Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Proud to Be "Goof"

Twelve years ago I had the privilege of teaching a young man with Down Syndrome who taught me so many things about teaching.  This young man was only in kindergarten when I met him and he instantly stole my heart.  He was funny, active, athletic, and STUBBORN!!!  This young man could out-wait everyone in his life when given directions he wasn't fond of following.  We instantly connected as, I hate to admit it, am also incredibly stubborn.  We were kindred spirits and able to quickly move from behavior management to learning and having fun together.

As he became more comfortable, he started to say more than "ugh" and "no."  Everything he said was a repeat of what you said to him.  Even if I said things like, "I am a pretty girl," he would repeat with "I am a pretty girl."  He didn't even seem to realize what he was saying.  I just wanted him to keep talking.

Then, one day, it happened.  This young man was walking across the amphitheater making funny shadows as he walked and I said to him, "You are a goof."  He turned around, looked me straight in the eye (which was a victory in itself) and said, "No, you are the goof."

It was a real-time, honest, original sentence.  I was so excited that I wanted to hear it again and replied with the not-quite-mature-but-engaging "No, you sir, are the goof."  At which point he walked to me, said, "you are goof," and ran ahead with a giggle.

From that day on, this young man did two things:

Spoke conversationally with his own ideas, requests, and initiation 


Called me "Goof" as though that is my name.  

Needless to say, my principal at the time heard the story as I was sharing his celebration and she also adopted the name for me.  The young man's mom could only call me "Goof" or he would correct her.  Within a month, that was my name.  One I wore proudly as it was the result of one amazing moment as a teacher.  A few years later, I moved to a new state and received this beautiful gift that I still treasure.

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