Saturday, November 21, 2009

Brain cells and hand holding

A friend of mine has a son with brain damage. When he was an infant she made the rounds of doctors looking for answers. Finally when the boy was about 18 months old a doctor was honest enough to give her a glimmer of what lay ahead.
"But when will he start to walk and talk?" she asked.
And in one of the most brutal reality checks ever, the doctor responded, "I don't know if he has the brain cells for those activities."

If my career had gone the way I planned when I was seventeen I would be teaching the young man, or others like him. But life rarely goes as we plan and me and my special education license spend the days in a high school where the IEP students look nothing like my friend's wheel chair bound, mute son. And they take algebra and earth science and are expected to pass. I expect them to pass.

Mr. Copernicus was grilling the class on a chart illustrating the temperature range of various climates on earth. He had worked himself into a frenzy stretching to reach the highs, skating across the rooms to illustrate the lines of consistent temperatures and blank faces abounded.

I had a suggestion, helpful support teacher that I am. I thought everyone should draw little sketches of the temperature climate in each zone. Oh- how multi-modality this exercise would be- each student drawing, tracing and explaining the ups and downs of seasons. So Copernicus, exasperated, handed me the chalk and said you do it.

And I did- and they did, and I thought it was successful.

And Mr. Copernicus muttered, "maybe I should hold my hand over their hand and move the pencil for them."

I like Mr. C. he's a new teacher and enthusiastic. He knows his stuff. And truly I am aware that I can be a real pain in the behind.

For a kid with a disability hidden behind a normal appearance it may be hard to believe that not getting it is not a matter of being lazy or inattentive. Its easy to say if they would work harder and study more they would succeed.

But in the end who knows how many brain cells any one of us have? There comes a time we all need someone to hold our hand (and maybe move the pencil).

1 comment:

  1. You are a brave teacher to make a suggestion like that during the class. I have found myself in the same position not wanting to step on toes and overstep my boundaries. I do now know how they do not understand that not everyone learns the same way. This new teacher should have learned that somewhere in his college education. I applaud your vision. And I am glad you are a special education teacher.