In one week my daughter starts her freshman year of high school. She is 14 years old. Whether she is 4 or 14, the back to school fears I have as a mother do not change. To all of her new teachers this year, promise me this;
You will see my sweet daughter for who she is.
You will not try to squeeze her it into a box.
You will see her as more than a number on your class roster.
You will forget her standardize tests scores, as they are not a reflection of her intelligence or abilities.
You will read her IEP word for word and see her needs as real, valid, and worth every moment that you spend meeting her individual needs.
You will see her invisible disabilities as clearly as you see other’s physical disabilities.
Her true self is often hidden behind these invisible disabilities, dimming the light that shines so brightly within her. She is going to take some extra time and attention. Trust me, she is worth it.
Her wicked sense of humor will never be shared with you if she doesn’t feel safe and understood.
Her incredibly kind heart will never be given to you or her classmates if she is scared.
Her quest for knowledge and a deep understanding will remain masked if her intellectual capabilities and strengths are not embraced.
Her dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety are all invisible. You will never see them when you look at her beautiful face. You will never see them if she refuses to attend class, preferring to stay in the safety of an intervention room, because her needs are not being met in the classroom. Just like any other student, she wants to feel loved and accepted for who she is.
Her strengths will always be greater than her weaknesses, but at school, her weaknesses are magnified. So this year, yes my baby is 14, and only four years away from adulthood, but she is still a child, my child, still learning about herself, about others. She needs you in her corner lifting her up, helping her see the good in the world, and continuing to be encouraged to love herself in spite of the weaknesses on full display each and every school year.
So promise me that when my child walks into your classroom you will see her for who she is, be willing to work through and accept her weaknesses, and celebrate every amazing strength that she has. She will go on to do great things regardless, because of her fighting spirit and the love of her family and friends, but she needs you more than ever to get through her fears and doubts. She needs you to show her that she is safe and smart and capable in spite of dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety.
Those three labels are not who she is yet, they are pronounced each and every school year. For three months in the summer, she is free of those restraints. This year please help keep the restraints off of her and let her freely grow as she was intended.
Thank you for choosing the most rewarding, and most challenging, profession. You are a teacher…thank you! This year you are my daughter’s teacher. My daughter will leave you with memories that will have a lasting impact on your life. She is worth everything you have to offer and more. I promise! Here’s to the best year yet!