Emily

I met a little girl named Emily today.  I really can’t tell you much about her, except that she wore a purple, fleece, zip up hoodie with unicorns on it, and was in the grade one/two split class I visited this morning.  I don’t know her last name, I don’t know who her parents are or where she lives.  I don’t know anything about her home life or what her reading level is.  In fact, I don’t even remember her answering questions on the carpet or visiting my center.  She wasn’t one of those keen to learn students with her hand up in the front row, who smiled pretty when she answered the right questions.  She wasn’t even one of those kids in the back row who wasn’t paying attention either.  She didn’t poke or giggle with her friends like a typical grade one elementary schooler.  She seemed to be “just Emily.”

Come to think of it, this little invisible girl only appeared on my radar after the class was over and I was busily packing up my equipment to head home.  The rest of the class was tired and hungry and eager to get on to the lunchroom.  They had obviously had a delightfully engaging morning — full of hands on science and learning, taught expertly by yours truly.  (Ahem! 🙂 ) They had even given up their class snack time to learn!  Emily, however, seemed to doddle about busily nibbling on a cucumber slice that her teacher had given her earlier from the class lunch bin.  Her mousy, long brown hair was disheveled slightly and wisps of it got in the way of her field of vision,  the way it does for a grade one girl who seems to be forging her own way in life.

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She casually sauntered up to me, brushed aside her hair and inquired about my bins.  Where did all the things come from?  Where was I going now?  Did I live at the science centre?  I politely answered her curious questions and began to shoo her off to lunch with her friends.  Emily had other plans, though.   She picked up one of my microscopes and proceeded  to “help” clean up.  (ack! …slight panic… heavy, expensive equipment slung about by a seven-year-old is a disaster waiting to happen!  It’s one of those things they tell you about in classroom management courses!)  “Oh, no, no, my friend… thank you for your help… but off you go to lunch now…” As I gently removed the microscope from Emily’s grip, I hear an assistant say that Emily is not listening — again.

Suddenly, I feel the need to rethink my purposes.  It’s probably true.  Emily probably doesn’t listen much to instructions.  She probably doesn’t follow the rules easily.  Maybe she doesn’t sit and do all her homework and hang her coat on the hook.  She probably forgets to her to change her indoor shoes and tie back her untamed locks.  But at this very moment, Emily wants to help.  And so I let her.  I ask her to collect all my pencils and stack the pencil bins so they fit together.  I ask her to pile the books so I can pack them away.  We spend the next minute or so tidying up together.

I don’t remember the moment Emily decided to go off to lunch.  Suddenly she was invisible again… a purple unicorn hoodie blur in the mass of grade ones and twos filing out the door.  Dumbfounded for a moment, I was struck by the realization that we so often meet Emilys.  People seemingly invisible — but there.  The cashier at the grocery store.  The elderly man on the bus.  The teenager plugged in to headphones at the back of the class.  Do we take the time to simply engage them when the spark of opportunity arrives?  A smile as they open the door for us?  A thank you when they hand us our bags?Emily

Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.  A unique image crafted with personalities so complex and diverse.  None of us are the same.  And yet, we function somehow as a whole. We strive, like Emily, to do a little good now and then.  Even when it is hard to follow the rules.  My little moment with Emily taught me, that maybe, just maybe, the key to engagement is not always in grand productions full of magic and wonder.  It’s often not in the polished presentation with flash cards and perfectly laminated worksheets.  Perhaps it is simply taking the time to answer a few curious questions, and the chance to be polite to those invisible strangers as they reach out and stack a few pencil bins for us.

 

 

 

 

Lost Socks… and How to Love Them

When my kids were a little younger we loved to read a book called “Lost Socks”.  It follows the possible life of a lost sock and ends with the little boy discovering he has two pairs of socks… exactly the same! *Giggle* It’s a cute book with a good attitude.

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Unfortunately, with a full house, my attitude towards lost socks is not always as good.  I am forever finding one abandoned under the bed… making friends with dust bunnies.  I have a shopping bag full of the creatures… mismatched and piled high because their partner has gone off to better places or is still travelling among the escaped Lego bricks.  It got so bad at one point, we decided to buy all the same colour socks so we could match pairs randomly.  I still have lonely ones in the bag!  A friend of mine painstakingly pins his socks together so if he loses one… he loses both!  Seriously?! I ain’t got time for that!

So what do we do with lost socks?  My Pinterest board is full of ideas… sock puppets, stuffy toys, new mittens… all good things!  My favourite option, however, is wear mismatched!  Just like the little boy in the book.  Be proud to be different!  March 21st was World Down Syndrome Day (2018) and the social sites were scattered with folks supporting it  — with none other than LOST SOCKS!  I love it!  World Down Syndrome Day was first observed in 2006 and encourages everyone “to raise public awareness of Down Syndrome”.  One video that caught my eye was little Tabitha’s.  I know her mom, and although I have met Tabitha only a few times, her warm smile brings joy to my heart. You can visit Tabitha’s YouTube video here.

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Photo credit: Katemangostar

I am not a mom to special needs kids.  I have no idea how difficult it is to maneuver this world with a kid with downs, or on the spectrum, or with physical difficulties.  Be that as it may — I have certainly loved a few.  After volunteering in school for awhile, I was moved by the lack of support being given to teachers, parents and the special education students.  So much so, that I returned to college to seek out some true education on the subject.  (College in my 40’s!  Whew… that’s another whole blog post!) My placements and research put me in the middle of the fire.  And my heart melted because of it.

I could write a big, long, blog post about the inconsistencies and problems of the education system… but I am not.  What I do think is important is supporting one another.  Supporting our students, supporting our parents, and supporting our teachers and staff who make it their jobs to love these kids day in and day out.  It’s hard enough to be with 30 kids at a time, let alone engage and initiate a love for learning in each one of them!  I salute you!  My heart is especially broken for those on the “fringe”.  Blog1 - Page 012The truly lost sock — full of anger and frustration because they are trying to be connected and engaged and simply don’t fit anymore in the system the way it is.  They aren’t truly identified as “special needs” and therefore don’t get the support they require to function well.  Perhaps their families need the biggest support and can’t access it.  They are mismatched and left to wander among the dust bunnies in the corner of the playground.  They have collected some of those lost Lego pieces along the way and are trying to add it to the great tower with all the other kids… only to see it crash down again.

I am certainly no expert in the field.  In fact, I am still quite intimidated by this special needs world.  I don’t really know what to do, or say, or “fix”.  But God is teaching me to love the mis-matched socks of this world.  To appreciate the colours and patterns and wildness of those who might be full of holes and a little worn on the edges.  Those covered in dust bunnies and carrying one lonely Lego piece to add to the tower.  Maybe, just maybe, I can find the match for that lost sock.  It might not be the right colour or style, but it will be one less lonely creature in that shopping bag full of lost socks.

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“…Love your neighbour as yourself…” Mark 12 (Photo credit: Pexels)