As a teacher, what I see when I talk to my students is my child. I treat them as if they are my own. In a way, they are my children. I nurture them. I advise them. I do more than teach them. I care about them. When I tell parents that I feel like their children are my children, I mean it. I take them home with me every day. They live in my mind. I ruminate on the day’s work and think about what I would’ve said or done to make things better for them. I try to come up with solutions to their problems. I want their lives to be easier. But I also want them to learn to handle things on their own. It’s a quandary. I want the best for them. But knowing what that is can be a challenge in itself.
My heart breaks, even more, when I work with them. My Squeaker is 5 years old. My students range from 14 to 17 years old, in general. So, working with them is like taking a little peek into the future. Will he be the one whose heart is broken because his girlfriend broke up with him because being in a relationship is “too much work”? Will be the one who thinks no one wants to be his friend? Or will he think everyone is his friend and get made fun of because he overshares? Will his teachers understand that his outbursts are out of his control, or will he have teachers who send him out because he’s making “poor social judgement”? Will he have a teacher like me, who is willing to sit and listen to him talk about issues that other people think are menial but that mean the world to him? Will he be disregarded and told to get over it? Will he have a teacher who cares so much that she holds back tears while listening to his plights? Or will he have a teacher that pretends to listen and then sends him on his merry way?
It has been a long day. I work with children with special needs all day, and then come home and work with my own special needs child. I should be a pro at this by now, right? Just seems like I’m not ever off-duty. But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, really. For all the whining about how tired I am and how much work it is, it brings meaning to my life.