I arrived 15 minutes early.
The classroom operated in organized chaos. I interrupted the flow.
“I’m sorry! Did I come too soon?”
The teacher smiled and said it was ok. I scanned the room for my little boy. There he was. He had been crying. They had just moved to their next station, and I guessed he was none too happy he had to leave his computer reading game.
Asher’s teacher set the timer. Once it ticked down to 3 minutes, she announced,
“3 minutes, everyone! 3 minutes! Remember, our schedule has changed today!” She reminded the students of their new schedule for the day.
There are only a few students in my son’s class. Each comes with their own set of strengths and challenges.
“2 minutes! Remember, our schedule has changed today!” She reminded them of the new schedule for the day.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of the teacher and aides. Their duties were performed like a choreographed ballet. Each knew what to do, when to do it, and how to accomplish the task.
“1 minute until lunch! Remember, our schedule has changed today!” Another reminder.
“Asher is the line leader today.”
YES! I visited on line leader day! WHOOP!
We made our way to the lunchroom, and the teacher’s attention moved from one child to the next with ease. Every problem covered, every tear received a hug, plates checked to ensure each child was eating…she was conducting a circus to look like a harmonizing chorus.
“I brought him McDonald’s Sweet and Sour sauce,” chimed in an aide. A little boy giggled as he opened his favorite sauce.
Asher smiled with pride as he showed me he earned 10 “Great jobs” on his lunch token sheet. The teacher gave each at the perfect time.
“When do you eat?” I asked the teacher. She smiled and said she would eat later.
“How is this woman doing this?” I wondered as I watched her gather the motley crew for the journey back to the classroom.
I visited for 2 hours. I did nothing but hang out with my kid.
I am exhausted.
We do little for our teachers, even less for our special education teachers, but we expect miracles from them. The women in this classroom, with their one life, are committed to helping my son, and the sons and daughters of other parents, have the best education they can give.
And this is only one classroom of thousands in America.
It is time we acknowledge them with more than our gratitude. It’s time we cough up more cash to the coffers.
I heard someone once say teachers were paid too much for what they do. Here is what I have to say about that.
Let me throw you in a room full of challenging kids at 7:30 a.m. Your job is to educate them per their individualized education plan that you wrote and planned with a team of other professionals and parents, watch their diets (because these children all have different ones), don’t eat until you have a 5 minute lull in the day (if you’re lucky), keep them from hurting themselves or others, communicate with those whom are non-verbal, make sure they go to the potty and change them if there is an accident, remember who needs what for the note home to parents, schedule meetings with parents, listen to parents bark complaints, stay at school until 4:00 p.m. or later to finish the mountains of work not finished because the day was crazy, go to the store to spend your own money for classroom supplies, get home hungry and tired, and wake up the next day to do it all over again.
Underpaid, overworked, complaining parents, facility meeting, and more frustrations line the paths of saints. They do this not for praise and rewards but for the children and their future. It is selflessness defined. With every aching back and sleepless night worried about a student, they are bettering life for a human being and for society.
Saints, I tell you. They are saints!
After today, if I have spare change, it is going in my son’s teacher’s account. Do you have a friend or family member who cannot stop bragging on their child’s special needs teacher? If so, take your spare change, or a hefty pile of bills, and go put money in their teacher’s school account. This money will be used for classroom supplies and educational materials. (The front desk will assist you.) They deserve and need it.
“Ok, guys! We have 20 seconds! Remember, our schedule is different today.” Asher’s teacher announced again. The faces of the children spoke gratitude and relief. They knew she had their back.
Then, Asher’s teacher paused. A smile crept onto her face like she was wrapping her arms around the whole room to give it a loving hug. Her body was tired, but her heart was full.
It was all worth it.