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The School that None of Us EVER Planned on Attending

Robert Doyle

“Miss Simonson, Miss Simonson,” (this is my birth name, I wasn’t married until my mid 40’s, and yes, that’s another story), “you have to come quick, it’s Jared!” one of my students yelled from the hallway as he ran back toward my classroom. It was 1998 and I had been teaching for about 10 years. I had recently finished my master’s degree in learning and behavior.

Picture Jared, a historically sweet, rambunctious boy, with a few behavior challenges and who struggled with learning, but nonetheless entertained us on a daily basis. In the spirit of full disclosure, his energized presence forced our entire team of teachers to attend Happy Hour more routinely as he matriculated through middle school.

That day, Jared had asked for a bathroom pass as he wasn’t particularly interested in our vocabulary review exercise. After a good 15-20 minutes with no Jared, I sent one of my best 7th grade Junior Detectives to survey the situation and report back to Headquarters.

After hearing his report, my student Detective and I headed for the boy’s bathroom where I found Jared screaming “I didn’t think it would really work! Help me!” We quickly realized that Jared had brought Super Glue to school and had used it to adhere his bottom to the toilet seat to see if it “really would hold.”

I honestly wish I was making this up.

His mom got yet another call from me, but not before the EMT’s were contacted to remove both Jared as well as the toilet seat and make their way to the ER. (That vocabulary test he needed to study for would indeed wait.) Jared’s depth of curiosity for these types of things has probably earned him a position at the FBI today. Jared, if you are out there, I hope this finds you happy and healthy. You taught me quite a lot along the way.

The newest teacher in my life is Robert Doyle (pictured above and below), whom I met via a trauma massage therapist who worked on my hand and neck. Robert is an incredibly knowledgeable, generous, inspirational and an amazing athlete. This 25 years old, influential speaker empowers his audiences (particularly students) to see the power of living life as completely and as wholly as possible.

Robert is paralyzed from the waist down. He was diagnosed as a toddler with Lymphangiomatosis, an abnormal development of the Lymphatic system resulting in various locations of tumors which cause severe pain and widespread issues throughout the entire body. He has endured over 75 surgeries to date. Robert was ambulatory until the age of 10 when a complication from spinal cord surgery caused a stroke which unfortunately manifested in the loss of feelings in his legs.

After suffering abandonment by friends, years of bullying and discouraging news from doctors, he made the decision to play adaptive sports. Robert had to make a decision to live to live, as opposed to living to die. In his sports wheelchair, he played soccer, softball, floor hockey and basketball. In 2005, he was named Athlete of the Year at Jefferson high school in Bloomington, MN. Then, in 2009, his basketball team won the gold medal in the Para Olympics in Australia!

As we start getting our kids ready for another school year and the seasons, schedules and priorities change, it is timely to remind you of YOUR own capacities to teach. The teacher in Robert has taught me this - how to have faith, celebrate the capacities I have and move past any limitations. There is truly a teacher in you and whether you realize it or not, the uniqueness of your talents, perspectives, interests and experiences has the power to enhance another’s life for the better.

Jared taught me how much teaching goes beyond the tests and classroom activities. Robert has taught me how our lives go far beyond the limitations that fall into our path. What do you have to teach, and to learn from others? It‘s much more than you think. Share the teacher in you.

For heaven’s sake, why else are we here?!


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