Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Magic of Joshua's Classroom

My son's classroom is a magical, beautiful, loud, chaotic, overwhelming and profound place.  8 adults (an amazing teacher and 7 assistants) spend the day together trying to educate 9 children   who have varying disabilities. Most of these children are non-verbal and several are non-ambulatory.  Most of them wear diapers. Two of them have many seizures throughout the day. Each of them have an IEP (individualized education plan) so the cirriculum seems to be as diverse and complex as each of these kids.  A myriad of specialists, such as an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, an adaptive physical education teacher, a vision therapist, an orientation and mobility specialist and a music therapist, come in and out of the class (or pull kids out to work in other rooms) at various points in the day.

Conducting this crazy symphony is Suzanne, the teacher. Suzanne is one of the most hard working, dedicated teachers I have ever encountered.  I get emails from her at 5:45am and I know that she's already at work.  Not only does she know what's going on for each child, she also manages and trains each of the aides in the class.  Everyone agrees that she does a fabulous job.  Personally, I think that special education teachers deserve an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii every summer.  I wish that our society valued these hard working maestros appropriately.

The most amazing thing to me is that, in the midst of such high challenges, these kids are, indeed, learning. Life skills are being acquired.  A caring community has formed.  Milestones are celebrated together.  A routine has been developed and embraced.  Josh has come such a long way this year in terms of acquiring many skills for learning and independence.  Every morning, he comes in, puts his jacket and backpack away in his cubby, puts his lunchbox on a cart, and checks his daily schedule so he can get to work.  A well-run special education class room is a thing of mysterious beauty.

A few weeks ago, one of the aides, Junior, became a US citizen so the class threw him a party.  All of the kids dressed in red, white and blue.  I don't think that the kids quite understood what was going on but they were excited and happy.  I think that the kids pick up on the sense of belonging and unity that pervades this class.

Soon, I will attend a meeting to plan Joshua's transition to middle school next year (!)  As I reflect on the education that Josh has received this year, I find myself filled with gratefulness.


  1. I feel blessed that my son Daniel has a classroom like this at the preschool a block from our house. His teacher Marian is the awesomest person I know and she loves her kids like her own. I'll run into his aides at the supermarket and they'll tell me stories about Daniel with animated faces. Special ed teachers are angels on earth.

  2. What a wonderful picture you give us of Joshua's classroom. Thank you.

  3. I'm humbled by your posts every single time!!! As a parent and as a teacher. You always make me stop and think. Love you!