Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Trenton is my kindergarten friend with autism. We communicate through pictures and sounds and visual cues. And Cheeze-Its.

Words are difficult for Trenton to understand, but he can be easily motivated to do nearly anything for the sake of a Cheeze-It. Without a Cheeze-It, he's mush. He sits quietly and peers out the corner of his eye. He stares at the wall. He won't budge. But low and behold, the presence of a tiny, cheesy, snack, and he will do nearly anything: go to the bathroom, put things away, pick things up, sit down, stand up, walk, do puzzles, count to five, play matching games, and completely cease a crying tantrum. Trenton also favors M&Ms ("emmmm..."), tiny cookies ("cooooookah"), Goldfish crackers ("fuh"), and animal crackers ("cruckah"). Point being: we all need rewards. Otherwise many of us wouldn't feel that what we do is worthwhile.

We all need a high five.
A pat on the back.
A "Way to go!".
A pay check.
An ice cream sundae.
A good grade in school.
A reason to keep doing whatever we're doing.

Without rewards, we wouldn't be nearly as motivated.
To give the assist instead of taking the shot.
To clean our rooms.
To run our best race.
To go to work.
To be nice.
To try our best in school.

Working with Trenton got me thinking: How am I being rewarded? What keeps me doing this job that often feels tiring and redundant? 

Part of why I often don't feel like my job is particularly "rewarding" is because I base my perception of "success" on my students' behaviors which are unpredictable and finicky. I can't expect people to change simply because I want them to. I will always be let down. Because...
Nathan will throw chairs at me.
Devon will miss the toilet.
Lily will refuse to work.
Adam will tattle on everyone.
My superior will make me feel small.

So, how will I feel rewarded and useful and valuable anyway?

If I can laugh at Trenton and Devon as they run amok as little kindergarteners trying to figure out the world around them.

If I can give respect and dignity to students and staff without judgement.

If I can observe Nathan without taking his words and behaviors personally.

If I can smile and be open to my superior, even when I feel talked down to.

If I can learn these skills, then I can have good reasons to walk out the door each day and feel light, open, balanced, and confident.

I control how I feel and no one else.
This will be my reward.