What I learned from Josh

I  have been working on this post for a long time.  
A little boy came into my life and changed how I teach. 
His name is Joshua Maynard.  He came to our school when he was three.  During his preschool years you could always find Josh walking the halls searching for colors.  I know that he had other goals but seeking out those colors seemed to be a top priority.
“I can’t find that darn color”  would be a common phrase you would hear as he was on the hunt for that “darn red color”.  
Josh has always been honest, funny, sweet, caring and a little bit of a joker.  He was easily frustrated but also easily entertained. He could make a teacher want to laugh and cry all at the same time.  
Joshua passed away on January 16, 2013. 
He came to school on Monday, happy and silly just like he did every Monday.  He walked in my classroom,
 “Whatcha got for us today Mrs. Burgen?”
On Tuesday, he was not at school.  Mom called to say he had a sore throat and he would be staying home that day.  Well, it was January in the middle of flu season, so no big deal, I guess he would just miss a day or two and be back to school.  Wednesday morning a co-worker let me know that the bus had passed an ambulance on the way to Josh’s house, they couldn’t wake him up….he wouldn’t be at school today………
As a teacher, I had gotten into a routine, the kids come to school, I teach them, they go home, they come back, I teach them more and the cycle continues.  There are always bumps in the road; summer break,other vacations, students moving away, its just how teaching goes.  I was not prepared to lose a student in the sense that Josh was lost.  
He was 7.  He got the flu.  He died.  
WHAT?? HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?  Seven year olds don’t die!  It seemed so unfair.  
What was the purpose of Josh’s life?  What did Josh accomplish on his short Journey? Josh’s life changed me. He changed the way I teach.  He changed my passion for teaching

What I learned from Josh

  1. Listen REALLY LISTEN to what kids have to say. 
It is easy sometimes when you are busy to tell them to be quiet or explain that that is not what we are talking about right now.  Make sure you take time each day to LISTEN with your eyes, ears, and all your teacher senses.  Listen to what is in their hearts.
Josh was extremely honest.  He was chatty and sometimes rambled on about things that did not seem important.  But, they WERE important to him.  They were his whole world.  They were the feelings that were in his heart.  LISTEN.

2. Make the end of the school day meaningful. Celebrate what was learned, make kids excited to come back and do it again tomorrow.  
 Look your students in the eye, tell them they had a great day. Make sure they KNOW how much you truly care about their well-being inside and outside the classroom.  Josh LOVED school.  He was a bit of a social butterfly and made friends with the entire staff.  His favorite people were the maintenance staff.(also our bus driving staff)  I’m pretty sure he wanted to be a bus driver, or just the head of maintenance telling Mike how to fix the cars.
He left and arrived every day with a huge smile. 

3. Be passionate about what you do! Teach because you LOVE teaching.  
School was hard for Josh.  These darn colors.  He just could not figure them out. (He was tested for color blindness and nope, that wasn’t it) And why was everyone so obsessed with them anyways?  But despite many challenges, Josh gave his all in everything he did. He gave his all at working, playing, crying…. what every he did, his WHOLE heart was in it.
 He taught me to give 100% everyday.

4. Have FUN.  Look at your students… are they smiling? Are they enjoying the learning experience?  
It is our job to keep students engaged in learning.  If you  aren’t having fun going to work everyday, chances are, they are not having fun coming to your class.  Create an environment of love and acceptance where every child is willing to take a risk and try something new.  Josh was a little hesitant in the taking risks department.  He would start many tasks with “I can’t”.  However, he would complete the given tasks, and nearly every time he would end with a smile and comment  “Yeah, I’m pretty good at that.”

5.Life is short, Too short.  Love every minute you have here.
 We don’t know what each new day will bring. Make today count, you may not get another chance.

4 Responses

  1. I loved what you wrote about Josh. Working with special needs students for ove 30 years, I have learned many lessons and you will continue to learn more. Thank you for sharing Josh with me.

  2. God Bless you! I am so sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your community in my prayers. You have given him quite a tribute and I would be he is smiling down on you right now! Blessings!

  3. Sorry for your loss. I agree with you in that our students can teach us amazing things if we just listen and watch them. The hurt you must feel as a teacher is unbearable. I hope that his spirit lives on in you and in the lessons you teach your students. I am glad I found your blog and will be following you.

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teacher of the deaf

Hi, I'm Heather Burgen!

I am a hearing teacher of the deaf dedicated to working with both deaf and hearing colleagues in providing the best education for deaf and hard of hearing children.

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