Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"I Might Be Slow, But I'm Beautiful"

I am done with 5th grade now and teaching special ed at a different school. Mostly 4th and 5th grades (so I didn't get away completely) and one precious 1st grader. I was skeptical. On the first day, I got a chair thrown at me. The next day another kid did the same thing because he saw kid #1 do it  the day before. We spend so much time dealing with behavior that, some days, I feel like we get nothing else done. But if J stays in his area and gets one sentence written, that's a successful day. Success can no longer be measured by how much is done and how accurate it is, it has to be measured based on how far we've come since we started that day or week or month or even year.

The school is 98% Hispanic with a poverty level close behind. These kids live in the worst of the worst conditions. They hardly speak English. They have learning disabilities and behavior disorders on top of a huge language barrier. And in all honesty, some just have plain old horrible behavior that is learned from their environment. Some of them are children to teenage mothers and will never know their fathers. They live among gangs and cussing and alcoholism. They don't know any other life. They tell me about the fights they got into the night before and why. They are 10 years old and are the one responsible for their younger siblings' well being every night so their parents can work their second jobs. So even when they misbehave and act the way they do, can you blame them?

The more I hear about their stories the more compassion I have for them and the more my heart breaks. V was a perfectly normal 2nd grade boy until January of his 2nd grade year. He got a fever one night that spiked while he was sleeping and caused uncontrollable seizures. He was in an induce a coma for 3 months before they could get the seizures under control and bring him out. Now he lives with the effects of a traumatic brain injury. He has no impulsion control which causes intense rages (i.e. slamming a teacher's arm in the door and breaking it on Friday), memory loss, and extreme fatigue, just to name a few.

J has a behavior disorder and self-destructive tendencies. He stapled his hand the other day when none of us were looking and sometimes he talks about suicide. In 5th grade. What kind of pain does he feel to want such a thing at such a young age? He's so angry. But if you can get him one-on-one, he's so sweet.

A is the most precious little boy I have ever seen in my whole life. As soon as he smiled at me, I was in love. I can't even explain it. This is where I just lose my words. I just wish I could explain his little face and that sweet smile. It melts my heart. He has a speech problem and isn't fluent in Spanish or English so most of his sentences are about half and half and are almost impossible to understand. I'm in love. I have taken him on as mine for the next 6 weeks. A is also developmentally delayed. Cutting things out is really hard for him, so every day we pick a new color and a new magazine and cut everything we can find in that color. Yesterday we played number Bingo. Numbers have been a struggle, so I wasn't sure how that would go. He blew me away. He got every single one right on every single card in the box. He told me all of the numbers in and out of order. I know it seems so small, but if you could just see that face. If you could just understand how hard it has been for him. I couldn't even help it, my eyes just welled up with tears. I am so incredibly proud of him! Now we're taking on 1-30...

The 5th grade boys and I have a very intense love/ hate relationship. I love them, but I want to shake them sometimes, and they most definitely feel the same way about me sometimes. Like lately. They will not pay attention in math. So they have no idea what's going on. They are adding fractions without common denominators- hard stuff, especially when you have a learning disability. So we have been fighting all week basically. Today I finally got R to listen to what I was saying. I had to remind him a thousand times to look at his problem and pay attention, but he was listening. And after about 45 minutes, he did a problem on his own. I have never seen him smile like that. He hugged me and said, "Thank you for helping me, miss." (favorite thing about teaching Hispanic kids: they call you "miss" and it's just precious) Once again I was fighting the tears.

I have never struggled with a group of kids so much or been so proud of them before in my life. I know it's only been a week, but I already love them so much. So many people have given up on them, but I won't. Even if I only have 6 weeks, I'm going to make them count.

"I don't need you, I don't need you, I don't need you 'cause I know I'm beautiful. I might be slow, but I'm beautiful..." -Beautiful, Alli Rogers

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