Saturday, November 23, 2013

Years 10 - 12: Cars with antlers and "small parts".

As I started my second year at Woodridge, I began to be comfortable with the long drive. Part of this was because it allowed me a lot of time to "decompress" after a difficult or long day. Winter driving was harder and so a couple of times I actually took the bus from Cheney to north Spokane. This commute took three hours. But it was safer than driving when we had 10" of snow or more!

As I said last week, I really enjoyed working with and collaborating with my specialists. They were so knowledgeable and readily shared what they knew. I was especially privileged to work with an occupational therapist named Dorothy Hanley. Dorothy was a therapist who knew not only her own field of occupational therapy, but also a lot about physical therapy and was one of the first therapists I met who was on the cutting edge of exploring assistive technology for children and adults with disabilities. She had a wonderful story she told me about a young man in high school that was so physically disabled, it was hard to find a part of his body he could control. Dorothy was trying to find a part he could control so that he could use a switch to tap out Morse code that would then be translated into speech on a computer. Eventually she found that one of his knees would work for this and so she began to train him. He was a very bright young man and learned fast. Soon she wanted him to demonstrate this new ability with his mother. She got everything set up and said to the young man, "What would you like to say to your mom?" He laboriously tapped in Morse code, and on the computer, in a primitive electronic voice came these words: "I love you."

Well that was Dorothy! And you had better know what you want and not be fooling around if you called her to have her come and solve a problem! She terrified me most of the time because I always felt like I should be able to solve my own problems. But one day I had a little boy in a Mulholland wheelchair, who seemed to be in a lot of pain, and I could not figure out what to do to make him comfortable. Now for those of you who don't know what kind of wheelchair this is, I've included a picture. These chairs, known as positioning wheelchairs, were great because they gave students with not much body control a way to be secure and alert while sitting in them. However, I knew that something was wrong, but was afraid to do anything to the chair myself because these were very expensive. So I called Dorothy. She came out and walked over to this crying, uncomfortable young boy. She looked the chair over and pulled out the abductor piece on the seat that was between his legs. He immediately sighed and stopped crying. Dorothy turned to me and said, "You have to remember to always leave enough room for a man's small parts." I felt like an idiot, but I was grateful for the reminder!

Another valuable lesson I learned this year involved very interesting parents! Woodridge is located in a pretty "well to do" part of Spokane. It had a lot of parent volunteers and a very active parent teacher organization. It was not uncommon to see many parents (mostly moms) in classrooms, in the workroom, or sitting together in the lobby sharing cups of coffee. Well, not all of my preschoolers came from this part of town. Several of my students' families came from nearby areas that were much more economically deprived. One of these families had a little boy in my program. This was a sweet little boy and he also had a brother in first grade. This boy's father did not trust the school bus system and so brought him to school and picked him up every day. He owned a very unique station wagon; something like an old Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and to make it extra special, it had deer antlers on the hood! You can imagine the impact that made on the Woodridge neighborhood! Well this dad insisted that I bring his son out to him while he sat in his car. He parked in the back lot and could see inside my classroom, but refused to get out and come in to pick up the little boy. Most of the time, this was not a big deal, and either my aide Ann or I would take the little guy out. However, one day Ann was out putting children on the bus while I waited with others in the room. I could see the station wagon out in the parking lot and pretty soon the brother came down and knocked on my back door. I opened the door and the boy said, "My dad wants you to bring my brother up right now." I said, "I can't do it right now because I have other children I have to wait with. But I can watch you walk with your brother to the car. Would that be okay?" He said, "I don't know. My dad will be really mad." I said, "Well you can take him up while I watch or you can go tell your dad I will bring him up in a few minutes." He decided to take him and I watched as he walked the few feet up the little incline and into the car. I waved to the dad as well, but I could tell he wasn't happy! Sure enough, no sooner did he get home than he was on the phone to my principal. He yelled and told her I didn't care about kids and who knows what else! She got off the phone and came to my room. I explained exactly what happened and she told me we would be meeting with the parents in the morning to straighten this out. Well I know that I "stewed" about this all night. By the next morning, I was not feeling in an apologetic mood!

The next morning came and we were all together in my principal's office. I could feel my heart beating fast and my blood pressure rising as the mom and dad went on and on about me not having their son's safety as a priority. I didn't say anything and then my principal said she was sure I wouldn't let that happen again and that I was there to apologize. Now to this day, I can't remember what I said to these parents, but I know that it was sarcastic in a way that went right over their heads. I had a small amount of satisfaction and they were all puffed up with importance and accepted the apology. As they left the office, I got up to go to my classroom. I'd taken about two steps when my principal said, "Mrs. Stockbridge, where do you think you're going? They may not have picked up on that comment, but I did. And let me tell you, that will not happen again." Told! I was surprised, and then I saw a small smile start to creep at the corners of her mouth. I smiled too, and went to class. However, that year on my evaluation, I got marked down on "interactions with parents". I appreciated her "reigning me in". I believe that is the principal's job, and when it is done fairly and equally, it doesn't leave a bad feeling. My Titanic Award for this year reflected this incident!

Next week: my thematic teaching really starts to come together!