I had a great substitution teaching experience today. I got to sub for the life skills class. In my day it would have been called special ed. I am familiar with films that can portray how (not sure what the proper word to use is) people can pull on our heartstrings. I have had brief encounters with these folks over the years, but nothing that equals today’s experience. I spent the day in a classroom with about 8 students, 3 assistants and one assistant who had graduated from this very class. When I first heard “life skills” I was thinking about skills to navigate through life, but as I entered the classroom I knew that would not be the experience.
I sat through the first period and a half just watching the students interacting with their obviously captured assistants. They formed an assembly line, placing napkins in plastic bags, tying them and placing them in a big plastic sack for the local food bank. I closely watched the graduated worker as she methodically kept the material available for the workers. It turns out one of the students is her sister.
I watched as another student who was sister to a girl in a wheel chair would do things to get reactions from her sister. At first I was horrified, but then as I watched and then realized that she was the sister it all seemed OK. They had some time before the gym would be open to them, so they were given puzzles. I picked one young man named Woody to go and assist. He had the shaped pieces placed above the wrong spaces. I started to work through getting them placed in the correct places. We went faster and faster. The graduated worker let me know the names of the shapes I couldn’t name: trapezoid, octagon. I was hooked. I am not sure if Woody was just biding time, but it seemed that he could have got the puzzle right without my help, but if nothing else he made me feel good by allowing me to help him get started.
Then it was off to the gym where we joined with other sections of similar students. We did some stretches. We made a careful 5 lap walk around the court. Then we played baseball with some athletic, assisting girls pitching and fielding. Most could be pitched to, but some needed to hit off the stand. I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I had a small victory when Sean went up to bat for the third time. The two previous at bats he would fling the bat after hitting the ball barely missing the others. I put my hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eye and warned him to not throw the bat several times. He hit the ball and gently laid the bat down as he ran to first base.
More stories and puzzles before we went off to lunch. The assistants get their meals and cut them up. Some have to be fed but most can feed themselves. “Bobby” let me know that she had quit a job working for a law office to do this work for less. She can’t imagine herself doing anything else. Audra called me while we were at lunch. It turns out that a blind, deaf girl in a wheelchair spent some time with Audra when she was recovering from her operations in the school. I had watched the girl with her personal worker. Audra described their conversations, that is this girl reading Audra with her hands. We finished lunch and went back to the classroom. It felt great to identify with these folks as we left the cafeteria.
We then went on trash detail over the school grounds. We might have been talking more than working. I was now meeting some of the other students. They would come up to me and we would introduce ourselves to each other and they would say: “Kevin, I like you.” Just feeling too good. After trash detail we went on a scavenger hunt and school ended. All of the students went to the busses except Woody. I sat next to him as we waited for a family member to come and pick him up. He mumbles something about mother, then father and finally about his nice pack. He waits stoically until his sister arrives. What is he thinking? I don’t know, but I am looking forward to tomorrow when I substitute in that class again.
I plan on bringing “Somebody Loves Me” to read to the class. I have used it in sermon illustrations.