Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I regularly get the question: "How's your new job going?"

And my usual answer is: "It's challenging and frustrating, but I'm learning a lot and I love my kiddos."

I don't always understand them. Each student has his or her own unique set of needs and wants and abilities and expectations and personalities. I don't always enjoy every moment we spend together, but I still think that our time matters. The impact in elementary school isn't as obvious as it is in a high school student who says, "Ms. Bo, you are a really good teacher." It is unlikely that I will ever know if Trenton graduated from high school or learned to speak. It is unlikely that many of the kids I work with will actually be able to remember my name, my face, or my presence in their lives at all. But my hope is that, in one way or another, our time together helps them to feel loved. So years later, maybe they'll take that love they received from me and it will turn into self-acceptance or confidence or hope.

What I'm learning and loving outweighs the challenges and frustrations. Here are a few reasons:

-Devon eats breakfast in the classroom the first 15 minutes of school. Trenton, who eats breakfast at home, decided he really wanted Devon's orange juice. So when neither Devon, nor myself, were watching, in one swift movement, Trenton sprinted across the room, grabbed Devon's juice box, squeezing it before it got to his mouth and the the whole thing squirted out all over his shirt. He seemed confused. Flabbergasted. As if he couldn't put together what squeezing the box and this wet feeling on his shirt had in common. It hadn't been fifteen minutes and Trenton needed a new shirt. He instinctively shrugged his shoulders up to his ears and rounded his back as if to say: "I have no idea what just happened, but for some reason I am all wet!"

-A first grader tells me, "Ms. Bo, you smell like Disneyworld."

-Trenton, who is learning a lot of words right now--including his own name--wants a cookie. So he shows me the card with the cookie on it and says, "Aye wanht Trenton."

-This morning, I saw Trenton, got on one knee and said, "Can I have my morning hug?" He smiled, stretched out his arms, and held on tight for a good ten seconds. Then bolted away and dumped a full bin of Playdoh supplies onto the ground. Three times. Some kids with autism avoid all human touch and affection. I'm blessed that Trenton wants it because sometimes I do too.

-Walking Natalie out of the classroom, we step into the hallway, she slips away from my hand and lays face down in a perfect plank position on the tile floor. No explanation. No warning. Just down. So I watched. And after a few moments, as I watched curiously, she got up and walked away.

-Yesterday, while Trenton was jumping up and down and having a grand ol' time, his diaper fell out of his pant leg. Yes, his pant leg, people! He was unfazed and was probably enjoying this temporary freedom.

-Today, while working on a puzzle, Trenton began whining and screeching and crying loudly. I thought maybe he'd bumped his head or had an itch or needed something. The tears were flowing down his cheeks, his eyes and forehead were crinkled and whatever was happening in this guys little world could not be easily soothed. I kept asking and pointing to his picture book helplessly, "What do you want? Trenton, please tell me what you want." I held out Cheeze-Its. I gave him the Barrel of Monkeys. We walked to the rocking chair. Nothing. He just sat, head lifted toward the sky, petitioning all that is unjust in the world. Eventually, I sat down on the floor with him and put my arms out: "Hug?" He nearly toppled me over, he came in so quickly. His head on my shoulder, eventually the crying ceased, and he stayed there a long while. As if that's all he really needed.


EMILY STAR said...

Awe I love this. And I love the idea of providing love.