Jacob teaches at a school down the road. I recently visited him to hear about Ms. Wick, the seventh grade teacher who forged a strong connection with him despite their apparent differences.
I grew up in rural West Virginia. The area was quite segregated, and everybody looked much like me. However, I felt different than my peers at school, like I did not fit in. Both of my parents were deaf, and neither could read or write. They were unable to help me with academics, and I learned to read by watching closed captioning on television. My parents often depended on me to interpret for them in sign language. I was not a proficient reader, but I was a highly skilled sign language interpreter.
I will never forget my first day of seventh grade. I walked into my history class and was greeted by Ms. Wick, a petite black woman who stood out in the all white middle school. She started the class by posing the question, “What is history?”
I thought about how I would interpret the word in sign language. I raised my hand, “His story- I suppose it is someone’s story.” The other students giggled.
Ms. Wick smiled at me. “That is a very astute answer.” Then she began to explain the origin of the word.
From that moment on, I was hooked. Ms. Wick loved teaching about history, and I loved learning about it. She built my confidence and my competence as a reader and writer. Ms. Wick had overcome big challenges, and she made me believe that I could do the same. We were both felt like outsiders in that small town. We were different but in many ways the same.
I carried those lessons from Ms. Wick through four tours in the Middle East. I now carry them into my own classroom every day. I teach students with learning disabilities. I tell them it is ok to feel different- we all feel that way sometimes.
Jacob’s story made me think about the deep connections between teachers and students. Even through differences in age, gender, ethnicity or background, there are commonalities on a deeper human level. Perhaps we are all the same kind of different on the inside. Was there a teacher who connected with you?
Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-
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