This week I read a post on Facebook from a young man who had just earned his first “A” on an assignment in college. He was proud—justifiably so—and wanted to let others know of his success. As a teacher, I smiled, happy that an academic success compelled him to post.
Then I read further.
This was a young man who was proud, yes, but peppered in was discernible anger—also justifiable. Accompanying his post was a narrative in which he revealed the words that were said to him—by an adult who should have known better, a teacher working with students with special needs—words that have been keeping company with him for nearly twenty years. In short, he was told he would never amount to anything, that the best he could hope for was a job in a fast-food restaurant.
I grimaced, as anyone, teacher or not, would; but as the parent of child with an IEP, I was particularly pained. Despite our son’s health challenges and resulting rocky start in the world of formal education, we have never wavered in our belief that he could do anything anyone else could and more. While we acceded he may need—temporarily or not—a different path to get where he wanted to go, there was never a question he would get there.
At 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon I planted seeds in my backyard with my youngest son. I explained to him how each seed held the potential for life, how with the right care each would grow into a beautiful plant. When we were finished planting, he looked at the containers with the seeds then at the elevated bed already bursting with the transplants we had put in two weeks before, and said, “The pots with the seeds look plain. I don’t see anything there.”
I asked him to remember what was underneath the soil. He smiled and held the seed packets in front of his eyes. “The seeds for these beautiful plants.”
I told him to give the seeds time. Then I asked him to come out with me every day to check, to make sure they have everything they need so they can grow and be the most amazing plants they can be.
Last night we received our son’s latest reading and math scores. He exceeded—exceeded–all benchmarks for his grade and is thriving—thriving because everyone around him has believed in what was within, what was underneath those top layers, the shroud of epilepsy, anti-seizure medication, and ADHD, and has been committed to giving him what he needed to thrive.
The woman at the garden shop told me not to be surprised if I didn’t experience success with my first attempt at planting seeds. She shrugged and said matter-of-factly, “Sometimes it doesn’t work.”
I told her it would work if I believed it would.