You never know who you will sit next to on a flight.
Will it be a passenger who coughs constantly without covering their mouth? Will it be a mother with a three year old that cries the whole flight? Will it be someone who has too much to drink? You never know…..
On a flight to visit a friend of mine, who had just retired, in Rhode Island, I was excited to hear that our flight was only 70% full, and it was likely that not all three seats in my row would be filled! I always take the aisle seat and a woman asked to get through to the window seat. We both commented that we were hopeful that the middle seat would remain empty.
We started to chat a bit, and she told me she was going to Rhode Island for a team-building event and that she was a musician who specialized in African drumming. She lived in Austin, Texas and was in and out that same day. She told me a bit about her musical expertise and shared that she was able to obtain some grants to work in the schools. She definitely had a passion for what she did and how it impacted children.
This woman shared that she had an 8-year-old daughter and that she was involved in her school, as PTA president and need to make sure that her daughter did not have the same experience as her son in public education. She became very emotional about his experiences, and the way public education failed her and her son throughout his education. She finally realized her son was on the autism spectrum, most likely Asperger’s, and the schools he attended were not capable of supporting him. She shared a story about the principal calling her into his office one day. The principal said that her son performed excellent on the Texas state assessment and asked her how this could be, as her son does not do his homework and has behavioral problems in the classroom. She began to cry.
At this point, I was compelled to tell her that I was a retired public school administrator. She apologized for her stories and said she didn’t mean to offend me. I shared with her that I was also a special educator, specifically a speech-language pathologist, and that I understood what she was telling me and understood her frustrations.
I told this woman that I worked in a district that did everything they could do to accommodate a child, no matter what. I shared various accommodations that we provided to our students in order to help them be successful.
After our conversation, I closed my eyes and thought, “Did I really work in this type of district?” “Did we really do everything we could to accommodate students and their needs?”
This is a question that we should ask ourselves every single day when working with our students.