In one more week summer school will end and all of the little people will be back together again. Dolly has told me how long and boring her summer program has been. (which I was expecting her to say sooner or later). I am proud of her though. She was nice enough to wait to make this statement a week before it ends as oppose to the first day of the program. Summer school for me looked a little different.
Working my summer school program has been an interesting experience. It's been challenging and draining at times but, I have learned a lot and had fun with my class. The population of kids I work with have some MR (mental retardation) & have some emotional and behavioral disabilities but are high functioning & highly social.
I have often wondered about the souls of these special kids and whether or not they have any concept of God or have any type of relationship with Him. So what happens today? One of my students begins to sing a gospel song that I learned when I was about 7 years old. Last week a student I have been paired with and have done a lot of one on one instruction with, sang the same song. Is this a coincidence?
Last week, my one on one student asked one of the Teacher's assistants if they prayed, my ears perked up and I heard her say yes. Then he asked her if she would pray for him. She told him that she would say a whole lot of prayers for him. He seemed to be satisfied with that answer.
Today while in the office, my one on one student asked me if I would pray for his Mama. I asked if his mother was sick and he said no but, his Grandma was. I then told him that I would pray especially for his grandma tonight. Somehow, in between doses of medication, making loud noises, not staying on task, laughing, not following a directive, he somehow knows, there is some one to pray to and He has the ability to help his mother and his grandmother.
As the weeks have progressed with this job, the faces of my students, and other students I come in contact with, seem to flash before me long after my shift is over, late at night, and on the weekends. All I know to do is to pray for them and their families.
People seem to think I'm such a great person to work with Autistic students, kids with extreme behavior issues, kids with severe emotional problems, students with different levels of mental retardation, kids who appear to have no issues at all, students who exhibit all kinds of aggression, students who wear pull ups and diapers, students who drool and have runny noses- all the time, students who pick at their noses and other parts of their bodies-all day, students who are animated and make me laugh, students who can quote nearly every episode of their favorite television program, students who try to cram all of their lunch in their mouths with no room to spare, kids who refuse to eat-at all. students who talk well, students who don't talk at all, kids who grunt and make noises because that's all the vocabulary they have, Students who hit themselves or bang their heads on their desks, students who hit you or push you into desks, students who who look at you with blank stares, students who fall asleep because they are on so many meds or because they don't sleep much at night, and students who just scream for hours, as if they are being tortured. Those are the types of kids I work with. But I am not a hero.
The real heroes are the parents, caretakers and guardians, who care for these kids when I go home to mine. They are the ones who have to manage family and work with a special needs child. They are the ones who have to deal with the 'tantrums', the screaming, the aggression at home, at the grocery store and in public. They are the ones who if they don't have the support system set up, get no break and constantly feel the weight of the universe on their shoulders.
They often care for their children without thanks or appreciation, without hugs or kisses, without Mother's Day or Father's Day cards and without the help that they need because no one is willing to lend a hand.
I imagine they must feel alone, frustrated angry, annoyed , guilty sad, disappointed and afraid- all at the same time. Some of their children will never get married, never have children, and never hold down a job. However, some children will do all of those things and more. I imagine on good days the caregivers feel hopeful, or maybe even happy. I imagine they feel like they have a little break or they feel at peace- even if only for a moment.
I don't look at myself as a hero. I only have my students for a few hours out of the day. Their caregivers, mother's and fathers and siblings have them for a lifetime, they are the real heroes....