Written by: Larkin O'Leary, President of Common Ground Society
Up until 4th grade I had a hard time in school. I was sent to the principal’s office numerous times and had a daily note home (shh, don’t tell my kids). In 4th grade, I had a teacher, Mrs. Fisher, who took the time to get to know me. She didn’t read my cumulative folder or listen to past teachers and judge me based on my labels of being “that kid.” She actually got to know the real me. She sat and had lunch with me, helped me with my work and spent a few minutes each day reminding me that I was cared about in school. Since having her as a teacher, I received great grades, enjoyed school and set out to help other kids, the way she helped me.
After she left her impact on me, I decided I was going to be a teacher. When I was in 6th grade, Mrs. Fisher was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Before she did, I made her a promise that I would be the best teacher I could be, and that’s what I set out to do. Little did I know the incredible impact her life had on me time and time again.
I taught elementary and middle school for 15 years before it became necessary to take leave and eventually resign to care for my son. Telling my students I wasn’t coming back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I formed bonds with my students. Each of my students were MY kids. I still think about them daily and remain in touch with quite a few.
Since having my son, James, my perspective on just about everything has changed. From a very passionate teacher who cared about and loved all her students. Who spent hours after school designing fun lessons and attending trainings- yet was afraid of teaching the outliers because I didn’t think I could do it- to someone who is advocating for all children to be educated together. The metamorphosis is easily described by my saying,
“You don’t know what you don’t know, until you know.”
Here is how my life came to this very point:
All my life, like most many people, I dreamt of being a mom. I couldn’t wait to have a little mini-me ru