Feel good stories

About twenty years ago a very wise colleague of mine advised me to keep a “Feel Good File”.  She said that I should keep notes from parents, students, colleagues or administrators if they were complimentary and if they made me smile. She told me to keep any item that touched my heart, that made me feel proud of my work or of myself.  So I did.

I’ve had a lot of need for that file this school year, and I eternally grateful to my friend.  I have some of those thank you cards on display on my desk right now.

As this year has gone on, I have found myself truly struggling to stay positive about my work.  Five years ago, every day at school was a joy.  A year ago, the thought of retiring made me cry.

This year, I find myself wondering how much longer I can hold on.  I feel marginalized, disregarded, outdated, obsolete.  I question my expertise every day, and sometimes I even feel sorry for the colleagues who have to deal with me, and for the kids who have to endure a year of my crabby old fashioned teaching methods.

So I’ve decided to use this blog as a place to record some of my “Feel Good” stories.  I’ll try to write one every few days, just so that I can reassure myself that I have done some good.

My first story took place 18 years ago.  I had a little boy on my speech/language caseload who was very, very special.  He had been born prematurely.  His lungs were severely compromised, so he dragged around an oxygen tank all day.  He was profoundly hearing impaired (which is where I came into his life) and had fine motor deficits.  But he was the most cheerful, upbeat, funny little guy in the world, and he never, ever complained.

This little one came to our school when he was in kindergarten.  I worked with him five times a week, helping him to speak, to eat, to understand.  He was a joy.  Toward the end of that year, his audiology team recommended that we get an FM transmitter unit for him.  He would wear a little receiver on each hearing aid, and his teacher would wear a small microphone around her next, attached to a battery powered transmitter.

I spent weeks ordering the unit, learning to use it, meeting with the audiologists to insure that I knew how to use it correctly. My job, in addition to teaching my student and his teacher how to use the system, was to trouble shoot and maintain the parts. All went smoothly until about a week before the start of first grade.  The first grade teacher was a veteran of the classroom.  She seemed like a great match for the little guy when he was placed with her.  But when she found out that she would be required to wear the transmitter pack all day long, and to turn the microphone on and off during the day, she immediately resisted.

“The district can’t mandate that I wear a piece of electronic equipment!!!  I never wear anything around my neck!  I will need to buy clothes with pockets, because I don’t want that thing clipped to my waistband!”

Even when I weighed the unit in front of her (8 oz), showed her how easy it was to switch on and off, reassured her that I would be there to help her, she out and out refused.  She filed a grievance with the union.  She complained to everyone on staff about the pressure that she was feeling.

I knew this woman. I knew her as kind and loving.  A very good teacher.  A pro.   I knew that she was scared of this new technology, and I suspected that her fear of failure was the real issue.  I worked with her for hours, pending the grievance meeting, and convinced her to give it a try.

At this point it was about the third week of September.  My little student, with his hearing aids and his oxygen tank, had been a member of her first grade class for about three weeks.  On the morning in question, I had put on his FM receivers, adjusted the settings on his hearing aids, and helped the teacher to put on her transmitter. As usual at this time of the morning, the children were seated in a circle on the rug, gathered around the teacher.  I watched as the teacher carefully turned on the microphone and began to speak.

“Good morning, boys and girls, today we are going start with……”

Her voice was interrupted by a loud shout, and a crash.  “KAREN!!!!”  It was my little student, jumping to his feet as he called my name, his oxygen tank crashing over behind him.  I turned back into the room, imagining the worst.  “What is it?!”, I asked, rushing to his side.

He looked up at me, his face glowing with amazed joy.  “Karen!!! I can hear my teacher!!”

I gave him a hug and sat him back down with his friends.  I looked at my teacher friend. The tears on her cheeks matched the ones on mine. I left her to her lessons, and walked back to my office.

The grievance was withdrawn that day, and the FM stayed with us for the rest of the student’s elementary school life.


The little boy is now 24 years old.  Six months ago he had a double lung transplant and took his first walk without pulling a tank.  The other day he sent me a message, telling me that he had signed up for a zumba class, and was hoping to get his first job.


One response to this post.

  1. What a lovely, lovely story. It says a lot about you that he still stays in touch. How wonderful that he now has a normal life ahead of him.


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