Dear Superintendent of Schools

December 17, 2012

Dear Superintendent of Schools

Dear Superintendent of Schools To:  The Superintendent of Schools Subject:  Mrs. __________’s Note Home CC:   Mrs. _____________, the School Principal, the Director of ESE, school district administration, all School Board Members BCC:  Flappiness Is, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet Dear Superintendent: Congratulations on your recent election to the office of Superintendent of Schools for our county. I know that you have been in office just a few days.  And I am positive that right now everyone wants something from you, questions answered, or to elicit your support for their personal concerns.  I am happy to say that I do not need for you to do anything for me.  Well, not at this time anyway. What I would like to do is draw your attention to one of the 9000 employees of your district.  Her name is Mrs. _____________, and she teaches at ________________ Elementary.   Mrs. ___________ is my son Callum’s teacher. Callum is a sweet, snuggly, 3 year-old boy --who happens to be autistic.  At this time, he is mostly non-verbal.   Earlier this year, just following his birthday, he became eligible for our county’s ESE pre-school program.  Shortly thereafter --and following multiple recommendations from fellow teachers in the county --I chose this teacher –specifically-- and enrolled him at her school. Every mother who has ever taken her child to school for the very first time is a little nervous.  I know that you are a mother as well, so I am sure you remember this feeling.  I remember it with my older child.  I guess it is a rite of passage for every parent. But handing over to a stranger a child who cannot speak to defend himself, cannot ask for what he needs, and cannot communicate what has happened in his day is an experience that cannot adequately be understood --unless you have done it yourself.  It is a whole new level of trust and fear. I expected her to do her job.  I expected her to follow his IEP, to teach using effective methods, and to take care of him. What I didn’t expect was her personal cell phone number.  I didn’t expect for her to text me within his first few hours in her class to calm this anxious mama and tell me all was well.  I didn’t expect for her to contact me when he was out sick to ask about him and tell us she missed him.  I didn’t expect her to excitedly text me the first time he told the class “Good job!” A few weeks ago, I received a handwritten note from Mrs. _______.  It read:

Today at recess, 2 of my treasures said, “Come on Callum, let’s play” and off the 3 ran together to play in the boat.  I was thrilled that they asked and that Callum went with them. Brought tears to my eyes.

I read the note several times.  I texted a picture of it to friends and family.  And I cried.  I cried because someone else sees and loves the child that I love.  I cried because two little ones wanted my baby to play with them, even though typical children often shy away from his odd behavior.  I cried because his going with them means hope for his future.  I cried because, if not for this note, I would never have been able to hold this moment in my heart.  Her note was a priceless gift. Superintendent __________, you can require background checks on every potential hire.  You can interview them ask their philosophy of education, preferred teaching styles, and extracurricular interests.   But you can’t screen an applicant for a true love of special-needs children.  You cannot require her to have compassion in her heart for her students’ parents.  You cannot insist that she take time out of her own evenings to express love and concern for our children.  Those two little ones are treasures indeed, but they are not the only treasures in that classroom. Mrs. ___________ is an outstanding teacher and a wonderful person whom I want you to know about.  Having worked in this district your entire career, perhaps you already do.  Since entering her class, Callum has made great progress socially.  He is following classroom procedures, is developing tolerance for shared activities, and is even beginning to speak more.  He is blossoming before our eyes, and we have Mrs. __________ to thank for her very important role in that. So, I thought about sending her a holiday gift.  And then I changed my mind.  You and I as teachers know that Mrs. _________ likely has enough reindeer mugs, popsicle stick ornaments, and bath gel to last a lifetime.  What a teacher really values is the knowledge that she has made a difference in the lives of her students.  What she might not realize is that, in doing that, sometimes she makes a difference in the lives of their families as well.  For hope is a very precious thing indeed. So my gift to Mrs. _________ this holiday is…this.  I want you, her principal, various district administration, the entire school board, all of my blog/Twitter/Facebook followers, and the rest of the World Wide Web to know what a blessing this teacher has been for my child and undoubtedly all of her other students.  I would like for a teacher bedeviled by federal mandates, lack of funding, low pay, classroom overcrowding, tedious paperwork, long hours, wounded children, uninvolved parents, the condescension of educational “experts”, and the disrespect of politicians to receive the praise overdue to her – and to all of her dedicated colleagues who love and educate our futures.  I already know she knows what she is doing is important.  I would just like to give her that standing ovation anyway. Best wishes to you as you lead our schools.  And a very Happy Holiday to you and yours. Sincerely, Leigh Merryday “Flappiness Is”

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