Most of you know Kaelob is in a “special” class at his school specifically taylored towards behavrioally challenged children. Coincidentally ALL of the kids in his class (nine children total) are boys. There are atleast five teachers some times up to 7 or 8 in the class at a time. Most of them are there to hover around and cover a certain child needing task specific redirection. Each child has something unique attatched to their desk that helps them with various sensory needs, for example Kaelob has what looks like a giant rubber band attatched to his chair and occassionally (especially while taking tests) he can reach down and stretch it with his arm, or put his foot on it and stretch it that way. One child has a squishy feely blog thingy velcroed to the top of his desk. Another has an inflatable cushion on his chair that looks like a giant whoopie cushion or the pillow you get when you bruise your tailbone. The classroom is very colorful, very structured and extremely helpful to Kaelob.
It is not an easy job for these teachers however. Because these kids are being sent from all over San Diego County there are buses(a big white van with the friendliest driver you’ll ever meet!) that pick them up and bring them home each day. Because Haylee attends Kinder this year we chose not to let Kaelob ride the bus so we can ride to school together as a family…. that took almost half the school year for him to get adjusted to. Anyway, my point was some of these kids have a long car ride before they even arrive to school so when they do pull up some mornings unloading from the bus is quite a chore. My heart breaks for the children and the teachers having to physically climb into the van and pry the kicking screaming child out. No real reason or it, something maybe a long red light, maybe unusual traffic, maybe Roger (the driver) took a different route to avoid an accident or something… but either way by the time they arrived at the school this child was unwilling to cooperate. Its exhausting to watch…. it brings back memories.
I remember back in Oceanside getting phone calls as kaelob was riding home on the public school bus saying the bus was pulled over and could not drive anywhere bc he was refusing to cooperate. I had to chase down where the bus was, physicall drag him of the bus with 30 kids and an angry driver staring at me. I cant even tell you how many times I had to do that. I remember all the times the school called me saying he had ran out of class and refused to come back. They told me he had been wandering around the campus for two hours and they werent exactly sure where he was at the moment. One time I showed up and the distric psychologist was following him around the campus, Kaelob clearly out of his reach; hundreds of feet ahead of the man and I knew Kaelob had the upperhand-and he knew it too. He knew the teachers and the staff wouldnt touch him, even if it meant for his own safety. They just let him run out the door and pick flowers, chase the birds, dig in the sandbox… basically do whatever he wanted until I came to pick him up and bring him home (ie take him off their hands). These teachers were overwhelmed, I get it.
But these teachers now… they should be overwhelmed(maybe they are), they should be exhaused… but everyday I see them come in with a smile on their face. Every day they greet Kaelob with a warm happy tone, some give him hugs, some give him high fives…but ALL of them greet him genuinely joyful to see him that day.
Sometimes a child gets in a rut and for whatever reason refuses to cooperate or is angrily doing something that could harm themself or others so the teachers will (one on each side) wrap their arms in his arm, at the elbows and lift the child up and walk. It is quite shocking to see if you dont understand what they are doing or why. For me, it’s beautiful. It is a beautiful thing to see when these teachers quietly, patiently, calmly will lift the child up and take them to a safe place where they can calmly process their emotions in a better environment for them. One day two of the teachers were talking to Kaelob’s classmate outside about something and he just wasnt cooperating. He threw a few swings (this was a very tiny kid and there was NO way he was hurting anyone, but it was clear this went against their rules for safety) and immediately these two teachers gently wraped their arms in his, lifted him up and began to walk. Just then the custodian (who my children happily know by name) walked by and without even saying a word he politely walked to the classroom door and opened it for them and they escorted the kicking child right on in. The door closed behind them and the friendly custodian went on his merry way.
These teachers Love these kids. They love my kid. They ask him about his weekend, about his puppy who is growing up too quck, they challenge him and spend their own time off work finding new ways to reach him and help him learn. Thats where we come to Mr.S.
I have always appreciated male teachers when it comes to Kaelob’s learning environment. He responds differently to men than he does women, always has… and its blatantly obvious why. He craves their attention and approval, it is so bitter sweet to watch when he bonds with a male authority figure in his life because I love love LOVE that he has found someone to connect to, but deep in my heart I ache knowing how badly he wants to build that type of connection with his dad. Mr. S was one of those great male authority figures in his classroom. Mr.S taught with the teacher that was there last year and stayed on when the new teacher came in this year. He came up with fun songs to sing and learn multiplication tables, he loved sharing science facts with kaelob and talking about cars. The beautiful thing was also that he didn’t just get to know Kaelob, he got to know Haylee as well when she would come over being her nosy self talking to all Kaelob’s friends and teachers at the lunch tables. Mr.S was always friendly and kind to her and engaged her in conversation. She too soaked up the attention. If Kaelob ended the day in a funk and had a rough walk from the classroom to the car, Mr. S always stayed calm and was willing to make the trek however many times it took for Kaelob to be able to follow the directions apropriately.
Suddenly one day I realized I hadn’t seen Mr.S at pick up or drop off and Kaelob told me with a frown and pouty lip that Mr. S wasnt a teacher here anymore. He had no answers, no explanation just the reality that sometimes things change and people you’ve grown connected to have to leave. There was no fwd’ing information, not that I really expected any, but it was really hard for Kaelob to accept this change.
Today MONTHS later, as I am standing in the middle of a tiny taco shop threatening and bribing my children to just be quiet and eat so we can go home and go to bed. I was begging them to just stop talking and stop fighting and just chill out in this public place so we didnt get all those “pity” looks that make me want to throw up… I had just managed to reduce the noise level when Kaelob suddenly scremed, “MR.SSSSSSSS????!!!!”
In walked Mr.S to our little itty bitty taco shop. Kaelob squeezed his way past me and ran over to say Hello. After Mr.S ordered his food he sat at a table next to ours and invited Kaelob to come over and sit with him. Haylee immediately tried inviting herself but I talked quietly to the girls and convinced them to let Kaelob spen some time with his teacher. I scrambled to try and delete videos and pictures off my phone to capture the moment, but failed. it was such a sweet sight to see, a boy and his long lost teacher sitting together eating and talking about everything they have missed out on over the last few months.
Mr.S spoke softly and calmly to Kaelob about his new job and asked eagerly about how things were going in the classroom with the other boys. The two of them were like old friends getting to visit again after such a long time. Kaelob lit up and was so happy. Kaelob shared about his musical theater class and getting ready to start football again soon. When it was time to go Mr.S gave Kaelob a ‘fist bump’ and headed off on his own way. kaelob came back to the table and stood there a moment looking lost and confused. I asked him if he wanted to give Mr. S a hug and he nodded. I gave him the go ahead and he raced outside the shop after Mr.S yelling to him saying “I WANT A HUG!”. That boy came back in walking tall with a huge grin on his face. He sat down and after a few more bites of his dinner he says…
“Mommy now Im sad about and missing THREE animals. Sweetie, Maxine and Mr.S….. Humans are animals too you know.”
Yes Kaelob, yes they are.
But what a sweet reunion it was.