Several weeks ago I asked several of Tucker’s teachers to write about their experiences with him over the years. Last week, I began with a message from Mrs. Petersen – Tucker’s Literacy (Language Arts) 7th grade teacher.
Today’s post is from the one and only Mrs. Skinner. Mrs. Skinner was Tucker’s 6th grade Literacy teacher (I’m sensing a theme here – the literacy teachers were the first to respond). She’s amazing and has one of the most giving, loving, generous hearts that exist. She truly loved and cared for my sweet son – and it’s so obvious in her writing that she worked at getting him.
I met with Mrs. Skinner before the beginning of the year and we had some great conversations about Tucker – especially those that involved ‘The Moment.‘ Here is a recap of her experience….
They say misery loves company, and Tucker and I bonded very early over our misery. You see, Tucker and I have a special disease. A rare disease that neither of us like to talk about. It’s a disease that makes us very moody and irritable on Monday or Tuesday mornings in the fall and winter. Tucker and I bleed purple and gold. If we were smarter people, we would join a different bandwagon, but we are stubborn down to the core. Embarrassingly enough, Tucker and I are Minnesota Viking fans. There were many mornings (many, many mornings) where our team had lost (whether it be from chocking or simply never having a chance) where Tucker and I would have to vent through our frustration before either of us could move on. Keep in mind, there is still a classroom full of sixth grade students listening to us that either couldn’t care less or enjoyed pouring salt onto our wounds.
Tucker gave me my first experience with teaching a high functioning autistic student. It’s quite possible that he taught me just as much if not more than I taught him. He would come in the room and go straight to his free reading book. Getting him out of his book was a bit more tricky than getting him into it. Tucker has a talent for blocking out the rest of the world when he’s reading. The rest of the class could be running out of the room because the fire alarm was going off and he would still be in his seat turning the page. I learned that a gentle hand on his shoulder was the only way to get Tucker back to reality as there was nothing that I could say that he would hear.
Tucker had a skill for making assignments that were printed front and back look like single-sided work. The answer to that mystery lies in how he’s able to make things disappear. To Tucker, if it’s not right in front of him, it simply doesn’t exist. I learned that if Tucker’s paper was front and back, I would need to remind everyone and I would use his paper to show the class. As soon as he started reading, I would come over and flip the page over to signal to him that he was half done.
I learned that if I was going to check in with Tucker to see if he got all of his work done before he started reading, I needed to check in with several people around him first as I think he felt singled-out if he was the only one that I talked to.
Often throughout my career, I have felt like the only adult in the room, largely because I AM the only adult in the room. Having Tucker in my class was a refreshing breath of fresh air. He was able to make me feel like an adult was never far away. He would have the sarcastic one-liners that made you laugh out loud.
All in all I found that helping Tucker be successful was simply about understanding and paying attention to him.
Bet you’re wishing you had a Mrs. Skinner, aren’t you?