An open letter from the heart of a special education teacher
Today, we’re sharing an edited version of an open letter from Highline EA member and Marvista Elementary special education teacher Jennevieve Acosta who told us she wrote it as a therapeutic exercise for her heart.
An open letter from the heart ❤️of a special education teacher :
“As a self-contained teacher, I work with students with emotional and behavioral disabilities; many who experienced fear, loss of control, trauma and life experiences I could never imagine enduring.
I often tell my students that they have taught me so much more than I will ever teach them. My students have taught me the true lessons of life. They have taught me that our fears and our pains can be met with love and understanding. They have taught me to teach to their hearts.
We have a responsibility right now to teach our youth what life is about; to love one another and understand that we are all connected.
Every year, during the first week of school, I bring out a ball of yarn and a list of things they may have in common. I read to them aloud and the students begin to pass around the ball of yarn. When they agree with something, they hold on to the string and will often wrap it around their hands or feet and pass it around the circle. They begin throwing it back and forth to one another. It becomes a huge tangled mess. They begin to see connections and by the end of the activity, there’s a tangled web and I ask a few students to tug at the yarn and it triggers movement. Some fall over in laughter while some yell out in frustration that another is tugging too hard.
I explain to them that we are all connected. I read to them wise words from Dr. Martin Luther King, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
I can see that they don’t quite grasp this idea, yet the visual of the yarn in their own tangled fingers somehow help them understand this idea. I think it is safe to say, with the events unfolding, we are all truly experiencing Dr. King's words and teachings.
We have an opportunity to teach these invaluable lessons to our youth.
- Choose books with themes of love, compassion, kindness and perseverance.
- Talk to your child about how the character overcame their challenges through love or kindness.
- Encourage dialogue of your child's current fears and challenges and ensure them that we will all get through this; it will give them a sense of control knowing that they can choose a way to respond.
- Read poetry or listen to the lyrics in music that promote love and positivity.
- Hold circles, family meetings, that encourage vulnerability, expressing emotions and feelings.
- Last, in my class we say, “Gratitude changes your attitude.” Focus on what you have in your life that you are grateful for. Have your child create a list, make art out of it.
If I were with my students today, I would have a classroom meeting. We would all sit around our red circle carpet and I would say to them, “You have no control of what you have been given BUT you do have control of the kind of person you choose to be and how you react to situations.
Thanks for taking the time to read.
Much love, from the World of Mrs. Acosta’s class