Posts Tagged ‘working with kids’

Dear Parents (from someone who works with your kids)

Dear parentsI read a blog post the other day written by a parent of a child with special needs. The post is titled Think Before You Judge An Autism Parent: Until You’ve Walked in My Shoes and it covered two main topics – one, don’t judge the parents of children with special needs because, quite simply, you have no idea what their lives look like or what their children need, and two, health care providers, child care providers, behavioral health workers, mental health professionals, etc. don’t care about your child – they just want to shove meds on your kids and collect their checks at the end of the week.

To point one – I 1,000% agree . . . 10,000%, 100,000% . . . . as much as you possibly fathom an exaggeration of completely effing agree, that’s how much I agree. Though I would elaborate to say that we need to stop judging parents all together. Whether it’s a rowdy kid in a supermarket or a tantrum in a restaurant . . . or whatever . . . as the person standing on the sidelines, we have NO IDEA what the situation is really about and we would do well to remember that.

It’s the second point that I’d really like to address in this open letter. The one that says that we don’t care about your kids. I have worked with children, both with and without special needs, in several different capacities for 20 years. I babysit, provided personal behavioral support, I taught elementary school kids in both special education and general education, I taught preschool, worked at an afterschool program, and am currently a therapeutic support staff for children with behavioral health needs. . . . I won’t lie and say that I’ve loved all of the children I’ve worked with. I won’t even say that I’ve liked all of them. What I will say, quite emphatically, is that I have, without a doubt, cared about every single one of them.

I’ve never looked to blame parents, ignore parents, get parents in trouble, or in any way make parents’ lives more difficult. In fact, I’ve always tried to do the exact opposite . . . listen, take everything they say into consideration, and help make their lives easier, if at all possible.

I know that all of us aren’t like this. I know there are bad teachers and bad therapists and bad doctors and, well, bad everything out there. I’ve seen people who were supposed to be working with kids sit and play on cell phones all day. I’ve read about teachers who say things like this. I will not discount the author’s experiences, though they do sadden me. But I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one who cares . . . . and it’s heartbreaking to think that some parents may avoid getting services for their children because they think anyone who is paid to work with them doesn’t care.

Here’s the thing. Yes, it’s my job. Yes, I collect a paycheck for what I do. But honestly? I could make more as a waitress . . . . and without the stress of being cursed out by preschoolers or almost having my nose broken by a 12-year-old or cleaning feces off of playroom walls. I’m not in this for the money. I need what little I make to live, but I do what I do because I care about your kids.

I really can’t stress that enough. I care about your kids. I care about how they’re feeling and it makes me sad when they’re upset. I care their progress and light up when I see them achieve a new success. I care about what I can do to help them succeed . . . so much so that I think about it on the bus on the way home and talk about it while eating dinner and even get out of bed write down some new ideas to try the next day.

So, please, all I ask is that you don’t judge us . . . . in the same way that we should not judge you. We’re not the enemy. And the best way to help your children is if we work together.

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I miss working with kids

I started babysitting when I was 14 years old. By the time I was 15, I had four on-going jobs. I also started working as a bagger at Genuardi’s. The parents of the kids I babysat shopped at that Genuardi’s. I was “talked to” on a few occasions for abandoning my work to play with my kids!

In college I started working with kids with autism. I worked for four different families over three years. I went from playmate to teacher, and I relished the role. I also had three practicums and my student teaching experience in college. I became attached to my kids every single time.

When my daughter was an infant, I taught preschool. I loved my job. I couldn’t stand the center where I worked, but I loved my kids and I loved teaching them. I would experience an immense amount of excitement every time I created a new lesson. That excitement would only grow as I watched my students learn and enjoy learning.

I haven’t worked with kids in five years. Of course, I have my daughter – and that’s no small thing. She’s awesome. She keeps me on my toes and lights up my life. I haven’t let my education background go to waste. Just as I am always a writer, I am always a teacher. That joy I feel what I see my daughter “get it” is the same joy I felt when my students would “get it.”

Still, I miss working with kids. I miss making a difference in the lives of children. These feelings have been exaggerated lately. I’ve been rather active in my daughter’s schooling. I enjoy talking with her classmates. Here’s a couple snippets of conversations we had while traveling on field trips.

“Abby’s mom?” one little boy asked.

“Yes?” I responded.

“Do you know all the days?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you smart?”

I told him that I’d like to think that I am. He told me that he’s smart because he works hard, and his mom says that if you work hard, you’ll get smart. I told him, “That is very true. I can tell that you’re very smart.” He smiles.

“Miss Dayle! Miss Dayle!” one little girl exclaimed.

I asked what she wanted to tell me and she did (though for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was). Then I said, “thank you.” She looked at me funny.

“Thank you for remembering my name,” I said. She continued to look at me funny. I said, “Everyone calls me Abby’s mom, but you remembered my name. I appreciate it.”

She smiled and started laughing. She then repeated my name a few times, making sure to draw out the “L” and said, “It’s funny.”

I smiled and said, “Yes it is!”

I went home that day and thought about the conversations I’ve had with children over the years.

I thought about the monosyllabic 12-year-old with autism who said “Merry Christmas” to me when I left on break.

I thought about the beautifully dimpled preschooler (who I deemed my future son-in-law) that I just could not stay mad at because he would look at me, smile, and say, “Miss Dayle, your hair looks pretty today.”

I thought about every smile, every “Aha!” moment, and every hug.

I adore my daughter, but I miss working with kids . . . plural . . . Each child offers something new. Each child teaches me something new. See, I’m not just their teacher; I’m a learner too. And the lessons I learn from children are lessons I could never learn from anywhere else.

I printed out a volunteer application for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). It’s going in the mail tomorrow. I know it won’t be an easy job. I know that emotionally it’s going to tear at me. I also know that I’m ready for the lessons those children will teach me. I want to make a difference in their lives . . . I know they will make a difference in mine.