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The Challenges Unseen

This post is difficult to write. It is emotional for me because I am so tied to it every day, and it becomes hard at times to separate myself from it.

In the world of education, and in coaching there are often times as a teacher and a coach when you are tasked with the difficult situation of trying to be inclusive. Inclusion is something that is so important in this world and is often times lacking in the day to day of society. People are going through all kinds of things that we never know about. People have physical, emotional, and mental challenges that we may not recognize by just looking at them. Often times when they are visible, we as a society, have more patience with people because we can see that they are struggling, but when it isn’t visible, we don’t have that same patience, or willingness to go out of our way for them. Should we HAVE to say that a person has chronic pain to help them with returning their shopping cart at the store? Should a child who is autistic HAVE to tell the world in order for the world to take the extra time to understand them? Should the kid who has some social anxiety not get the opportunity to be a part of things that another child without those challenges gets to participate in just because they don’t feel like they can share their struggle with everyone else around them?

Enter teachers and coaches. We are tasked every single day with trying to make decisions that affect kids. Partners in class, group projects, and partners on teams are often chosen for reasons that a teacher or coach CANNOT share with people. Often times as a teacher and a coach, I look for kids that seem to have an outgoing and positive demeanor. I look for kids who are friendly and seem to truly care about others, and then, without telling them why, I ask them to partner with another child. Teachers and coaches all over the world do this on a daily basis. We often rely on kids we feel are truly made to help others in order for kids who struggle to see some success. Sometimes these situations are not ideal for kids and we try hard to make sure that we find as many of those kids as possible to surround kids that struggle so that they can all be successful together. In group settings that is easier than in settings with partners, so often partners rotate to ensure that all parties involved can be successful.

So many times, people want to know WHY they are put into a group with the kid who never does work in class, or why they are partnered in practice with someone who is obviously less skilled than them. Often times kids can understand that it isn’t about THEM that day and it’s about how they can help another person. That’s easy to do when their partner’s challenges are visible. Some situations are easier to see than others, some are more hidden, but there is ALWAYS a reason that a specific child was chosen to work with someone who needed it. Often times when a challenge is not immediately visible to someone, a kid that is partnered with someone with that challenge as doesn’t understand the WHY piece and the teacher or coach can’t explain it. In a classroom it’s a bit easier to control, but in a sport, especially a doubles sport like beach volleyball, it isn’t as easy.

I have personally experienced, many times as a coach, a kid being paired with someone of lesser talent, and feeling like I paired them with that person because I didn’t believe they were good enough, when in fact, it was the complete opposite of that. Teenagers often try so hard to read between the lines. It is an era in their life of vulnerability and trying to find themselves. It is an era of building self-esteem and character, and teachers and coaches are tasked, every day, with trying to help them to navigate that time. Believe me when I say that I have NEVER, placed two kids together where I didn’t think the partnership could be mutually beneficial. Sometimes it backfires, and believe me, I feel terrible when it does. I take the responsibility for it. I take the blame. I will NEVER tell another person the challenges that one child has trusted me enough to tell me in order to help that other person to understand. I shouldn’t have to. I refuse to single a child out for their differences. I learn from those situations, and I try hard to choose people to surround that child with next time that understand without having to be told. I don’t get upset about it, because I choose to be in the role I am in, making those decisions to help children. I choose it day in and day out, and I will continue to choose to do it. I don’t fault the people that don’t read between the lines either. I can’t. We have ALL been in a situation where “if we had known” we may have reacted differently. It makes me sad, I try hard to be understanding and patient, but I’m guilty of it too. I guess that as a teacher and a coach and someone who is truly passionate about helping kids to grow and to become the best they can be as people, I just hope for trust that I am always trying to do right by EVERY child. Some days I am trying to put them in a position to be successful students and successful volleyball players. Other days I am trying to put them in a position to be successful humans. NEVER am I trying to show ANYONE that I don’t believe in them, or that I don’t care about them. If I haven’t earned that trust from my players, students, and their parents yet, then I will just keep working to do so because I will NEVER stop trying to help ALL children. Do I have fears that my decisions are not always right when trying to help? Absolutely! Is it worth it to me to continue to try to make the hard choices that I truly believe will help PEOPLE? That answer is a resounding yes as well!

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