> Mmmm…coffee. And camping, too.
>I woke up Tuesday morning feeling tired, looking forward to the end of the week and sleeping in. What a concept! As I staggered through the routine of feeding bunnies, showering, and getting breakfast ready for Amigo, I realized that I had a lot to accomplish before I could get to the end of the week, the end of the school year, the end of my tenure at this particular elementary school. Robert Frost’s words started to echo ominously through my head: “…miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.”
My friends at work wouldn’t let me panic. They offered a Babe Ruth bar, a Snoopy doll, and a giant Hershey’s Kiss, all in addition to more packing boxes and strapping tape and a plan for Thursday that leaves me time to finish packing and preparing for the move.
This left me with time to spare on Wednesday. I posted a new cartoon in the staff lounge. I snuck into the classroom next door and changed the “Good morning” on her white board to “G’Day, mate.” I finished emptying my desk and found a classic picture of our building engineer wearing an elf hat and holding a big bag of something (chocolate covered raisings = deer droppings, if you must know). I borrowed (no, I won’t return it) coffee from the office when we ran out in the lounge, and recycled pile upon pile of old papers.
Today, Thursday, is moving day. I will allow (trust me, they’ll love it) my students with ADHD and my highly kinesthetic learners to carry boxes galore to my minivan. When it’s full, we’ll pack the rest in Mrs. Sip’s minivan. Then they’ll hang out and have an end-of-year movie, pizza for lunch, and an overwhelmingly relaxing day. I hope the relaxing summer-is-here feeling extends to me, their teacher, as well.
Friends who will give you boxes for your move, even though they want you to stay.
>Disablism? What’s that? It’s another -ism, another indication of discrimination, subtle or overt, in the same family as racism, sexism, and others. I’m not sure who coined the term or if it’s even in use outside the blogosphere. Here’s my definition.
Disablism. n (dis-ab-lizm) an active prejudice or discriminatory attitude toward persons with disabilities.
I’m hearing impaired, and I’m a teacher. And yes, I’ve encountered discrimination in my field. It’s not important to rehash the difficulties I’ve faced; it’s more important to remind people that disabled people are just that — people — and are not solely defined by their disabilities.
My teenage son, Amigo, is blind and has Asperger’s Syndrome. We’re quite a pair. When we go to a restaurant, I often read him the menu (if they don’t have one in Braille), and then he helps me order because I might not hear the server’s questions above the din of the dining room. We have typical parent-child moments, too. He likes the TV loud. I keep saying, “Turn it down! If I can hear it clearly, so can you!” He tells me when a timer goes off or the dryer buzzes, just in case I’m not close enough to hear it. He doesn’t get the laundry out himself, darn it. I guess the teenager part trumps the helpful.
Sometimes he and I need small adaptations, “reasonable accomodations”, to achieve our goals. I need a phone that’s hearing aid compatible; Amigo needs screen-reader software for the computer. But hearing or sighted, if you were playing Trivial Pursuit, you’d want Amigo and me on your team. We’re good. Very good.
But folks, we’re people. We’re good, capable, intelligent people. My disability is part of me. I am a good mother, a good teacher, an intelligent learner. Amigo’s disabilities are part of him. He’s a delightful and talented young man.
Disablism? Forget it. Don’t waste your time looking down on us — because it is a waste of your time, and ours.
>I am teaching in a different school today — the school of the outdoors. I took my class to a YMCA camp about 75 miles north of our school on the edge of a national forest. Before we left, I was tense, worried, to put it bluntly, stressed to the max. We left our helicopter parents (you know, the ones that hover) behind and took only those who were experienced campers and decent chaperones. And I’ll admit it, with each mile away from school I felt the weight of the world get a little bit lighter.
There is a sense of magic about camp. Kids who are difficult between the four walls of the school building often find that the outdoors is their ideal classroom. Children who struggle with long division can be experts at steering a canoe. Pre-adolescents find their social pyramid tipped sideways and upside down and begin to see each other in a different light.
This trip is time consuming, tiring, and a lot, I mean a lot of work to prepare, and requires many personal sacrifices on the part of the teachers and their families. Due to my upcoming job change, this will be my last sixth grade camping trip. I can look out the cabin windows, fine-tune my ghost story for tonight’s campfire, and say yes, this was worthwhile.
