Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pure Heart

One of my favorite students was described as a "pure heart," and I really couldn't have put it better. 

You have to have thick skin to teach high school.  You name it, I've been called it, heard it, seen the dirty looks, seen the disgust and distaste in their faces.  The high school crowd is a tough crowd.  I've cried before (in front of students, no less), back in my first couple of years.  Teenagers are well aware of how to push your buttons and they will do damn near anything for attention.  You can't be timid and you can't lack in self-confidence if you're going to make it in our world.

Teaching special ed doesn't make it any easier, in terms of the attitudes we deal with on a daily basis.  Our students have experienced years of failure, self-doubt, and fruitless effort that would make anyone give up. Couple these difficulties and this academic history with a deployed parent, a broken home, and the effort to fit in with peers.  We have some tough cookies amongst our ranks, make no doubt about it.

This particular student of mine is a challenge - not because he fits the description above, but because of his developmental delays.  He has a rigorous schedule for his abilities.  I've had times of frustration, when I wasn't sure of whether or not he was going to be able to keep up in my class.  He challenges me as an educator - am I truly making my curriculum accessible to all students?  Every concept, every buzz word that I picked up while in my training - I'm finally being assessed in these areas.  Sure, I could always write about it, but can I do it?

This student wants nothing more than to do well, to get your approval that he's "doing good" today.  He holds no grudges.  He never tries to look cool in front of others.  He can't read you to determine whether you're having a good or a bad day, but when he greets you with a wave and a "Hi Mrs. C," it is with enthusiasm and sincerity.  I've come to love his interruptions that used to frustrate me.  I've come to cherish the fact that I have him as a student.  I've told those in my department that don't have him that they're being deprived of one of our job's little joys.

I love that he brings out the best in my other students, those who are higher functioning than he.  The other day a student was getting on my last nerves, acting out and trying to annoy me.  As I focused on something else, I overheard him jump down the throat of another student who must have mocked my dear Heart.  The Teaser is not a bad student, but I think it slipped.  The Annoyer launched into a speech about "how'd he/she like it if they were being made fun of?!"  Dear Heart doesn't readily pick up on when he's being teased, so he was obliviously to the whole situation.  The Annoyer did it knowing that Heart would never know that he defended his honor.

I love watching how patient and gentle my students are with Heart.  Even those students who have their own academic challenges extend themselves to help him during class.  They don't get frustrated with him, they talk to him if there's social cues he's not picking up on, and they want to see him succeed as well.  They accept him.  Hardly has a cruel word ever been uttered toward Heart in my class.

We may think ourselves fortunate to have the abilities we possess, and consider those without to have a disability.  But a pure heart?  That is something we all strive for, and this child has it.  The ability to love unconditionally.  The ability to forgive.  The ability to put a smile on others' faces.  I wish I could share with you the picture I have of him - an instant mood lifter - but ethics and legality keep me from doing so.  I pray that there is someone in your life that brings you the same joy.


Sarah said...

You need a "Like" button on your blog.

Kaylee said...

This was just so sweet, I have interned in a special-ed class before and it was so rewarding.

Thank you for sharing and linking up to the weekly round-up this past week.