Of Dragonflies and Special Ed

The thing you are most scared of, is probably the best thing for you.  It helps you grow as a person and forces you to move beyond your comfort level and to be comfortable in the un-known.  It forces you to be comfortable with change.

I used to fear dragonflies.  For some reason as a kid, one summer, I believed dragonfly larvae were the parasitic creatures on the side of the fish in our back pond draining them of their life.  Many years later I started studying Native American spirit animals and their meanings.  Dragonflies were not the leaching insects I thought they were.  They in fact don’t harm pond life, but help.  Dragonflies are the animals you can trust to help you push through illusions and live in the moment.

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It is no surprise dragonfly imagery was present when I entered my first time this year into a classroom I was always hesitant to teach.

In 1993 when I was a freshman in a pottery class, we shared the space with the Special Education students.  Our pottery class number had dwindled so much we had the extra space and it was great therapy for the Special Ed students.  One week my family and I had to tend to a family emergency in St. Louis.  When I came back, I had found out the kiln had exploded, and one of the kids (who was older and the size of a fully grown man) had fled the room. When one of the teachers tried to stop him, she was knocked down and had to take some time off to heal.  This pretty much had scarred me from thinking of teaching special needs kids.

Fast forward to earlier this year.  I took a substitute teaching assignment at one of my favorite schools.  I was hesitant due to the assignment being Special Education; given what had happened in my past.  However, a few things were on my side.  I knew some of the students from substitute teaching in other rooms.   There were also teachers there to help, and the kids are in elementary school, that lessened the fear of someone potentially harming other teachers or myself.

When I arrived I noticed the decor, pond life.

Frogs.

Lilypads.

Dragonflies.

The start of my day was working with kindergarteners who changed my perspective on teaching Special Education completely.  They made me realize it can be a fun place, a place to grow and learn, not just for students but for teachers as well.  Throughout the course of the day I met amazing students who are battling odds I do not wish on my worst enemy.  They proved to me you have to be tough as nails to try this thing called life, especially when you are pretty much forced to raise yourself.

It is no surprise my students were part of the inspiration in a life change for me.  My husband and I were living in an apartment where we weren’t safe.  We decided to make the change, and in the process all the distractions in life were keeping me from concentrating on most of my schoolwork.  If it wasn’t the grades or school work that was going to stop me from achieving an English Education Master’s degree, it was going to be something else.  It could have been waiting to hear from administrators.  It could have been waiting to get the approval for colleagues to write a letter of recommendation; only for them to be in violation of their contract to write one.  If it wasn’t that then it was me scrambling to find friends, co-workers and professors who were willing to write a recommendation last-minute.  It could have boiled down to me being shy of a few classes of completing my undergrad…and hitting my student loan cap.  Or, it could have been all of these things combined.

Needless to say, I was down but not out.  The more I substitute taught, the more I realized there was a need for Special Education teachers.  More jobs kept popping up for Special Education.  I kept taking them, and loving it. Every classroom I visited I was welcomed with encouragement from teachers to pursue getting a degree in Special Ed or to become a Para-Professional in Special Education.  One common decorating theme in these rooms?

Frogs.

Lilypads.

Dragonflies.

Live in the moment.  Sometimes when you plan, the life you need doesn’t happen.  When you stop pushing, the doors open for you automatically.

Jimi

When you stopped pushing life or trying to make life happen, what path were you shown?

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