We’ve all had times when we’ve questioned whether we belonged somewhere or were meant to be there. I, too, have felt this way.
One of the most important years in my career as a special education teacher was my 6th year. It was my first year in only the second district I had worked for, a school district in the northern Denver area.
When I first began there, I struggled significantly to “fit in.” In fact, I faced a lot of work place bullying from several staff members who were pillars of the school. I remember the other special education teacher berating me one day after school saying that I said “Okay” too much with my students. “You say ‘Okay” a lot. You say it too much.”
Not addressing my palilalia (a tic where you repeat your own words) I deal with due to my Tourette’s, I somberly told her, “That’s how I talk…”
Also, early on in the year, the school psychologist cornered my friend, Amanda, another new teacher who was much younger than me, and chided her, “He shouldn’t be calling you. He’s a creeper. You’d better be careful because if HR finds out you’re having an affair, they’ll move you. They won’t move him because he has a disability.”
These are just some of the lowlights of what I went through that year. It was basically a witch hunt.
But then, around mid-year, a 2nd grade student I worked with was observed by her teacher licking her chair. Concerned, I took the student to my classroom and spoke to her. As we were speaking, she shared with me that her and her little brother were being sexually assaulted by their 14-year old cousin who lived with them. The graphicness of her story was heart-stopping. I took her to my principal, where she shared the same story with her. My principal ended up calling the sheriff’s office, and they went and investigated that night. All I thought about were those two kids that night, until my principal called me and said they had arrested the cousin. She said to me, “They found out it has been going on a long time, and that it would have continued had (she) not trusted you enough to tell you what was going on.”
That, right then, was when I knew I was right where God wanted me to be. Despite the hardships I had encountered that year, I knew I was in the right place at the right time, where the relationship I had with that student made her feel safe enough to tell me about the crimes being committed against her and her brother.
I urge you to call for help if you suspect anyone, child or otherwise, is being sexually assaulted.
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Hours: Available 24 hours
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