My first full year of teaching was a treat and one I remember clearly. I co-taught with a new teacher and we had a class of first through fifth grade children that received special education services. The students and the activities we did are pleasant memories, not like my one semester teaching in the same room as Mrs. Ryan.
I had one young man that began school right after the holiday break that touched me in many ways, but I will only share one today. He was ten years old, lived with his mom, wore old ragged clothes, was a poor reader, had minimal math skills, and was a wonderful artist. And I found out a caring individual.
One morning when he arrived at school, he came up to my desk with his hands in his coat pockets and said, "Miss Seney, I couldn't leave her alone at home." Out came this rodent, twitching whiskers, pointy nose, and long tail. This was my very first meeting of a live rodent. In my mind it was huge but in this young man's mind it was something he took care of. He went on to tell me that it was going to have babies. Now when I looked at it, I couldn't tell it was even pregnant. He stood there in front of me cradling this mouse. I knew I couldn't let him down. I said, "Let's take him to the janitor. I am sure there are some things to make a nest for him so he can be comfortable. You can leave him in the janitor's room since it will be quiet in there and of course, go visit him anytime you wish." (Note: I used a male pronoun to refer to this creature. I guess I just couldn't imagine a mouse could be anything but male. I apologize to my readers but my young student never corrected me.) The janitor did allow the mouse to stay in a box for the day. My young man did go visit the mouse frequently. At the end of the day the mouse left in its box and had the babies that night. It was the weekend and when the young man came back on Monday, he said the mouse and babies were fine.
I look at the incident know and think could I have handled it better. At the time I was just trying not to scream. I did react calmly and did find a way for the young man to take care of his charge that day without interfering with our class's routine. I did realize that day that my lived reality was different than his. He was taking care of something that lived in his home that he had become attached to and important to him. He helped me to be a more understanding and caring teacher.