To a person with Autism, routine is important. Sameness and familiarity is usually very comforting. My own child has had a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that he’s going to a new school next year. He constantly brings up his old school, his old TA and his old teacher, as if he is going to somehow drag all of that with him, even as he brings up his new school. I’ve taken him to my new school and we’ve gone on many, many tours of his new school. I want to prepare him as much as possible for the change. Change is hard for us all (Hell, I’m having a really hard time with the change), but it’s especially hard for a child with Autism, so I’m doing all I can to make the transition easy on him.
In the back of my mind, while I’ve been preparing my son for this change, I kept thinking about my students with Autism back at my old school. I kept asking myself who was preparing them for the change. Had anyone told them that I wouldn’t be there anymore? There were two students that I had had for two years that relied on me quite a bit. That means a lot. If anything went wrong, they came to me. I was a source of stability for them. What was going to happen when, on the first day of school, they walked by my room and saw a new name on the door? I was losing sleep over this, and I had their mothers’ numbers, but I was afraid to call and step on anyone’s toes. After all, I had already gotten myself in trouble for advocating for a student.
I took some time and thought about it, and I realized that no matter what happened, as a professional, I owed it those students and their parents to allow them to prepare for the change, just as I had been able to prepare my own child. Not only that, but I felt as if the amount of time I spent communicating with those moms would allow me to communicate that change to them in a way that would soften the blow some. And so, I took a deep breath, and I placed the first call. And then the second call. And I didn’t tell the parents the reason I had to leave, but that I was needed elsewhere and that I would’ve stayed with them if I could’ve. I told them that the staff there would take good care of their children and that I had given the team every bit of information about them that I could think of to help with the transition to a new case manager/teacher. Everything from where they were at progress-wise to how to prevent a meltdown to how to talk one of them down was included.
Some might say that this isn’t a selfless act at all. I wanted to call them and say goodbye. And I did. I really wanted those students to know that I didn’t just abandon them thoughtlessly, because that’s not who I am. I teach with my whole heart. But, here’s the thing that I didn’t do that I really want to: When those parents told me how much they wish I was still there, because I did so much for their kids, and when they thanked me for everything I did for them, I did not ask them to write my old principal or central office to tell them that. I didn’t ask them to demand that they put me back where I was supposed to be, because I was doing something good there. I simply told them “thank you” and that their children would be just fine with their new teachers and that I was confident that they would be well taken care of. When asked if they could contact me if they wanted to, I told them they had my number and my email address and I would be happy to hear from them. I plan to go to graduation to see them graduate. But in the act of telling them they would be fine, I let them go. I told their parents that it was okay for them to trust someone else. I admitted that I’m not the only person capable of handling their children.
And their kids, of course, will be fine. I know most of the team that is left at the school and they are great people. That selfish part of me just wants to be with my kids. You start to feel like a surrogate mother after a while. But, I suppose I will have new kids at my new school. More kids to mommick. And, just like the many, many kids before them, I will carry them in my heart always.
Have you ever had a hard time letting go of something/someone? How did you handle it?