Friday, March 13, 2009

"For Mom"

Today we rounded out the week with a seasonal craft the last 35 minutes before packing up and heading out the door for the weekend. The students were all handed green construction shamrocks to decorate with the glitter, sequins, tissue paper, bingo daubers, markers, googly eyes and other materials that were on the table.

One of my students was waiting patiently at his desk for someone to come help him with the project while I finished up writing the daily notes home to parents/caregivers. Soon he said, "Hey, Kate". We were all a little surprised, this young man typically does not combine a greeting and a name in a phrase without cues, nor does he typically call out for someone, being more the type of person who gets up and goes to who or what he needs.

Given this was a first I went over and sat with him and after chatting for a bit, asked, "You called me over here, what do you want?" He took a minute or so to consider how to express what he was thinking, finally reaching out and holding up the green paper shamrock, "For mom!" he said.

My eyes welled up and we set out together to make one heck of a shamrock, with glitter, green bingo dauber dots and shamrock sequins on it. We worked on sequencing, pincher grasp, colors, the concepts of more/less and opening and closing containers while we worked on the project, but we both knew that all that work was, "For mom!" I made sure I wrote out the story on the back for his mother to read.

The communicative intent of calling me over and telling me he wanted the craft to be "for mom" was remarkable and a major step forward. The cognitive ability to predict that something he was about to work on in school could make a difference in his world after school was even more remarkable as was the understanding that he could ask for help in the way he did. The kindness in the desire to make his mother happy and proud made my heart sing.

That is why I am a special education teacher. That is what makes the paper work, the administrative hassles, the days where I go home with someone else's lunch on my shirt, have my hair pulled or wrench my back with all the lifting worth it. When a student can communicate something he has never been able to communicate before, when he can engage in an activity and extrapolate the meaning in it to his own life, when he can connect what he is doing at school with the important people in his life at home I know I have chosen the right path. Happy St. Patrick's Day indeed. Everyone one should be as lucky as I am to work with such amazing students.

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