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Lesson from the Heart

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I am so touched by the response from so many other new teachers. I have heard from people around the country about their fears and their triumphs as teachers. Thank you; please continue to let me know how it’s going. I like making new friends.

I will tell you more about myself and my educational situation soon, but I have just to make a quick post to share a lesson from yesterday.

I was using email emoticons to introduce a lesson. If you don’t recognize the word, emoticons are the funny smiley faces you can add to your email messages to express emotions. I was helping 9th grade special education English students understand that icons are representations of something else. I had each child pick three emoticons to express how they were feeling during the first days of high school. Then they shared – bored, happy, excited, anxious, sleepy (who wasn’t, at 7:17 in the morning!), aggressive, shy. I also shared what I am feeling. I am satisfied, because I like my classes, my schedule, my job, my marriage, my life. I am excited, because so much good stuff is happening. And I am grieving.

I am grieving. Because while I think about the good things happening for myself, my family, and my students – I am also thinking about Louisiana, and Mississippi, and now the rest of the United States as we try to deal with the devastation of the Hurricane (I can’t even say her name). I know a good teacher shares, and so I told the students about my grief, and how I cry as I see the TV news stories or read a paper. I cry as I read and re-read the email from my niece, a New Orleans refugee now in Texas. My students understood. We live in Chesapeake Bay Country, and two years ago our county was hit by Hurricane Isabelle. There are still people in our area trying to rebuild homes. And Isabelle was not anything compared to what just happened. My students can’t really understand how desperate people are who have lost all they own, and now fear for their lives. But they could understand that there were tears in my eyes, and grief in my heart, for those suffering. And when one of the school clubs came around with a bucket to gather change for the relief effort, my students reached in their pockets and found some.

My niece, Michelle, has lost everything she owns. She and her brother Nick live in New Orleans. Michelle can’t go home to see if anything is left, but she’s watched the news and isn’t fooling herself. She left her car, to drive out her brother’s car. He was out of the country when the storm hit, and hasn’t yet returned. He has nothing to return to – except a car, which his sister saved for him. Michelle left her clothing, her mementos, and her tangible life. She doesn’t have a place to live, she doesn’t have a car, and she doesn’t have a paycheck coming. But because she had a Mom who welcomed her home, she isn’t asking for anything for herself. She has the intangibles she needs – knowing her family is well, youth and the ability to earn a living, and the safe haven a victim needs to recuperate.

Michelle is asking her family and anyone she can reach through the internet, to donate to relief organizations. She wrote to everyone in her address book, “There are many poor areas in New Orleans that are flooded up to the rooftops of 2-3 story buildings. These people need your help. I appreciate all of the love and support that has been offered to us New Orleanians during this time. We loved that city so much and we are all so sad to see it this way. I encourage anyone who possibly can to make a donation to The Red Cross.”

I’m passing on her message. Thank you. Talk to you soon.


8 Comments

Dear Hanne,
My heart breaks along with yours for Michelle, your family and all the other people I have been watching trying to survive throught this disaster and the seeming mis-management and unexpected surprise that a massive storm could destroy an entire area of our country.
My principal's family has been affected by this horror and as she awaits word on their safety we are starting a fund at my school to help out. I'm not sure how many states have ShopRite supermarkets but that chain is collecting money for a relief fund and I just returned from donating blood, which is short supply all over the country.
We as teachers are often a lifeline of support for so many of our students. Perhaps there is a way that school districts can pool resources (excess supplies, textbooks that will not be needed, etc.) and get them to the make-shift schools that will be springing up or to the districts in Houston that are taking on the added burden of supplying an education for children that right now have nothing else going for them.
We are starting a new school year, the people we are watching are trying to start new lives. Michelle and the rest of your family will be in my prayers. I wish them the best of luck. Keep going, Hanne - we CAN DO IT!!

You're doing a great job Mom! You've said some awesome things, glad your embracing technology!

Dear Hanne,
Congratulations on your career change! I left nursing after 25 years to return to college and earn a degree in Special Education/Reading. I'm now in my 6th year of teaching 7/8th graders (who have been diagnosed as emotionally disabled). It is definitely a stressful and challenging career, but I love it! Just be sure to make time for yourself everyday - even if only a few minutes. Best wishes for a productive new school year.

I am a Resource Technician working hard on my BS to become a Resource Teacher. I am starting this new career at the age of 68. I have worked with various degrees of learning disabilities for 3 years under the direction of a great Resource Teacher in 1st and 2nd grade rooms. I have a 19 year old grandson with severe disabilities that through the years taught me the patients, understanding and unconditional love needed for this work. I love what I do and cannot wait until I have the knowledge and skills to have my first day in my classroom with Gods special children.

Dear Hanne and Sharon, I too started over late in life. I left nursing after 20 years and received a degree in psychology and then took that into special education. I teach at a middle school and I am finding my true niche in life. I was terrified, but survived my first year with the "kids" and love them. I appreciate that you are sharing yourselves this way. It is a true inspiration to me and others (I'm sure) who are trying to make a difference in such a complicated and often constipated system!!! Have a great year, Jan

Dear Hanne and Sharon, I too started over late in life. I left nursing after 20 years and received a degree in psychology and then took that into special education. I teach at a middle school and I am finding my true niche in life. I was terrified, but survived my first year with the "kids" and love them. I appreciate that you are sharing yourselves this way. It is a true inspiration to me and others (I'm sure) who are trying to make a difference in such a complicated and often constipated system!!! Have a great year, Jan

Unlike you, I was a high-school drop out. I worked restaurants and factories for twenty years; raising two children alone. I was given a new chance at age 36, along with a new baby. (Before Murphy Brown, thank you.)
I went to college at age 38, and was given my first class room when I was 44.
I taught K-3 special ed, LD/BD for seven years. My new baby came with a seisure disorder which eased into ADHD in the second grade, and Asperger's disorder in the ninth grade.
I was finally forced into resignation after seven years of teaching my heart out.
Special ed, public schools, and civil rights don't jive. I was fighting the system for my students and my child everyday. NCLB would be great if it made sense, if they ever took time to explain changes, and if the Feds had ever given us even an idea (pun intended) of how to pay for it. My system couldn't pay for the things I saw as our rights. I got booted for insubordination.
Now my only solution is to leave this home of twenty-five years in hopes of a new start in another school system. After all now I have a Master's in Inter-Related Special Ed. I'm needed everywhere, right?
No, they see us as the rabel rousers, and the new highly qualified teacher standards have devalued my placement options.
No, now I'm 53, and months of crying over the heart ache caused by being pushed out has put way too much weight on my frame.
Pray for me, I still owe 13,000 in student loans, for a professional license that will expire next year.

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