I was blessed to work in a middle school in Northeast Ohio for two years with an amazing bunch of students. Many people think of kids at this age to be mean, dismissive, and rebellious. My kids, however, were tolerant, kind, and accepting. Not every single kid, but 99% of them followed these behaviors daily. Something you need to know about my school, too, is that we were lucky enough to have three different special needs units in the building. Students at my school were exposed to kids with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Emotional Disorders, among other special needs. You would think that many middle schoolers would stray away from interacting with these kids, but with the help of the administration, the special needs teachers, and some very courageous student volunteers, special needs students in the school were widely accepted and cherished.
These kids represent the culture that I want my children to eventually have. Their unwillingness to accept bullying in any form is not only impressive, but admirable. It puts a smile on my face every time I think of these amazing young individuals. They really are “my kids”. I will forever have a special place in my heart for these individuals.
My current school has a special needs program, but the students are uneducated as to how to help these special individuals “fit in” and feel accepted by their peers. I have been struggling with some students in the past two years who blatantly make fun of, take advantage of, and mistreat these students. I’ve been in tears multiple times with frustration that not all students are as tolerant and kind as my middle schoolers. I know that with proper education, information, and exposure, that my current students can reach the same level as my Ohio kids. I hope to leave an impact on them as much as my middle schoolers left on me.
I’ve bought a few books on kids with special needs written by special needs individuals or their parents. These books were meant for an elementary crowd, but I think they teach inexperienced students a great lesson as well. If a kindergartener can accept a person who is different from them, then they should be able to as well. I found this amazing music video on bullying by Mike Tompkins, one of my favorite musical artists. Please take the four minutes to listen to the lyrics. I hope they make you hopeful for our society as much as they do me.
Teach tolerance. Be tolerant. Accept all for who they are. Be the Change!