Firstly, sorry I have not been on the blog wagon in quite awhile, but during the school year I put so much into what I do I often don’t leave myself much room.(THIS MUST CHANGE) Summer, however is a good time not only to decompress a bit, but more importantly REFLECT! I can reflect on some of the things the past year I did ok on and some of the things I went royally wrong on! I must tweak, change, and adapt as the years go to do my best to meet the many student needs. REFLECTION time is key!
Sadly for me, when a year ends another crew I grew fond of graduates 8th grade and heads into what sometimes could be a HIGH SCHOOL ABYSS!! As “Dan, Dan the Scienceman” I can only hope that I helped send them into it with a few useful tools, along with CURIOSITY and RESPECT for what surrounds them. We say our “goodbyes/keep in touches” and off they go. I have only a slight trust that I have inspired at least a couple in the lot. Honestly, though as I reflect, I forget how essential it is to make sure they know how THEY have INSPIRED me!! 14 years ago when I stage-dove into special education I had grandiose ideas about changing the world and inspiring the multitude. What I never expected was the inverse and how much this career choice and students would impact and change ME!
I had always been concerned with the effect I had on others and it wasn’t until teaching that I recognized the effect others had on ME!! In turn this has helped my influence TREMENDOUSLY! I am blessed to work with individuals with learning challenges. I have learned way more from these folks than I believe I’d ever be able to teach! They have been some of the bravest, most amazing individuals to encounter at such young ages. Many must take an hour or more journey from their friends and neighborhoods to enter an entirely new environment to try and learn all over again. Many have been beat up a bunch, literally and academically, for a new start at learning. They must start over, build new relationships and make new attempts at succeeding. Just mustering a smile may be hard enough, but time in and time again I see PURE COURAGE! I see them show up. I see them work. I see them fight the best they can. I see them learn. You see it’s not always about overcoming these challenges because the challenges aren’t going away. It’s usually about working through the challenges, (keyword being WORKING). WARNING: OVERLY-USED CLICHE’D METAPHOR AHEAD We are all given a hand to play in this poker game of life. Many times it’s a bad deal, but we can play it through sometimes BLUFFING to win if need be. The only other option is folding and walking away.
Folding is the idea of giving up on what the world has to offer. Folding be done in many ways. Tragically, this can be done by immediate suicide or more often a long-term , slow death through some destructive escapism. Folding can be as simple as living an unrealized life filled with fear and loneliness.
Sadly, I have seen this too.
It has almost been me as I have had to play on with a not so great deal, being born with Muscular Dystrophy. My physical challenge has been and will always be there for and with me. Many an occasion, from my childhood to adulthood I have come dangerously close to a fold. With every labored step I take and fall I make, I am reminded of what I cannot do physically. Without getting too personal, most of my life giving in to self-pity became very easy and in my past (mostly prior to teaching) made some poor decisions. I’d like to think though what has actually kept me from giving up has been a little voice in the back of my mind. The whispering voice of any other individual I may encounter in life saying that the decision of me not throwing in my cards could one day be a positive influence and maybe inspire them.
Here is the twist. It has been my teaching that has been my therapy. We like to say that good teaching is good therapy for our students, but who knew it’d also be for the teacher!! It has been my experiences with students PLAYING/WORKING THROUGH a bad deal that continues to shape my teaching… and my life. I thought it was going to be my story that would “SAVE” others but in fact it is the direct influence of my students that have SAVED mine.
It is and always will be day by day… I still have some doubts and unfortunately have struggled with the idea of folding the cards and not playing through. Then once in a while something AMAZING happens! Like this letter I just received from a past student:
“Dan, Dan the Science Man!
It has been far too long since we have last talked and I am sorry for that, but I had some very important news that I needed to tell you. I wanted to let you know that as of Friday the 6/28, I am a college graduate! I graduated from DeVry University with a Bachelors of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology. This has been a long ride that all started at the *School and in your classroom and I very happy to report on how far I have made it. As of now, I don’t yet have a job lined up but its only a matter of time and I like the idea of having a little time off after going straight through for four years. ‘I do have to say this, YES, you have made a great positive impact on many of the things I have done and will do. I have always liked science and learning (for the most part) but your classes and after school program is really what helped to shape my way of thinking and I know I would not have done many of the things that made me the person I am today. This is why to this day I’m still talking about your classes with my friends and family.’ I hope all is well and that I will you hear from you soon. Have a great summer!”
I was blown away by this! It is so very nice to have some validation in what I do. More importantly, I had to immediately make sure he knew what this and he meant to me! This was my response to him:
“CONGRATS and THANK YOU!! I want to make sure though that you know that I am glad I had a positive influence on you. It is YOU and the many students that have inspired and continue to INSPIRE me!! You folks have been some of the bravest strongest individuals I have ever met and I thank you!! You inspire me to be a better teacher and know that in this world we all have effect on others so let us make it positive!!!… You are amazing my man! I must say I would love to hear more about your projects I would also love to have you come in once in awhile and talk with my students they’d be as intrigued as I am! I’m very proud of you and you have always been an inspiration in my teaching! You da man!!”
I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO INSPIRE OTHERS,
NOW I JUST HOPE OTHERS KNOW HOW MUCH THEY INSPIRE ME!!