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5 Things Your Students with Learning Disabilities Would Want You to Know (They Want You to Know They


Dawn Mitchell and Nicole Brown

Dawn Mitchell and Nichole Brown

Let's be completely honest with ourselves right now--October is a really hard month for educators. By October, it's safe to say the "honeymoon stage" of the new school year is over.

For teachers, we've officially fallen back into our familiar routines. First quarter grades are finalized, parent-teacher conferences had us working long nights, and all the preparations that were done over the Summer to keep us ahead of the game have all been exhausted by this point.

For students, the newness of the school year has officially worn off. The reality of no longer being able to stay up late and sleep in has sunk in. By October, they begin to feel comfortable with you as their teacher and those they share classes with. {And we all know that comfortable isn't always such a positive thing.} They've learned what makes you tick and more than likely, they've probably already tested you on more than one occasion.

For all of us--students, teachers, principals, heck, even the cafeteria workers--we are beyond ready for a break.

And low and behold, November arrives! Glorious, glorious November. A month so many of us long for because we know what is shortly around the corner.

Fall Break...

Thanksgiving Break....

Christmas Break!!!!

They're all approaching and approaching fast. And it seems that as soon as the month of October rolls into November teachers everywhere are officially on a countdown.

Facebook statuses are going up left and right.

"8 more Mondays till Christmas Break!!"

And I could imagine the number of countdowns on teachers’ boards, ticking away the days until fall, Thanksgiving, or Christmas Break. Maybe all three!

And in all honesty, I'm right there with the best of them. I'm longing for a couple of weeks of no alarm. I am excited about the turkey, the dressing, and the homemade mac n' cheese. And I'm most looking forward to spending time with and devoting time to my babies. 

But when I begin to think about these things and see the Facebook statuses and hear the readiness in my colleagues' voices I can't help but think about them. The ones who call our classrooms "home". Those students who look forward to the warmth our classrooms provide, the hot meals our cafeteria workers serve, and the hugs and smiles we dish out daily. The students who look at that Christmas countdown on your board and cringe. The students who overhear your conversations in the hallway about the new recipe you're looking forward to making for your Thanksgiving meal and long to join you tableside. 

I can't help but think about them because that was me. 

Christmas, my seventh-grade year, was the first Christmas I celebrated without a mom at home. It was the first Christmas since their divorce that my dad had to figure out how he was going to afford presents for four kids on one income. It was such a time of uncertainty in my life that I remember hoping the break would just up and disappear. I wasn't ready to leave school--my place of stability--and face the reality of what was going on at home.

So you see, if there is ever a time your students need you, it's during the holidays. 

I know we already feel as if we give so much of ourselves but during this holiday season I'm going to ask that you throw out that Christmas countdown written on your dry erase board and consider doing some of the following this year for your students, or those in your school community who just need you: 

  1. Host a Thanksgiving Meal. Every year, about a week before the actual holiday, your cafeteria workers cook up their own version of Thanksgiving dinner. This is the absolute perfect time for you to leave the Lean Cuisine at home and ask your students to join you at a table in the cafeteria so that you can partake in a meal together. I was blessed to work for a school that hosted Thanksgiving dinner for students and teachers during all three lunches each year. The times I spent with my students around "the table" during this lunch are some of my most cherished memories. This can be as big or as small as you want to make it. If your school isn't willing to go the length to host this time for the entire student body, consider inviting students back to your room or decorating a table in the cafeteria for you and those willing to join you. 

  2. Send a Christmas card home. For the past two years, I have picked up several boxes of Christmas cards during a late night run to Walmart. Three weeks before break, I spend time each night writing cards to a number of my students. And each year I have done this, my principals have been willing to front the postage (score)! As a middle and high school educator, I never had the time to send a card to every single student but I made sure that I was very intentional about who I sent a card to. The emails and hugs you will receive because of this will be totally worth all that writing...I promise. 

  3. Give back, in some way. There's no greater time than during the holidays to give and to teach our students about giving. If it had not been for the Beta Club at my sister's high school, my younger brother and I wouldn't have had much of a Christmas the year my mother walked out on our family. So maybe giving looks monetary for you and your students. If money is out of the question for you and your students, teach them about giving their time and/or their talents. One of mine and my seventh-grade students most favorite days was the day we received 20+ Santa letters from our local elementary school. My seventh graders used their talent of writing to take on the persona of one of Santa's elves and write back to these eager kids, straight from the North Pole! I'm sure it gave those kids great joy to receive those letters, but I'm willing to bet that it gave my middle schoolers just as much to be a part of something so special.

  4. Invite. Christmas parades. Lighting of City Christmas trees. The Christmas special your church is putting on. Dinner around your kitchen table. Invite your students and their parents to join you during the holiday season! The beauty in this is that most of these events are local and FREE. Extending an invitation doesn't cost you anything, either. There's no better place to further build relationships with your students and your students' parents than outside the walls of your classroom. 

  5. Love on them. Before they walk out of your room before those breaks, tell them you love them. Give them a hug. Tell them you cannot wait to see them in two weeks and that you'll miss them. For those who teach older students, tell them that if they need you, they can always email you. Let the focus that last week before break be on them. Not homework, not their unfinished work, not the presents you're hoping you'll receive, not the craziness of Polar Express Day. Let it all be on them. Love them and love them hard.  And when that day arrives, that you cut your classroom lights off, and race out the door {yea, I know you're still going to jet} to officially begin your break, you can rest more easily knowing that you sent them off feeling fulfilled, loved, and not forgotten.


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