Tammynovak's Blog

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The Day We Became a Special Mother May 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — tammynovak @ 11:55 am

We all began this journey into motherhood the same as every other mother does; we found out we were going to be blessed with a baby.   It is written on our memories and in our hearts and we can all still recall when and how we found out.  This was either going to be our first child, or an addition to our growing family.  Either way, it there was a miracle growing inside of us and the joyous thought of having a new baby brought a new life to our hearts that we held dear.   We planned and prepared and rearranged our lives to bring this new miracle into our home. 

We all began the next journey of motherhood, that is of special motherhood, in many different ways.  Some of us knew before birth, some of us knew at birth and some of us were able to enjoy days, months, even years of thinking that our child was just like everyone else’s; just a happy kid without any needs or differences.   At some point between being a mother and being a special mother, we found out the truth.  The truth that something about our child was a bit different.  We all remember the day we became special mothers.

Being a special mother doesn’t make us special, as a matter of fact, it can make us go into many different phases of being.   We’ve all been through this together and yet we barely know each other.  We’ve spent countless hours wondering and worrying, researching and asking questions and finding specialist after specialist to give us answers.  This is what we do behind closed doors, or at least what most of the world doesn’t see.   We still have to be wives, sisters, friends, and a mother to our other children or an aunt to our sibling’s kids or act like a parent with our friends kids.  We still have to have a career or attend school and take care of a household or do all of it at once.   We still have to keep ourselves together to the outer world and find a safe haven to crumble when we need too.  We have to keep digging and finding answers for our children and loving them and protecting them and raising them in the best way we know without any direction, because we are forging a path for future generations.

God gave us these amazing children to teach the world about 4H syndrome, He taught us the word Leukodystrophy and we are summoned to become teachers to the rest of the world.  Yes, we now have another job to do and that is to educate the world on how amazing, strong, resilient, smart, funny and special our children are and we have to face the unknown with a certainty that our special kids will forever be the pioneers into this vast unknown world that they all share.   Our special children are all genetically family and that makes us family and that means we were all brought together, from every corner of the earth to go through this life together. 

Today is not only Mother’s Day, it is a time to rejoice in knowing we are all in this together and no question, no answer, no wonder, no rant, no tears or sorrow will be left to us to endure on our own.  We can celebrate this special day together knowing that special kids need very special moms and although we are all from very different lives, we all have one thing in common.   We will raise the bar of expectations on our kids and challenge the smartest specialists in the world and not let science dictate how they will live their lives, but prove that through love, faith, and determination, our kids will continue to test the very essence of what they are thought to be.   We do not have a crystal ball, we do not know their future, if any of us could have one wish come true, it would be to know how their stories end.  We will never know, so for now, it is about giving our special kids the chance to live a life that makes them happy.   Others will try to tell us how to raise our kids and when we are stared at, or judged, or God forbid, our kids are judged, it will make us stronger.  It will grow our hearts bigger and our arms longer and we will embrace the miracles that God gave us and believe in ourselves that we are doing everything possible to raise these special kids.

Each of us came together as we received the answer we were looking for and I will remember the day I found the most special mother’s that I have ever met.   It was one of the saddest days of my life and yet it was the most joyous for I found out we were not alone, and we were all in this together.

Happy Mother’s Day to the strongest, kindest and most loving mothers I am blessed to call friends.


From 9 Suspensions in 12 Weeks to Student of the Month March 14, 2014

Filed under: Raising a Child with Disabilities — tammynovak @ 3:58 pm

What Setting up a Child for Academic Success Really Means

Two years ago my special needs daughter was attending Oscar Mayer Elementary in Chicago, she was in 5th grade and it was her first year at Mayer.  Beginning in February of that school year until May of the same year, the Principal, Katie Konieczny, and Assistant Principal Bilquis Thomas, decided the best way to “teach” my daughter to control her behavior was to suspend her not once, twice, or even three times, but in the course of 12 weeks, suspend her from school for a total of nine days.  The psychological, emotional, and physical toll their actions had on my daughter and me were unbearable.   Julia learned very quickly to hate school, she mistrusted the teachers, adults and authority figures in that building.  When her behaviors escalated because of the frustration she felt being in the wrong academic setting, the principal, assistant principal, her aide and usually the uniformed school guard would surround her and pummel her with words, commands and even take actions such as strapping her in an EVAC chair to thwart her outbursts.   She weighed 55 pounds at the time and their excuse was that she was a physical threat to them.  Four adults, each at least 2 to 3 times her size found it necessary to write her suspensions up as the highest level possible.  Julia’s suspension reports were categorized the same as if a student had a weapon, had physically harmed a teacher or student, or caused serious damage to property.  The mistreatment and their perpetual use of suspensions set Julia on an academic course that I never thought she would recover from.  She hated school, wanted to “suspend” herself and ended up refusing to go day after day.  The actions by that school and the adults were an abuse of power and caused a child with intellectual, physical and cognitive issues to feel unwanted.  Her self esteem plummeted and the stress of that academic year threatened her physical growth.

