It was powerful to stand up in front of a group of children who try so hard everyday and announce to their families and friends what they worked so hard. Maybe not what they are the best at, or even good at- but to draw everyone's attention (including their own) to the magnificent growth they made.
Some of my students might not always be able to write their names correctly, but in the beginning of the year they could only write one letter. Throughout the year they worked so hard on the rest of those letters. While writing comes easily to most children- visual motor planning happens without a second thought- my students agonize over connecting lines on the page, placing their pencil on the paper, remembering what letters to write, in order, and how to write those letters. For them it is no easy task. But they did it.
What my students need to learn more than anything is that they can do hard things. Because things are harder for them than most children adults and their peers end up doing a lot for them. This sends the message to my students that they can't do it themselves so why even try. Independence is something they have to fight for. They have to learn that doing hard things pays off in the end. It's a harder lesson than most children have to learn because for most children things- writing their name, walking, talking, reading- aren't too hard. My kids watch their peers learn to do these things "easily" and assume that they can't do them, or that the hard work isn't worth it.
|Boy with Puzzle- Drawn by former student with autism when he was in first grade|
I tried to create the "we can do hard things" culture in my room this year. A message that doing hard things is just what we do. We don't just do things that are easy- we do things that are hard, and that is OK. I hope the message went through- and that the kids will proudly look at their "Hard Things" award as a reminder that hard is good.