A Teacher is a CASA

If you aren’t sure what a CASA is, read my previous blog. I was very tempted to become a CASA when I read this blog. I have a soft spot in my heart for foster kids, and any children living in impermanent and unhappy homes. That was this summer. I decided to hold off on being a CASA since my new school year hadn’t begun and I knew it would be a doozy. Instead of being assigned as music teacher for grades 1 to 6, I discovered I would be teaching kindergarten too. That doesn’t sound like a big deal. Honestly, kindergarten is the most difficult grade for me to teach. It requires endless patience. However, it is what it is.

As I read the very moving blog about CASA from the blog I was a Foster Kid, I discovered that the author felt she had a mentor in a hijabparticular teacher known only as Mrs. W. Blessed Mrs. W knew the blogger was a foster kid, and rather than treating this person with less respect or importance than the rest of the class, she focused more intensely on this child’s well-being. Some teachers don’t. They respond with apathy and simply treat the child like everyone else. That’s perfectly fair. Then there are teachers who knowingly or unknowingly, think less of that child. since no one wants this throw-away, why should she have to teach him? She brought the foster kid pencils and pencil crayons, things she knew the foster kid would never get from her foster family, simply because they were jerks (most of them are). She brought the foster kid small Christmas and Easter gifts because she knew even Santa wouldn’t leave anything for this child beneath a foster tree. She tutored the child when necessary and more importantly, she reacted with great patience when the child acted out. “Use your creativity, not your anger,” she’d say. When a 13-year-old grade 8 kid acts out with language, insolence and aggression believe me, responding with kindness is a very difficult thing to do. But Mrs. W. did it.

lonelyAnd I think i can do it. I know of two precious little girls, Nancy and Linda (of course not their real names) who are slowly being weaned out of the foster system into permanent care. They are two of the lucky ones. However their morbid past, one of physical and sexual abuse, has caught up with them and Nancy, the older of the two, makes life for her current caregiver very challenging. I teach both of these children in school and they are truly wonderful students. I wouldn’t know they are in the room unless they put up their hand to answer a question. I am especially sensitive to their needs. I don’t favour them because that isn’t fair. I do compliment their efforts and results. I include positive statements on their report cards. I want them to know I approve and I like having them in my class.

screencap_sabrina-storyI’m not permitted to do things like buy them special gifts, unless I buy something for everyone in their two classes, otherwise i could open myself up for nasty allegations. I also won’t be alone with them for the same reason. I figure their abusive backgrounds would render that choice unfeasible. I enjoy the children in legitimate ways, as much as I enjoy other children in my classes.

One day, little Linda was sitting in the office colouring a beautiful picture of herself. It was very good. I stopped to praise her and asked, “did you do that, Linda?” With great pride and elation, Linda smiled and said, “nope!” Her adorable little girlish ways make me laugh.

I realize now that as a teacher with sensitivity and patience, including for all of my students (as difficult as that can be, I’m certainly not perfect), I am a CASA. Every day, I have CASA opportunities with every child I teach. It’s a good reminder about yet another powerful perspective I can bring to this often difficult, challenging job.

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