CPS placed her at Lozano Elementary and Julia reluctantly began a new school year not knowing a soul.  Her behaviors carried over and her self esteem was in turmoil.  At the beginning of 6th grade, she wrote this out after a meltdown in one of her classes:


Under the guidance of Principal Maria Campos and Assistant Principal Sonia Lopez, Julia’s behaviors were handled much differently.   They understood what this child had been through. They worked diligently to gain her trust, dissuade her from feeling bad about her behaviors by focusing on self control and began to spark her interest in academics.  6th grade for Julia started out rough behaviorally, but with consistent messaging about her abilities to control herself, continual coaching from the school social worker and other staff, Julia slowly began to understand that this was a safe and nurturing school.

This is her second year at Lozano and there were a few incidents at the beginning of the year.  With the continued support, reinforcement of positive behavior and incentives, Julia began to mature.   We slowly saw her behaviors become less severe and less frequent.  She was learning self control and the entire school was on board to support her through this transformation.  Julia’s academic abilities were growing and she happily woke up every morning eager to go to school.  In January, after Christmas break, Julia’s maturity took a huge leap.  She was engaged, social, happy and controlling herself emotionally.   Her teachers were coming up to me after school and commenting on how well she was doing, the principal made a point to stop and speak to me for several minutes about the wonderful changes Julia had made, the work she was doing and the pride she displayed.   She went from one incident a week to a week free of incidents.  That turned into 2 weeks of good behavior and internally Julia had attained a level of self awareness and her confidence was shining.

On Monday, March 10th, I picked Julia up from school as I usually do and when I saw her, she was beaming with a huge smile.  Her aide had a look of pride and excitement that told me something good had happened that day.  Julia stood with her hands on her walker, looked up at me with her big, shiny, brown eyes and announced that she had been chosen Student of the Month!  I was shocked, and she squealed with delight as I picked her up and squeezed her as tight as I could.   It was a moment in time that I will cherish forever.

Her teacher, Sylvia Martinez recognized Julia’s tremendous efforts, understood what Julia had to overcome to achieve such a high award and knew that Julia rightfully deserved the recognition that comes with such an honor.

Academic success cannot be measured in test scores; it is measured by motivating a student to the point of ownership.  It is conveying to that student that they matter, period.

Julia’s academic career will be forever changed because of the efforts of a school that sees the potential in each student, disregards the past, focuses on their future and teaches internal pride.  The Lozano mascot is an eagle and rightfully so.  Lozano picked up a broken child, nurtured her mind and spirit, gave her space to grow and taught her how to soar on her own. 




Déjà Vu February 19, 2014

Filed under: Raising a Child with Disabilities — tammynovak @ 5:21 pm

It’s like going back in time and then propelling yourself at warp speed to the present and the only way to stop is to slam into the wall of reality.   When does this end?  How can I get this gut wrenching gnawing feeling out of my mind and body and send its lifeless ashes down a drain never to be seen or heard from again? 

The dichotomy of looking at this sweet, beautiful, innocent face and knowing that deep inside her genetic makeup is a rare gene that God decided she needed to have.   The truth about what was really going on with her body was lurking in the dark, waiting to be revealed.  It was there all along, and now it is here for all of us to live with, all of us to figure out what to do with it. 

I feel like I have been hit in the heart with a 1000 lb mortar.  She doesn’t know, she doesn’t have a clue what we just found out, but the rest of the world does.  I want to live in her world because she puts her dolls to sleep every day, tucks them in, lines up their walkers, wheelchairs and straightens their AFO’s.  All of her dolls have medical issues; all of them are getting better under her care.  She is so proud of them, treats each of them as if they were a precious human life.  They all have names, they all go to school, and they all have a life story.  They are all happy.

