Tim L., Special Education Teacher, Christel House Academy, Indianapolis, IN
"Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” “Can I eat with you?” “Will you come get me during class?”
These and a thousand other questions, seemingly unrelated to learning, fill a middle school teacher’s year. Yet, in these queries, I find the nuances and building blocks of healthy and trustful relationships with my students. A small group of 7th graders showed me the necessity of always treating the most whimsical statements with care. In turn, I believe that I showed them how to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence with just a little more determination.
Each student bears a label, whether or not they are conscious of it. (And these are labels making no one any more popular.) Throughout the course of the year, I saw this small group of students evolve past “disabled,” past “I can’t”, into simply being “differently abled” and saying with grit, “I presently struggle with.”
These few began to embody the core values repeated every morning. Parent conversations became filled with more hope and less desperation. Students advocated for themselves, acknowledged the need for help, and accepted an extended hand. Even with the changing of school years and my role at Christel House Academy, these students come back to check in. Their continued growth remains evident, and in their victories, I realize my own.