"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And in the Role of the Witch of the West; or, Dependent-Arising Thoughts and Other Suprises

Dear reader, 1939 US film The Wizard of Oz has been referenced in yesterday's post as well as today's. I've included the hyperlink, in the event that you would like to read more about the film.

One of the things that I do not enjoy about working with the students and families that I do is that I sometimes experience dependent-arising thoughts in some of the remarks made to those of us in the field of work. I have been trying to grow an attitude of gratitude for the opportunity to break the cycle of dependent-arising when these instances do happen. I know they will always happen. So far, this attitude I wish to grow is a seed I hold in my hand; sometimes, I think that I've sown it: yet, with a fresh remark, I find that it's still nestled in my hand.

For instance, our classroom is in an entirely different building in the district. A support staff team member who had first expressed delight at our coming (I can't wait to get my hands on them. I love those autistic kids) entered the room yesterday and expressed the desire to come and visit from time to time as, even though our students will keep their former support member (as planned by design), she still wished to visit because, well, that's my little quirk. I love kids with autism.

Kids with autism?
Children are, and will always continue to be, children. Plain and simple.
Autism? A part of the whole child. Please make no mistake: these children are not broken.
The quirk, if one could call it that, and I do so here only to parallel the semantics---the "quirk" should be that you love kids.

You might think that I am referencing our newest quirky friend when I referenced the Wicked Witch of the West in the title.
Don't be too certain of that, dear reader.
It may very well be me, dependent-arising.

So I'll think instead about the young, enthusiastic women who came into our classroom yesterday morning instead: our students leave the room for specials, such as music and art, and these ladies are the general education teachers with whom our students will work for these things. They wanted to know what they could do to help our students; they wanted to know things such as their birthdays and the spellings of their names, so that our students would be included in their rooms in tangible ways: names on the birthday charts, name tags on desks.
A gentle reminder to their classmates in that room: I'm coming, I'll see you soon.
And for that, I am grateful.

Gratitude?
I'm finding, dear reader, that it can be found---even though we may have to shift our focus elsewhere---or perhaps, not even focus elsewhere; but rather, relinquish that focus to a gaze: allowing us to take in more than we had previously, allowing ourselves to be surprised at the goodness that we may find.
I love a good surprise, don't you?

7 comments:

swamp witch said...

I ALWAYS learn something new when I visit here.
When I was teaching, I shuddered when I heard the term "learning disabilities"...I used "learning difference" which seemed to be more appropriate. So many teachers and parents didn't realize that just because the child learned in a different way than they did, that it didn't make them disabled.

Diane O'Connor said...

Wow... just beautiful. I love your dedication and perspective. Thank you.

Pelicano said...

I, too, struggle constantly to let go and accept; time to observe.

On a side note: I just now finished viewing Spirited Away... I enjoyed it very much, the character of Kaonashi is definitely one to cause much contemplation. Thanks!

min said...

I wish you were my teacher! Well, I guess you are!!

Love Spirited Away!!(I have a little crush on the big radish spirit in the elevator

min said...

I just read a very disturbing article:

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/09/school_of_shock.html

Am I the last person to learn of this place???

neroli said...

Friends, what I know to be true is that old quote that says the quality of a society is in its treatment of those who are not the status quo...and we do so need these children and these people in our society: parts to the whole, just as they are.
My faith and my reason challenge me to live in the world as I believe it to be, as I believe it should be. Thank you for helping me to do so, friends.

Dear Swampy, I'm glad to return the favor---as that's my experience over at your place! Learning differences, differing abilities---I love it:
I love to use this language, guerilla-style---for that is indeed how it seems, serving to chip away at the status quo term of "learning disabled." So you're my sister in the stuggle :)!
My inspiration to return to grad school? One of my students, code name Batman---who was terrified of having to even taste a ham sandwich---but did so anyway because he knew that it's what his family and his support staff believed would be good for him (as many kids, and ASD kids especially, food preferences are strong---he ate chips and chicken nuggets. Period.) Learning disabled?
Absolutely not! He taught me a thing or two. Or three!

Diane, I am proud to be able to give a view, to my own perspective, at least, of these children who will be our future. It's cliche, but true.
And believe me, I get the better end of the entire deal. No question about it!

Pel,it's a stuggle that's difficult for me. But it's worth it, I know it! Thanks for the company.
I'm *so* *glad* that you enjoyed the film---I thought that you would! (You are most welcome. I'm glad that Kaonashi has another fan ;)

Min, you and I are in a collaborative group---so you're my teacher, too! Swampy said so. She's in the group, too!
I also have a serious thing for the radish spirit: I love his placid, unruffled affect---he's cool as a cucumber!
*groaning myself!*
As to the article that you referenced, that little enterprise is one that many don't know about---so no, you are not the last.
That one's a whole 'nother post.
I'll try to be up for the challenge.
(It breaks my heart. They say desperate times call for desperate measures. It is painful to contemplate that parents would feel that the condition of autism present for their child called for such desperate measures---or that support staff would feel the same measure of desperation.
My "guerilla" tactics as an educator and human being are to do my best to meet the child where he or she is at, and do my best to find ways that we can access the world that we live in in ways acceptable and meaningful to the child.
Pain and isolation are not options. Ever.
That's not the world we are living in. WHy should it be "taught" for these children?

Certainly, the idea that the world was round was a radical one that ultimately proved to be correct.
This is a radical idea that will prove to be more damaging than we can ever imagine.
Again...a whole 'nother post.
I'll try to do justice to the gravity of the situation. Thanks for helping me focus.

neroli said...

Amendment to one of my statements:
not only the condition of autism seen as warranting desperate measures, but other conditions that are considered unacceptable: mental retardation, emotional disturbances, social differences...
the list could just go on...