Somebody Else's Kids by Torey Hayden is now officially on my list for being one of the best books I've ever read. I think it hit such a nerve with me because I am a teacher, but I think anyone with a heart will truly enjoy this book.
I can not begin to summarize this story, so the following is from the inside book jacket.
They were just 'somebody else's kids'-four problem children put in Torey Hayden's class because no one else knew what to do with them: A small seven-year-old boy who couldn't speak except to repeat weather forecasts and other people's words...A beautiful girl of seven who had brain damage by terrible parental beatings and was so ashamed because she couldn't even learn to read...A violently angery ten-year-old who had seen his stepmother murder his father and had been sent from one foster home to another...A shy twelve-year-old from a Catholic school that expelled her when she became pregnant...They all shared one thing in common: a remarkable teacher who would never stop caring and who would share with them the love and understanding they had never known .
December will mark my 3rd year as a teacher and I can honestly say that I have had one of each of the kids described above during my short teaching career so far. I can relate to many aspects of Torey's writing including seeing how Educational Laws effect, both positively and negatively, special education programs. She talks first about how the passage of Public Law 94-142, also known as the mainstreaming act, significantly reduced the number of special education classrooms available in public schools. This law essentially put kids with all forms of disabilities in classrooms with their same aged peers. That sounds like a great idea, but it eliminated self contained classrooms for all but the most severely mentally disabled. Students with moderate mental disabilities suffered from this law. It has since been revised and new classrooms with adapted functional curriculum's have been established.
I connect most with her student named Boo (short for Boothie) who had Autism and is mostly non-verbal except for a severe case of echolalia. Don't be scared to read this book just because it uses terms familiar to only those with experience in special education...Torey does a great job of explaining terms and conditions through out her writing.
Torey also does an amazing job at describing the absolute beauty that her students posses. I can never adequately describe the love I have for my own kids (students), but she has mastered it. Sometimes I look in my students eyes and it makes me cry. I can see through them some how and they seem to be able to see into me and read my thoughts and feelings. It is magical and beautiful and I don't even know how to describe it unless you have had that experience. I wish you all could have that experience. I have what regular education teachers call "it"- the ability to calm a child down with a look...but I'll tell you my secret. When a child is upset or frustrated I stop talking. I open my eyes and look at them in their eyes and inside my head I repeat, "I understand. I know. It's OK. ". I swear to God they read this and it calms them.
Torey also is brutally honest about her personal life and how it is effected by her job. Like many dedicated teachers, we know that teaching isn't just a job, it's a life style. Unfortunately, her boyfriend was just not able to understand and when he gave her an ultimatum of him or the kids, she chose the kids. Thankfully, my husband is amazing, understanding, supportive, and sensitive to my dedication-and he even helps me make materials for my classroom or get's me hot cocoa when he knows it'll be a late night for me.
Somebody Else's Kids will make you cry but it will also help lift your spirits. I shared her anger when she was mad, her joy when their was cause for celebration, and her heartache when things were difficult. I hope that you will enjoy this book as much as I have.
This is my second book review for the Fall Reading challenge hosted by A Southern Daydreamer Reads.
If you would like to win my used $5.98 copy of Somebody Else's Kids for FREE just lave me a comment saying you'd like to read it and I'll draw one person at random on November 1st.
Thanks again for reading, I look forward to hearing from you.