“Beneath every behavior there is a feeling and beneath each feeling there is a need to connect.”
I remember my first year, first month, first week of teaching, 42 years ago. I set out as a new “special education teacher” preparing for my first teaching assignment. As it would go, myself and many talented teachers took a journey together with a new educational program for children hospitalized in long term setting. Children who came with all kinds of beautiful stories of resilience, tenacity, grit, and love to our “little school in the hospital”.
Little did I know the three years I spent with this program, I was being educated by some of the youngest mentors who help shape my passion to teach students who come from “hard places”. Here is one of the students and his story of overcoming life’s unexpected turn of events. Even though he did not suffer trauma as we know it, he adapted a disability by applying humor. Children I share with you are real, I have changed names for pupose of this platform.
Meet Charles, 8 years old and full of spunk, humor, and a way to adapt to his physical disability like no other child I have worked with. He LOVED school, as it was a break from the daily medical routines he endured. He was a great student, loved to read, wanted to help others, and shared many funny jokes with my class. Everyday was a fantastic day when Charles came to class, even with assistance by staff to get him out of his room, down the hall and on the elevator; “to be at his favorite place on earth”. One day, however, he was a bit late to school, not like him. I step out in the hallway to see if assistants were coming with him, no sight of him at all. I turn to go back to the classroom and hear the elevator doors open. Hoping to see his shiny face rolling towards me while being pushed by nursing assistant. I DID see his shiny face rolling down the hallway BUT NOT IN A WHEELCHAIR but ROLLING HIS BODY DOWN THE HALLWAY. Why, you ask, is this so special to me; Charles was born without arms or legs a result of mother on drugs during pregnancy.
Resilisence can surely define this child and his will to overcome what his disability had given him. With many supports from medical, cousenling, and school teams he had overcome the disability and adapted to how he become mobile on his own! During the class time with him, I was able to build upon his strengths, begin a relationship of empathy, compassion, and trust so he had a “go to person” for those rough days that came his way.
Beneath every behavior there is a feeling and once the feeling (s) are the focus, the behaviors become minor. Building positive, secure, and empathetic relationships with a child who experiences trauma or other related “life’s little curves” is an essential part of classroom plans.
Finally, I asked Charles why did he come to class without nursing assistant. His reply, with a huge grin I might add, “I wanted to come to school and no one was around to help me get here.” How did he navigate the elevator? His witt and charm with the right person getting on, assisted the button pushing chore!