You might have noticed or read a few stories in the news about offensive awards given out to students with learning challenges lately. A trophy was actually handed out in an assembly to a middle schooler with ADHD that was labeled, “Least likely to pay attention.” The teachers responsible for curating the so-called “award” were let go from their teaching positions.
If you are a parent or even a parent of a child with a learning difference or any disability, you know how deeply this hurts. Receiving a trophy that highlights the very thing you struggle with has long-lasting effects. When I saw this article, it made me think of the children I work with during my Orton-Gillingham lessons.
Recently, one of my students was laughed at by his fellow students when he was asked to read in front of the class by a substitute teacher. Inside, my gut lurched and my heart broke when his mom told me. To be honest, I saw red for a minute, because I know where this child was when I first started working with him and how far he has come.
We simply need to work on kindness, folks. It needs to be taught to our children. It needs to be spread among adults. And listen. I’m not just talking about in person. This goes especially for social media, too. (I’m talking to you, keyboard warriors.) And this is why I have the pleasure of sharing a powerful blog post about spreading kindness with you today. There are so many educators who truly are models of kindness and compassion. Even when the news might try to highlight the things teachers are doing wrong, stories like this one shine through.
A Message of Kindness And Hope
Jules Johnson is the parent of two amazing, talented, kind children who have learning differences. She co-founded Decoding Dyslexia-TN in 2013 and blogs on Diary of a DeelexiaMom. Jules works tirelessly to help spread dyslexia awareness and to advocate for families. I think you are going to love her post today, It provides a message to hope to families. When it feels like you just don’t deserve to receive any kind of recognition, think of this story. We are all worthy of it.
As any parent of a child who struggles will tell you, academic awards day is usually less than fun. In fact, I know of many parents who skip the day entirely. A few weeks ago, my oldest child who is severely dyslexic said:
“Mom, the only award I’ll ever get is perfect attendance. And I even messed that up.”
Talk about a mama heart breaking into one-thousand pieces. By the way, he “messed up” perfect attendance because he had strep throat.
Still, I had hope. This year, for us, is a special year. It’s his last year of elementary school. Maybe they give them all some sort of award?
I didn’t realize until later – but I had internally talked myself into thinking he would get a “surprise” award and it would be this amazing moment.
The day arrived. As I piled into the gym with the other moms and dads, I made sure to get a good seat “just in case.” There were two awards that I thought he might have a shot at getting – the most improved or the art award.
As both of those awards were called, I held my breath …
And other names were called.
I was crushed. CRUSHED. I couldn’t see his face as his back was to me, but I wondered how he felt. I started to silently cry – tears were rolling down my cheeks as I was quietly sitting there in the hard gym chairs with other parents cheering and clapping all around me.
After the awards, we all head to their classrooms for lunch. Since I knew he’d be crushed, my plan was to check him out and go for ice cream. But as I round the corner, this young man was … smiling.
Not just smiling – BEAMING. What?!?
“Mom! LOOK! Look what Ms Collier did! Last week, she asked us to write words describing one another, and LOOK WHAT SHE DID!”
I picked up this paper he is holding and I saw words written around his name. Artistic, brave, kind…
“Did you see this one, Mom? Look! Someone wrote SMART! And it wasn’t a teacher who wrote that either. It was KID! A kid thinks I’m SMART!”
Wow. I don’t even …my words were gone. I hugged him as different kinds of tears formed in my eyes. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. Tears of ….his classmates see who he is too.
Thank you, Ms Collier. Thank you.
*If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this one about summer learning!