We stare each other down for what seems like an eternity but in reality is all of thirty seconds. I try so hard not to look away or even blink. Something inside of me is screaming that he can do it and I wait.
His answer is quiet at first and then when repeated gets louder as if he just found some new confidence.
Then it became my turn to react.
The question was how?
Any expression to his response would give it all away. The fact that the answer was wrong didn’t matter. What was to be celebrated was a child who never spoke up or tried anymore had finally put himself out there. I didn’t want it to be the last time.
So what to do?
Calling him to the front using the reasoning of needing his leadership skills to show us how he figured this answer out was the only thing that came to mind. He smiled and his eyes lit up as he moved quicker than usual to the center of attention.
With some guidance, he began writing the numbers out and using blocks to demonstrate his thinking.
And like lightness to darkness, he realized his answer had been wrong.
What came next? How much did it matter?
Another teacher had quietly walked in a few minutes prior. She had worked daily with this student in and out of the classroom. I could see the anxiety on her face because I felt like mine was showing the exact same emotion.
I smiled as I bought time and thought of how to make this moment right for him.
And just as I was about to take a deep breath and figure it all out, I didn’t have to.
He said the answer, the correct answer out loud. He tapped his head and started to laugh. The kids who had been patiently watching because all kids know somehow when they really need to do that, started to cheer.
The teacher in the back and I made eye contact. She called his name and he started to walk out but not before many of his classmates high-fived him. We all knew how far he had come. He was walking out that door to get the extra support he continues to need.
I quietly turned around hiding the tears from my almost third graders and erased the simple first grade math problem knowing that our milestones were far from over.
My mind drifted to the days when I was first learning about education. One of the first things we learn is the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This means that children that receive special education services should learn in the least restrictive environment. This means that they should spend as much time as possible with other students who do not receive special education services.
What would our day have looked like if this didn’t happen?
One student believed in himself.
Students were kind and supportive.
Teachers continued to hope and work even harder.
Tonight, an email would go out to his parents. Knowing how hard they fought for him to get the services he needed, they too had reason to celebrate.
I couldn’t wait to hear their reaction.
There is so much talk about where education is going these days and where it has been. We need to fight for our future which is our children. This post was based on real events but some things changed to protect individuals. I have worked with many special education teachers and regular classroom teachers during my sixteen years of teaching. We all want what is best for these amazing kids that we get to watch grow throughout their experiences in school. Special thanks to Sue and Sally who are two teachers that I have learned so much from and that it made such an impact on my teaching experience.
This post originally appeared on 40 Wishes and Counting. It has been reprinted with permission.
Stacey Waltzer blogs at 40 Wishes and Counting. She is a wife, mom to two adorable crazy kids, and a teacher just trying to keep the “in” out of the insanity that can be her life. When she am not blogging about adventures at 40, mom life, and friendships, you might find her hiding in the closet eating the last piece of cake. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.