The other night, my thirteen year old and I were flipping through the channels looking for something to watch. He stumbled upon the television version of Forrest Gump. Not having seen the film in quite some time, I became interested and watched with him.
From the very beginning of the film, you know that Forrest is special. There is a scene where the principal tells Mrs. Gump that Forrest does not have an average IQ. Fairly close to this scene, Forrest is taunted for being different. As I watched the scene unfold on my television, it struck me that Forrest is not much different than some of the students that come into my office. They too have lower IQ’s. There are those that feel the need to feel better about themselves by picking on our students who struggle to defend themselves.
At first, Forrest does struggle to defend himself. Luckily for him, he has Jenny. Jenny is his protector. Jenny is Forrest’s true friend. While the bullies are throwing rocks at Forrest, Jenny encourages him to run. “Run, Forrest – RUN!” And run he did. In a situation that he had no control over, Forrest found strength and a skill that he was good at. The leg braces that he was wearing break away and he has the ability to run and run fast.
Forrest discovers a talent that has nothing to do with the numbers in his IQ. He has a strength in something that makes him special and standout. He is not necessarily encouraged to use this strength until he is admitted into college, to play football. Throughout his life, this special talent serves him well and helps him succeed in a multitude of challenges.
This got me thinking…. Where are my student’s special talents? What do they succeed at that has nothing to do with the numbers represented in their IQ’s or Woodcock Johnson tests? What can I do to encourage and support them to use these skills? It also got me to recognize and utilize the “Jennys” in my student’s lives. Who are they? What do they like to do together? How can I help my student and their “Jenny” build a lifetime friendship?
One of my students is a Forrest Gump. She can run and make it look effortless. Other contenders around her are huffing, puffing, and gasping for air. Not her. She starts off much like the tortoise and finishes like a hare. This is her special gift. Another student can break bricks with his hands in Karate. I marvel at the videos he will show me of his strength and skill. He laughs at my inability to correctly grunt while trying to strike the air. One of my students is best friends with a fellow therapy student. They are two peas in a pod. When we can, we arrange for them to challenge each other in Keywo. We try and have them cross paths to let them know they are not alone on this educational journey.
Forrest Gump has challenged me. It reminded me to look at our kids and the talents that they have, not the numbers that they do not have. It reminded me to see the person God has created them to be, rather than what society may want or expect them to be. I need to remember that each of my students has an inner strength. I need to celebrate the successes outside of my therapy session as well as inside. I need to remember that my students, with God’s help and guidance, will turn out just fine, much like Forrest did. I need to enjoy my box of chocolates in what I call my students.