I wish it could be that easy.  I wish I didn’t have a million questions swirling around in my head every day.  Every morning when I wake her up, I remind myself to put on a smile, let her know how much she is loved and kiss those warm sweet cheeks good morning while her best friend, her puppy kisses her on the lips.  She wakes up with a smile on her face and greets the day with zest, wonderment and a love for life.   I take her inside of a loving a warm school, she finds her favorite teacher and toddles up beside her as she parks her walker next to the table.  I tell her to have a great day, kiss her on the mouth and tell her I love her.  Then I drive home and deal with the hole in my heart and the endless, swirling emotions that are inside of me.  Some days I can move through as I used to do, some days I cannot.  Showering and make up are accomplishments on some days and forcing me to focus on my other responsibilities has become a full time job. 

I’m learning to live with POLR3B leukodystrophy, just like I learned to live with her other disabilities.  Although I think I finally learned to accept and live with them about a year ago.   I don’t really notice the stares from strangers anymore, I go ballistic if able bodied people park in the handicap zones and I try and keep the rage and anger and sadness and uncertainty contained.   Therapists call it “compartmentalizing”; that is locking certain feelings in a box and controlling when they come out.   I’ve done it before; I guess I can do it again. 

I don’t want to have any more Déjà vu moments.  I don’t want to relive the feelings of waiting for outcomes and phone calls.   I just want someone to tell me how to live with this and when this anger and fear and sadness will go away.  

I know it will in time, or at least I hope it does.   I asked for answers and now I have more questions.   I’m not sure how to do this, this motherhood thing with this monster lurking in the closet.   Will she regress? How much? To what degree? Or is all of the worrying for naught?  If I don’t think about it, am I ignoring it, if I think about it, am I obsessing about it? 

Everything else in live now seems so trivial, I have become temporarily apathetic to others lives and their problems.   This has changed everything and I hate not knowing what to do with it.   In 4.5 hours I will be standing in the hallway of school.  She will come rolling off of the elevator with her bright pink coat on, her little sock hat and mittens.  She will squeal with delight when she sees me and will give me a report on her day.  We will leave together and she will have that same big, bright smile on her face and we will talk about her day as we go home.   I guess if this monster living inside of her has a good side, it may be that she will stay in this perpetual state of happiness, lovingness and wanting to be with me. 

I’ve made a pact with God to stop with the diagnoses, my emotional plate is full and my soul is drained.   In the meantime, life will go on, time will not stop; que sera, sera, what will be, will be.


February 19, 2014


Happy 12th Birthday Sweetheart May 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — tammynovak @ 10:31 am

