Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amazing Moments

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays are among my least favorite of the school year. I could not tell you why based on any research on this matter, but I do have an opinion. I think that there are several reasons--kids are excited and trying to get through required curriculum isn't what they want to be doing; teachers are the most patient of people, but these weeks stretch that patience. This year in particular has brought a lot more stress because of the economic woes that we are facing. Many families of both children and staff have faced job loss, less money, higher insurance premiums...... Public education deals with all that is good and bad in our society.

For the past several years, our school has housed three of the district's Autism classrooms. Although I have a special education background, I truly knew very little about working with Autistic children. I have learned so much over the last several years. It has probably been one of the most rewarding programs that I have ever overseen. The students have done incredibly well at our school thanks to the wonderful special education teachers, regular classroom teachers, instructional assistants, and the incredible children that we work with every day.

We have approximately 53 students who have been diagnosed with Autism which is a fairly high number. I truly believe in what we are doing and what it means to society in the future. Many of these children are incredibly bright. I believe that by giving them opportunities to learn social skills and be integrated into the regular classroom, we are opening doors for them that will enable them to be productive members of society. I believe that one of these students might find a cure for cancer or some other disease in the future.

Something happened yesterday that sums up everything that occurs every day in the wonderful school that I am fortunate to be a part of. We had our annual Geography Bee. Several of the students who participated in the bee were students in our Autism program. One of the students missed his first two questions and was so upset. His teachers tried to calm him and he continued to sob. It wasn't very loud, but it was noticeable to all of the students in the audience. When it came time for the third round, he got up and then took his name card off and wasn't going to even attempt to answer. He then decided to try and got the answer incorrect again. The fourth round came along and he was still very upset and not sure he wanted to try again. However, he did and got the answer correct. Very quietly, the students in the audience began to clap for him. It wasn't loud, but it was spontaneous and such an incredible gesture on the part of our fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

When something like this happens, you know that all of the hard work that everyone at our school performs on a daily basis to ensure academic and emotional successes is well worth it. I was so proud of our students yesterday for so many reasons. Trying to recount this event with words is difficult and doesn't capture the emotions that I felt yesterday.

Once again, I can honestly say that this is why I get up each morning and go to school and work the crazy hours that I do and deal with some of the unbelievable situations that occur. If we had a camera going to record for reality television, there would be some that would say that we made these things up!!

If I had the opportunity to live my life over again, I can't imagine doing anything different than being an educator. It is truly the most important profession in our society. Even though the politicians and many people in our society don't respect it enough, I can say that is their problem. I know that when the day comes that I leave my office for the last time, I will know that my many years contributed to the betterment of our society. I am proud to be an educator!!!

6 remarks:

Julie said...

I like to call those..lump in your throat moments!! I feel so fortunate (even though at the time I didn't want to) to be teaching students with AS at the Middle School level. The growth and change I see at this age blows me away on a daily basis. Although I had always known deep down my elemenatry students would grow up to do amazing things....I look at my studnets now and can really see them as a future lawyer or scientist! As a special ed teacher I may not always get the thanks I feel I need or deserve...but at the end of the day like you I know I have made a difference for families and society!

Great post!

Anonymous said...

This was a wonderful post Sheila!
Love & hugs,

Tami Proffitt said... happy tears! bless you and your staff! now...i'm figuring out how i can have my girls part of your fabuous, inspiring campus! ARE a wonderful leader!

Judy said...

What a wonderful tribute to you and your staff, given to you and your autistic student, by your intermediate students. You have a special connection with people young and old that shines through your daily work at Gilbert Elementary.

I never thought I would love education as much as I loved working at Hospice. But as the hours drew more than I could handle with family needs, I made the change. I truly feel fortunate to work with the students that encourage me each day in special education.

I have had the honor at Gilbert Junior High to meet generous students who take time and interest in my moderately cognitive impaired students. While my students can not carry on a conversation, they communicate their excitement and appreciation to the general education students who care for them.

I am lucky to have you as my sister!

Jane said...


I would just like to echo your words and thoughts. I too was so touched by the students that day. Even though the were told to not clap until the end, it was just perfect that they did.
I LOVE my job and being able to work with these special kids. I love everything about them. They are so sweet, and pure. They have something about that that touches you no matter what negative behaviors they may be having. I have never laughed so much and cried so much over a group of students before.

Thanks for all you do for them, and for me.

Meags said...

I'm just catching up. My girls have been talking about the bee for the past two weeks. When we talk about rigor, relevance and relationships this is it. I know some teachers and schools would think sitting on the floor for an hour plus is a waste of instructional time but I gotta tell you my girls have gained so much by your leadership and the school's philosophy. They see that hard work pays off and boy do they work hard as well. Their work with the community with Ms. Louise and all the other wonderful opportunities give them instant relevance to their work. And they know and love all their peers ( special or not, rich or not, nice or not), love their teachers and staff and principal. Thank you. And our children aren't as bad as some people think. I do have hope in our future as long as people allow for them to be children and learn in this wonderful way.