Today I am not writing about reading, writing or math. I’m not going to write about behavior or communication strategies. I’m going to share with you one of the biggest accomplishments I have achieved as a teacher, and it’ really not about me at all, its about my little student, Susie. (name changed)
Susie is a sweet little girl who came to me two and a half years ago in a wheelchair with a 1:1 health aide. I was told that she would never walk unassisted. She would require a gait trainer or adult assistance at all times. She was a cute giggly girl that loved to socialize, but was limited to only her wheelchair or the hand of an adult. She is a non-verbal student who is limited to speaking through her communication device, the Nova Chat. She has also undergone several surgeries for her pace maker and to repair her shunt.
I have always joked that with Susie, comes an army. She comes from a wonderful family and a huge support system. Susie works closely with many service providers within the school system and outside to get the services she deserves. All of these community members have celebrated the milestones along the way because Susie’s laugh captured all of their hearts.
In the beginning of last school year (fall 2013), Susie started making mini milestones with her physical ability to walk on her own. She was starting to stand on her own for up to a minute without any assistance. We celebrated this milestone. Susie began to walk on her own on October 28, 2013, one year ago today. She took 10 little steps on her own from one work table to the next in between work rotations.
We celebrated this milestone. We celebrated HARD. I am pretty sure that the rest of that day we did nothing but celebrate. We had a party and watched movies…but heck, my class deserved it! The very next day she took off and was walking all across campus on her own. The entire campus celebrated in this milestone, as everyone saw the progress she made. The janitor was excited, the secretaries were excited, students were excited and other teachers were excited. More importantly, her face when she was walking on her own was just elated with excitement. She finally felt the feeling of freedom. The emotions from that week are hard to put into words, as it was something you really ahd to “be there for” to fully understand.
The “icing” on the cake was when we called mom to tell her. She left work immediately and was there within 15 minutes. Mom’s instinct was to run to Susie to give her a hug, but we stopped her. We had her wait and let susie walk to her. We were lucky to capture this on video, something Mom and Susie will cherish forever.
While she still needs assistance with some aspects of her physical day such as getting up off the floor, climbing into the lunch benches, walking on uneven grounds, she is still making progress each and every day. We’re waiting for the day that she begins to run! And don’t worry, I’ll update you on that day when it happens!
So with this story, I remind you to not sweat the small stuff. Don’t let those challenging days get to you. Don’t let those annoying co-workers or service provider’s ruin you day. One student tantrum isn’t the end of the world…Just remember- we are here for the kids. We are here to make a difference and to empower those around us. While we might not get “first steps” milestones every day, we do get something to celebrate. Focus on that to get you through those hard times.