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To the Students Whose Learning Differences I Didn't Understand

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Dear Former Students,

I am so sorry. I didn’t understand that your little body needed to move and that it actually helped you learn. When you kept getting out of your seat during a test and I took away your recess I didn’t realize what that did to you. I took away something you needed to be successful. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. I didn’t understand that a side effect of your medication meant you weren’t hungry at lunch time, but by the afternoon you were starving. No wonder you had difficulty concentrating. I wish I would have let you have an afternoon snack. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. When you didn’t turn in your homework and you got a zero no wonder you just gave up. I wasn’t offering you the support you needed. I didn’t realize that when you would get home it would be hard to remember what the directions were. I wish I would have written them down for you. I wish I would have e-mailed them to your parents. I wish my expectations for you fit what would help you be successful. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. I didn’t understand that when I was talking to you and you wouldn’t look at me, you were still listening. I thought you would miss something important if you were staring down at your desk. I didn’t realize that sometimes looking at me made it hard for you to listen. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. I didn’t understand that when I told you to try harder, you were already trying as hard as you could. I saw the frustration on your face. I wish I would have understood. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. I didn’t realize I was giving you too many directions at one time to follow. While you were trying to remember the first you forgot the second. I wish I would have helped you remember by writing them down for you, or only giving you one at a time. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. I didn’t know that when you were leaning back in your chair, it helped you pay attention. Rocking grounded you. Asking you to stop meant you had to focus all of your attention on not moving and you had even more difficulty listening. Please forgive me.

I am so sorry. If I could go back in time to when you were my student I would ask you this, “How can I help you?” I would have worked with you to help you discover what this was. Together we would have worked on helping you in the way you needed rather than the way I thought you needed.

I had so many kids like you in my classroom over the years and I didn’t fully understand. You had differently wired brains and additional needs I didn’t know how to fill. I can’t go back and fix my mistakes as your teacher, but I can make you a promise. Going forward I will work my hardest to see that children like you get what they need to be successful. I will try to help other people see that children will do well when they can. It is up to us as adults to set you up for success in the unique way you need.

I didn’t realize how special you were until I had a son just like you. I hope he has teachers that understand him in ways I didn’t understand you. I am so sorry and I want you to know that I get it now. I hope it’s not too late to make a difference for you. You and your story mean more to me now than you’ll ever know.

Please forgive me. I am going to spend the rest of my life making right how I failed you, one kid at a time.


Your Former Teacher

This story originally appeared on Big Abilities.

Getty image by Bluebearry.

Originally published: February 26, 2019
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