baby gapI LOVE this picture of you and I can still remember like it was yesterday when I took it. You were a little over a year old and your Grammy bought you your first bikini. Dressing you up was my idea of a hobby, with your adorable bright smile, gorgeous brown eyes and infectious laugh, you were my living baby doll. I stuck that hat on you and you were trying to pull it off when I snapped this picture. I thought you were perfect, your chubby little cheeks and squishy thighs, God; I just wanted to kiss every little inch of you every waking minute. Those days were tough too, being a new mom meant on the job training, and I would have preferred a perfectly laid out plan. I think about those days sometimes because it was just you and me and we had your whole life in front of us and my only worry was protecting you, just like every other mom feels. You were perfectly healthy, you rarely had a cold, and never missed a meal and I thought you were a little Einstein just waiting to emerge. I started to turn into “one of those” mothers. You know the type, thinking their kid was special, smarter, better, and more talented than the rest. Aunt Wenny was going back to school to become a teacher and I learned what one to one correspondence meant. I was convinced by the time you were 18 months old that you knew how to add. I remember calling a preschool and asking them if they were able to enrich kids who were advanced. Damn, was I smug, but like so many moms, we think, actually we know, that our kid is special, and because you live in my heart, you dwell in it 24/7, in my mind, you were not only perfect, you were extraordinarily unique. Those were the days when the innocence of being a new mom with a perfect pregnancy and a perfect baby whom everyone stared at because you were so flipping cute, were the ones I should have slowed down and savored. I was in such a hurry back then to get you to your next milestone, to show off your next trick, to wow childless neighbors and brag to countless strangers. Curious as to why children don’t come with instructions, part of being a new mom is just putting on a happy face and pretending you know exactly what you are doing, and beaming with pride every step of the way. God didn’t give me a set of instructions for you, nor did He even give me the first clue as to who you were or what world I would get to know in the life of a mother. He knows me far better than I know myself, because if I had been forewarned, if I had known that this beautiful cherub who was SO perfect and made everyone smile was to whisk me into a world that I only thought existed for “those poor little kids” whose moms look so beleaguered, I would have broken into a million pieces and never, ever, would have been able to put myself back together.
Twelve years later and I am learning to savor every little moment with you because we have been through so much and you are the pure unadulterated definition of resilience, grace, love, beauty and pure joy. That little baby has been my best teacher, that little baby has made geniuses scratch their head in wonder, that little baby has introduced me to a world that is right in front of us every day, but most have never seen it. That little baby has wrenched my soul with pain as I have learned how God made you. That little baby has taught me unconditional patience and tested the very limits of human emotion. That little baby has made me wonder if I can get through the next minute, the next hour, or the next day without completely coming unglued and never, ever, being the person I was. That little baby has made me discover the dark side of my mind, the part that loathes healthy kids and their whiny mothers. That little baby has forced me to find my voice of reason, instead of the voice that wants to spew profanity at anyone who dares to not understand. That little baby has taught me that relying on your mom to be there means to be present in every situation, means to be ready at a moment’s notice to drop what I am doing and rescue you. That little baby has grown into an amazing child who I still stare at in wonderment as to who and what makes you so incredibly, beautifully special. You need me, you need me in ways that I never thought you would. Time has flown by; these last 12 years seem like 12 minutes. That little baby still needs me, she still needs me to hold her hand, button her pants, and make others understand you. That little baby has grown into a little girl who makes my heart burst with love and hurt with pain. That little baby has grown into a little girl that has endured so many unwanted trips to doctors, therapists, specialists and hospitals. That little girl has endured teachers who were cruel, mean, condescending and made you furious. That little girl has watched me lie to her because telling her the truth would hurt more than I could bear. That little girl has grabbed my heart, my soul, my very existence and owns it, owns every part of it and I am never going to share that with anyone. That little girl has drained every ounce of energy out of me and has given me the strength to carry on through the toughest, darkest, most painful hours. That little girl has put her full trust in me that I will always be there for her to hold her, hug her, love her and work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure I have given you as much as I possibly can to overcome your obstacles. I love each morning when I walk into your room and see that sweet face sound asleep. I love every morning that I get to stroke your soft little cheek and kiss you good morning. I love every morning that I see you wake up with a smile on your face and giggle when Bella licks your face. I love where we have come from, what we have been through and where we are right now. I wouldn’t change one thing about you, but if I could, I would take it all away and make your challenges mine. That little baby has grown into a little girl who is discovering who she is and while I already know what you are, I would rather you not know. Happy birthday to you my sweet angel, I’m going to spend this day relishing the very existence of you and thanking God for giving me such a special girl.


Reflecting On the Future November 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — tammynovak @ 6:13 pm

Do We Ever Get “Used” To Having a Special Needs Child?


My almost eleven year old daughter is extraordinarily curious at the moment about pregnant women.  Two of her teachers at school are just beginning their third trimester.  She loves patting bellies and asking silly questions about their neonatal bathroom habits and sleeping habits.  Julia will end this school year’s science class talking about human development, or “baby class” as she describes it.  In order to introduce her to the curriculum, I decided it would be fun for her and me to do a joint project showing my pregnancy complete with ultrasound pictures and drawings of what gestation looks like in each trimester.  I pulled out her baby book and showed her my pregnancy test, notes, and thoughts as she was developing, ending with those precious pictures of her minutes old swaddled in my arms.

Some parents know before birth, some know at birth, others, like me, had to figure it out.  There are no easy introductions to finding out your child has special needs.  But when it happens, stand still and stand strong because the avalanche is unrelenting.  Your angst will grind the beat of your heart and your maternal optimism will play games with your conscious brain.  It will seem like a blur at times and at other times it will feel as though the entire world has not a clue or cares about you, your child or what you are enduring.

Eventually you will find your footing, find your grounding.  Yes, I can do this.  Come on world, meet my kid, criticize my decisions, stare at her in public, question my actions, and say really unsympathetic comments aimed at making me feel better.  This is your life and your child’s life and you have found the new norm.  There are bevies of support systems out there and your circle is tight, fierce and tenacious.  Victory laps come in the form of small and large accomplishments and you are never at a loss for the complete surprise of the unexpected.

