On Tuesday, May 26, 2015 I had the honor of sharing my Not Perfect Hat story with the students and teachers at Nate Perry Elementary school in Liverpool, New York. Most of my passion for education, and the reason I have devoted my career to creating positive change in the field, comes from the challenges I faced in school myself. All this is chronicled in the video below.
After telling my story to an auditorium filled to overflowing with kiddos wearing Not Perfect Hats, Physical Education teacher, Phil Gooley, came up to to say hello. He told me he had a student for me to meet. His warmth and enthusiasm immediately made me smile. I listened to him tell me about Braden. Like the younger Marty I talked about in my speech, Braden is in the 5th grade. His wonderful and supportive classroom teacher is Colleen Kires.
Hearing about Braden was like getting the antidote for an ache I’ve struggled with for years in my soul. Phil told me how this wonderful student struggles with dyslexia and is just learning how to read. Phil is a huge fan and supporter of Braden. He loves his enthusiasm and lets Braden know he is valued and supported.
Five minutes later, Phil returned with Braden at his side. A happy, confident looking 5th grader, Braden immediately agreed to have his picture taken with me. I couldn’t help but smile at the ease with which Braden greeted me, and how comfortable and safe he clearly felt standing there with Phil Gooley’s arm around his shoulder.
Next to the smile in my heart, there was also some very old tears being shed for both the frightened and ridiculed Marty of my youth and all the other kids like me who are currently struggling in our schools. If you are a child with learning differences, you often end up feeling like a lonely outlier.
My dream, as I post this on the International Day of the Child, is that the growing community of connected educators will find a way to teach and celebrate every child who walks into our classes, to see learning differences as just another part of what it means to teach the whole child.