She started middle school as a special education student. But she was right on the border, and she seemed like she was doing well. She also seemed like she was becoming too dependent on us to help her with things that she really could do on her own. It wasn’t the academic skills that she was lacking, it was the confidence. And the social skills. There is no term for what she is, nothing that could be put on an IEP, anyway. And yet I knew, the the first minute I meet her, exactly what she was. She is a tender-heart.
She’s a bit “young for her age,” too attached to her mother and teachers. The other students find her annoying (I know, because I see their eye rolls every time she is called on to talk.) She has been the victim of bullying, and the pain of that is still very close to her heart–she will bring it up whenever she gets a chance. She tries to be nice and get along with others and she can’t understand why they don’t like her. And it breaks my heart watching her trying to interact with her peers–because it’s like watching myself from the outside. I see little-Amy-I-was in her, and I see how much it hurts her to not fit in. I see how confused she is. She doesn’t understand what is different. And I get that. From my perspective on the outside, can see exactly why she doesn’t fit in. But I don’t know how to explain it to her.
She also worries a lot about school. She tries really hard to do well and gets stressed out when she can’t. She can feel easily overwhelmed. She has a hard time focusing on her work, mostly because of the anxiety. Therefore, school is a struggle for her. That does not, however, qualify her for special education.
Because her test scores were in the “low-average,” she was re-tested for special education and decertified. She is just a struggling student, not a student with a learning disability. It might take her longer to do her work, but she can do it, and she doesn’t require any special accommodations. Except, perhaps, understanding.
What she’s not getting now is understanding. “She can do the work, she’s just not trying enough.” “She’s been too coddled by her mother.” “She needs to grow up and learn to do things on her own.” “She keeps asking to go to the bathroom just to get out of doing the work.” (Actually, she has digestion problems, due to anxiety brought about by stress from the work.)
Those who have never dealt with anxiety don’t understand it and too often, they think people are just using it as a way to get out of doing work. Often, they have no idea just how much work it is to live with anxiety all the time.
She asked to come to my room because she needed someone to talk to. Life was just too hard and she didn’t think she could handle it anymore. She felt like she was about to break down and cry. I listened to her, which is know is the best thing you can do to help. But then what? I had to go teach a class. I couldn’t let her sit there and cry all day. I felt the urge to try to “cheer her up,” even though I know that often, when you are feeling that way, the last thing you want is for someone to try to cheer you up. But what else could I do?
What will happen to her in the long run, this highly-sensitive misfit tender-heart? Will she make it through her school years, fighting a million internal battles along the way? Will she learn to “toughen up” and, as they say, “Suck is up, Buttercup”? Will she eventually find her own place in the world, a place where she can fit in and be herself?
I just hope she doesn’t decide to go into teaching. I hope that she won’t think of me, reaching out to help her during this hard time, and decide she wants to do the same for others. I don’t want any other tender-hearts having to go through what I’ve gone through–learning the hard way that the education field is not set up for those of us who care too much.