Yeah, I got this.  We are good. This is how we roll.  Nothing can stop us from forging on and digging a path of independence for our children.  Then suddenly, like a tidal wave, new realities set it and questions emerge.  Hmmm, when she was still 6 or 7 I thought she would stop the world in their tracks at her abilities and drive.  A year or two later and her differences seem a bit bigger now, they stand out more and become uncomfortable at times. Now she is a girl on the verge of puberty, the gateway to adulthood and now I am not so sure.  Will she be able to stand on her own, can she catch up to her peers?  Is college just a fantasy?

There are some pieces and parts of you that hold on to that beautiful little cherub that was placed in your arms almost 11 years ago.  So full of hope, love, wonderment, never in my wildest dreams did I think there was anything “wrong” with her.  I followed the rules, ate right, and avoided anything and everything that could be potentially harmful, looked 6 times before I crossed the street and protected her relentlessly.  I was vigilant with her schedule, tracked her potty habits and breast fed until I could no longer.  She knew her alphabet, loved Elmo and had an infectious laugh.  How naïve was I?  How little did I know?  Reality set in about 4 years later and my world started spinning on its own axis.

She walks around with joy and happiness most of the time, gets a little mouthy as would any 11 year old and challenges the very core of my existence.  I reflect on the future and wonder what it might hold.  Am I seeing her the way I want to see her, or viewing her the way the rest of the world does?  I want to take a survey and find out, but I really don’t care, because what do they know?

I am used to having a special daughter, one who fills my heart with love and has taught me endless compassion.  I may never get used to all of her needs or even fully understand them.  Sometimes I catch my breath when I realize who she really is, especially in the medical sense, and wonder if I have fully embraced it.  Then, there are most days when I intellectually compute all that she is but choose to allow the emotional gifts of motherhood wash away all doubt.  I will reflect on her future but relish the daily gifts in raising such a special daughter.




CPS and the CTU: You Can’t Have it Both Ways September 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — tammynovak @ 2:12 pm

Is it Really About the Kids?

Starting today the children who attend Chicago Public Schools will not be in the classroom because a strike has been called and the collective mindset of the CTU and its leaders believe that closing schools is the best way to give our children and teachers what they need.

What really bothers me is the fact that the children will not be in the classroom by choice.  When the teachers voted on a strike, they did so knowing that children would lose precious curriculum time.  Keeping kids out of the classroom is counterintuitive to what education is.  However, this is their solution.

Interestingly enough, I had the same solution for my daughter last year.  I kept her out of school for standardized testing.  She is not functioning at grade level and the standardized test, although there are supports in place, is not a reflection of where she is academically.  It cannot give a true assessment of  her abilities.  I pulled her out because by the time the testing was to take place she had been suspended twice for behavior that could have been avoided, and had started exiting the classroom frequently when the stress level was too much for her to process.  She would sit in her locker, wander the hallways, and do anything she could to avoid a situation that was clearly not meeting her at the academic level she was displaying.  She missed valuable classroom time.  School was not really offering any solutions as to how to keep her in the classroom.  She was emotionally upset to the point that she did not even want to attend school anymore.  The week leading up to standardized testing ended with her cutting her finger while she sat in her locker.  She lost so much blood that she passed out, threw up and for the first time in her life I had to call the paramedics.  It was the pinnacle moment that solidified the amount of stress and turmoil we had been experiencing in that school.  I made the conscience decision to pull her out for the 4 days that her grade was being tested.  As I was ready to send her back, I was told that if I did, she would have to make up the testing because some classes were still being tested.  I was forced to keep her home an additional 5 days to avoid the makeup testing.

After her return to school I asked for a meeting with school personnel to discuss how we were going to change the atmosphere to keep Julia in the classroom and out of the hallways during periods of curriculum. I met with the Vice Principal and Caseworker.  The conversation started with me being chastised for pulling her out of school for testing.  I was told I “could not have it both ways”.  If I was so concerned about her missing curriculum, why did I pull her from standardized testing?  I was dumbfounded.  Clearly their concern was not how to collaborate on a better approach for my daughter, it was the fact that a child with several delays and disabilities did not participate in state mandated testing that was above her academic level.

CPS suspended my daughter a total of 9 days last year which was their solution to improving her behavior and performance. According to their documentation, she was a safety threat to people 3 times her size.  She missed valuable classroom time on a regular basis.  When my legal team approached CPS and asked for mediation and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, they flatly refused.

CPS then tried to place my daughter, who needs an accessible building, in a non accessible school.  They denied her right to attend a school closest to her home; they jeopardized her safety by putting her in a school that does not have the proper evacuation equipment in place to safely remove her from the building.  So she poses a safety threat and is suspended, yet when CPS places her safety in jeopardy we cannot even get a response, let alone take any action.

