Teaching at SINAI, a school well known for its “Uniquely Special Education,” is an incredible privilege. Those of us lucky enough to work here are blessed with the opportunity to witness the small miracles that take place at SINAI on a daily basis. Every teacher takes pride in the success of his or her students, but those of us who teach children with learning disabilities or special needs feel a deep admiration not only of our students’ accomplishments, but of the efforts they undertake in getting there.
During the final days of the school year, I take the time to reflect with each of my students on all of their personal accomplishments, including their academic achievements, social successes and the obstacles they have overcome. Each year as I think about all that my students have learned, and the process it took for them to get there, I am grateful once again for the many lessons that I have learned from the journey we have taken together.
My students have taught me that it is determination and effort that lead to success. They inspire me to set my goals high, to keep working until I succeed, and then to set my goals higher yet again. I think about the students who refuse to leave for recess before mastering a personal academic goal. I think about the students who take risks by reaching beyond their comfort zones in social settings, and I think about the willpower of an 11-year-old who spent five months, day in and day out, determined to learn how to count money. These children are successful because giving up is never an option for them, and because they don’t need to be assured of guaranteed success in order to try.
My students have taught me to be a giving and caring person. Over the course of this year I have watched from a distance as one child coached another in tying his shoelaces, shooting a basket and reading an analog clock. One winter day, outside during a fire drill, I witnessed one child give his coat to a classmate who was shivering. My students provide this assistance to each other happily and selflessly. They seek no plaques or payment in return.
My students have taught me to appreciate the good in others. I love overhearing my students as they freely compliment each other on their artwork, acting and sense of humor, and as they willingly approach and take advice from the class experts in sports, math, movies and technology. They are far too busy building a community of friends to be distracted by the faults and differences that make us human.
As another year comes to a close, I realize that one of the most important lessons I have learned is that SINAI’s uniqueness is not limited to the individualized education we offer our students. As a teacher, I am so grateful to my students for the education they have given me.
Click here to read this article as it originally appeared in The Jewish Link.