Proud to Begin Another Year Teaching

This is the time of year when, as teachers, we have more responsibilities stacked upon us than we can possibly manage from sun up to sun down.  During this time, we break away from our own children who we've been able to spend quality time with during the summer, and they have to adjust to seeing very little of us.

It's always a tough adjustment, and during these times of year, I like to remind myself of the things that I love so much about what I do.  When I go to trainings in preparation for the new year, I'm surrounded by other special education teachers.  Without fail, if we're shown a video or photo of a student smiling, I hear gasps and ahhhhs in the audience of teachers feeling joy.  We're all in this together to see those students smile, engaged and loving school.  We are a group of people who find so much joy in our students, and that is why we do what we do.

So to start this school year, I want to share with you a letter that a parent gave me this past June.  She gave it to me in tears, she gave me a long hug that I didn't even realize how much I needed, and she didn't seem to want to leave until she saw that what she was saying to me was really sinking in.  When I let it hit me how much I truly love my students and how saying goodbye to them is like seeing your own child leave for college...EVERY was difficult to maintain my composure.

To my son's Angel,

How do you thank someone who has changed my son's life...forever?  My son came in as a 6th grader.  He wanted independence and to be liked by others.  But he couldn't.  He didn't have the skills.  He was inflexible, had poor planning and a high frustration level.

You took him in and taught him flexibility, limitations and self-control.  You did it firmly but with love.  It was just what he needed.  Oh, what a tough job that is!!!  Where did you ever find the patience and stamina??

Next, you taught everyone who wanted to help him how to do this best.  Time and again, he would be stuck in a class and you would step in.  You made visuals and schedules, sent emails and offered advice on how to help him the best.  You always worked to find a way through the obstacles and didn't give up.  You helped him succeed in his classes and gave him a sense of accomplishment.

You were constantly trying to figure out ways that he COULD be independent.  You seemed to always come up with a plan when it didn't seem possible.  You could have said no, but you knew how important it was to him.  And yet, you also taught him, unfortunately, we all have limitations.  You helped him realize that we don't always get what we want.  That is a tough lesson to teach.

You helped my husband and I have better parenting skills.  You taught us how to manage his frustrations, give him directions and direct him towards the goal.  The lessons you have taught us and the guidance of when to assist, when to stand firm, and when to let go are invaluable.  We will continue to use them.

And most importantly, you were his "safe space."  He knew you were always there for him when he needed help.  This was true when he was proud, frustrated or sad.  He was so comfortable with you, he would even come to you when he knew he was wrong and in trouble!

So again, how do you thank someone who has helped turn your little boy into a person who will succeed and become an independent person?  How do you thank someone who has given him skills of planning, flexibility, ownership, self-control and pride?

How does it feel to know you have changed one person's entire future?  I am not exaggerating.  Through the past three years, you have been the most instrumental person in his life!  I cannot think of anyone who has helped him more.  I have always said, God sent us an angel.  You will always be an angel in our eyes.

I am so sorry to say goodbye.  With unbelievable gratitude.

So, I proudly say congratulations to my students who are beginning a new journey in high school.  I will miss all of you, and I know that you will make your mark on the world in your own special way.

To my new students, I say welcome to your new adventure.  I'm going to build you a home away from home.  I'm going to constantly be learning from you, and based on that, I'm going to set my expectations just high enough to challenge you.  I'm looking forward to turning you into team players.  I want you to look beyond yourselves and see your value as members of our community.  I'll teach you that for every action, there is a consequence, and most of the time, consequence is a very joyful word.

You will be the biggest part of my life for the next three years, and I will honor your time.  It's not always going to be easy, and sometimes you will won't be happy about things, but like I remind myself with my own three year old daughter when she gets upset, we are adults, and we know what is best for you.  You are all going to succeed to the best of your abilities because we care about your success, and we're doing everything we can to get you there!  Welcome to my class.

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