Hello. My name is Karen. I am (in no particular order) a retired teacher, mother, wife, grandmother, daughter, sister and cancer survivor. During a conversation about her blog, Suzanne (my daughter) asked if I’d like to be a co-blogger. Here we go!
My love of words and learning came early in life. I was one of those lucky children whose parents read to her. Supposedly, I asked for the same book over 20 times before either my parents gave up or I finally quit asking to have it read again. My mother isn’t quite sure. I am sure, however, that I still have the poetry book I received for Christmas in 1955. I can also still recite the bunny poem from that book! My formal education started at Kenwood Elementary in Bowling Green, Ohio. I didn’t stop “going to school” until I retired from teaching, 56 years later. I may have stopped going to school but I haven’t stopped teaching and learning. My hope is that I can bring some wisdom, inspiration and maybe a little humor to your day. You will certainly read about my family, my students, my opinions and occasionally, God. (I didn’t do this without Him.)
I am Suzanne’s mommy. If you know Suzanne, you know she loves her kids. While teaching students with special needs is challenging, Suzanne seemingly does it with ease. Part of that ease is having grown up with inclusion. Suzanne first met Teddy in pre-school. Even though Teddy is Down-Syndrome, he was able to attend public school spending part of his day in the regular classroom and the rest with an MR teacher. Teddy also played soccer with his friends. He was so loved and respected in the primary grades that when the ball came near him, kids on both sides would cheer for Teddy to kick the ball!
At this point in my career, I was teaching a Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) resource room. My students came to me for reading and math. One day, Teddy’s teacher asked if she could bring her students to my room as she had been called to the office. All of them came in and sat down without a problem – except Teddy. Teddy was not about to set foot in my room. I grabbed a picture of Suzanne, knelt down to Teddy’s level and said, “I’m Suzanne’s mommy.” Bingo! Teddy came in and sat down.
As you can imagine, I saw a lot of changes in education over my 40 year career. Some of those changes I wish never happened, others, I embrace. We need more inclusion in our lives. A couple years after Teddy visited my SLD classroom, I transferred to a regular 4th grade position. Because of my special ed experience, I had a number of special ed students in my classroom. Teddy was in that first class. By the time Teddy was in 4th grade, our district was undergoing a growth spurt. I began to see the difference in children who had grown up with Teddy, and those who did not. One of my proudest moments as a teacher came in that 4th grade class. As we were reading Scholastic News one day, I noticed a short article about a Cincinnati Reds Baseball player. I asked Teddy about him since I knew him to be a fan. Teddy began to read the paragraph. I wish I could duplicate his reading. Teddy would read the words he could, and mumble over the ones he couldn’t.
Is tolerance the answer to all our country’s ills? Of course, not. But acceptance and tolerance makes us better people. It makes us more patient standing in line at the grocery story behind a young mother digging in her purse for enough change to buy a box of cereal for her daughter. It makes us think twice about judging the family of the crying toddler in the restaurant. As teachers, we need to listen to our students, to their parents. We can’t change the situation at home. But that situation – whatever it is – has an influence on how Johnny or Sally is behaving and learning. Knowing about that situation can help us help our students be better learners and better people.
I am happy that I can offer an ending to Teddy’s story. He has found acceptance as a bagger at a local grocery store. He still asks about Suzanne.
Until next time…
Note: I can’t tell these stories about my former students without using names. Names will be changed to protect their privacy.