When peer tutoring a special needs class was accidentally put on my high school schedule, I didn’t know what to expect. The only interactions I had previously had with that class were passing them in the hallway and sharing the occasional smile. I had never really taken it upon myself to be more relevant in their lives, until I met them all.
From the minute I walked in the classroom, I was greeted by every student. In my other classes, that doesn’t happen at all. Usually, people don’t acknowledge your presence and there is a lack of welcome. It’s not like I expect to be praised whenever I enter a classroom, it’s just that occasional greetings radiate a sort of positivity. Working with the students in this class has been an amazing learning experience. It’s definitely difficult at times, because you have to be considerate of everyone’s special needs and adapt to the new environment, but the pros outweigh the cons.
One thing I’ve learned is that I should be more appreciative of the life I was given. It may sound clichéd to some, but it’s so utterly important to find bliss in simplicity. People tend to take advantage of the various wonders in life and living. One of the boys I work with shows me the food his mother packs him every single day, and every single day he tells me how thrilled he is to eat it. It made me sit and think “wow, when’s the last time I actually appreciated my food?” Having food on my plate every day is such a privilege and I’ve become so accustomed to it that I don’t acknowledge the fact that so many people in the world are deprived of this nourishment. When we eat, we should really be thankful.
One of the girls memorises everyone’s birthday. She cares about people and wants them to feel happy on their special day. She appreciates the relationships and support she has in her life more than many people I’ve come across. It’s these simple things in life that we forget are so extremely valuable.
Another lesson I have learned is to be proud of myself when I put my best effort into my work. Sometimes I set unrealistic standards for myself, and get overly upset when I don’t reach them. Realistically, when we work as hard as we possibly can for something and don’t achieve it, we should just be content with all that we’ve learned from that experience. If you keep working hard on your goals, you will eventually achieve them, but success is often a rocky path. Being confident in your work and open to improvement will lead you to success, not diminish your worth because you didn’t get exactly what you wanted. You also need to be open to the fact that not everyone will learn in the same way you do. You can’t compare your learning strategies to others, because everyone has a distinct way of gaining knowledge.
The amount of intelligence in this class is unreal. There is a boy who is non-verbal, but communicates in so many different ways, including sign language and noises. Just because he interacts differently with others, doesn’t mean he is lower in intelligence than anyone else. I think everything he’s accomplished with his education is incredible – nothing is holding him back.
Everyone has a different background and factors that affect what we can do, and we have to start admiring all that we are capable of accomplishing. However, it is also important to work hard and grow in as many ways as possible. In all, we need to appreciate how much we have to learn, and how much we have learned.
Words: Lindsay Olivieri
Image: Silvia Carrus