What “Being There For the Kids” Really Means
We’re for the kids. We’re all for the kids. No, really: We’re all in for the kids. Seriously.
Reality check: What does that mean? Should we force them to endure and overcome on their own, with no more than moral support? Should we support them through every trial, perhaps to the detriment of teaching them self-reliance? Should we coddle them beyond recognition?
I don’t know, but I think my dad has a pretty good idea.
Dad isn’t even a teacher. He tells stories he’s heard and does not necessarily agree with, condone or believe — he’s a lot like Herodotus — but I thought one of his gems addresses this question. Though he’s years younger than at least one of you readers, he and I have been around each other enough that I generally know his stories. Think Big Fish.
His story is about a hard-nosed, old-school, cuss-you-off-the-field football coach. Over the years, my dad has told it as he remembers it, and each time, the story either adds another embellishment or loses a previous one. This story certainly has the feeling of truth.
It was possible only before special ed teachers were legally required to hold certification. This story could not happen today. In my dad’s tradition, I add my own embellishments.
Our coach is a coach, and in every sense of being coach. He teaches physical education. His mind is a pastiche of power plays on gridiron. Unlike the rest of the coaching staff, he’s also relatively new.
He had been aware that everyone on the coaching staff takes a full schedule of special education classes every five years. The school district was too poor or too unable to find full-time special ed students.
It’s his turn this year. He fought them tooth and nail. He did not want to be stuck teaching those retards. His fellow coaches weren’t about to let him get away with breaching the contract, so put the pressure on the rookie. Our coach caved in, and he taught special ed.
Despite himself, he became endeared to his students during that year. He felt every success, and became excited in helping them learn how to live and survive outside the coddling influence of their high school. They were learning something, and they had made so much progress, the coach thought.
Then the year ended, and the tired-eyed administrator confers with the next coach on the rotation to take up the responsibility of the special ed students. Our football coach, who so vigorously fought against his assignment, fought even more vigorously against being reassigned to the football team.
They’ve made so much progress. I don’t want them to lose all that.
He taught special ed as long as he taught anything.
That, my friends, is what it really means to be for the kids. Combine equal parts mentoring and tenacity, and invest in them.
Happy birthday, Dad.