A Teacher’s Story by Kathy Harwell


A Teacher’s Story by Kathy Harwell

Teachers have a lot of influence on your children. When you realize that someone other than family
is responsible for the care of your child for over 7 hours a day, it is important to have that person on
your team. Teachers are like cantaloupes, some are better than others! The important thing to
remember is that teachers are human. They are parents and spouses just like you. Keep in the back
of your mind that they went into huge debt to get a degree to be qualified to provide the services your
child needs. They chose this field not for financial gain but because they had a heart for children with
different abilities.

As a former special education teacher, I must say that there are some very tough days. Some students
provide challenges every minute of every day. This brings to mind one student that will forever be in
my heart. His name was JC and he was eligible to receive services in the LD program with a secondary
classification as OHI due to ADHD. He came from a home environment that would break most children
early in life. His mother was addicted to drugs and had been in and out of jail and rehab. Her most recent
stint was the result of trying to sell her food stamps in the school parking lot to buy drugs. He told tales of
drug buys and busts and this was the norm for him. Eventually the 5 children in the family were placed
in the care of a grandmother. This woman was a saint but struggled to provide the care the children needed.

JC would start his days getting his 4 younger siblings to school each morning. Often they were late and
missed breakfast, but loving teachers had cereal and fruit set aside and waiting for them when they arrived.
On one occasion, they came to school soaked because they had to wear wet clothes to school because
the money to dry the clothes at the laundromat was beyond their meager budget.

JC was very street smart, charming, and crafty. He was a tough little kid and very manipulative. No
teacher wanted him in their class due to his constant antics. This young man at age 10 jumped onto
a Tom’s truck parked in front of the school rolled it backwards and began throwing snacks out the
back door into the neighborhood. The truck was cleaned out in minutes and the driver learned a
major lesson about securing the vehicle. We knew how crafty he was when other children boasted
that, “JC crunked up the truck and started throwing boxes out the back door”. He had learned to be
charming and quick in order to survive. In the classroom, he could find a million ways to get out of a
task when the completion of it would have taken so much less effort. Due to his ADHD and lack of
meds, he was a constant disruption and required a lot of individual redirection. By the end of the day,
I was always ready for the bell to ring and to send him on his way.

One day, I heard him call my name for what must have been the 2,000 time that day. When he said,
“Mrs. Harwell”, he didn’t say it just once, but three. As I heard him call my name I remember cringing
and looking at the clock to will it to move forward and ring the bell. He came up behind me and grabbed
me around the waist hugging me and said, ”I wish you were my mother”.

Teachers and all parts of the school day are sometimes the only bright spot for some children. It is a safe
environment, warm and welcoming with food, praise, and an opportunity for success. This little boy helped
me to realize that I had an important role to play in his upbringing. Eventually, the family was moved to
foster care in another part of the state and I have no idea what became of JC. Over the years, I have
thought of him and his siblings many times. He taught me that I had the awesome responsibility to shape
young lives and I was forever changed.