Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher Written by 'Flappiness is...' by Leigh Merryday.
Dear Parents of Special-Needs Children I’ve Taught In the Past,
need to make a big apology. You see, I’ve been teaching now for
fourteen years, but I have only just recently joined your ranks.
didn’t know. Not even a clue. I thought, mistakenly, that having two
special-needs children in my family made me more sensitive to your needs
as a parent. It didn’t. And I’m so sorry for operating under the
assumption that I did. I’m not attempting verbal self-flagellation
here. I meant well. I knew a lot about autism and some about other
special-needs conditions. I did care about your child. And I did want
to do right by him. But, like a lot of teachers who Just Don’t Get It, I
thought doing right by him meant giving him extra time on assignments
and not allowing him to fail my class. I thought being extra nice and
seating her at the front of the room was what you needed from me.
you needed more. And I didn’t understand that. You needed
communication. A lot of it. You needed me to understand your depth of
worry. You needed me to understand that, if you’ve met one
special-needs child, you’ve met one special-needs child. You needed me
to understand that I was teaching your child, not an I.E.P. You needed
to know, not assume, that I would go out on a limb to make sure your
child’s needs were met all over the school and not just in my classroom.
You needed to not worry that, when your back was turned, I was still
doing everything that I promised as well as thinking of better ways to
meet your child’s needs. You needed to talk about your child in
meetings and not worry about the clock.
I know better now. In
just a few months, I am going to be placing my special little boy into
the hands of the public school system. Because he is non-verbal, I will
have no way of literally knowing how his day went, if he is being
treated well, and if those to whom I am entrusting his care really do
care about him. This kind of fear is paralyzing. And more so because I
know just how little training (read almost none) that most of the staff
in a public school have in dealing with children like my son. They,
too, will mean well. But they won’t know. They won’t get it. I now
know why you carry The Binder of Epic Proportions to every meeting.
Mine is getting bigger by the day.
I look back now at all of your
children and wish that I had picked up the phone more, written quick
notes home more often, challenged your child more often rather than
less, and make you feel certain that someone else loved your baby in
your absence. For that, I’m sorry. I promise to do better for those
kids in the future. I promise to not assume anything about your child’s
unique situation and needs. I won’t just react to bullying of your
very different child. I will actively be on the lookout for it. I will
remember your child and her possible confusion on activity bell
schedule days. I will take more time each day to get to know her. I
promise to do my best to push, cajole, educate, and even take to task my
colleagues who don’t get it in the years to come. I pray that teacher
training will improve in the future and that my son will reap the
rewards of that. And I hope that I am just as patient, kind, and
understanding with his teachers and schools as most of you were with us.
And those of you who weren’t? I get you too.
Your Child’s Former Teacher
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