>A Head Start director once distributed posters that said, “Change is our friend.” In smaller letters, it proclaimed, “Posting is mandatory.” Yes, she had a sense of humor. Change was the norm in her realm, and facing it with a smile was one way to handle the many changes that were thrown her way on a daily basis.
Change can be difficult. It’s not always possible to face it with a smile. I am leaving my current job for a different one next fall. I hope it’s for the better. I still have misgivings, but leaving is the right thing to do. I should have done this sooner, but you know about “shoulds”. In leaving my job, I’m leaving some of the best friends and closest professional colleagues I’ve known. Ever.
In spring of 2002, we started graduate school together. We were nicknamed the Fab Five, all five of us from the same school in the same district. We carpooled to classes and got to know each other during the 45 minute drive each way. By the time we finished the intense program in fall of 2003, we were bonded for life.
On our last weekend of classes, the weekend we presented our final projects, we came out of lunch to find the car pool van full of helium balloons. This forced us (kicking and screaming, of course) to take this picture. We’ve displayed it in each of our classrooms ever since.
Last October, mine fell from the wall behind my desk, shattering the glass cover. I cleaned it up, vowed to get a new frame, and secretly fought back the superstitious thought that this might be a bad omen.
Omen or not, I picked up a new position. With the support of my Fab Friends, I will pack up my classroom and move across town come June. Despite our distance, I know they’ll still be there for me.
Amy, whose loving and generous son picked out balloons and wrote us each congratulations cards, even though he was only in second grade.
Sara, she of the best and funniest camping stories, now a survivor first class after her battle with breast cancer.
Julie, the calm and cool one, the one who traded classrooms with me when I couldn’t do stairs after my foot surgery.
Dawn, she of the musical laughter, the most talented teacher I’ve ever met. She truly has the Midas touch.
Oh, yes, and I can’t forget how the banana, wearing Sara’s boa, got strategically hung on Dawn’s door with Julie’s and Amy’s help. If I get too serious, these ladies might just post a banana on my door — or fill my room with deer droppings once again.
Yesterday I mentioned my good friend Sara and her fundraising goal. To further inspire you, dear readers, here is one example of her creativity and caring. She worked with another artist friend to decorate this fiberglass lion, part of the Lions of the Valley project leading up to the arrival of a traveling Broadway production of The Lion King at our local Performing Arts Center. The lion’s title? “Breast Cancer Survivors: Not an Endangered Species.”
For more lion pictures, click on the lion. To sponsor Sara on the Avon Walk, go here and follow the steps. I promise, I fixed the link so it works correctly.
Did I mention that I know four of the women pictured on the lion? Eat your heart out, Jeff Probst — these women are the real survivors.
>My dear friend Sara was diagnosed with breast cancer a little less than two years ago. She had a mastectomy, reconstruction, followed by a summer of chemotherapy and then radiation. The radiation destroyed the reconstruction, so she had to re-do it and reconstruct her existing (healthy) breast to match it in size.
Amazing woman that she is, she took all of this as a sign to take control of her health and her lifestyle. She took up walking. I mean a lot of walking. She walked her first marathon last September. In June, she will walk more than just a marathon. She will walk the Avon Walk in Chicago, a pedometer-busting 39.3 miles in two days.
Sara is looking for people to donate to the Avon Walk in her name. If you are interested, follow these directions. You can read more about Sara and her journey.
If you have a few minutes, please check out her web-page at www.avonwalk.org. update: I double checked the link, and it works now.
To get there:
1. Click on DONATE
2. Click on DONATE TO A PARTICIPANT
3. Click on CHICAGO 2007. Click SEARCH FOR A PARTICIPANT
5. Type in her name (Sara Wilda)
6. Her name will come up under Find a walker/crew member. Click on it and you’re in!
Sara has posted a picture that’s worth a thousand words: a photo of her with daughter. She plans to walk not for herself, but so that her daughter and other daughters will not have to suffer from breast cancer in the future.
Yes, Mom, I had a mammogram. Now the rest of you, please consider sponsoring Sara. Remember, we’re doing it for our daughters.