When I played soccer, my coach would say, “Play to the whistle. It’s not over until you hear the whistle blow”.
There is a special place in my heart which holds a group of students. These students come into my life when they are 14 years old and stay with me for the next seven years. At first, they are timid and shy and dependent on many.
Then over the years, I have the privilege of watching them grow, change, improve socially, academically and learn all new work skills.
They learn from our school that compassion is contagious, and others learn from them what authenticity really is.
I work alongside the best colleagues in the world (yes, the world) with these students. Just like spectators at a game witness incredible feats, we also witness great things. We get to witness the student who once was scared to step a foot outside my classroom alone, can now travel the halls.
We get to witness the student who had little control over their emotions can now pull a coping strategy out of their personal “toolbox” to help them calm down. The student who had no voice, now has a voice. We are a team of coaches and spectators.
However, the realization starts to sink in. As the years go on my mind starts to play the video reel of how one day they will walk out of my classroom for the last time and get on that bus. I am like the referee near the end of the game, I start checking my watch.
It’s mixed emotions-excited thinking about how the rest of the world will get to meet them yet anxious because I know they’ll walk out through my classroom doors for the last time. I know when that date is, it’s been written on my calendar all year. There’s time left in the game; I know when the whistle will blow.
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Wait, something is not right. The way this school year has ended, it’s not right. It’s not what’s supposed to happen. I never heard the whistle blow! Wait! What? There’s no whistle? We’re not coming back? This ending is a kick to the gut.
A penalty has been called, a red card pulled and waved in the air. I change gears, now what? What are they thinking? They’re forced to sit on the bench, sidelined. They won’t get a chance now to go back in the game.
We’ve practiced this scenario all these years though. We’ve run the drills, they know the plays. This is what we’ve taught them all along. I know they’ll be ok, now, and in the future. They need to remember the advice we have given them all along and that they have the equipment, they have the tools.
So, to my exiting students, my youngsters who have turned into adults before my eyes:
You were awesome when I met you and you are still awesome now. Now go continue being awesome for the rest of the world. Go show them your authentic beautiful selves, I have given you everything you need. Go blow your own whistles.
This article was featured in Issue 106 –Maintaining a Healthy Balance With ASD