At the end of my Freshman year, my English teacher assigned us a project to research a career we would possibly like to have after college.
I guess you could say I’m a philanthropist (probably my inner Girl Scout shining through). I am also fond of teaching and helping others, so naturally I did some research on being a teacher. While researching teaching jobs, I stumbled upon the career of a Special Education Teacher. I instantly knew this would be a perfect fit for me, combining my love of helping others, teaching, and working with unique people.
Towards the end of my Sophomore year, I was watching our school’s bi-weekly video news segment. It featured an advertisement from the Special Education department seeking peer tutors to assist disabled students in the classroom. That same day, I went to my guidance counselor and added that class to my schedule for the upcoming school year.
On the first day of the new school year, I was greeted by the Special Ed. teacher, who briefly indoctrinated me about what to expect from the students. We headed to the Theater room, where he explained that the Special Ed. class was mixed in with a Theater One class. He then paired me with an autistic boy who had just started high school, whom I now work with every day during that period.
So far I’ve only been in school a few weeks, but I feel as if I have been working with these students for a long period of time. Each one has an unique personality and a story to tell. I often think I’m learning more from them than are from me. Seeing their smiles light up gives me such an indescribably wonderful feeling. They all have positive attitudes and a strong motivation to learn. They want to interact with other kids, exploring the world around them. And that’s exactly what FVHS’s Special Ed. program does.
I recently read an essay titled The Box Man by Barbara Lazear Ascher. In this particular essay, she narrates about a man who is content with his lifestyle; he collects boxes, cleverly using them to create a home for himself. Ascher then compares his lifestyle to that of a lonely older woman who is disconnected from her family and has lost her friends. These two contrasting characters prove Ascher’s message of the essay; she writes, “One could do worse than be a collector of boxes.” She believes that though the Box Man doesn’t have much, he makes do with what he has and is happy with that. However, it is the opposite for the lonely lady. She’s retired and has money, but she finds herself in deep sorrow.
I believe that, like the Box Man, the Special Ed. students find happiness in the simplest of places. One day last week, I wore a shirt that had characters from the Disney movie “Frozen.” When the students saw me wearing the shirt, they instantly became gleeful and pointed, sparking a conversation about the movie with me. Also, whenever I work with the autistic boy, he always laughs and smiles whenever he plays games on the school Chrome Book.
It breaks my heart when I see these kids walking around campus alone. I often say a simple “Hi!” whenever I see them and have brief conversations with them about their day. One of the students I tutor came up to me at lunch one day and asked me if I knew any Freshman. I told him I knew a few; he then replied saying he was looking for some friends his age to hang out with.
These kids try so hard to be like all the other kids; they constantly try to fit in with the crowd. Although many people may think that Special Ed. students are not as capable as other students, that is purely conjecture. If high school is tough for me, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for these students. However, these students are strong. They hold the weight of the world on their shoulders. I believe each of the Special Ed. students are incredibly beautiful because of this. It’s not what’s on the outside that makes them so amazing; its what’s truly on the inside.
These young people always try their best and put their best foot forward. They find happiness in the tiniest, simplest things. That’s why I aspire to be like them. Their motivation to excel is something I admire.
I was helping one student fill out a questionnaire and one of the questions was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The student wrote, “A cowboy” on his paper. The thing that really matters is that he has a goal he is setting for himself.
I know I will continue to learn from these students, for the school year has only just begun. I hope to document more of my experiences soon. For now, all I know is that these kids are really something special; their hearts are as big as the biggest thing you can think of. It’s difficult to describe these students, but they continue to make me smile every day.
I can proudly say becoming a peer tutor has been one of the greatest things I have done in my high school career so far. This experience has brought me an incredible amount of happiness, some of which I hope I can give back to these students.