With this week (May 2 through May 6, 2016) being Teachers Appreciation Week, we felt it fitting to share the following story submitted by Michael Murphy, who is a Kindergarten Teacher at Lafayette Pershing School in Carneys Point Twp.
The state of education in our country is always a hot topic. If the topic of education crosses paths with national or local news affiliates, nine times out of ten, you are bound to hear the dire straits the youth of our nation face. Whether it is fighting, drugs, or failing test scores, the future seems pretty bleak. As an educator, I get to witness first hand some of the many hurdles and obstacles our young scholars face in their educational voyage into adulthood, and at times it can be very scary. With that being said, I wanted to take the time to share a truly touching story that may never make the national or local news affiliates, but in a time where education struggles, it certainly should.
As a Kindergarten teacher, reading, writing, and arithmetic are staples in our everyday routine. I am fortunate enough to see students enter my classroom in September with very limited knowledge of even the basic concepts of these skills, and, over the course of a given school year, blossom into confident young boys and girls ready to tackle any academic challenge. This year, however, I have been afforded the opportunity to witness something even more remarkable than that light which finally goes off in a child as they begin reading on their own.
In a school district that is very diverse, both ethnically and socioeconomically, our students [at Penns Grove-Carneys’ Point School District] are exposed to so many things that they may never have experienced had it not have been due to their environment. For the past few years, the self contained, special needs class has mainstreamed in my classroom during specials and for group, collaborative play. This year, I have experienced what I refer to as “the perfect storm of my career”. The lesson that five remarkable students have taught me and my colleagues is one that is both uplifting and encouraging for the future of education.
Four female kindergarten students have learned that not every skill worth mastering can be found in a book. Some of the most important lessons that we learn come from the heart. This story revolves around a student in our class with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is an intelligent and loving little girl who has shown great improvements in all developmental and academic areas. However, her social skills continue to be a weakness for her as she has difficulty making and maintaining friendships. [for anonymity and privacy we will refer to the young female student as ‘Mary’]
An idea that at first began as an attempt to teach her how to socialize quickly turned into a lesson of tolerance, compassion, acceptance, and love. Four students from my class were asked one morning if they would mind eating lunch with ‘Mary’ in their classroom instead of going to the cafeteria to create a more comfortable atmosphere with more opportunities to engage and socialize. As expected, all four students agreed without hesitation. By the end of the lunch hour, an amazing bond of friendship had formed. ‘Mary’ began asking to spend time with the girls using full sentences, and would participate in activities that in the past she would never have attempted. The young ladies continue to take turns helping the young student through transitions, holding her hand in the hallway, encouraging her in therapies, comforting her through frustrations, and the list goes on and on. As an outsider looking in on this situation, it truly warms my heart, and gives me the drive to continue to do what I love, teach.
The future of education is not a bleak one; we just need to shine the lights on the situations that warrant the attention of others. This experiment to try and help a young lady with Autism, quickly turned into a lesson of love and friendship to all of us here at school. These are the stories that I find news worthy. The stories about the positive things that happen in schools throughout the nation. The stories of students teaching us about tolerance, acceptance, perseverance, and above all… love for thy neighbor.
Let us cast the limelight of education onto stories and instances such as these in our nation. Yes, as a realist, I know that the stories of disaster, scandal, and violence in our schools will always take its place in the news. However, for every one of those stories, I guarantee there are at least 10 stories like the one I was lucky enough to witness here at my school [Lafayette Pershing School]. It is time for us to change the perspective for our youngsters, and maybe, just maybe, hearing the positive ones will in turn generate more positive situations and circumstances within our schools.”
Written by Michael Murphy
– Mr. Michael Murphy is a kindergarten teacher at Lafayette Pershing School (Pre-K & Kindergarten) within Penns Grove-Carneys Point School District.
**Any views or opinions in this Letter to the Editor do not reflect any views or opinions of The News of Salem County LLC.