28: The Tools

28: The Tools

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

The Tools

When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that’s when passion is born.

~Zig Ziglar

I walked into your classroom frustrated. I felt as though no good could come from this situation. I was nine years old and had just been diagnosed with a visual-spatial learning disability, one that required me to leave my previous school and enter yours.

I was mad at my parents for taking me away from my friends, at myself for not understanding, and at you for placing me in a class of only five students. Your room was full of beanbags, computers and games, and yet I longed for the normalcy of crowded spaces and rows of desks.

When I came to you, I was in third grade and couldn’t read or write. I was unmotivated and in a constant state of distress when it came to schooling. I had come from a private school that could not teach me in a way that worked for me. I was transferred to your public school, one known for its special-education programs.

I hated being different and feeling like I was stupid and less worthy than other students. I was embarrassed when you would take me from my regular classroom and bring me to yours for the day, indicating my “special status.” You could tell I was upset and you took me under your wing. You started where I was and provided me the tools to move on.

It took two months to respect you, a year to understand you, two years to learn my own ability, and three years to move past your safe space. You broke those years into moments and got me excited about learning. You not only taught me what I needed to move past my disability, but you supported me in all that I did outside of it. You attended my theater performances, built a relationship with my parents, and helped me advocate for myself.

A girl who once had to be bribed to read, forced to write, and was unsure in her abilities was transformed. You showed me that we each learn differently, and that success would arrive with hard work.

I have not seen you since my youth, but I still think about you. I ponder what my life would have been like if I had never met you. I think of how unhappy and jumbled I was before I entered your classroom. I would love to cross paths with you now and show you all I have accomplished because of you.

Now, I intern in an elementary school filled with children who face the same kinds of uncertainty that I faced all those years ago. I work one-on-one with these children as you worked one-on-one with me. When I see a child who is struggling, I think back to the tools that you gave me. When I see a child in need of support, I advocate for her like you taught me. I hope I am touching the lives of these children the way you touched mine.

Before you entered my life, I was not fully me. So, thank you, thank you for giving me dreams and aspirations, and most of all, thank you for giving me the tools to give back to others what you gave to me.

~Ariela Solomon

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