The Most Beautiful Part of One Teacher's Job

What is the most beautiful part of your job? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Nan Waldman, Education and Parenting, on Quora.

The most beautiful part of my job is the responses of kids and their parents when the job's all done.

As an example, a special education teacher called me and said "Nan, this kid doesn't belong in my special day kindergarten class. The diagnosis is selective mutism and cognitive disabilities. But I see this kid on the playground with kids in first grade, playing, laughing, and talking. This student's mother asked if I could help get a different placement. She doesn't speak a word of English."

I showed up at the IEP meeting per the mother's telephone request. The team consensus miraculously changed -- they hadn't expected an indigent single teen mother to bring on a lawyer! -- and this child was allowed into a K-1 bilingual classroom as an ELL.

As we walked away from the school, the child's mother gave me an envelope. I initially told her I would not accept any payment and insisted again that I would not be taking it. She said "This was the $18 to pay for his class photo in the wrong class. I do not want the photo of my child in the wrong class. You keep the $18 and help someone else."

As my jaw dropped, her child hugged me (and had been present during the IEP meeting and understood everything and realized that there was a sudden promotion to a class filled with friends from recess). And the sweetest thing I ever heard followed: that voice, softly saying in another language, "Nan, I love you 100%!"  So much for the diagnosis of selective mutism. The factor causing silence in class was being in a new environment in the wrong placement, being shocked by the peer group in class, and being shy because of not speaking English

That was the first time I had attended an IEP for someone who heard of my work through word of mouth but was located in an underserved area and could not afford counsel (or food and rent!). I knew then that I would do this work as counsel to parents for the education of their children, for the rest of my life. As much of it pro bono as needed and as possible.

And each time the world of a child is improved, their joy and their parents' joy bring me a kind of joy that is hard to describe.

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