Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Tommy taught me

   This post is the story of one of my students who I've worked with a lot this year, let's call him Tommy. He has really changed my thinking about my job and I am very thankful for that.  Tommy is a young elementary student who I serve in my classroom for 75% of the school day.  He does get to go to enrichment, recess, lunch and science with his regular class but the rest of the day he is with me.  Often, it is just Tommy and I working together in my classroom.  You would think Tommy would progress immensely with so much time working one on one with me.  This hasn't been the case this year.  We are still working on name recognition, counting to 20, letter formation and other IEP goals.   During the first half of the year I was so motivated to do whatever I could to help him learn.  One day I assessed him and he could recognize all of his letter sounds! We celebrated big time as this was a huge accomplishment for him.
       After winter break, he came back to me and it was as if everything we had learned before break just completely left him.  This was hard for me to accept because even after weeks of review, he still was not getting back what I once thought he had learned.  For a while I kept trying new ways to teach him; visual cues, kinestic games, incorporating his favorite super heroes, anything and everything I could think of I tried.  Eventually, I became frustrated that it seemed like he would never learn the basic things I wanted him to.  I began to give up on him and thought things like, well this behavior support class is not the right placement for him, he needs a different placement where he can work on more functional goals and less academic goals.  I started to lower the expectations I had for him.  I would even get mad at some of the behaviors he presented just because I was upset I had to deal with him and the fact that he also didn't seem to be showing any academic progress.
     Not long ago Tommy charged me with a hug and told me thank you for reading with him.  In that moment, I felt very guilty for the attitude I had towards him lately.  I thought, how can I be frustrated with a little boy who I know is 100 times more frustrated than I am.  Have I tried every single strategy out there to help him? No, so I can not give up on him and I certainly can not be upset with him.

     The point in me posting the story of Tommy is to remind us all to NEVER give up on a child. You may not even realize you have given up.  It took me a while to realize my own attitude was affecting how much effort I was putting into teaching Tommy. While it may be true that Tommy will need a life skills class in the future rather than a behavior support class, it is my job now to try everything in my power to help him learn.  It is going to take A LOT of effort on my part to come up with new strategies to teach him.  It's going to take a lot of time, maybe even some money to buy the resources best suited for him, but I can promise little Tommy that I will always believe in him. Tommy waits for me at the top of the hallway every morning, counting on me to be there for him.  I want to really show up for him from now on.

      So my challenge to you is to think about your classroom and decide if there is a student you may be starting to give up on.  Is there a student who you are allowing to sit and do nothing, just because nothing is better than arguing with him?  Is there a student who you've stopped practicing multiplication facts with because he still can't pass his two's tables quiz?  Is there a student who you send to another teachers room constantly because you just can't deal with his behavior another day? Trust me, I know how discouraging it can be to have tried what seems like everything and still not see progress.  Whenever you feel like you've ran out of ideas, talk to someone else at school to bounce ideas off of.  If that doesn't work, get online and research new strategies.  I have found lots of twitter groups, facebook groups, message boards, etc for collaborating with other teachers.  Don't let your students see you discouraged.  Most importantly, don't give up on any child because you just might be the only person who believes in them.


  1. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear! Thank you for posting this and giving me the push I need to look at a student with a new perspective and try something new!

  2. Hi again Jamie,

    I have nominated you for the Liebster Award. Come on over to my blog to find out more information.

    Take care!

  3. Hi Jamie, I love your blog! I'm currently hosting a giveaway and was hoping you would be so kind to donate a product. It's a fundraiser for Autism that will take place from April 1 -30. Please hop on over to my blog for more info.
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