Friday, November 9, 2012

Fighting Over Wheelchairs, Veterans, And More

Hi everyone! I'm pleased to let you know that things are starting to turn around at my new job! I am no longer feeling so overwhelmed, and am now feeling more confident and happy. The resource teacher actually came through with her promise to give me some training for working with Toko... and basically her "training" was to sit me down and tell me that I can do anything I want with Toko as long as it ties into education. She has given me permission to go into her room to get games and other materials to work with him on, plus a bucket of materials in Toko's classroom, plus encouragement to bring in anything else I have or come up with my own ideas. In addition, I will eventually be able to gather up a small group of other students from other rooms (such as Annie Elizabeth from my other classroom, because they are on a similar academic level) and work with them on basic things like phonics and simple math. So I'm finally going to be able to use my brain! I am really excited! 

Except I didn't really get to do anything at all with Toko, or even see him or Wyken, today. I had to stand in for another aide. You may remember that when I originally was hired for this job, I was told I'd be working with an 8-year-old girl named Bess who has cerebral palsy... but then when I arrived for my first day, I was told I'd be working with Wyken (and then two weeks later got told I'd be working with Toko, of course...) Bess ended up getting paired with a different aide who was already working at the school and who had more experience with children with physical impairments, but I have often gone along as a third party to help Bess use the bathroom. Usually I don't do anything but stand there while her real aide assists her, just for safety and liability purposes. Today, though, Bess's aide was sick, and for some reason they decided to have me work with Bess (I guess because she already knows me) and get a sub to work with Toko and Wyken. I was so sad to leave my little guys, but Bess is a pretty cool girl! The odd thing is that all the kids fight over who will push Bess's wheelchair from place to place. They don't really even have any interest in playing with her or talking to her, but they all clamber over each other to help her out in any way! It's hard to tell whether they just want the "fun" of pushing a wheelchair or the attention of being known as the helpful children who look out for the girl in the wheelchair, or if they genuinely want to be friends with her but don't exactly know how to play with her since she can't run around like they do. 

There is one particular girl named Sonya who actually does play with Bess at recess and stuff. The two of them make quite a pair! Bess is very sweet, but it is also pretty easy to tell that she is somewhat spoiled at home and that she spends most of her time with adults. She doesn't have the best social skills, she can be very bossy and demanding, and she'd just prefer to spend time with adults (maybe because adults are more likely to let her "run the show" than other children would be. For instance when Bess asks me to help her color, I don't demand that we play a different game instead!) On the other hand, young Sonya is an only child who is also fairly bossy and lacks social skills. She doesn't have many other friends in the class. So she plays with Bess. They both fight about what to play, and Sonya often ends up stomping off, with Bess wheeling after her trying to apologize. Sonya also really enjoys pushing Bess's wheelchair, reminding her to put on her breaks when they're stopped somewhere, helping her with her coat, etc. It would be nice if she wasn't so bossy about it, and will even push other kids out of the way! Also she's not great at pushing the wheelchair. While helping transport Bess from the playground to the classroom after lunch, Sonya crashed into a teacher and then nearly mowed down a group of three kindergarteners!

In other news, we had our Veteran's Day celebration today at school. It was very nice. The whole school went out to the flag in front of the building and said the Pledge together, and then sang "God Bless America" together. Two soldiers and some police color guards were there for the ceremony. Afterwards, several veterans came to talk to the kids and answer their questions. When I heard that veterans were coming to talk to us, I was picturing World War II veterans, or maybe some Vietnam vets. I just pictured old guys. Instead, the veterans were in their early twenties at most, and had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The youngster who talked with Bess's class had three purple hearts, and casually mentioned being shot three times, stepping on a bomb and getting "blown up," and having his best friend save his life by pulling him off of a landmine. It was kind of shocking to me... I guess in my naive mind I thought that today's soldiers are somehow safer than the soldiers in the past. 

Although I did start to become more aware this summer, when I went to a local amusement park and saw signs in front of the rides that I'd never seen before. Besides warning people not to ride rides if they had heart problems or were pregnant or whatever, the signs also mandated how many arms and legs a rider needed. A sign might say, "Each rider must possess at least one complete arm and one complete leg to ride." At first I thought that was a little funny... exactly how many people with multiple limbs missing show up at Six Flags? But then someone pointed out to me that a lot of people have been coming back from the war with their arms and legs blown off from landmines. Enough people to warrant special signs at Six Flags. Sobering, isn't it? Makes you really have a new appreciation for the people who voluntarily go off to war.

After the talks with the veterans, Bess's class watched a video about Honor Flight, and then started writing letters to World War II veterans, which will be passed out randomly to passengers on the next local Honor Flight trip. 

So it was a nice day I got to spend with Bess. But I'll be happy on Monday to see Toko and Wyken and all my little buddies again! 

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone!

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