Disclosure: I was provided $25 by our sponsor ALDI to purchase a backpack and school supplies. I was not compensated in any other way for this post.
3 Lessons I Learned About Building Self Esteem as a Teacher of Special Education
The hallways echo with noise of laughter and groans. News of what is hot and what isn’t. Who is with her and who likes him? What happened over the summer and what didn’t. The desks are settled in straight lines facing the black board that had seen many years of use. There are 3 rows of 4 desks some that could use repair but scrubbed and disinfected over and over again in anticipation of the person who would fill them. The smell of the lemon floor cleaner mixed with that strong window cleaner penetrates my nose.
I am waiting for my first student to enter my fourth grade class. The classroom is a bit hot or it may be my nerves are on edge. This classroom is a portable and held together firmly with duck tape. It is one of many classrooms I have taught in as a military spouse. The story is still the same the first day is always filled with both anticipation and fear. Will this be a good year? I looked at my case load and the work load is seemingly overwhelming but I can do this. I have to do this. I have to be the person to help each child be the best version of themselves. I will spend many nights waking up and writing on the note pad by my bed. I am not sure why I get my best ideas in the middle of the night. The ones that you need to write down because in the morning you will forget what you wanted to remember but I do. I get those ideas that change a child’s perspective about themselves. Those ideas that take that child from thinking about a solution to being able to explain how they achieved their results. You get those inspirations that make the impact you knew you would have back in college when you decided teaching would be your career.
I realized early on in my career that it was not only my job to help students learn about math, reading, spelling, history, science, and social studies but it was my job to help students learn to love themselves. The first thing I did when I started each school year is I shared my story. I told the children what I was like as a teacher. I explained how hard I had to study. How my sister could look at things once and get them. I told them how I make my letters backwards sometimes and I read in the wrong order in my head but somehow my brain can correct it before it flies out of my mouth. I told them sometimes I would say the wrong word because my brain didn’t catch up to my quick mouth. I told them I wasn’t perfect. I wanted them to see me as a learner, as a student, and as someone who worked with my disabilities and turned them into abilities. I shared that I can read perfectly well upside down so being a teacher was a wonderful option since you are usually looking at a paper upside down. I told them I worked on my memory like a weight lifter works on lifting weights to make it stronger. I told them I also went to a room to get help and look now I am in charge of the room giving help. I told them who I was so they knew it was possible to overcome.
The next lesson I learned was looking for the gifts each child has. I told the students it was my job to find out what they were good at and help them use their gifts. It was like magic because knowledge gives you power. I asked each student what they liked to do and what they were good at. I had papers turned in without any information. I came in the next day with “glasses” on they were glasses that could detect greatness. That day after our instruction and learning activity I filled in the blanks for children who couldn’t see their greatness. I gave them their paper back and asked if they saw what I saw. If they didn’t they wore my glasses and reexamined themselves. The lesson is always be the one that seeks greatness and reminds those students they have super powers.
The last lesson that I learned and one that inspired me to start a movement was helping my students start on equal playing field. I noticed that several of my students came to school without the tools to do their job. I can’t imagine a mechanic without a wrench or a doctor without a stethoscope. These children usually had a pencil but not much else. I knew then and there that I would buy everyone in my class school supplies. I believed that with each pencil box I placed in their desk they knew that someone believe in them. That each notebook meant I knew they could fill them. I still believe that each backpack I fill isn’t just filled with school supplies but it is filled with self esteem because sometimes we just need one person to remind us that we are good enough and that we deserve to have the tools to do our job. I always put a note in there for each student encouraging them to achieve their dreams it is just a pencil to some and to others it is the answer they were searching for.
I would like to thank ALDI for helping me fill backpacks this year. I appreciate their commitment to helping out in the community, their drive to produce a community of people who believe in their abilities. I still believe every person has the opportunity to empower someone else. I ask that you too fill a backpack this school season and drop it off at a local school. Don’t you want to be the person that shows a child how worthy and exceptional they are.