Saturday, August 31, 2013

Year Two: Back in My Comfort Zone Part 1: Leisure Skills

At the end of my first year of teaching, the woman who taught next door to me and who had a class of students with more involved disabilities, was moving away. Oak Harbor was and is a Navy town. Many teachers were married to spouses in the Navy, and when the spouses were shipped out or moved to another base, they were gone. This is how I got to inherit a class much more in my "comfort zone".

Learning to play at the group home.
Remember I said that I worked for four years in group homes for children and young adults with disabilities? What you might not know is that group homes in the early seventies were very new and the residents that filled these homes were the first "wave" of people released from state residential facilities like Rainier State School in Buckley, and Lakeland Village in Medical Lake. Most of these children had lived their entire lives in these facilities. They learned self-care and went to school, but what I noticed when I started working with them in the group home, was that they didn't really know how to play. Used to sitting in "day rooms" and watching TV, that was their default way to spend the day. This would not do! I decided we would concentrate on learning leisure skills. I introduced music for singing and dancing. We played with big parachutes in the back yard. The little girls played with dolls and all of the children took part in Special Olympics. Soon I saw such a change in their behaviors. They became more animated and interactive. With trips to the park and lots of walking around the small town, many of them started to loose weight. I loved this group of kids! I felt like they were my very own and missed them so much when I quit to teach.
Leisure skills, year two.

Special Olympics, Oak Harbor

So when I was privileged to take the self-contained class vacated by the teacher who moved, I was overjoyed! Here was a class of students very much like the children and young adults I left in Kent.

Thinking about what the future might hold for these students, I again decided that it would be important to add learning leisure skills to their curriculum. And so we worked with clay and made pottery. I taught them how to hook rugs that they themselves designed. They learned how to play card games with each other, asking questions and taking turns. And of course they too were active in Special Olympics! What fun we had!

I'm not finished talking about year two. Stay tuned for more!