Letter to the Editor: A Mother’s Take on Assigned Seating

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Dear Editor,

I wanted to write a letter to express my appreciation for the lunch seating assignments.
I as a teacher in the building, lunch supervisor, and parent in the district can appreciate the
reasons behind the seating assignments. While these have all been discussed before I wanted
to share with you a couple of scenarios. Many students and parents are upset that their
students can’t sit by their friend for the first 15-20 minutes of lunch. However, it has been noted
that students can leave to be with their friends the last half of lunch. I would like to share a
personal reason why I feel the seats in the lunchroom are a good idea.

Nine years ago I had my second son. As a parent you think that it is the most wonderful
day in the world when you have a child. As he got older we noticed behaviors that weren’t
quite the typical behavior of a child his age. At the age of 1 1⁄2 he didn’t have any vocabulary.
He was quite interested in the parts of the toy. . .like the wheels and watching them spin, instead
of playing appropriately with the item. He started speech therapy at that age. By the time he
was 2 there were other things that just wasn’t typical. He started into Occupational Therapy.
He entered the Special Education program at Columbia MO Public Schools at the age of 3. He
just turned 9 years old this month. At the age of 9 he is in the 3rd grade. You know what he’s
had by the age of 9. . . .multiple Occupational Therapist, multiple doctors appointments, multiple
Speech Therapy appointments, multiple Physical Therapy appointments. He wears diapers
because he doesn’t know what it means to use the bathroom. He has had a book he carried
around that had pictures so he could communicate with it. He now has an electronic device to
try to help communicate. You know what he hasn’t had? He hasn’t had one friend. He hasn’t
had one invitation to have a sleepover. He hasn’t had one invite for a play date. He’s never
been invited to a birthday party. His birthday parties don’t have friends. His birthday parties
are lonely and really not super fun. You can’t play games. He doesn’t have people who he
can chat with on his XBox. He is 9 years old. He is fun. He is loving. However, when it
comes to others and being at school. . .he’s not going to have a person to sit next to at lunch.
For students are similar to my son. . .this is a situation where he doesn’t have to worry about not
having a friend. He doesn’t have to worry about not being “cool” or in the “click”. Students
similar to my son are part of the “whole” when we have classes sit together. For this, some
students miss sitting with their own friends for 15 minutes, but for the entire day, my son
wouldn’t feel like he is alone. He would feel like he has a place to belong.

As a teacher I teach students in the summer who do not speak English as their first
language. For example, this year I had a student who came to the United States with their
family three days before summer school started. This student didn’t have a friend in all of the
city of Springfield. They didn’t know what the procedures were, they didn’t speak the language,
and they were all alone. They had assigned seats for lunch, so they knew they had a place
that was familiar for them. They didn’t have to worry about where to sit. They didn’t have to
be scared. They went with their class to lunch and were able to sit next to someone who was
familiar. This was a positive experience because someone else gave up 15 minutes of sitting
with their friends.

These two examples are just examples that I have that I hold on to. When I hear
someone complain about not getting to sit next to their friends. I think to myself, at least you have a friend. When I think of someone complaining about not being able to talk to their day
with their friends, or the latest gossip. I think to myself. . .at least you’re surrounded by people
every day that speak your language and include you in a conversation. Some students, even
here at Cherokee do not have this. Not everyone has a safe place. Not everyone has a friend.
Not everyone has the comfort of knowing what to do. So I would ask you. . .would you please
be a friend at the table you are assigned to? Could you talk to someone new? Will you not
complain, and just realized you are blessed to have friends. You are blessed to be able to
communicate. You are blessed to be able to have people in your lives that care about you, and
you will be able to have these conversations when given time after 15-20 when you’re allowed
to go out and walk with these friends, but I challenge you. . .will you give up your 15 minutes for
someone else to feel a sense of belonging for one moment of their day?

In conclusion, I want to share a poem I wrote for my son several years ago. I wrote this
because it’s not easy in life sometimes, and at times writing is my release. So I leave you with
this:

When I Look Into Your Eyes

Written by Mrs. Desauguste for my son Ian Duarte

When I looked into your eyes as a newborn I had many hopes and dreams.

I hoped you would grow up happy and healthy.
I hoped you would be safe.
I hoped you would be successful.

When I looked into your eyes at a year or two old I wondered.

Why are you not looking at me?
Why are you not talking to me?
Do you know who I am?

When I looked into your eyes as you got the orange removed from your nose I saw fear.

How can I help you not fear this?
How do I make you understand?

When I looked into your eyes as I heard the doctor tell me it was Autism…

I wondered will you grow up happy still?
Will you be safe still?

What does success look like for you now?

When I looked into your eyes just a few days later as you lie on the floor I was scared.

What does this mean?
Is my baby ok?
How do I keep you safe?
Who can help?

When I looked into your eyes as you were in the hospital fighting the doctors and nurses…

I want to help you understand we are here to help.
I want you to know I am trying to keep you safe.
I am trying to keep you healthy.

When I looked into your eyes as you came out of surgery I wanted to calm you.

You were scared…how do I help?

I got into bed with you, but you wanted to fight because I couldn’t get you to understand.

I could only hold you tight as you tried to fight me.
When I looked into your eyes today I see a beautiful boy.

I see a mischievous boy.

I see a boy trapped in his own world at times.

I see a boy who my dreams and hopes that I had as I stared deep into your eyes as a

newborn have yet to change.
I want you to be happy, healthy, safe, and successful.

These things might look different now than they did five years ago, but I am your mom

and I will always want these things for you.

I want you to be happy…I want to protect you from this world, and the hardships you’ll

face.
I want you to be healthy.

We have spent way too many times in the doctor’s offices and hospitals for your young

life.

I will do everything in my power to help you get there.

I want you to be safe.

I pray you will learn at some point to have a safe sense of fear…realizing that you can

not just go anywhere.

I want to protect you from the bullies that do not understand how they hurt you.
I want you to be successful, and what success looks like now at age five is different

from fifteen years from now.

I dream of a day when you’ll be able to look back into my eyes, and say, “You are my

mom, and I love you.”
So when I look into your eyes

I hope you are able to feel that ultimately I love you, my son.

I look into your eyes with the same love that I looked into your eyes with the day you

entered the world.

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