One of the pleasures of reposting things from wotmania is the ability to share with blog readers touching moments from my professional career as a social studies teacher. The following event took place two years ago today, back when I taught middle school social studies in a tiny West Tennessee town. After I wrote the following post, someone was kind enough to contact the author, Zoran Živković, and he and I exchanged a few emails about this. Unfortunately, those emails were lost a few weeks later when my old computer crashed, but hopefully those of you reading this will be able to share, two years later, in some of the magic that occurs when stories are told and transmitted from person to person.
It involves my professional life, but touches upon a story by Zoran Živković. Yes, the world is small.
Today is the last day of class before the students are out for three days next week (I am only out for Monday, however ). It was also Spring Picture Day, so I didn't plan much in the way of lessons, but boy was a life lesson given for me to present...and to witness.
I have a sixth-grader that has autism in my third period class. His name is Nicky. He is almost totally non-verbal, but is in my junior high world history class because of the need to expose him to other people on a continual basis. Yesterday, a boy in that class (not during the time I had them, but another class) had the nerve to mock Nicky and imitate his mannerisms. That boy was chewed out by the principal, the special ed teacher, and some of the students from other grades, leading to that boy being suspended for three days and then having to keep Nicky for three more days when he returns. A most fitting punishment.
But yet that episode bothered me greatly. Although the other students are usually very protective of Nicky, I have seen them make fun of each other and of situations that they didn't understand. And since it was indeed picture day and they might be called out at any moment, I decided to read them something.
The day before, I had brought my copy of Seven Touches of Music to school so Nicky's aide could read the story. I still had the book there and I thought it would be most fitting to read to them the story about how one day a teacher for the autistic played some Chopin and a child had an epiphany. They were entranced the whole time. Even Nicky was (although to be fair, every time I read/tell a story to the class, he stops what he is doing and listens with this look of absolute attention on his face). I finished about 5 minutes before the period was over. That was around the time that Nicky and his aide leave to go to the next class. Well, for the first time ever, Nicky of his own accord wanted to say something to me. He raised his right hand, and bent it up and down in the bye-bye gesture and then said "bye" to me - the first understandable words he had ever uttered to me!
It was indeed an amazing moment. Funny how stories can forge connections with others, even those we think might be lost in such a cloud as that of autism. Thought some of you would enjoy reading this. Oh, and do go out and read Seven Touches of Music if you can.