An anonymous story as told to Gabriella Fluhler
I will never forget the happiness in Teddy’s voice that day. Often, the memory of the defiant, Autistic fourth grader who found me trustworthy enough to help him through school is a source of encouragement to continue to chase my love for teaching after all this time. It has been so difficult lately, with financial problems plaguing the school system. The school’s inability to provide for their teachers forced us as teachers to pay for supplies and activities for our classrooms ourselves. The district was even being forced to close some of our schools because of these problems. The financial and emotional strain this put on us as teachers and the kids, seeing our troubles, was insurmountable. Sometimes I stop to think of the things I’ve been through so far.
All throughout college I felt the tug. The pull to change what I was doing, where I was going. Chemistry was fascinating, but it wasn’t my passion. Even after following Evan to Indianapolis, things weren’t perfect. I wanted to change lives, I realized I wanted to teach. Working for the law firm wasn’t my thing either. Ten years of my life, buried in the paperwork. It wasn’t awful, but again… it wasn’t what my heart said to do. It was a slow realization. After having the kids, over time, I moved to doing the law firm work from home. Things were good, but the paperwork and proceedings were getting exhausting.
So I did it. I signed on as a teacher’s aide. I was there for three days as the personal aide for Teddy. The first day I met him, he was a whirlwind. He was tearing the room apart, screaming, flailing, absolutely oppositional. I was the only one who could settle him. Spending time talking to him like an equal, and giving him the time he needed to calm down and process the information he was given did wonders for him. He trusted me, he knew I wasn’t going to give up on him like others had. He showed me his sense of humor, made jokes, he even laughed. His favorite thing to sing was “I believe I can fly!” Eventually he grew to no longer need me; a bittersweet victory in the eyes of a special education aide.
The teachers and other aides saw it as a victory. A specialist was brought in, and asked if I had ever wanted to teach full time. This was it, this was the chance. The feeling tugged at me, and I knew this was my chance. I got licensed, worked towards a degree. I did it, I became a teacher.
I was placed as a resource room aide. I loved my job. The feeling of family and community among us teachers was amazing. The school really was like home to me. However… from even when my time there had begun, the school went through many changes. If we’re being honest, the administrative panic began several years ago, when the school first “almost” closed. That time, it stayed open. This time… we got word that it wouldn’t. We were devastated, collectively, as teachers. I was in denial. That’s my family. Even with the money issues, they can’t just close us up and send us on our way. There has to be a solution.
Oh, but they could, and they did. We all went our separate ways. Thankfully, we could stay in touch through occasional gatherings, texts, calls and our own kids’ activities. Some of the others even went on vacation to the lake together. Eventually the hurt went away and we began to see the light.
Change is hard. Each of us was placed where we were said to be needed. I never asked for this; but I’ll take it. Kids somewhere need me. Kids of the recipient schools are getting some great new teachers. These are the new beginnings. Fall will come again, classrooms will be prepared, students will learn and things will be as close to normal as possible once again. We will all settle into this new routine. I’m still helping kids, I’m still following my dream, I get to go somewhere where I’m needed. The greatest thing is that, even after all this time, the tug is still here. Thanks to Teddy, I have a memory and a song to keep me going when the change seems hard.
No matter what, these kids need good teachers. They need stability, they need familiar faces. I’m here to be that. We’re here to be that.
I firmly believe everything is going to be okay.
Gabriella Fluhler is a 20 year old Ball State Student studying Pre-Veterinary Biology and Psychology. She has passions for teaching, writing and STEM outreach in the community. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her daughter, Leah.
This story originally appeared in Facing Teaching, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.