Thursday, August 10, 2006

It does the heart good...

The last school year, I was told about a student I might be getting (maybe even mentioned it here). I observed him, talked to his mom, had a meeting to bring him to my campus, and quickly became terrified. OK, I was scared sh!tless. I mean, to hear it, this was going to be the most difficult student you can imagine-unlike anything my education or experience prepared me for. Negative behaviors galore: hitting 200+ times a day, likes to run (so dig out the tennis shoes and keep the doors shut), wears clothes that are difficult to strip out of or else he will, my hair was always in a ponytail because it can be pulled. I wanted this student, but in the back of my mind I was asking myself all kinds of questions. "What if I fail?", "What if his behaviors get worse?", "What in the HELL do I do with a student like this?"

I had doubts, but I also knew I was going to try. I had to. So began the most rewarding journey yet of my teaching career. I remember the first day we had him. He was terrified to get off the bus. He's non-verbal but can understand plenty. He looked out the window and saw yet another school and just didn't quite know what to think. Once in the classroom, he went about his mischievous ways. I actually didn't get him until lunchtime and then the last half of the day. I remember trying to do the bathroom routine myself. I'm optimistic that way. Twenty minutes and 2 pull-ups later (he tore one), I managed to get a male teacher next door to help me finish getting him dressed (I banged on the door from the bathroom floor, where I had been trying to reason with this child amongst much thrashing, hitting, etc). Those first few days, I was exhausted like I've never been before.

We finally got a new TA hired about 6 weeks after his arrival. We were still working with behaviors, but had somewhat settled into a routine.
The weeks after Christmas break are a blur. I had sort of decided to move during that time, though I knew I hated to leave him and his wonderful family. By the end of the year, we were seeing a lot less negative behaviors. He had made tremendous progress. I also worked with him over the summer, mostly focusing on eating and getting him to try new foods (he primarily eats baby food because of texture/chewing reasons). Through this all, I was gradually handing over the reins to that TA we hired--who became a friend through all of this. She was then hired to replace me. OK, I did hold on the reins pretty tight until the end, I admit. I didn't want to let go and miss the rest of the ride. My last full day in DFW, right after camp, a friend and I took my student to the dollar movies (it was my replacement's idea and we had already tried once before). It was a success! Another first for him that I greedily got to be a part of before leaving.
Other firsts I got to be a part of over the school year: first time to lick a sucker, brush his teeth, walk into school without sitting on the floor, go all day without sitting on the floor, go all day without hitting, first time to pee in a potty (I missed the first time, but heard about it. I did see the first time he did this at his home), first time to try a myriad of new foods. This summer I saw him reach out and give a 3 year old a high five while sitting outside the movie theater. Appropriate social interaction! It was awesome.

So, yesterday was the first day of school where I used to teach. I got an email yesterday from my replacement saying he did great coming off the bus and going down the hall. I talked to her last night. He had a wonderful day. It just seems like he's reached a point where he is going to 'grow up' so much and show his teachers so much progress. It brought tears to my eyes. It's moments like this that make my job worthwhile. I guess you'd just have to know him to understand, isn't that right CW? :)

I did have another point to make (to myself really) but this is long so I'll save it for later.

1 comment:

Tendersoul said...

It takes patient loving people like you to accomplish such wonderful milestones. My heart is full after hearing about this young boy.

Your job is one most will not take. Thank you for being one of those who cares so much.