I have always known children have an ability to love unconditionally. This week was no exception. I found out on Friday I would be receiving a new student in my class with special needs. With all of my training and background in special education it would seem I would be filled with joy and confidence. Instead, I was filled with fear and doubt. Will I be able to serve her? How will my students react? How will my class environment change? Will I be able to meet the needs of ALL of my students? Am I capable of doing this?
I know, I was not impressed with those questions either. I have always had very passionate reasons for inclusion in the classroom. This week I questioned those reasons. I questioned my own ability. After three years in a regular education classroom it became difficult to put myself in a different frame of mind.
The whole weekend I imagined worst case scenarios. I worried about this new student and the fact that she is a possible runner. Possible behavior problems were overdramatized in my mind.
Mixed with these fears were bouts of excitement. My students were going to have an opportunity to grow and stretch themselves. They were going to have a chance to speak kinder, and exercise patience. They were going to be incredible examples. I was excited to see the possibility of expanding my own teaching practices, and my own abilities in the classroom.
Day 1 came with several bumps as we all adjusted to our new friend. I went home discouraged and those questions appeared in my head again. I walked into the special education teachers room with my head low and tears in my eyes. I was so quick to doubt myself.
Day 2 something clicked in me. I watched as our new friend began to find her place in our classroom, how the rest of my students began to relax and interact with her more. I watched our new friends face light up when her peers gently reminded her where to stand in line, or where to sit. Suddenly, my heart softened. I realized that a beautiful gift had entered my classroom. I suddenly understood what a blessing this little girl would be for the school, my students, and most importantly: me.
Day 3 I couldn’t wait to have our new friend come to class. I already can’t imagine my room without her! All of my students have told me “Our new friend is so cute!”, “Can I help our new friend?”, “We are so lucky to have our new friend in our class!”. These little moments have just melted my heart.
I know not every day will be perfect, there will be hard moments, but our new friend will feel loved. She will know she is accepted, she will know she is cared for, she will know she is important. And the best part is, I won’t be the only one to show her that. I have already set the expectation for her to be treated with kindness and love, and my students have responded to that call.