Several weeks ago I asked several of Tucker’s teachers to write about their experiences with him over the years. Since today is the first day of summer vacation I thought it would only be appropriate to begin blogging some of their writing. First up? Mrs. Petersen – Tucker’s Literacy (Language Arts) 7th grade teacher.
If you recall, we have always struggled with writing and this year is not different. What is different though? Mrs. Petersen – and her ‘want’ to really ‘get’ Tucker. She’s a gem and we’re VERY lucky to have her on our side.
When the trees start budding and the dandelions start splattering the earth with their bright yellow color, I start developing that end-of-year excitement. I swear that I get almost more excited than my students for summer break, but not because I don’t love being a teacher. I love the feeling of completing another “year” and of having time to rest, reflect, and recharge before taking off on a new adventure in the fall.
Every year provides new experiences and new learning opportunities, and having Tucker as a student this year was no different. I have had students on the spectrum before, but I have always felt as though I had limited knowledge of what exactly that means. Meeting Tucker and Nikki has opened my eyes and increased my understanding immensely.
Nikki started off the year in an awesome way, by having a meeting with all of Tucker’s teachers to just get to “know” what Tucker is like. I found this meeting to be extremely informative and helpful. I left the meeting thinking about how beneficial that would be if we could have a meeting like that with every student’s parents! We would start the year much more informed and prepared!
I knew that I needed to make a conscious effort to connect with Tucker about things that interest him, specifically the Minnesota Vikings. I knew that if he has a day where he seems “off,” there is a reason behind it and we can most likely figure that out through open communication. I knew that sometimes he might just need to get out of the classroom and cool off. Had we not met with Nikki, I would have probably approached situations a little differently.
I think one of my biggest takeaways from working with Tucker this year is that autism looks very different for each child. Honestly, it would have taken me quite a while to realize that Tucker was a little different than most of his peers if I didn’t know he was on the spectrum. Additionally, I learned a ton of information through Nikki’s video presentation about what classifies someone as “on the spectrum.” I could definitely see a lot of those characteristics in myself and everyone I know!
This helped open my eyes to the fact that students with autism aren’t really that different than students without. However, I now totally understand how the noise in a hallway or a new classroom arrangement could just be too much for a student to handle. It all made a little more sense to me.
I feel fortunate to have been able to work with Tucker and Nikki this year. I feel lucky to have learned so much. I feel informed and empowered to use this knowledge in future years to make me a better teacher for every single student in my classroom.
Bet you’re wishing you had a Mrs. Peterson, aren’t you?