Something To Talk About

For the past few years, most of my work has been with students having special needs, many of whom are non-verbal communicators.

Earlier this year, I worked in a special education classroom at a West Michigan elementary school. It was my very first time in the school, thus I was not at all familiar with the students.

Before the first bell, one of the administrators asked me a question from the hallway, and I walked out to speak to them.  I saw there was a young man sitting outside the door, and I asked him if he was in my class and  if he wanted to come in. He sprung up and walked briskly into the room and chilled on a beanbag chair, about as far as he could get from my desk.

I asked him an occasional  question for the first hour or so to which he responded with either a nod, a head-shake, or a quizzical look that suggested, “I don’t know.”

His participation in the class’s morning meeting, was limited to pointing at objects on the projection screen.

About two, three hours into the school day, I was chatting with the classroom’s paraprofessional about: the students in the class, our own children, travel and eventually current events.

I was startled when the young man jumped up and said, “I know about Kim Jung Un. Have you been to North Korea? There’s two Koreas, right?!?” He then mentioned several countries from around the world as well as a few other topics that interested him.

For the rest of school day, he peppered me with questions and comments, about countries around the world, science, and he even wanted to mix it up with me about whether Michael Jordan was a better basketball player than Wilt Chamberlain.

That day ranks as one of my favorite experiences I’ve had working in schools, primarily because of how entertaining and engaged that young many suddenly, and unexpectedly  became. I’m glad that I had stumbled upon something he’d wanted to talk about. There’s no way I could  have planned that.

I’d rather be lucky than good.

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