Yet they are striking because the teachers want more and in turn the children will be better off.  Keeping the children out of school is their solution to making school a better place for our kids.  This is not a kid’s first approach; it is a collective mindset of wanting more due to a sense of entitlement.  If our kids really came first they would be in school right now.  It’s about optics; we are teaching children that school is an option.  The world is not a perfect place, we cannot always get what we want, and we all have to make sacrifices.  THAT would be a great lesson for all of us to learn.  CPS is failing our children and it starts at the top.  I wanted better conditions for my daughter so I held a personal strike against standardized testing.  That’s NOT OK, but striking and keeping her out of the classroom so that you can have job security, better pay, and increased health coverage is OK.  Interesting, and my response to CPS is “You can’t have it both ways”.


What I Really Want my Daughter to Learn-Let’s Move Past the Token Society May 11, 2012

Filed under: Raising a Child with Disabilities — tammynovak @ 12:32 pm

Reward systems for children in my opinion are very Pavlovian in nature; they are a form of respondent conditioning.  The whole idea behind them is to give the child an incentive to “do well”, or meet the expectations of the adults.  Then, as the child matures, tokens are replaced by praise and eventually the child will behave as expected.  The mindset is to “train” a child’s behavior; therefore, creating an automatic response to adult expectations.  When they don’t work, frustration by the adults ensues and punishments become the next resort.   This only teaches a child that THEY have to fix the problems, and that the adults will be waiting in the coffers with treasures from the dollar store when they finally arrive at the desired behavior.

I would like to raise the bar on the adults for a minute.  I want to move beyond rewards and punishments and introduce ideas such as compassion for understanding learning challenges, respecting the struggles that any particular child faces every day through no fault of their own, that adults make mistakes and are in need of help sometimes too and that feeling achievement, self-worth and confidence are far greater rewards than tangible items.  I want my daughter to learn that her actions affect others both positively and negatively.  I want her to learn the value of a smile, a compliment, the rewards of bringing someone unexpected pleasures through a hand written note that just simply says “thinking about you”.  I want her to understand that sometimes we can do everything that is expected of us and yet it is still not enough, and that those people are to be understood too.  I want to raise the bar on the adults to understand the impact their words and actions can have on a child, in a positive way.  I want each teacher to have the goal as being the one that stands out in my daughter’s head as a teacher who made a difference when she becomes an adult.  I want each adult in my daughter’s life to move beyond text book standards and show that thinking, creativity and leadership are very rewarding characteristics to possess.  I want my daughter to feel as though she has a voice and that while authority is to be respected, it is OK to question as long as you have a formulated reason for doing so.   I want to teach my daughter that failure is not a negative, but is sometimes the best teacher, for most lifelong lessons come from setbacks.  I want my daughter to learn charity, and that others do not have what she has, yet some may have more.  I want my daughter to understand that token rewards only bring temporary pleasure and that wanting more can lead to deep displeasure.  I want my daughter to be grateful for the life she was given and to respect herself as she learns that ultimately she will have to rely on that God given life for survival.  I want my daughter to learn that adults face defeat, adversaries and disappointments every day and that we can chose how to respond.  I want my daughter to understand forgiveness, because there are those out there who are selfish, cruel and untrustworthy.  I want her to understand to not take those people’s actions personally, but to pray for their own healing because to live in a mind that is so tainted is far worse than the actions imposed upon her.

School is a place to learn, to grow, to explore and to expand one’s mind.  It should be the breeding ground for tolerance, justice and acceptance.  It is a microcosm of life; we are all different, yet collectively add value and the sum is greater than the parts.   When school becomes formulated, differentiation gives way to familiarity.  The best educators know when those rare opportunities present themselves as tangible lessons that benefit everyone in different ways.  The best teachers are those that realize when something isn’t working that it is time to focus inward and not rely on statistics to satisfy the norm.  Teachers, schools and parents all share the same responsibility; shape minds, make a difference, lead by example and realize that a happy child is not a given, but a result of continually finding the best methods for harnessing their enthusiasm, desire and imagination.  There is no such thing as conventional wisdom when making a difference, what makes a difference is raising the bar on us to do better and the by-product of our efforts will result in children who want to do better as well.  Take away the tokens and replace them with pride, compassion and love.  When we do this, the results will be reward enough, because we will have wrought a young mind and they will understand the value in true learning.