There are so many types of disabilities in our world and it is important to not categorize people based on their disability. For this project, I choose to read the book Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. This was a very thought provoking book that kept me engaged the whole time. Mockingbird is the story of a young girl who has Asperger syndrome and her brother was recently shot in a school shooting. Throughout the book, Caitlin struggles to deal with her brothers death and has a hard time talking to anyone about the situation.
She does however confide in just a few people, one of them being her school counselor. Caitlin’s counselor, Mrs. Brooks, helps her by getting her to talk and work on her social skills. Soon after beginning to see Mrs. Brooks, Caitlin decides she wants to find empathy and closure. With the help from the counselor, her art teacher, and even her dad, Caitlin is able to finally find closure to her brothers shooting. She learns the importance of friendships and empathy with the help of the people around her. Caitlin not only learned to cope but she also helped the others around her cope with the recent shooting.
After reading this book I felt many emotions and have a whole new view on families with children that have a disability. This book came out in 2010 and I feel that the situations that occur are still very pertinent to today with as many school shooting that are still happening. Reading Mockingbird has given me an even deeper appreciation for what counselors and teachers do for the children in their school. One reaction that I had right away was that I could not imagine what it would be like to have a child with Asperger syndrome in your classroom or as your own child.
Asperger syndrome makes it difficult for the child to interact socially and they can become almost obsessed with one subject. While reading this book and familiarizing myself with Asperger syndrome, I really began to realize that if I had a student with this disability I would have to pay close attention to the way I said things. One of this issues that Caitlin faces throughout the story is that she takes everything for its literal meaning and then becomes very confused. As a teacher, I would work hard to pay attention to the small details that are often taken for granted.
I have grown up with a parent who is a teacher and was blessed to be in a great school district. So when I read this book it was reassuring to see just how good the education system can be. One area where I thought the school in the book did a great job was when Caitlin needed help with social interaction and making new friends. The counselor helped Caitlin open up and tell her how she was feeling and why she was struggling to make any friends at all. The school did not force her to try and make friends with her same aged peers but rather gave her the opportunity to make friends that were younger than her.
Caitlin did end up building a friendship with a younger boy and it helped her find the closure she was needing. Finally, one of the most impactful reactions to this book for myself was that each child is truly special. I have always known that their are many types of people and each person deals with a situation in their own way, but after reading this book, I really was able to better understand just how children with disabilities react to certain situations. It was eye-opening to read about the way that this child, who had Asperger syndrome, was trying to tell her story but it was not able to be expressed in words or even emotions.
Caitlin’s family, teachers, and friends all wanted to help out but were not sure how. I realized that sometimes you just have to let the person open up on their own time and not try to push them to hard. Each person reacts to circumstances in their own way and we often times just have to wait to see how they will learn to cope with it. Reading Mockingbird was a new experience for myself, as it was the first book that I have read about a child with disabilities and also, I was reading the book with the idea in mind that I am going to be a teacher one day.
Throughout the book there were several lessons that I learned about teaching and I believe that I can incorporate some techniques into my own teaching. First off, one thing that I learned about the teaching profession is that it may be difficult to relate to your students at times because you have not been in the same situations as them. Mockingbird is all about a girl whose brother has been shot in a school shooting. This an experience that most people will never encounter and that can make it difficult to help the student cope and move past this devastating event.
As teachers, it is our job to do the best that we can to help the students feel comforted and help them to continue to further their education while coping. It is important to stay professional when events like this occur and try not to get emotionally attached to the students involved. There were many techniques used in this book and several of them help the class out in a big way. These techniques not only taught the students the content they were supposed to be learning but also it taught them life skills and lessons.
The lessons that they learned throughout the book will help them as they grow older and they will appreciate everyone’s unique skills. Throughout this book, there were many times when labels were put on the students. Most of the time these labels were negative and damaging to the students emotional development. So, a technique that was incorporated was that of not stereotyping or grouping people into one category. Mrs. Brooks helped implement this and she helped the students learn that just because someone has a disability or acts differently does not mean that they should be labeled.
One example from the book occurred when the P. E. teacher accidentally said that all the Autistic children were in his class when in reality he only had one child with Autism and the others just had learning disabilities. The students that class became very emotional after this statement and went to talk to Mrs. Brooks. She said that he was wrong to say that and basically addressed the issues of labels and how damaging they can be. This technique of sitting down with the kids and addressing the issue and why it was wrong helped them understand the negative affects of labels.
The students then felt more comfortable with their teachers and peers. Another technique that was used to help with Caitlin and the class’s cognitive development was having them work in a group for projects at school. In the beginning of the story Caitlin was not able to work efficiently with a group and it caused her a lot of anxiety. After spending some time with the counselor and finally understanding that it was important to work with her peers, Caitlin was able to accept the role of being in a group.
She understood her role and was able to interact socially. The students in the class accepted Caitlin even though she had a disability. This technique of working in groups is something that is very important for every student to understand and feel comfortable with. As a teacher, I will incorporate group work into my classroom because it teaches the students skills that they will use for the rest of their life. Mockingbird highlighted many techniques that helped the child, Caitlin, increase her development in almost all areas of her life.
One of the main techniques that the teacher used was working individually with the student. Throughout the book, Mrs. Brooks would spend time with only Caitlin. They would talk about how she was feeling, why it was important to have friends, and how she can get closer to closure. These individual moments made Caitlin feel more comfortable and she was able to better express her feelings. The teacher wisely separated Caitlin from the rest of the class because she knew for Caitlin’s emotional heath it would be more beneficial.
Another teaching technique that was used was finding something Caitlin was interested in and using it to help her develop cognitively and emotionally. In Mockingbird, Caitlin was interested in words and the dictionary. So, the teacher would help Caitlin understand what a word meant and how she could use it in life. For example, Mrs. Brooks repeatedly talked about empathy and this was a word that by the end of the book Caitlin really understood. By understanding the meaning of the word, Caitlin was able to learn to cope with the situation and put herself in others shoes.
Now, even though there were several great teaching techniques in this book there were also several that did not work as well. For instances, originally Mrs. Brooks wanted Caitlin to try really hard to make friends and interact with them. This did not work so well. Caitlin tried too hard to make friends and she ended up getting mad fun of because of it. Caitlin was trying to make a friend but could not take any social cues, so that made it difficult for her to realize that the people she was trying to befriend did not want to be her friends.