Susan Eckel

As Interviewed by Claire Payne, March 17, 2018

Susan Eckel: In Her Own Words

The interviewee is Susan Eckel. She was a preschool teacher in Ann Arbor in the sixties.

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Brian, cutest little guy, but his parents were the ultimate hippies. You remember hippies -- they were free spirits. He was three and a half years old, he was not toilet-trained, he was still breastfeeding, he didn't wear shoes, and he had no idea how to deal with other children. He would run into the classroom, big smile on his face, and crash into kids because he wanted to play with them -- well that didn't work out too well. But we worked really hard assimilating him into the classroom -- a lot of setting limits, which he'd never had any limits set, so that was interesting. He turned out to be a happy little guy. But the best news was that his parents realized they needed to set limits, and they were very willing to listen to our suggestions and what we had to say. Really, he was such great a kid -- and I was glad to see that he was able to [adjust]. The kids ended up [accepting him]. He was a good friend to most of the kids at the end of the time.

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Oh I remember lots of them, and only because I look back and found some pictures, so yeah, I remember a lot of them. Some of their parents I even kept up with in Ann Arbor when we lived there. We had two autistic kids, Louis and Lisa, and those were difficult for me because I hadn't been trained to deal with them -- the psychiatrist helped us a lot. I would have a lot of questions at the teachers meeting, and he would help in dealing with them. But I really wasn't equipped to deal with them as well as I probably should have been. A lot of redirection, and they were not very social. Brian the little hippie kid, he wanted to be social, but they really did not. I mean, they really didn't care to interact.

But to have Brian become social, which was what he wanted, rather than charge into a group of kids, and learn how to deal with that, was great. I really enjoyed it all, it was a wonderful experience. I loved it, it was when I was going to grad school so I could walk to my classes after I had finished teaching in the evening. I was married. No, it was a great experience just wonderful. It [the school] was owned by this lady, Margaret Dow Towsley of Dow Chemical -- she'd been a teacher, so she put a lot of herself into this.

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