrusted every single day with the lives of the most beautiful
children I have ever met: each unique in his needs, each special in her own tendencies,
each joyful for different reasons, each with her own specialized set of
triggers. Yet each; one.
it is hard to go through a minute of the day without thinking about how I can
help my students. I go to bed every single night thinking about a new way to
teach nouns and verbs; I wake up each morning thinking about the greetings I
will receive from the kids as they get off the bus. Sometimes I have to invent
new ways to be patient. Other times I can scarcely contain my joy and want to
run around the school in a festive dance telling all the people about some huge
breakthrough in a student’s life. Many times an idea will come to me while
prepping for some other project and I will get sidetracked (my wife accuses me
of having an adult onset ADHD; squirrel!) and start something new before
finishing something old.
you know what? I wouldn’t trade what I am doing right now for anything in the
world. I love being a teacher! I love being in a place where I am needed.
Here’s part of how I know I am where I should be. One day, one of my students
was having a difficult time getting adjusted to some situation in the
classroom. For some reason, after he had calmed down a bit, I turned and looked
him in the eye and simply asked him, “Do you love me?” The response? “What?!?
This isn’t about love. Love is for girls. I don’t talk about love.” Here is a
child who does not even know that love is a human thing, not a girl thing. It
was another one of those ways I have learned to practice patience.
is right: we should go to the place where we are most needed. I have a sense
that teaching is about far more than letters and numbers and schedules and
recess: at some deep level, hidden or otherwise, some of our students simply do
not even know what it means to be loved. Maybe part of our job as special
educators, as educators, is to help our students understand that they are loved
and to remind them in different and subtle (or not so subtle) ways each day
that they are safe, that we do love them. I am glad, so glad, I am a teacher
and that I am blessed with the opportunity every single day to love the
children entrusted to me.
we most need to go. Maybe that means that the voice we should listen to most as
we choose a vocation is the voice that we might think we should listen to
least, and that is the voice of our own gladness.” (Buechner, p.39-40).
makes me glad. We teach because we love.