invisible

If ever you hear my words, if ever you take in any single morsel of the reams and reams that I write, please, I beg you, let it be these.

I didn’t see it.

I didn’t see HER.

I’d asked her to come speak with me. I’d raved and raved about her words, her thoughts, her insights, the urgency in her truth. See me, she shouted through her typed words, painstakingly spelled one … letter … at … a …. time.

SEE ME.

I can think, she said.

I can hear you, she said.

I can learn, she said.

Teach me, she said.

Believe in me, she said.

SEE ME, she said.

Sitting next to her, I pleaded with the students – the prospective teachers in the Intro to Variable Learners class – please, SEE YOUR STUDENTS as Rhema begs to be seen right here in front of you.

Believe in their ability, I implored them. Believe in their humanity, I pleaded. If you don’t see evidence of comprehension, of capability, of competence, of potential, shift your focus. Don’t stop looking until you find it. Because it’s there. In some form, in every human being, it’s there.

Peel back your assumptions, I said. Realize that you are making them. Ask yourself why.

Listen to the words that she wrote for you, one letter at a time, brought to life by her mama’s voice because she didn’t want them relegated to an electronically generated presence.

HEAR HER, I begged. HEAR HER.

HEAR ALL OF THESE KIDS WHO HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY AND NO WAY YET TO SAY IT.

HEAR THEM.

Through it all, she colored and hummed and her soft, beautiful song filled my heart as it always does, carrying so much more than words in that haunting melody: Truth, Light, Faith, Life.

The professor wrote to us to thank us. A beautiful note that I will treasure. “In particular, you gave my students a masters’ class in what it means to presume competence,” she wrote, “why teachers need to make the least dangerous assumption when educating autistic learners, and what inclusion/[Least Restrictive Environment] really means.”

I imagine that she had no idea that she had just distilled years of thought and shouting into the wind into a single phrase, “least dangerous assumption.”

Presuming the ability to learn is ALWAYS the least dangerous assumption.

And yet, I didn’t see it.

As the students got up at the end of class, many of them stopped to thank us for coming. As Rhema colored, they told Jeneil and me how much they appreciated the class.

Jeneil and me.

Today, Rhema shared with me her thoughts on going to college. “I want to say,” she wrote, “that the teacher told me I did a good job. The students did not say nothing so I felt a little sad. I hope to meet them sometime.

Time stood still when you read my words. I wish I could have said them myself. Nothing is the same now that I have been to college. I want to go to a school where I will be challenged. I still have dreams.”

My cheeks flushed with shame.

I hadn’t seen it.

As the students got up to say goodbye, many of them stopped to thank us for coming. As Rhema colored, they told Jeneil and me how much they appreciated the class. 

Even in that room, even with her words still lingering in the air, having changed everything, having changed all of us, she was made to feel invisible. Not a single student spoke to HER.

Rhema deserves better.

Every human being deserves better.

We can DO better.

I can think, she shouted.

I can hear you, she said.

I can learn, she said.

Teach me, she said.

Believe in me, she said.

SEE ME, she said.

And still, we didn’t.

Let’s do better.

2 thoughts on “invisible

  1. May I share your words with our SpEd teachers? Maybe they will understand?

    Miriam Balsom – a faithful listener (reader)

    On Thu, Jan 14, 2021 at 7:13 AM a diary of a mom wrote:

    > jess posted: “If ever you hear my words, if ever you take in any single > morsel of the reams and reams that I write, please, I beg you, let it be > these. I didn’t see it. I didn’t see HER. I’d asked her to come speak with > me. I’d raved and raved about her words, her t” >

    • you are always welcome to share the link to a post. i just ask that you refrain from copying and pasting without a link. thanks!

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