Dear Elementary School Teachers,
I love you for so many reasons. You teach our children their colors, numbers, and letters. You teach them to read and write. You teach them about numbers and computation. You teach them about being citizens in the world. You teach them to follow rules and stand in line. It is true that much of the nature of our ‘civilized’ society is because of Elementary School. Robert Fulghum was right. Kindergarten taught us to: share, play fair, not hit, put things back where you found them, clean up after yourself, say you’re sorry, wash your hands, flush, watch out for traffic, and stick together.
Words cannot express my appreciation for all that you do. I wanted to be an Elementary Teacher – in fact I went to college to be an Elementary, Middle School, or High School teacher; because I LOVE teaching. I decided not to teach Elementary because it was too much pressure. What if I somehow messed up teaching a child to read? That would affect their ENTIRE life. So, kudos to you.
Generally, I don’t like to follow all of those compliments with a but….buuuuuuuutttt…..
When I went to elementary school our classroom had desks, chairs, bookcases, a couple of bulletin boards, coat hooks, a place for your winter boots, your teacher’s desk – and that’s about all. Oh wait…there was undoubtedly a Book It! poster on the wall too. Totally off topic – but did you know that Pizza Hut just released an Alumni Book It! program for its 30 year anniversary? 30 Years?!?! Wah?!?!?! Yeah…30 years. I remember getting to that 10th book and being RIDICULOUSLY excited about the promise of a Personal Pan Pizza. Oh those were they days. Seriously, it just came out on Friday. Check it out here: http://www.bookitprogram.com
What boring classrooms we came out of (the children of the 1980’s). Somehow an entire generation (or several, actually) survived – dare I say thrived in these very plaid, very ‘boring’ classrooms.
Often, today’s elementary classrooms spell out disaster for children on the spectrum. Walls filled with colorful posters. An animal in a cage making squeaky noises. A fish tank bubbling. Things hanging from the ceiling. Baskets full of stuff. Crates from the floor to the ceiling with board games, alphabet letters, and base ten blocks. Colorful, designed carpets and rugs. Centers, those dreaded centers – with parts and pieces and so many choices. Here is an example. I’m not saying your room looks like this – but I’m positive you know one that does.
Recall that his original diagnosis was sensory-based. He struggles the most when there is too much input. Imagine him walking into the classroom above. Honestly, I’m not sure how you can concentrate in these classrooms. It’s like a Kirkland’s or Bed, Bath, and Beyond – disguised as a learning environment for children. This created stress for Tucker. Too much. Just too much. Too much color, too much movement, too many books, too many toys, too many decorations, too much movement, too much noise, too much everything.
We were lucky though – often, we helped to select teachers who had the ‘least’ busy classrooms. His Kindergarten teacher selected his 1st grade teacher, who selected his 2nd grade teacher, and all had this in mind. Which classroom ‘space’ will produce the most productive learning environment? So, teachers – just keep this in mind. When you have a child on the spectrum – be aware, ask about the sensory overload. For just one year imagine not having to fill every nook and cranny in your classroom. Think about it as taking a year off of decorating and having more time for curriculum development and planning…or…
Gasp, how about some rest?
Thank you for your consideration,
A Spectrum Mama