Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Teacher My Kids Deserve

I’ve been hemming and hawing about writing a post for the last few weeks, and truth be told, I’ve started a few and scrapped them. I’ve had more than one person tell me that a good blog is not necessarily about quantity, but about quality, so I’m always loath to write just because I feel I should, but rather prefer to wait for something to inspire me enough to write. Don’t get me wrong – there are amazing moments every day, but not always ones that carry enough oomph to get me to my computer after a long day of work, rehearsal, meetings and whatever else comes along... We’ve had some great and a lot of crappy in my room the last few weeks, a lot of which I can’t really blog about because it would involve venting heavily about other adults, and although managing adults is certainly a part of my job, it’s not what I consider the important part (that would be the kids!)

So here I was tonight, sitting in front of the computer and trying to will myself some inspiration, and along came Carly, once again.  I posted a video of Carly Fleischmann’s story last November as part of this post, but since then, Carly has been a constant source of inspiration for me every day.  I follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and it has been really fun in recent weeks to follow the excitement and hype of her newly-released book, Carly’sVoice. Her story is a constant reminder to me that my kids are in there, no matter how deeply their voices may be buried in their autism, and that they deserve every chance I can help give them to find their voices as she has.

Tonight, Carly was posting answers on Facebook to questions that readers had been asking her, and as I re-posted her answer to one of them, I suddenly got “the flash”... The post went as follows...

From Michele Johnson:
I have a 3yr old son diagnosed with autism last year. You are an inspiration and I admire you. I know everyone as a person is different but I wanted to ask you a question. At times when it seemed to others that you weren't aware of what was going on around you. Did you always feel the love and sup
port of family? Was there one person that made you feel that they understood you. 

Carly’s answer: I think I was lucky to be surrounded by many people who made me felt loved. My dad always talked to me like I was listening even if he wasn’t sure if I was. My mom fought for me time after time for support and founding. I also had Barb and Howie that Just made me know that I couldn’t stop fighting and be the best me I could be.

And my comment, as I re-posted it, was “Love this answer from Carly! A good reminder to always strive to be the person my kids deserve...

The person my kids deserve... that’s what I’ve really been struggling with these last few weeks. How do I juggle the paperwork, the politics, the people management and my own lack of knowledge and background in all things ASD, and still manage to be the person my kids deserve – the person, who, in Carly’s words, makes them feel loved, supported and lets them know that they can’t stop fighting to be the best them they can be? Now, let me be clear – my kids are loved at home. They are all blessed with loving, hardworking families who do their very best to support them as best they know how, and who support what I do in the classroom as much as they can. But they’re not at home during the day – they’re with me in Room 10.  6 ½ hours a day, 5 days a week. That’s a whole lot of time in an environment that’s NOT at home with their families, that places a huge variety of demands on them, changes constantly, and doesn’t necessarily cater to their sensory or emotional needs.

And that’s just the environment itself... add into that the very human element of me as the teacher (not to mention the other adults in the room). I’m no autism expert. I read, I research and I try to learn all I can, but the more I learn, the less I feel like I know. ABA, IBI, play therapy, theraplay, sensory, stim, diet, medication, behaviour, belief... Some days I feel a lot like that old expression – “jack of all trades but master of none”. I’m willing to try anything for my kids, but not willing to commit to any one thing, which sounds great, but let’s face it, makes for a management nightmare. I’m not a behaviourist, a psychologist, a therapist, or even an advocate parent with the ability to make decisions for my students – I’m only their teacher.  Heck, some days I don’t even get a chance to work directly with each student, depending on how our day goes. Some days I find myself asking my staff at the end of the day “How was so-and-so’s day?” And my kids certainly deserve better than that...

I’m not being negative – I recognize that great change has happened this year. The kids are in a bright, cheerful, learning environment every day. They participate in group activities, and some days, we even get everyone to participate willingly! The room is safer and calmer, and kids who need intensive support are getting, if not all that they need, certainly more of it. They have access to sensory activities, and a sensory space that they can relax and engage in (which is back up and running, for those that are still wondering what happened after my last post). They are engaged in concrete learning activities twice a day every day, and they have IEP’s that reflect accurately their strengths and needs. Paperwork has been filed for OT, PT and SLP, and someday they may even all get the support they need!

But what about that belief? That love? That feeling that, as Carly says, someone believes in them and wants them to be the best them they can be? What about that balance between meeting their needs and loving them, or the even trickier points where those two things intersect and sometimes even overlap? Therein lies the real challenge of Room 10.  It’s a balance that suspect will always be wobbly, no matter how long I’m in this job, and some days, I’m sure it will tip further away from the middle than I want it to. I guess the best that I can expect of myself is to keep trying, keep striving for that balance, and when an issue come us in shades of grey, to always err on the side of love and support of my kids, rather than logic and reason. Because that’s the teacher my kids deserve.

Thanks for the reminder, Carly... 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your blog,
    You're a great person and teacher. I hope my son's teachers and every person who works with him in regular basis, take the time to think about that balance which he needs very much to keep going, to give the best of himself.

    And yes, I was wondering what happened to the sensory room ... thanks God is back :)

    Vanessa (Jacksonville, FL)