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My Two New Heroes

I don’t typically blog about the latest news stories as I’m always a few steps behind other bloggers in keeping up with the news. Today is different. Today I found two new heroes in this news story. It’s not a pleasant story. It describes how an irresponsible teacher chose to lead her kindergarten class in bullying a student with a disability. According to the story, Wendy Portillo had her students each say what they didn’t like about their classmate, Alex Barton, and then had them vote on whether to remove him from the classroom. The students voted 14-2 to kick Alex out of class.

My new heroes are the two students that went against the tone set by the teacher and voted to keep Alex in the classroom. They recognized the difference between right and wrong and voted for what was right by choosing acceptance and understanding. They stood up to their peers and one of the primary authority figures in their life. Describing them as heroes is an understatement. At the age of 5, they are willing to do what’s right in spite of pressure to do what’s wrong. Their parents, guardians, grandparents or whoever is raising these two children are also my heroes. They have managed to teach important lessons about life to five year olds. That’s an incredible thing.

Many people are contacting the school board to voice there outrage against Ms Portillo, and I hope the district is overwhelmed with phone calls, email, and letters. Perhaps Ms. Portillo should be required to stand before the school board while 14 parents of children with disabilities, and the parents of my two heroes, have the opportunity to tell her what they dislike about her. The parents could then vote on whether or not she gets to keep her job and her teaching license.

I don’t know that I’ll contact the school board. I’m more inclined to contact the town and offer to chip in for a parade to honor the town’s new heroes.

Mike Stanton quotes a touching piece of writing in his blog post on this story. In encourage you to click over and read it. It describes how things should have gone in Ms. Portillo’s classroom.

I’ll close by sharing a story that I’ve written about in draft posts, but I don’t believe I’ve ever posted to this site. After kindergarten was over for SJ, one of the mothers of a student in his class told my wife about one of her teacher conferences. The teacher told her that there was an autistic child in the classroom and that her child had reached out to him more than any other student in the class. As the mother told the story, she choked up and thought “That’s what life is supposed to be about!”. She said she didn’t remember another thing said at the conference because nothing else the teacher had to say was as important as the feedback she had already given. I suspect that the parents of my two new heroes are a lot like this mother.

11 Responses to “My Two New Heroes”

  1. kristina replied:

    Last paragraph is what it’s all about—–many of Charlie’s teachers and therapists have told me, it’s kids like Charlie and your 2 guys who meant the most to them, and have been their best students.

    May 24th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

  2. Kassiane replied:

    I think theyre my 2 new heroes too. It’s hard for a kid to go against everyone AND the authority figure. I hope their parents are proud of them.

    May 24th, 2008 at 11:37 pm

  3. Along the Spectrum » And a New Goat replied:

    [...] My Two New Heroes | Home [...]

    May 25th, 2008 at 9:43 am

  4. Andrea Shettle, MSW replied:

    THANK YOU for writing a blog post about the two kids (whoever they are) who went against the majority. They’re my heros too. In reading blog posts around the web about the situation (starting with Amanda’s post), I was starting to think, “Those two children really deserve kudos, and a blog post all to themselves,” so I’m glad you did that.

    May 26th, 2008 at 8:39 am

  5. Aspie replied:

    “They recognized the difference between right and wrong and voted for what was right by choosing acceptance and understanding.”
    What a joke.
    I am Asperger’s. I was a bloody pain at school. Still, I had some friends…Those 2 voted for his friend to stay, or because it didn’t bother them.
    You are attributing high moral values to 5 year olds. Right.
    Ok, sorry to bother, just carry on with your usual lack of the thinking skills necessary to form an opinion. At least a worthy to being listened one.
    Enjoy your blog.

    May 26th, 2008 at 9:31 am

  6. spike of replied:

    I am outraged that this happened.
    The teacher surely had other options at her disposal for dealing with a five year old.

    My heart goes out to Alex.


    May 28th, 2008 at 12:21 am

  7. Moggy replied:

    I thought the same about the two five-year-olds… As an autistic child, I had the amazing luck to be in a school full of their type, led by two of the many teachers I had as a little kid that taught that everybody is worthy of love & acceptance. I never understood how lucky I was to grow up in that atmosphere — along with other kids I now realize were on the spectrum and equally loved — until I found the autistic community online and realized how other people like us are treated.

    I think it’s also important to note that little Alex didn’t have “behavioral” problems until he was in that woman’s class. He was OK in pre-school, then suddenly was being sent to the principal all the time in kindergarten, though I never saw an explanation as for why. I personally think that the teacher was punishing him for showing signs of being autistic, and that as he got more upset at the mistreatment, she punished him more & turned his classmates against him more.

    To “Aspie”: ALL little kids can be a huge pain in the butt, especially if they are in physical/emotional pain (or under huge stress) from the people/environment around them. Often autistic spectrum kids are misjudged as poorly-behaved either because of that, or because the adult doesn’t like harmless differences they can’t understand, like answering rhetorical questions. Little kids also pick up on the values adults around them demonstrate, and fairness is one that they seem really drawn towards; strong-willed kids even that age will stand up for what they believe in. Ironically, being rude towards somebody on their blog is far more a sign of a “lack of thinking skills” because people are far easier to teach or convince when treated with respect!

    (Sorry for the word-scrambling, it’s really late and I’m kind of rushing so I can get to bed!)

    May 29th, 2008 at 5:46 am

  8. Mary Kyser replied:

    How terrible for one so young to go through. Here in my littel town in WI our schools take the opportunity to teach the entire school about disabilities.. to the point of bringing in a horse to show how it benefits some kids. Just this week my daughter learned about autism because one of her fellow 5th graders has been diagnosed with it. The school took the approach of teaching the kids what is it about, how to look for signs of distress in the child and established some ground rules for special treatment they could all follow in the school to benefit this child. I guess our little community is pretty good after all! Perhaps the teacher needs to take some classes to bring herself up to speed on compassion for others. Shame on her.

    June 6th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

  9. Amanda replied:

    This is one of my favorite quotes. Ms. Portillo could learn something from both Haim Ginott and the two young heroes.
    “I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. My personal approach creates a climate. My daily mood makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be the tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor. Hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” – Haim Ginott, clinical psychologist, child therapist, educator, and author

    June 10th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  10. Sarah replied:

    Agreed with Kassiane
    Best wishes for heroes …and to those , who have helped them ,taught them to stand like this.

    May 16th, 2009 at 4:11 am

  11. » Blog Archive » In Support of Alex Barton & Family replied:

    [...] http://www.alongthe spectrum. com/2008/ 05/my-two- new-heroes/ [...]

    December 16th, 2010 at 11:07 am