Posted tagged ‘special needs students’

Being Taught By Special Needs Students

September 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            September 1, 2018

                               

I was asked to substitute teach one day this past week in the classroom that serves as the base for the students at our middle school who have special needs. As the day went on I realized that I was the student and they were my teachers. 

They treated me special!

One young lady let me join her in the morning for a few minutes of lego-building before she headed to class. I built a Starbucks drive-thru, which she flashed a smile about, but then threw me a look that told me that I needed to get back on task and stop goofing around.

A boy drew me into being a customer at his pretend restaurant, but when I didn’t put both of my legs squarely under the table he gave them a slight shove to get them where they are suppose to be…before taking my order of a pretend double cheeseburger and onion rings. A couple of minutes later when I had gone to the pretend restroom and then back to the table he repositioned my legs once again under the table like they are suppose to be.

Another young man drew an amazing picture of a mountain nature scene. His classmate flashed a “dab” for me a few times and explained to me what each of the three rubber snakes draped around his neck were with accompanying vital information that might save my life if bitten. 

Towards the end of the day the lego-building student “instructor” was working on math problems. She pulled another chair up close to her and smiled at me. 

“Would you like me to sit down?” She smiled, nodded her head, and patted the seat. Since my lego-building skills were suspect in her eyes, maybe I also needed math help.

Let me interject here! The para-professionals who work with the students are awesome. They guide them towards success in its various forms, whether that be improving their organizational skills, completing assignments, or relating to the other 1,200 students in the middle school. Every day is punctuated with the extreme emotions of tears and laughter. 

The students who take on the role of “peer partner” during each class period of the day are just as incredible and important. They walk with their students to class, help them conquer difficulties, and bond with them in lasting friendships. 

Last year an 8th Grade special needs student was on the school basketball team. Coach Achor told him he would play in a game sometime during the season. His anxiety was evident as he faced the possibility of that, but then the day of the game arrived. All of the special needs staff- para-professionals, teachers, peer partners, and other special needs students- were there. When he went into the game they all cheered. 

And then when he made a basket they all cheered…and cried!

Last week I went back to school for a day to be taught. By 2:45 I had learned a little bit about acceptance, grace, the love of life, and the humor hidden in the simplest moments of life. 

The next day after that I was the guest teacher for 8th Grade science. The student who had drawn the incredible picture of nature was in one of my classes. 

“Hi, Mr. Wolfe!”, he said immediately upon entering the class. “What are you going to do this weekend?”

“Well, (his name) I’m going to do some running, some reading, some relaxing, and some writing.” I should have added, “In fact, I’m going to be writing about you!”

Married To A Mom

May 14, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W                                                             May 14, 2017

                               

My wife Carol gets described in an assortment of ways. I was talking to a middle school teacher on Friday and I mentioned that I was married to Carol who works with the special needs students. The teacher’s first question was, “Is she kind of short?” When I said yes, she replied, “Ohhh…she is so nice!”

Our youngest daughter would come to me a few times over the years when Carol was in the midst of a situation that was raising her blood pressure and she would warn me, “Mom is about to go Italian!” Her maiden name was Faletti, and sometimes the “excited exuberance” of her father’s ethnic roots would rise to the surface. (Did you notice how I said that in a complimentary kind of way?)

But Carol has been a mom to a number of kids that aren’t related to us. Last year our grandson’s soccer coach presented her with a tee shirt at the end of their season with the team logo on the front…and “Number One Fan” emblazoned on the back.

Even though our kids have long since graduated, she attends Liberty High School athletic contests on a regular basis…basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, swimming, football, JV contests, lacrosse…it matters not! From time to time she will even put her “Lancer Lunatic” shirt on that the students also wear.

When I went to coach at a different high school she adopted those players as some of her own. She prepared the fixings for the team dinner at our house, and chuckled from outside the circle as the players played “Mr. Boodle.”

Carol’s motherly nature, however, comes out as she helps students with special needs. A graduate from Texas Christian University, this Horned Frog got her degree in deaf education and taught preschool deaf kids for a few years before we got married. In recent years she has worked as a para-professional with the students at Timberview Middle School. If you are not familiar with the position, it takes a great amount of patience and energy. It also takes love and compassion. It takes putting the needs of the autistic student above your own. It takes the willingness to be sneezed on, change the diapers of twelve year olds, deal with parents who are rightfully very sensitive about their special children, having your hair pulled, being punched or pinched, and often not being considered part of the educational process by the administrators and teachers they rub elbows with.

But Carol’s motherly nature comes out as she walks down the hallway with the child who just needs someone to come alongside her. She is her advocate and protector as self-absorbed 8th Graders threaten to topple her over. When Carol comes home at the end of a school day she’s spent!

For years she was the Children’s Church leader at my last church pastorate. Kids would share their heart-felt burdens with her, as well as other problems. A typical Sunday might include everything from “My Granddad is really really sick and in the hospital” to “Pray for my dress, because I got peanut butter on it and my mom is going to be really really mad!” Carol listened with empathy and understanding. Many in the church never knew what a gift she was. They were just glad they weren’t being asked to do kid’s church! Since I retired almost a year and a half ago, I’m pretty sure…she misses those times of children gathering together in worship.

She is a mom to three grown children and “Grammy” to three grandchildren, and she is “Mom” to countless others who have passed through our home, her classroom, or even walked down our street.

She is a mom. It is what she is comfortable with. It is who she is!

Supervising My Wife…and Others!

February 27, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        February 27, 2017

                               

My new career as a substitute teacher had a new twist to it last week. I was my wife’s supervisor…yes, her boss! I watched her every move, yelled at her constantly, told her exactly what she needed to do…NO!

I was subbing for the teacher of the special needs students’ classroom. About eight para-professionals who work with the students looked to me for direction…and did not receive it!

They went about their routines and responsibilities and I just kind of hung around and tried not to get in the way. They were all highly-skilled women who showed extreme patience with the students with special needs and limitations. One of the students got a grasp of the hair of a para. She patiently and gently untangled his fingers from her hair. Another student had an expletive-laced episode and his para calmly reminded him such language was not acceptable, and then, without missing a beat, got him focused on the academic work he was to do.

Amazing women doing an extremely difficult job for limited compensation! Amazing women who treat their students with care and respect, give hugs when needed, stern direction when necessary, and encouragement constantly.

And so I was the teacher! One of the days I led the students and their sidekicks in “adaptive physical education.” We played a version of dodgeball that I came up with called “The Fox and The Hounds.” The dodge balls were small and soft, the students sat on floor scooters, and I encouraged them to throw their dodge balls at the two “peer partner” students. In other words, they were to be the hounds “chasing the foxes.” One student who is immobile and wheelchair-bound also became the target. He squealed in delight at being included in the chase as his para pushed him around the gym in his chair.

The paras let me lead that experience, but they made it happen. They made it an enjoyable time of recreation for the students.

For the rest of that day I stood in the background and watched those I was “the boss” of do their thing. I saw autistic students figuring out problems, strong-willed students having face-offs with their paras who would not back down from the tasks that needed to be accomplished. I saw paras helping students into the bathroom, and I was thankful that such a responsibility was outside my qualifications. I saw students being re-taught how to feed themselves- a process that was being re-learned for the hundredth time!

The evening after I was my wife’s boss I saw her with a new appreciation. She has always had a heart for children and youth, graduating from TCU with a degree in deaf education, teaching deaf pre-schoolers, working with kids at church, and, for the last several years, coming alongside special needs students at our middle school. She is amazing and I will never, ever, never really be her boss!