Saturday, September 6, 2008

my special education hero

when i first discovered torey hayden books i was probably still in elementary school. i found a stack of large-print readers digest condensed books from my grandparents in the back of a closet at my house. i was one of those kids who read anything and everything she came across, and i remember the excitement of finding the new books and deciding the only story that looked interesting in the stack was torey hayden's just another kid. in my memory i read it almost all in one day, curled up on the floor beside the closet i'd found the books in. throughout the years i re-read it until i discovered that she'd written many other books about her experiences as a special education teacher.

most likely hayden is who lead me down the path of special education, who taught me to look at children in a different way, and helped me look at the process of teaching in a different light.
every year i re-read a few of her books. i own them all, and last week i stared at my book shelf dedicated to torey deciding which of my broken-spine copies was going to be my therapy for the start of the school year. reading hayden becomes like taking a hot bath. somehow stories of chaos surround me, inspire me, relax yet energize me.

when i think things are out of control with my own children her books remind me that it could be worse, but also am reminded that the chaos can lead to finding solutions that help our little ones. re-reading hayden's little vignettes in the classroom makes me realize that i've copied her methods, memorized them, and made them my own. years of reading the books for enjoyment must have embedded her theories and her classroom activities in my head so that i use them daily.

in my advanced methods graduate class our only text book is one of hayden's books (somebody else's kids). it's not my favorite hayden book and i'm nervous about sharing hayden with others. part of me is thrilled to finally discuss her classroom methods and techniques with someone other than my mom, but part of me feels timid about sharing her. what if others don't agree with her ways of teaching? am i going to have to sit and listen to her being analyzed and discredited. usually i love debate (i am married to a republican) but perhaps i've become too close to hayden. too much of my own identity is tied up in her.

my mother has always seen through my obsession with hayden in that i want to be a torey hayden. she used this to attempt to convince me not to go teach in nyc (which is a story for another time, but it ended up not happening), and has used this to help me work through professional woes. she perhaps sees this more than i see it myself.

as the electricity flickers on and off i'm curled up with 'beautiful child', laughing out loud at the children in the classroom, and getting mental inspiration for ways to help my own kiddos on monday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I too fell in love with teaching and first developed an interest in becoming a special ed. teacher or autism specialist when I first discovered the book One Child on the bookshelf in the library. Or rather, first I read One Child, thought it was one of the most amazing books I had ever read (I was 11 or 12) but didn't think anything more of it. A few months later I saw Ghost Girl at the library, recognized the author, read it, and then developed my obsession with Torey Hayden and her books. By the end of 7th grade I had read all of her books and was totally and completely in awe of her.

This great appreciation of her writings continued throughout middle school and high school as I read and reread all of Hayden's books. In fact, my college entrance essays were based upon how meaningful her writings were to me, and how they influenced my projected major area of study.

In the end, I ended up not studying special education - in large part because the college I chose did not have that as a major. I did major in psychology though, and wrote a major research paper on Selective Mutism (which I learned about through Hayden, as it was one of her major areas of study. I also got to use her published study as one of my references - though it was quite outdated so it was used more as a historical piece than as a current one).

Over time, my obsession has lessoned a bit, as I have continued to read more and learn more about education and psychology. I still am incredibly impressed with Hayden though, and very grateful to her for having written and published her experiences for us to read about and discuss.

Keep us updated on your blog about how the discussion goes in your class. I too am interested in what a class full people studying education would think of her. Like I said, my bubble has been burst a bit in regards to her - I don't idolize her in the same way I did when I was younger. Despite this, I can't help but being hipnotized each time I reread one of her books.

And, interestingly enough, Somebody Else's Kids is one of my favorites - I find Lori and Boo and Tomas (I think his name was Tomas?) hauntingly fascinating. (Which is a problem in and of itself. They are real people, or perhaps composites of real people, but I find them fascinating more as characters than as real people - which is kind of my one critique of Hayden. She writes in a way that captivates the audience and really describes the students, but she does so in such a way that they seem almost too idealic, too cartoonish.) In an interview, Torey said that Somebody Else's Kids was her least favorite of those she has written. That she wrote it out of anger at The System and Lori's classroom teacher more than for any other reason.

(Sorry for the really long comment! As you can see - I am really passionate about Torey and her books!)