Most parents recognize that our teachers have a unique opportunity to impact the lives of our children, motivating and encouraging them on a daily basis. Every so often, a story goes viral reminding us of just how important this role is – As is the case with the beautiful story of Ben Twist.
In 2016, 11-year-old Ben Twist had to write his standardized testing, a process that causes great stress in children across the nation. In fact, a survey released by the state School Boards Association in New York and the state Association of School Psychologists in 2015 warned that these exams are the cause of serious anxiety in children, explaining that ‘test anxiety’ as they call it is more common at the elementary-school level, meaning that this testing is harder on these children than the testing endured by our teens.
Ben had an additional challenge in his test preparation, however. Why? The young boy has been diagnosed with autism, a condition that often causes challenges both in learning and attention. Many children that are placed on the autism spectrum are incredibly intelligent, however, they struggle with our currently accepted methods of education, including the basic classroom settings and expectations, and traditional testing methods. As a result, many will fall short on our standardized testing not because they aren’t incredibly gifted, but because these tests fail to provide them with the opportunity to express that intelligence.
As a result of these additional challenges Ben, like many autistic students, failed the test. However, his mother Gail was surprised when her son came home not only with the news that he had failed but with a powerful, inspirational letter from Ben’s teacher. She took to Twitter with the letter and it quickly started to go viral, inspiring people around the globe.
The letter continues to circulate, inspiriting autistic students and their family members while serving as an important reminder to all of us that these students are so much more than just their grades in school or their ability to adapt to mainstream activities. They are smart, talented, loving individuals. If the words of Mrs. Clarkson inspire you to reconsider your outlook on life, good! Spread the news and help her message to reach everyone that needs to hear this in today’s day and age.
In tears. A letter to my 11 yr old autistic son from his school. “These tests only measure a little bit of you” pic.twitter.com/e9OPECidxX
— Gail Twist🐝 (@gailtwist) July 9, 2016
The letter from Mrs. Clarkson stated:
I am writing you to congratulate you on your attitude and success in completing your end of key stage SATs.
Gil, Lynn, Angela, Steph, and Anne have worked so well with you this year and you have made some fabulous progress.
I have written to you and your parents to tell you the results of the tests.
A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities. They are important and you have done so well, but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.
Other talents you have that these tests do not measure include:
– Your artistic talents
– Your ability to work in a team
– Your growing independence
– Your kindness
– Your ability to express your opinion
– Your abilities in sport
– Your ability to make and keep friends
– Your ability to discuss and evaluate your own progress
– Your design and building talents
– Your musical ability
We are pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man. Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.
Replies to the tweet were incredibly positive, congratulating Ben on all his accomplishments while also praising Mrs. Clarkson for her dedication to her students. Tom Watson (@tom_watson) wrote, “Please tell Mrs. Clarkson she is a credit to the teaching profession.” Dr. Amanda Coles (@colesamanda) added, “Wow. What a special school. I live in hope that our vision for what education should be mirrors such an approach.” Teachers like Mrs. Clarkson deserve all this recognition and more for all that they do!