After a (what was supposed to be) brief hiatus, I’m finally back at my computer to write. The holidays came and went fast but left me scrambling to get myself organized at work again. The New Year meant taking on another program – which brings me up to three. I can’t promise that I’m ever completely organized, but don’t they say that being unorganized is simply a trait of being a creative person? I may have made that up, but I’m choosing to believe it anyway.
Cherish the Little Bits
A break from work is always fantastic, even when you cherish the little bits about your job, or jobs, rather. I got to spend ten days with my family and friends back at home, and it was excellent as always. But, on Monday, I went back to my first classroom meeting after not having them for the prior three weeks. It was so nice to see my students again. I can’t say for sure they felt the same way since they had to be back at school, but at least, they made pretty earnest attempts to return my excitement.
This school year marks the end of many of my relationships with them. I have a pretty large number of seniors. Despite my sincere efforts to keep in touch via texts or Facebook, the sad truth is that many of them will just leave my program behind as a piece of high school that they don’t need to take with them once they leave. I understand, but I know that the transition from high school is different for students with disabilities. I, for example, could go to any school I chose assuming I would be accepted. I didn’t have to worry about learning accommodations because I didn’t have a learning disability. I didn’t have to map out the campus to ensure I could easily get into buildings or fit a wheelchair through every necessary door.
Their support teams will be entirely different. Many professors are understanding and helpful, but it isn’t necessarily required for them to spend an exorbitant amount of time paying particular attention to someone who has special needs and it may not even be feasible. One of the lessons I will teach them all is that college life will be different from high school by leaps and bounds, and they will need to self-advocate quite often. This sometimes worries them and always worries me. I don’t want their chances to succeed to be diminished even slightly.
Luckily, the kids I work with are all pretty determined and cherish the little bits in their own unique ways. Every situation is different, but they always prove to be stronger than they might let on – whether it be with school, jobs, or their personal lives. One of my former students that graduated is expecting a baby this spring. When she first told me, I was devastated. Her home and financial lives were not conducive to bringing in a new child. In my opinion, she was too young and just not ready for this piece of her life to start. She considers me her mentor, and I consider her my mentee.
I invited her to go for dinner after I found out and when we sat down, she was in good spirits after seeming upset when she broke the news. In fact, she appeared to be in a better mood than the past five times I had seen her. She was calm; she knew it would be difficult, she knew the timing wasn’t perfect, but she knew she would be alright. The father decided not to be in the picture, and she brushed it off as his loss and decided that she would keep working, possibly seeking a better paying job, and prepare herself the best she could.
She excitedly told me the names she picked out and asked my opinion on them over chips and queso. I got teary eyed and told her she was going to be okay. She agreed. Besides, I had seen her with her younger siblings, and her level of patience and sweetness rivaled Mother Teresa. I worried about her but then I could see that she is going to be a great mother. She had a goal and something to work hard for and she was determined to do it. She understands what it means to cherish the little bits.
I know I can love the baby more than some married women who have a husband, a house, and a career, you know? Those things don’t always mean everything is perfect. We might struggle for a while but not forever.
She’s right. We finished up with dinner, and she sheepishly asked if the leftover appetizers could go home with her.
Only until the baby comes. Then we flip for them. I’ll share now since you’re eating for two. But after that? Game on.
I know I don’t have to worry about this one. I’ll be there for her nevertheless, just like all of my other students who choose to keep me in their lives once they leave, even if just a little bit. I’ll cherish the little bits.