Dear Ms. B,
My end-of-the-year note to you was an insufficient “thank you” and while I had grand plans to sit and write you the kind of letter that you could pull out twenty years from now and be reminded of how much you mattered, sadly I fell terribly short with that little thank you card.
What I should have told you is that when you walk around that corner each day, holding Corrigan’s hand at pick-up, I see your halo. I know, I know, you don’t think yourself an angel, but to me you are. See, twenty years ago I sat in my college advisor’s office and we talked about my choice to major in education. We spoke at length about which path I would choose and when he brought up Special Education, I visibly cringed. I recall telling him that I knew it took a seriously special person to work with “those kind of kids” and I knew that I did not have the strength of character, or patience, to be that kind of educator..
How ironic, eh?
And while I do okay as a mom of a child with special needs, I still don’t think that anyone would be able to see my halo if I were to try and do the kind of job that you do day in, and day out, with not only great patience, but with tremendous kindness.
I don’t kid myself. While I, of course, think that the sun rises and sets with Corrigan, I know that he was not an easy child to teach these last two years. The fact that you were trying to help him learn, as well as several other special children simultaneously, is mind-boggling to me. And you didn’t just try to teach Corrigan, you absolutely helped him progress in ways that have set the course as he begins Kindergarten next year. Corrigan really is a better child for having you as his teacher.
You have no idea how hard it was to put that boy on the bus two years ago. Most moms feel that apprehension but, as you know, Corrigan came with extra special instructions and while I did my best to prepare the school for him, it really was a huge leap of faith to wave him off. You listened though. You paid attention. I don’t know, maybe you even researched his disorder yourself, but I do know that you took it all very seriously and every time you called me to tell me about another classmate’s fever, or vomiting, in order to warn me about Corrigan’s exposure, my respect for you tripled. You counted every single piece of cereal he ate for two years and always sent that number home to me. You got it and you did your best to protect my boy from the common things that cause uncommon reactions in his body. You were my first line of defense in a school full of germs, and I cannot thank you enough for your vigilance.
I don’t know how you do it and manage to smile every day, but Corrigan never ever showed fear, or reluctance about going to school and I attribute all of that to you. You didn’t know him before, but prior to starting preschool he was a fearful child but you taught him routine and structure and the fact that he wakes up every single day and still asks to go to school is because of the environment you created that allowed him to feel so safe and secure. And to see him walk around the corner each day, with a grin on his face and skip in his step, showed me that he truly enjoyed his school experience. I know that you know how important that is that his early years in school are positive ones.
Finally, I want to thank you for the way that you always tried to be positive about the negative things with Corrigan. Your notes home were always so kindly worded and it means the world to me that you always shared the good things that Corrigan could do at each IEP meeting. You have always believed in him, I remember back when he was three years old and in the first week of school, you told me “He is just so smart!” when I picked him up. You would say that quite frequently and I never quite believed you. Isn’t that awful? It just felt overwhelming, how very far behind we were, but you kept saying that to me, casually but earnestly, and over time I realized that you believed it. Something tells me that you believe that to be true of all of your students, you believe that all of them are capable of learning and succeeding. And because you believed it, slowly so did I. Corrigan is smart. He is capable. He is special and that just means that his path will be different from most others, but as long as he has teachers along his journey as dedicated and loving as you were, he will come out the other end stronger, better and filled to the top with memories of people that believed in him.
He may not remember you twenty years from now, my own memories of my first teachers are so hazy, but I will never forget you. I thank God for putting you in Corrigan’s life and ask Him to lift you up and give you strength to continue on in such a demanding, yet gratifying, line of work. There are so many other kids that will receive the benefit of all that comes with being a student in your class, and I pray that you will be blessed for that which you do so selflessly.
I didn’t know if you wanted your name online, or your photo, but I know that you read here, so I will share this one of Corrigan. This is one happy little boy…thank you.