Do you have a child who is a special kid, in desperate need of that special teacher? I do! Finally. My 4th-grader son, Pedro, has a teacher who gets him, after years of teachers who never did. He had the same teacher for two different years. That teacher never understood how to get my son thinking about learning. Wanting to learn. Loving to learn. That teacher sent home behavior reports every week that were so negative, I had to demand that the reports be sent home in a sealed envelope so that Pedro didn’t have to start every weekend in tears because his teacher “didn’t like him.” Finally, I had to demand that the reports cease altogether. The reports did not represent my child. They thoroughly reflected the teacher’s own failures and a mind-made-up attitude towards my (brilliant) son.
Last year, I was taking Sign Language classes to help my toddler triplets learn to communicate better, and it sparked an interest in Pedro. One day he came home and started finger spelling the names of our family members on his left hand, with lightening speed. Pedro is right handed. I was wowed! I even felt a twinge of guilt because I knew I hadn’t taught him how to finger spell. I asked him how he learned to do that. He said that while his teacher was talking about pronouns he looked up the Sign Language alphabet in a class dictionary. I realize that he probably should have been paying attention to the teacher. Pedro has a hard time paying attention to things he already knows about. He already knew about pronouns. I asked him how long his teacher was talking about pronouns. He said about 4-5 minutes. That’s how long it took him to mostly learn the Sign Language alphabet.
For two years, he went to Catechism classes at our Church to prepare for his First Communion. Towards the end of his second year, I was told that he might have to go for another year because “he didn’t know anything he needed to know.”
I had a chat with “the woman in charge” of the volunteer teachers. She took an interest in Pedro. She told me she would work with Pedro for a few weeks and let me know if he would be able to do his First Communion. Within two weeks she reported back to me, praising Pedro’s ability to learn things so quickly. Then she told me that Pedro “knew everything” he needed to in order to complete his First Communion. I wasn’t surprised that he knew “everything.” I was surprised that she was able to discover that. I asked her how she got him to recite all the prayers to her. Well, she didn’t say, “Pedro, tell me this, that, and the other.” She talked WITH him, drew out the information, AND the prayers, and Pedro never knew he was being tested! Pedro is special. Few teachers inspire my son.
I was worried about Pedro starting the 4th grade this year because his critical-thinking skills efforts would either be inspired and encouraged or hindered, depending on the ability of his teacher to get him.
When I walked into my Pedro’s classroom for open house tonight, I knew instantly that I would shed tears before leaving the room. I did. The teacher immediately recruited Pedro to hand out some papers to the parents. Pedro’s eyes lit up with that, “I-told-you-so, mom” look! He talks about his teacher every day. Sometimes I find pictures of Sonic that he has drawn in his notebooks. He tells me that his teacher says it’s okay because they are part of a story he is writing. “They are illustrations!” he declares. He tells me that his teacher thinks he should write children’s books because he is expressive and has the best imagination. He tells me that his teacher looks in his eyes and says, “Pedro, I see greatness in you!”
Pedro is a lead-helper in a classroom project the teacher is calling, “Live History.” They are creating a map of California in an unmaintained patch of dirt/grass behind the classroom. The students have already dug out the trace line of the outside parameter of the state, which they will break into regions, and turn into something I know will be amazing. When Pedro finishes his work, sometimes he gets to go outside and work on the live art history project. He gets to dig in dirt. For each scoop of dirt he digs, he gets two scoops of top notch learning, topped with critical thinking and praise on the side! The class is also doing scientific individual and collaborative scientific observation and discovery of plant life. Each student put some seeds onto moistened paper towels. They put the paper towels and seeds into clear glass containers. They were allowed to choose any seeds from fruits or vegetables. When I saw the new life sprouting out of those seeds, the first tears of the night fell from my eyes. Pedro is a seed. Right now, he is being “grown” by a teacher who gets him. A new life is sprouting out of him.
Pedro’s class is also working on a theatrical project that is way hipper than an old-school play. They will be dressing up as famous people, like Abraham Lincoln, and stand like statues throughout the classroom. The parents will walk up to the statues and press one of two buttons that the statues will be wearing. English or Spanish. Depending on what button the parent pushes, the child will come to life and introduce himself (in character) to the parent/audience. Pedro and another student gave a mini-demonstration of what this will look like. I was so happy to be sitting in the front of the class because I would have hated for all of the other parents to see my happy tears.
Pedro takes a pillow to school. The teacher encouraged the kids to do this. No child can be at his best sitting in an uncomfortable desk for hours on end, eyes straight ahead, every day. When the kids are reading, they have the option to sit on the floor on a pillow, chill on a carpet, or stay at their desk.
The teacher tells the kids to greet him and the class each morning. So when the kids walk into their class, they acknowledge each other and say, “Good morning, teacher. Good morning, friend.” The teacher encourages them to bring a (healthy) snack so they can keep going when the day feels long. I could see that Pedro’s new teacher makes him feel special.
Before the night was over, I saw that this teacher makes all the kids feel special. Pedro has been with mostly the same group of kids throughout his last four years of school. I am so happy for this entire group of children. Every child in that class was excited to have his/her parent(s) meet their new teacher. That says it all!
I wrote this post as a Thank You and as a Tribute to all the great teachers out there! If you know a teacher who gets the kids who have never been got, share this story with them, and send along my very sincere thank you.
By: Alicia Gonzalez