I recently spent some time at our district bus garage. Being a small district, we don’t have all that many bus routes/drivers. If you ever walk into a bus garage, the first thing you will notice is many of them have very strong personalities. These are not people that you want to mess with or take lightly. They will talk louder than you, with more energy than you and are very determined that you hear their thoughts and opinions.
Similar to teachers, they will rant and rave about the kids on their bus. They talk about how one student did this, another won’t listen, another is standing up all the time. On and on about how these kids behave on the bus. But what is amazing is just as fast as they start complaining about the kids, they will switch and begin telling you about their brothers and sisters, who they are related to, what is going on in their families both good and bad. You will see a look in the driver’s eye of real caring for these kids. They get attached to them and build relationships with them in truly special ways.
Now teachers, principals, para-pros etc. all build relationships as well with students, but one driver said it best to me. She said try teaching your class with your back to them the whole time. They just don’t have their back to them, they are driving a huge vehicle as well. All this while obviously getting to know them as people. This is an amazing skill. Just another example of how not everyone can be in education…only the really special ones.
I have a student who is autistic. He was in my class for two school years in a row and then after skipping a year I had him again. If you have had experience with autistic students, you know they can take things very literally in some cases as well as they all are slightly different in what exactly their impairments can be. This student never showed much emotion in the way of connecting to others. I witnessed him express anger or frustration, but not really any joy of being around others. One day we had an unexpected fire drill. As usually the students silently got up from their seats, pushed in the chairs and began walking single file out of the classroom. I always stand to the side and wait until they are all out of the room. This particular student looked at me with great worry and put his hand out and said “Come on, Come on with us.” He did not know it was a drill and was genuinely worried about me. You work so hard to make a connection with students, and in particular students such as this one that has a disability and shows very little emotion. I had never witnessed him show compassion or real caring for someone else until that moment and of all people it was towards me.
I quickly told him I was coming and that everything was alright, but really inside I was not alright. I was fighting back tears. I did not think there was any connection with this student. It really goes to show you never know what is going on in their heads or how they are going to make you feel.
As you go through your career, the students are going to touch you emotionally in ways you didn’t think was possible. Sometimes it will be tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of being overwhelmed and sometimes tears just because you care for them that much.