500 Words Per Day: No Math, No Calculations, No Counting

There I was: at work, not so much enjoying my day. The day didn't start off too well. It didn't continue too well either. There is so much to do and so many distractions. People coming in and taking students off for therapy, phones ringing, school psychologist stopping in and handing me a stack of papers that I have to complete on one of my students. There's always so many things going on in the room at any given moment.

It's not so much mayhem, but neither is it much less. I kind of like it that way. I always have at least an idea of what we are doing in the room, but to the uninitiated it probably appears like a three-ring circus inside a whirlwind trapped in a teapot.

So there I was, working, wondering–trying to imagine how it is that I can either repair some broken relationships among my colleagues or make them worse or just leave well enough alone. I'm really good at making matters worse, but I've been working hard to make things better. I take my work very seriously, but I confess that most of the time working in special-education feels much like an being naked-and-afraid on a deserted island. That being said, I get lonely at times for adult companionship at work–perhaps many other teachers feel the same way, but I'm willing to bet that it is just a wee bit worse for male teachers working in special education.

I confess to the sin of second period self-pity.

I was working with a student, a little girl to be exact, and I was feeling a bit salty about some things. Then, while watching her work, a thought occured to me that significantly brightened and changed my day: she was working; working hard. I had given her a paper to complete which contained about 40 math problems. They started out very simple and became increasingly more difficult as the paper went along. Out of the 40 or so problems, she managed to get exactly one, the first one, correct. After that it was all a complete guessing game–no math, no calcuations, no counting, just writing numbers on the lines.

I watched her write every one of those numbers; you know why? Because she was writing those numbers to please me. She was working about as hard as a person who had no idea what they were doing could. She was not for a minute going to return a paper to me that didn't have a number on every provided blank answer space. She was writing with the intensity of a professional athlete. If we gave grades based on effort, determination and intensity, she would have passed with flying colors.

It was at that moment that I realized that nothing else about my job matters except that little girl (who represented all the students I work with and for each day.)

At school, it's only about my students. Her smile melted me. I have much to learn.

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