I have spent the last 2 weeks or so prepping for the end of the year, writing reports, organizing papers, giving assessments, reflecting on the year and prepping what I will say to each of my students’ parents at conferencing. It’s a hard time of year. I am looking at work from the beginning of the year as compared to now, I am looking at assessments, I am looking at my students…what do I see?
I see those scores that don’t show enough or any gains, I see the things the parents will wonder why there is so little progress for, I see a line of development that seems miniscule…I see my failure as an educator. This is what paper shows me.
Then I enter my classroom…then I engage with my students, I see confidence, I see hope, I see the progress that while small, is monumental to them. I see the desire to keep fighting the good fight that all students with learning disabilities need to maintain. I see the growth that paper and pencil can’t show. This is what I need to write in those reports, this is what I need parents to hear, but is it real?
If you are an educator working with kids with learning differences, I am sure you can relate. We see it, we feel it, but we know that the data does not show it. Is it wrong to find excitement and purpose in those anecdotal and informal moments of learning? To me, those are poignant. My students have learning disabilities, no doubt about it. Learning for some will always be a monumental struggle and that is the nature of the beast. But is that enough to say I have done my job for the year?
I can’t answer that, and I am not sure anyone can; however, it is my job to highlight the successes, even if small for my students. I need to be their cheerleader to the fact that while paper may deem them disabled, I deem them as rock stars for all the hard work and dedication they put in each day to struggle with what is beyond their control.
While every year I am left beating myself up thinking there was more to be done, I need to truly see where my students began and where they ended in real time. Learning disabilities are not something to be fixed, they are the nature of who my students are, and if I can help them feel even small success in a learning space that for them seems like Mount Everest, then maybe I have just done my job. They need to be LD proud and I need to be proud to have a time to interact and impact them, and accept what I cannot change to the grandiose measure I would like.
Teaching my students is a choice, a conscientious choice, that while at moments leaves me beating myself up, more often, leaves me proud and heartened that I can know them, be part of them, and hopefully make some difference in their lives. At the end of this year, and every year, I can hopefully get others to see, what I see, that they have done the work, they have put in the sweat and often tears, and that they should not be seen as numbers, nor as their disability, but amazing kids who work hard everyday to find their path.