Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Student Teaches

Ta Da

I christened him “Ta Da”. He epitomizes the word. Ta Da seems a a verbal exclamation point.
He was seven, intense, hyper focused with a gait of a wee man who was slightly tipsy.
Grabbing you with his eyes he locked himself on you. Either he had you figured out or dared you to find out who he was behind those talking brown eyes. One had to gaze back as he was not verbal so this staring contest was his main form of communication.
Ta Da (Jimmy) was a summer student in program for cognitively/autistically impaired children. As the summer teacher I had to continue instructions to cement the precarious skills. .
In a hot school on a hot summer day the best learning is not done. Jimmy and I had both been on different ends of the learning treadmill for months. We were both a bit weary and spent It was hard to think up motivating activities, harder somehow motivating me than him.
I put together I thought a redundant thematic unit about Summer that I had done many times before. We learned about summer through the senses,smelling cut grass, singing “ You are My Sunshine” cut yellow circle suns etc. Not my proudest moment but it addressed very important skill sets for Jimmy and his classmates. The fine motor skill of cutting and painting could be as challenging as a PhD for some of these physically and cognitively impaired students.
I bring out comes the primary yellow paint. The kids slop it on to the pre-drawn circle with the heavy black line. When the paint draws they are to cut out the sunshines and hang them about the room.
Cutting is not easy. Open, shut, can be very hard on little uncoordinated fingers.
Well this little fella with the same intensity that he stares into my eyes grasps tightly to the scissors adapted to his little hands, with his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth, his knuckles near white and he begins to cut. Open, shut. Open, shut. Arduous, laborious are some of the adverbs one could use to describe his efforts with the scissors. I worry about his frustration. Wanting to help him and to save face I offer to cut for him. He rebuffs my offer. With even greater commitment he continues cutting along the dark lines.
As he reached the final cut he lifted his sun skyward and speaks. It is the only time I ever heard him vocalize. Perhaps it is the only time he ever shall. “Ta Da!” he says.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who shall we blame?

Perhaps parents might stay more invested in their child's education if they didn't perceive of a world that throws away their children.