More Rare than Gold

Special education teachers often get a bad rap although that’s not my personal experience. There are some real gems out there, underpaid and undervalued but nonetheless still giving of their best.

Here in California when over 22,000 pink slips have been issued, I think it’s important to pay tribute to those who work in special education, the professionals we trust with the care of our children, both teachers and aides because it’s all about teamwork. Not only do they need to teach the curriculum and cater to each of the differing special needs of their charges, they also need to deal with the unexpected. I can think of no better way to illustrate the unexpected than to demonstrate the unexpected with an example.

This is of course hearsay as I wasn’t there myself at the time.

My son and his pals enjoy the addition of a new play fellow in their classroom The new chap has a lot of catching up to do because he is in a new environment. Like most ‘new kids,’ he has lots of questions that need lots of answers, ordinary questions, such as the rules. Most children want to know the rules but many children are of a very literal frame of mind, which means that the rules are taken quite literally. Hence the other children half listen to the conversation between the teacher and the new boy as they complete their worksheets.

New boy: “are pets allowed in school?”
Teacher:- “no I’m sorry to tell you that no pets are allowed in school.”
New boy: “are dogs allowed on the school grounds?”
Teacher: “no I’m afraid there’s a strict rule about allowing dogs on the premises, we have to be careful.”
New boy: “are cats allowed on the premises?”
Teacher: “sadly, cats aren’t allowed on school grounds either.” The last sentence is my son’s cue to stand up, walk to the wall to collect his backpack and head towards the exit but his teacher intervenes, “what’s up my friend?”
“Meow!”
“Oh dear. I was forgetting. Of course! You are part cat!”

Did you remember to thank your teachers and aides today?

Don’t forget to add your name to the “list.”


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Ding, ding, ding, [England is evil 7]

It's not that I'm ignoring him, more like not paying attention. He's happy, playing, why break the spell?

“Ooo you had a good idea! Ding!” What a sweet adorable child. I wonder how long this one will last? I continue to make supper as the light fades. The minutes tick by as he continues with his new mantra, “ooo you had a good idea! Ding!” I can see him flit from one soft toy to another to repeat the same phrase out of the corner of my eye. Little gem. He darts between his brother and sister. She swats him like a fly but he’s back to the soft toys in a ceaseless circuit of energy.

Where has this sudden good humour come from I wonder? Where has 'England is evil' gone? Ah the innocence of youth.

When I snap on the light in the kitchen I notice the gloom in the sitting room. I step in and reach for the table light but the darned thing is fused. “Ooo you had a good idea! Ding!” I look across to see him with the light bulb in his hand.

Light fingered Leviathan!

Still, it’s an improvement on “last year.”


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I love to read, old baggage that I am

 

This is the name of the reading programme in our school, ‘I love to read.’ This is also my ticket to access to the children in the classroom, an extremely valuable one.

I spend part of the day practicing my spiel, as I am unnaturally intimidated by an audience of under tens, who should never be underestimated.

I dither. What would be my best pitch? I adopt my usual scientific approach to such matters. I shall appeal to the average child? Should that be mean, mode or modal? Maybe I should go for the lowest common denominator? Who or what is the lowest common denominator? I give up, as I have no staying power and the scientific gene has always been under-developed.

I commence my beauty routine prior my public appearance. I begin by dressing complete with Cat in the Hat Stoker hat. I finish with a slick of lip balm, to the eyebrows that defy gravity. Done!

I molder along to the school. This is never going to work.

I make a start, “hello girls and boys.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see my daughter shrink in a cringe. Her body language makes it clear to me that I have already made a faux pas although I have no idea what I have done, or not done for that matter?

I administer stickers and hand out prizes. Encourage those who are not participating and praise those who are. I have a need to promote my own personal agenda:- catch the fallers before they fail. I conclude with the bit that they've been waiting for. I know shameless self promotion when I see it, but I can’t resist as I am exceptionally proud of my brother’s achievements.

“So……who has brothers or sisters?” Nearly all the hands shoot into the air.
“Who likes to write or read stories?” Nearly two thirds.
“Who likes to go exploring, camping and adventures?” Almost everyone.
“Well I have a baby brother, a rather boring one. He used to be a writer and then one day he decided to do something more exciting. He and his best friend went on adventure. His best friend was Australian. Who is your best friend? Would you like to go on an adventure with your best friend? They were just like you guys, friends for years and years. They packed their bags and walk 3000 kilometers through China. After a year of walking, they stopped walking and wrote a book, here it is, “The Long March.” This is the Chinese one, this is the English one and here is the picture book full of photographs of where they went and who they met. The point is……….you can do anything you want to do if you really, really try.”

I look at the 4th Graders. I await a smirk from the sophisticated. None. They all look back at me as if I have told them a fairy tale. I distribute the books, the reality, and point out some of the “pictures” that I think might appeal to smallish people.

When the bell rings I have difficulty extracting the “books” for the next class.

I try the same version on my boys' class, a combination second and third grade special education class with only 11 delightful students.
“Hi guys!” I announce loudly with overly wide arm gestures. I see several smiles.
“So……who has brothers or sisters?” Some hands respond. My boys do not.
“Who likes to write or read stories?” One and not mine.
“Who likes to go exploring, camping and adventures?” A few, just more than two. I know at least two people who loathe such a prospect. I tell them about my brother and pass out the books. The visual is a hit. Horray! They ask lots of questions. “What kind of camera did he use?”
“?”
“What's 3000 km in miles?”
“?”
“How heavy are the sticks?”
“?”
“Is that an REI tent?”
“?”
My boys are lured in. They've seen all the materials before, boring. Other children's interest peaks theirs. I gather my materials to leave.

He comes up to me at the end, the pan faced, somber child. “I'm gonna write a book when I'm an adult,” he announces to my hat. I watch his lips move as he counts the stripes silently.
“Are you? How wonderful. What will it be about?”
“Praying Mantis.”
“Fabulous.  Will you sign me a copy when you're finished and I’m an old woman?”
“No.”
“Oh.”
“You’re already an old woman and I’ve not written it yet.”
“Er….true.”
“But I'll use my rubber stamp that'll be a perfect forgery if you like?”
“I do!”

I like very much indeed.

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