Some things just give you a warm fuzzy and today it was during one of my classes.
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Being a secondary art teacher generally I have mainstream students with varying degrees of ability. Seldom do I have the life skills students but over the years I have had two or three of the students for a short duration of time until they feel uncomfortable.
John, a life skills student at the high school has been placed in my art class because his father insisted that his son be placed in an art class. My class was selected as the one he would go into. I had reason to have major concern over the child being in the classroom. I was concerned that the boy would be traumatized by cruel students. I was concerned that he would feel incapable of keeping up and he really is incapable of working at a high school level. Plus other various concerns....big class, time, energy, fear of the unknown...you know, just concerns.
The first day John came with an aide. She helped me set him up with colored pencils and papers and he began to color happily. John stands at least a foot shorter than me and is about as round as he is tall. When he smiles every crooked tooth in his head is visible. He seldom speaks but answers with his eyes and his head bobs up and down vigorously in agreement to show his approval. I could not help but fall in love with him. The other students made no visible sign of even noticing John's presence in the room at first.
The next day John came alone and sat down in his chair. I began to work with students demanding my time when I realized he was sitting there without any attention from me. I sent over a pretty girl and told her to go give him a little attention and see if she could set him in motion. Eventually I would get over to him and talk to him and give him my personal attention. He was a happy boy.
The following days came and much the same procedure would take place. I seated the boy next to Claudia. Claudia is my clapping girl. She will spontaneously burst into applause if I hold up a picture anyone is drawing and soon we would all be clapping and holding up our drawings to get approval from the class. Claudia also, was very sweet to John. John was very happy sitting near Claudia and she was as good with him as if he were her own child. In exchange for the wonderful attention she gave John I would give her extra attention like extra pats on her back, looks of loving approval across the room, affirming her actions verbally as often as I would see her. I watched out for my duo from wherever I would be in the room. All of this attention did not go unnoticed by the rest of the class. No one ever said anything about John's presence. If they disapproved they were kind enough to keep it to themselves. No one was mean or cruel.
Today Claudia was outside taking photos and could not take care of John. No sooner had Claudia left the room but Jason, a tall slender boy somewhat new to the class having only been in the class for two or three weeks jumped into action. Jason pulled John's chair into position, pulling it up close to Claudia's seat and then Jason sat down in her seat next to John. Then Jason began to assist John, helping him to get his drawing going in the direction he figured I would want him to go. When I looked up and noticed what was happening I made eye contact with John who was smiling from ear to ear. He was a happy boy.
And I was a happy teacher seeing the softening of a class full of students by the mere presence of a disabled child. John has brought out the kind hearts in my students. How blessed we are to have him in our classroom.
Jason tucked his little chick under his wing and began to cluck over him. I think that he had been just waiting for his chance to help.