You Can’t Make This Stuff Up – Life Lessons from Special Kids

You can’t make this stuff up! This is a statement that fellow special education teachers and I would say to each other if we had a story to tell. Sometimes we would pass each other in the halls, shaking our heads.  We all knew the body language. Something crazy, funny, or heartwarming had just happened.  We would then share a funny story or something clever that was said by one of the students.  When you read these stories, know that every word is true. They are stories from my 42 years of teaching. There are so many lessons throughout the stories where I reflect back and realize many times the student was the teacher. Together, we learned a lot!

When I was studying to become a teacher, the textbooks did not cover real-life challenges and how to respond. Let these stories serve as a resource for others and a way to pay it forward to aspiring special education teachers. I often said, “It’s not a job. It’s an adventure.” That became the theme of my teaching career. Come join me as I recount memories of my great adventures.

When I graduated from college with an elementary and special education degree, I knew I wanted to be a teacher who positively impacted her students’ lives. I wanted my name to come to mind when they were asked who made a difference in their lives. This is probably the dream of every person going into the teaching profession, and I was out to change lives and influence young minds. I knew I loved the special needs population and couldn’t wait to get started on what some might call a career. To me, it was my calling and what I was born to do.

During my 42 years of teaching, I taught preschool through high school, with the most experience working with middle school children with special needs. When I went to college, I thought middle school was the one level I would never teach. Still, I loved being a part of all the tumultuous years of trying to discover identity during students’ “wonder years.” In fact, I loved every age I taught and felt like they had their own special features.

I always felt that students with special needs had their own superpowers. Just meet any student with autism, and you will find that person is an expert in something.

Being a special education teacher was a big part of who I was and still am, and I felt like it was time to write this book now that I’m retired. These stories are about the students I taught. Most stories are humorous, heartwarming, or have lessons to learn. Some are gut-wrenching, and not every story has a happy ending. I hope you may find something relatable. It might be something to learn, be entertained, or find interesting. All the stories are true, but I changed the names for the privacy of my students.


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