Thoughts of a High Hopes Teacher

Every day at 7 AM, the High Hopes preschool opens its doors to fill eight classrooms with students, both typically developing and with special needs. Each classroom has two to three teachers overseeing our students’ needs throughout the school day, and the bonds formed between these kiddos and their teachers are very strong. Those of you with children in the preschool have undoubtedly heard your little one talk about their teachers, about their day, what they learned. But you might wonder what it feels like from the teacher’s perspective, arriving every day to face the joys and the challenges of preschool and inclusion. One teacher has shared her thoughts on the subject, and she starts it out with these words:

I have the best job. If I’ve thought it once, I’ve thought it a million times. And it comes at weird moments, too. Moments which, from the outsider’s perspective, would seem like the least likely time to think something as positive as, “I have the best job.” Like when I’m changing a dirty diaper. Cleaning up spilled juice. Or when every single child in a given classroom has decided to scream the song of their people at the top of their lungs.

But that’s the thing about it. No matter how many nasty diapers I have to change, I get the benefit of the tight hugs and sweet little moments that happen when they’re all fresh and clean. No matter how many times they spill their juice, the day will come when they can take as many drinks as they like independently. And when every single child is yelling, “Let it gooooooo” in a pitchless cacophony that assails the ears, it’s because they are having a lot of fun. I wandered around for a long time before I found High Hopes. Even with all the volunteer and professional childcare experience I had under my belt, when I finally arrived at High Hopes, it was a whole different world. It was a frightening prospect in many ways, to come on board with a place that cared for so many children with such serious needs on a daily basis. Researching High Hopes from the perspective of a potential employee was intimidating, to say the least. But when I walked into the Inchworm classroom for the first time and met these amazing children, it wasn’t even a full day before I was totally and completely hooked. It came with new challenges. I have watched many a child on the autism spectrum have full-on, knock-down drag-out sensory meltdowns.

BUT I have also given snuggly hugs to children on the autism spectrum, who couldn’t stand to be touched by anyone, even in passing, when they first enrolled. I have played peek-a-boo with toddlers on the spectrum, who never made eye contact before coming to High Hopes. I have witnessed the moment a child with autism responds to their name for the first time.