The more one loves being a candle, the more heartbreaking it can be

Some moments in your teaching career can make your heart soar at the same time that they crush your soul.

One such moment for me was when I recently received an email from the mother of a boy with ASD who I taught 5 or 6 years ago, when he was in grade 2. The email was kindly forwarded to me by my current Uni lecturer, who worked with me and that child at school as an Advisory Visiting Teacher.

The part of the email that made my heart soar was that the boy I taught, who we will call C, happily started grade 8 this year. His family moved schools the year after I taught him in pursuit of a small community and a particular job for C’s Dad. C recently achieved some extraordinary academic successes, including a principal’s award and two citizenship awards. His mother, in the email, spoke fondly about his 2014 teacher’s patience and persistence.

But the part that got me choked up was the following reference: “it was the first time that C has said good things about a teacher since grade 2” (I taught him in grade two. ME! I was special to him and I mattered!)

This was particularly moving to read, as I have a previous email from this mother framed on my wall:


Now, the soul-crushing part. C’s Dad died in mid 2013 from a brain aneurysm, while he was in the car with him.

For a typically developing child, this would have been highly traumatic. For a child with ASD who processes things differently and has limited avenues for expressing these emotions because of his neurological makeup, this would have been a life-altering event.

It’s no wonder that the school terms proceeding this incident were tainted with meltdowns, thievery, abusive language and running away from school. And I’m shattered that I wasn’t there to help.

Every child I’ve ever taught, especially ones like C who require just a little bit of extra love, are carried with me as I live my life.

Because the reality is, as you open yourself up to the joys of teaching, you simultaneously become vulnerable to the sorrows.

Having said all that, I would never sacrifice the good times to rid myself of the bad. Because the day your heart becomes so hardened against a student’s humanity that you no longer feel both the height of heights and the low of lows when you think about their lives; that’s the day you should retire from the classroom.

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