Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sometimes...Life is Hard

Today was the last day of my first full year of teaching. While there is some relief and accomplishment in this day, the sadness far outweighs it. For outsiders it may seem that teachers are happy to see the "hard students" go and sad to see the "good ones" leave. For me it is the absolute complete opposite. I know that my smart, sweet, clear-minded students will succeed in life. I know that they will move onto 6th grade and will be successful. I was of course sad to see them leave but the joy and accomplishment of seeing them move on far outweighed the sadness.

For me today was hard for three reasons, each reason being a different student. First of all there is an autistic boy named George that I met 4 years ago. For those of you who don't know my teaching background, I was an instructional aide for a special education class for 3 1/2 years before becoming a "real" teacher this year. I was an aide in George's class for two years and this year I had the privilege of having him during my English Language Arts time. This boy is one of the most remarkable people I've met. If you've ever known a person with autism or Asperger's syndrome, you know how very special people with this disorder are. George is moving on to middle school next year and the thought of him going out into the real world really gets to me. He is so innocent and I just wonder what middle school will offer him. People with autism don't usually show much feeling. Today I went to say goodbye to him before he left for the 6th grade field trip to Raging Waters. He came up to me and said, "Well Mrs. Dallas I'll being seeing you later. I'm going to jr. high." and then he gave me a hug (which is very out of character for him). I handed George the card I had for him, gave him a quick hug and left. I cried all the way back to my classroom. How does one little boy make such a difference in my life?

Student number two is every teacher's nightmare, literally. He is emotionally unstable so you really never know if he's going to be happy or mad or who knows what. He is the boy that all the teachers don't want and so I took him under my wing. He too originally came from the special education class but this year he was officially in a regular education class. I have fought for him all year, making sure that he wasn't mistreated by other teachers or students and making sure that he received the rights he deserves. Seeing him go on to 6th grade is so troublesome for me. I love this kid and yet so many teachers find him repulsive. I spent so much time with him this year helping him learn proper social skills and building up his self-esteem. These are things that can easily be broken down. I worry that 6th grade will not offer him the tools necessary to continue on with these skills. How will he cope???

The last student is a little girl who has always been in regular ed. classes but has a very low IQ. She is THE sweetest girl and perhaps one of the hardest working students I've ever met. In a large class she tends to get swallowed up by the students more aggressively asking for help. She wants so bad to catch on quickly but she just has to work so hard to even get Cs. She is moving on to a new school next year and I just wonder how she will react and if she will improve. Today she stood in front of me and said, "Mrs. Dallas, I really don't want to leave. I just want to stay with you." She probably told me 10 times today and several times yesterday about how she is so sad to leave. Her and I have worked one on one SO much this year and have really made it through some tough academic struggles. To see her leave today left a lump in my throat.

I guess all of this blubbering comes down to the fact that I am scared for these students. I have grown to love them so deeply as they have struggled EVERY day just to survive the cruelties and difficulties of elementary school. I know that I can't walk each and every student by the hand for the rest of their lives but I just wonder how many of their teachers really are going to care. I know that these students are the reasons why I teach but in the end, letting go is one of the most difficult things to do. I suppose only a teacher can really truly understand.

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