Yesterday I substituted for a elementary autistic class. I had substituted with this class once before last year, and had experience a couple times with other autistic classes. If I am in the right mood, I find Special-Ed classes to be the most rewarding, eye-opening, stimulating of all the classes.
But at the same time, days like these are a frightening load of responsibility, a work day where you are not allowed a single second to relax. Without exaggeration, I was on my toes attending to something from 7:30 to 2:30 non-stop. Whereas this makes the time go faster, it bites back by exhausting you. But, upon reflection, I learned a lot, saw a lot, and the kids are terrific and a lot smarter than anyone would think.
The set-up was this: 5 students aged 5-7, and 3 teachers including me. The game-plan is to have a variety of activities planned throughout the day to keep the kids focused and introduce them to a variety of subjects.
And the stream of consciousness begins...
- Every object of every activity is attached by velcro. The sound of pulling velcro gives me the willies like nothing else. Except for finger nails across newsprint. That's worse. But seriously, I cannot focus with that.
- Music teaches, right? A music teacher comes into the room to sing some songs. It's evident that this happens way too often and the kids are entirely nonplussed. We are supposed to all be singing "You are my sunshine." The reality is that it's only me and the teacher singing. Sweet.
- The music-teacher spices it up by leaving out the word "sunshine" and expecting someone to fill in the blank. As she does it, one kid fills in the blank with "October." No, it's not that odd of an answer when you consider he has been admiring the artistic designs of all the months just to the left of him.
- There are now 2 students left sitting in front of music-teacher. One kid has left and coerced assistant-teacher to sing itsy-bitsy spider to her over in a corner. Another is off alone, bouncing halfway to the ceiling on a therapy ball, grinning, full of joy. The third is screaming and running around the room, resisting the forearm strength of the teacher-in-charge.
- Mantra: A disaster is capable of occurring at any moment.
- One of the kids that is still in front of the music teacher has replaced his chew toy with a wooden drumstick.
- I become fearfully obsessed with being seen through. I am a fraud.
- It's time to go outside on the playground. By going out to the playground this means going to play on the swings. Nothing else is of interest. Here there are kids from other classes as well and our kids have become mixed with the general population.
- I spend the entire recess time pushing two of my kids on the swing, one with each arm. I think my wrists are permanently injured but I hide it, telling each of them that they are birds and airplanes.
- A 7 year old girl asks how old I am. I tell her 23. She says. "Oh, I thought you were 40!"
- I convince one of my kids to get off the swing, as I've become conscious by the line of 20 drooling kids, all rubbing themselves in anxiety, waiting for a swing to open up.
- I spot one kid foraging in some soil.
- I decide that I am strangely qualified to handle the absurdity of all this.
- Back in the classroom.
- Recess seems to have increased the lucidity of all.
- Amidst a round of play-doh and snack time, I witness that these kids are not that different than any other.
- One boy does not like play-doh. It is a well known fact in the classroom that he does not like play-doh. I try and convince him to come in contact with it, and not just roll it out, but then I stop. I realize that maybe he finds it smelly, but he can't talk. Or maybe he finds it boring. Would I want to touch a gross smelling, boring object? Not usually, and that is the truth.
- I overhear the teacher-in-charge commenting on one girl, saying "She doesn't show what he knows." I realize that that is the ultimate truth.
- One kid repeatedly goes and gets on a computer without permission. I overhear the teacher assistant commenting to the teacher-in-charge, "He's testing you." The truth.
Those last two comments opened my eyes a lot. I still don't know what to think, but I think I like it. But only every once in a while.
I still prefer to substitute slack-style, so that I can do things like.... write this post during work. Taha!!!