Dear parents of my students, I need you to know that...
That is the first thing I want you to know. It is not meant in the cliche "I understand what you're going through" thought. Rather it truly is myself telling you, you are not alone through this journey.
I know it may feel like it now, in the beginning.
But I am here. I'm more than your child's teacher. For the 8 hours a day that they are in my care, I want you to know that I protect them, I love them, I guide & direct them, I laugh with them, I even want to shed tears with them when they face difficulties.
I am here, with them, and you [in spirit], as they accomplish a milestone [not matter how large or small]. Myself, my assistants, the therapists in my class, we all smile, clap, cheer when your child makes a leap in their growth, grasping a new concept, skill, or thought!
I saw the uncertainty the first time you met me, came into my room, brought your child. Full of questions, wondering if maybe this was the best thing, wondering how much your child will learn or grow, perhaps even wondering if they will at all.
I saw your sadness when you had to leave them the first day. I know it was the most difficult thing to let go of their hand and walk back out the door.
I know that the first day was the longest 8 hours of your life as you waited for your child. I saw the huge smile and the relief on your face when your child came walking to you at the end of the day.
I saw it. I see it. I know it!
I know it because that was me about 6 years ago. My own son was not quite 3 years old. I was so happy he would be going to a wonderful school that could help him, that could give him even more to help him grow and learn, despite his disabilities.
But it was one of the single hardest things I had to do.
I remember asking one of the teachers [whom I'm not friends with and have known AND work with] "Can I walk him in? Should I walk him in, in case he gets scared?"
She was so kind and gentle, and she told me something that was admittedly tough to hear at first. "We actually find that it is easier on the child to transition into the classroom if you let us take him from you and walk him in."
I can't lie. I was a little heart broken at first. But I did it.
On that first day as he walked hand in hand with that teacher, I had many thoughts running through my head. And of course he was crying. I had to trust that my child would be comforted. That was hard to grasp at first.
Some thoughts I had might even seem silly now. I thought "OH my goodness what if he climbs the fence and runs down into the road?" [even though he had never climbed a fence in his life!]
"What if he gets lost? Will they keep a close eye on him? Will he be feed, changed, played with?"
It was so tough to let someone else care for my child, to let go, to know that he was in perfectly capable hands.
I can't lie. I even drove by the school in the middle of the day just to make sure he wasn't running down the busy street!
I was never so glad to see him at the end of that long day.
The next day got a little easier. And the next, and the next. After about 2 weeks, when I would see him at the end of every day, excited, smiling, and wanting to go back, my heart melted.
As I began seeing improvements, hearing him say words for the first time where he rarely spoke before, when he shared things he learned, I feel in love with the school and with the teachers.
I realized it was the best thing that could have happened to him. I still missed him during the day and I still do as I work and he goes to school. But I've seen how far he's come in 6 years.
I remember a pivotal moment that changed my heart for good. I had never heard my son sing or hum the little children's songs that most children know. And then one day when he was about 4, I heard him singing with his grandmother.
I think the world stopped for several moments.
I knew without a doubt that all the uncertainty, the fear, the questions, the sadness, the struggle, were worth every single moment!
So parents of my students, I want you to know that you are not alone, because your child's teacher has a child of her own [2 actually ;) ], and we have been through the struggle, and still are on the journey.
My promise to you is that your child will be my child for those 8 hours a day. I will teach, care, love, and do everything in my power for them. It is a privilege to be able to teach your child! Thank you!