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I Was Frustrated When My Student Refused to Write His Name. Then I Realized Why.

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Some days you just have to be someone else.

We all have those days — days when we feel like an utter failure and like we don’t make a difference. It feels like we are just herding cats or that our students would be better of with someone else assisting them. Yesterday was that day for me. They don’t happen often but when they do — wham!

I was sitting at the table in the special education pre-kindergarten classroom, next to a student named Sam. We had a worksheet reviewing writing the letters of the alphabet by tracing, so I gave Sam a pencil. I pointed to the name line and reminded him he had to write his name on the line on his paper. I knew he could do this, so I turned to help the student sitting on the other side of me.

When I looked back at Sam, he had started writing the letters “o-p-t-i,” and I shook my head.

He writes his name every day. Three simple letters “s-a-m.” It does not start with “o-p-t-i.” Sam could write his name, and I had seen it daily.

“I am really a failure,” I started thinking to myself. “I don’t make a difference.”

Then I started smiling as I looked at his paper. I shook my head. Sam had decided he was Optimus Prime that day, a character from the movie “Transformers,” so he had written Optimus Prime as his name. I was worried about three letters and here he was writing more than that!

student writing optimus prime on worksheet

Optimus Prime was sitting right there next to me and I was feeling like a failure. What was wrong with me? It’s not every day you look over and see Optimus Prime in pre-K.

Well if he was Optimus Prime, I guessed it was my time to pull out the golden lasso and be Wonder Woman. The most ironic thing (or a “God wink” as my mom would say) is that on the back of my work badge is a tiny picture I have had for years that my mom sent me. The picture shows me in all my 6-year-old glory, flexing my muscles and wearing my Wonder Woman outfit. For a period of time I had refused to answer to anything but my Wonder Woman outfit.

teacher's keychain with photo of her as a kid dressed as wonder woman

“Optimus Prime, meet Wonder Woman,” I thought. “I can so handle this day.”

Originally published: April 6, 2015
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