Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Thank You

There are people in your life who will tear you down. If you're lucky, someone will come along and build you back up.

I was lucky.

I had the same math teacher for grades six through eight. She didn't like me. She didn't hide the fact that she didn't like me. Frankly, I'm sure I was an annoying know-it-all. And math was not my favorite subject. Not that it will come as a shock to anyone who knows me now, but I used to rush through to get it done. In doing so, I tended to make careless mistakes. So, I was not a favorite of my math teacher. But it was, on a day I remember with so much clarity, that she sort of ruined me. She said to me, in front of my whole class that I "would never accomplish anything and would never amount to anything."

Nice thing to tell your student.

Not surprisingly, I lost all confidence in my math ability. Like one needs a reason to be insecure in those early teen years.

Going into high school, after attending the same school from nursery school through eighth grade was intimidating. There were all these other kids. I was no longer a big fish in a little pond. I was a little fish, and totally overwhelmed. I was fortunate though, as my two older brothers had traversed the way a bit. I knew some of the teachers, and they knew of me. That was sort of good and sort of bad (especially when the oldest brother is a class clown and doesn't make the best impression on a humorless teacher). But my brothers were good kids, strong students, and I did have the benefit of the same last name.

I was also a pleaser. I wanted people to think well of me.

Course I Math was intimidating. The teacher was an older gentleman, Mr. Corbeil. He had a reputation for favoring the boys and not the girls. Not what I needed after my previous experience. Especially not when most of my peers in the honors classes had the advantage of taking Course I in eighth grade. I was already behind. Did I mention that I was a bit anal and driven, and had my sights set on being valedictorian, as my brother would be that year? Yeah, my brothers set the bar high, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. Especially not in math.

But, Mr. Corbeil liked me. Despite the fact that I was a girl. Maybe it's because he liked my brothers. Maybe it was just me.

I did well in math that year. And throughout high school.

I was a four year member of Math Club, which, ironically did not really involve math at all. I don't remember what we did, despite being president. Mr. Corbeil was the moderator, which was why I did it.

Early on in our Freshman year, Mr. Corbeil announced that we were his last class and he'd be retiring when we graduated. He and his wife never had kids, but treated us like their kids. Mrs. Corbeil passed away a number of years ago.

Scrolling through Facebook a little while ago, a classmate posted Mr. Corbeil's obituary. I'd often wondered if he was still alive. I should have looked him up. I should have thanked him for believing in me. For giving me back some confidence. For realizing that my other teacher was not correct, and that I would amount to something.

I have a lot of people to thank along my journey. Mr. Corbeil was just one of them.

So, take a moment to thank the people who build you up. To let their words and encouragement be the ones to echo in your brain instead of the negativity. And then, take another moment to do that for someone else. Be someone's Mr. Corbeil.

Mr. Corbeil's Obituary

Saturday, April 2, 2016

I Don't Need a Day #worldautismday

Today is April 2nd. It's World Autism Day.

I shared this on Facebook yesterday:

Facebook was also so kind to remind me that on this day, in years past, I've shared the following:
 And this one too:

I don't need a day to remind me to think about Autism. I don't need to wear blue to be aware of Autism. I live Autism every single day.

Somedays, it's so hard. Other days, it's the easiest thing I've ever done. And I know how very lucky we are. My son is autistic. But he's so much more. Trying to sum him up with that one word is like saying he has blue eyes and expecting you to know everything about him from that one fact. He's entering adolescence, which is going to bring a whole new set of challenges. Especially considering that his body is losing control to hormonal fluctuations while his emotions are still about 3 years behind his chronological age, and he lacks the pragmatic skills to express himself without a whole lot of work on my part.

But he can express himself. And we're working on it. Every day we work on it. Some days are good. Some days are not. Some days the stress of the outside world is almost too much for him.

And we're so lucky. So very lucky. My son is one of the lucky ones. Because yes, he's autistic. But, like I said, he's so much more. He has friends (typical ones). Okay, maybe just one or two friends, but someone he can call for a playdate and they will say yes. He's well liked. He's not thought of as odd. He's in a regular class and is no longer on an IEP. College is in his future. He'll have a career. We have every reason to expect that he'll have a family, if he so desires.

At work, many of my students are not so lucky. Some are non-verbal, or are very limited in their verbal skills. Some are so locked in their own worlds that it's a privilege to be granted entry, even if for a moment. God, what a gift that is to receive, when they let you in. How crushing it is when you see the curtain fall and know you're back on the outside.

I don't need a day to remind me of all the work that parents and teachers and therapists do on behalf of individuals with autism. That is my everyday.

And I don't need a day to remind me of how lucky and how honored I am to know these individuals. I know every single day. Somedays I'm frustrated, and somedays I feel inadequate. But every day I feel and every day I know.