From the Teaching Front Lines

I haven’t been substitute teaching as much this year, usually a day or two a week, but I still enjoy it.  Of course, some days are more rewarding than others.

Today, for example, I was working with special-needs students.  These jobs are always interesting.  I can remember when I was studying to be a teacher and a young lady who was already working special education was sitting next to me in class.  The first hour, she would show me all the bruises and scratches she’d received that day; the second hour she would try to recruit me for that field!  I didn’t understand what she meant until I worked with some of those kids myself.  They are all endearing in their own special ways.

Are you teaching them anything?  They have a Learning Lab, where they practice simple tasks, like matching colors, putting nuts on bolts, and placing items inside 35mm film cannisters.  Some of the tasks are more practical, like shredding papers or crushing soda cans. The more-capable students do go off campus to work; they can do basic jobs like sorting or arranging items like pencils into bundles.  A few can’t do much of anything, sadly. You push their wheelchairs, feed them at lunch (like I did today), change their diapers (like I rarely have to do, fortunately), and get them involved in as many activities as possible.  One of my favorite memories is taking a special-needs student to dance class.  He got to participate in one of their routines, and it was fun to watch this dumpy boy dancing about a quarter beat behind in a line of statuesque girls. And you do learn from them, like how to recognize seizures, for example.

The school system I’m working in now tries to give these kids every opportunity regardless.  A couple of times I’ve subbed for the “traveling physical education teacher”.  I went to three different schools to work with special-needs kids for physical education.  At the middle school, the district actually bussed some kids from the other middle schools in for the class.  It’s quite the emotional shock to see the gym  doors open and a line of motorized wheelchairs and their aides come through.

You just have to do the best you can with what you are given.




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