Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Bravest Child I Know

Today I want you to read a story about my student and friend, Alex. She is the bravest child I know. Please head over to her mother’s blog, Crumbs & Quibbles. You’ll come back here with a full heart. I promise.

Alex is one of those siblings who have been visiting our classroom since she was a baby. On her first day of school last year, as a 2-year-old, her mother Maya brought her in early to train me on how to re-insert her prosthetic eye should it come out during class. Apparently, there had been some episodes of her removing it in anger and tossing it across the room. Maya wanted me to be able to handle it so that it wouldn’t “freak out the other kids or parents.”

Alex lay on the floor that morning, so still, as I fumbled around with her eye, demonstrating a patience and fortitude far beyond her years. Her calmness put me to shame and I’ve looked up to her ever since.

On her feet Alex knows who she is, loves her friends and is often found right in the middle of the action. At the same time she has no problem turning to one of them and saying very clearly, “I want to play by myself.” There’s a confidence in her, perhaps forged in adversity, perhaps taught by Maya and Jon, perhaps an aspect of her inborn nature, but probably a combination of all three, that inspires me every day I get to be with her.

That said, I rarely think of her eye and the cancer that took it, because on a day-to-day basis it just doesn’t come up. I try to stay conscious of her limited peripheral vision and the need to keep her good eye protected, but she actually requires far less attention than most of the other kids. She’s there to play and gets right to it.

This is Alex wearing her superhero cape at the hospital

Maya and Jon were already incredible parents by any standard, but the grace and humor with which they’ve handled adversity is almost as inspiring as Alex’s own. I’m honored they let me be part of their lives.

Alex wears glasses, not to aid her eyesight, but as protection. Last week we were dancing the hokey pokey, the children taking turns picking the next body part to put in and take out. We did all the usual appendages including tummy and bottom, when someone suggested eyes. I’ve always made the kids laugh by taking my own glasses off and on in place of my eyes. As we finished the verse I spotted Alex. She was putting her own glasses back on, still beaming about the visual joke we'd told together. I was suddenly so full of joy that I just about cried right there in the middle of the song.

When I grow up I’m going to be just like Alex. If you haven’t yet, go read about her now.

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Jenni said...

What an amazing story of a little girl. Wow!

Now, as a teacher, I did have to laugh a bit. I could just imagine being in a toddler class with a child in the midst of a tantrum and yanking out her eye and throwing it across the room...THAT would be a story to add to the books!

Reservoir Dad said...

Thanks for this. Kids can be inspiring. I can imagine what a depressive slump of a man I'd be if I had to go through what she has gone through.

Just thought I'd let you know that the link at the end of your post doesn't work.

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks RD, fixed it.

Jenni, Maya told me that it makes the sound of a marble on the floor, although its more of a disk than a sphere. She laughs when she talks about it, too.

Deborah Stewart said...

What a touching story - I love the caring spirit you have towards each of your students and their parents. As teachers, it is so important to value the role of the parent in raising young children. I take classes all the time and find teacher under the false impression that parents are not as capable in raising their children as teachers are. I find this very dissapointing - this is why I love how you respect and honor the parents as well as value the child. Thanks for doing that.

Jon said...

Thanks for posting this, Tom. I'll never forget the great advice you gave us a year and a half ago when Maya and I were struggling with how to tell Sammy about Alex's upcoming surgery. It went something like "bring it up in a nonchalant manner like it just popped into your head. Stress how the surgery will remove the cancer and Alex won't be sick anymore. Make sure Sammy knows this is good news, not bad". While Sammy was still sad, I can't imagine a better way of delivering this type of news to a 4 (almost 5) year old. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is an incredible story and a very brave little girl.

Launa Hall said...

Great post, thank you. I love Jon's comment about your help with breaking the news. Pitch perfect.

Eternal Lizdom said...

A superhero girl, a superhero teacher, superhero parents... this should so be made into a comic book just for her. I'm imagining your carvings and some of the superheroes that have special sight or blindness as part of who they are.

Thank you and Maya for sharing Alex with us.

(And I just scrolled down and my word verification is "alexpint")

Ms Debbie said...

I love it when kids make us cry... I think they have ways in tiny moments of reminding us we are human.

Unknown said...

I can't wait to go and read it : ) Children amaze me constantly.