Sunday, August 05, 2007


Got to love that ye olde English for daft words that don't mean what they appear to. Vale, a valley, this mortal life, a farewell.

This teaching thing isn't getting easier for me but this week I have to let go and think of the parent's pain. I haven't really said anything about my class this year now as I get used to having 5 boys in my class not six, I'll try to put what's missing into words. . .

A lot of time is taken up in your teaching by the squeeky wheels, as it were, or in this case by the noisy, stubborn, smart kid who wanted music or video rather than do any work. This kid was eleven and the smallest in the class. In math we had done measuring our growth and from Feb to June he'd grown a centimeter at most. He tested my patience every day but I had such high hopes for him. He'd lived up to every challenge I'd given him, every barrier (literally and metaphorically) that I'd put between him and whatever he was motivated enough to really want to get... usually this was to a CD player. He used his communication book so well that whenever I changed the way he could have music he found a more appropriate compic to demand/ask for it. He would walk with assisstance only if he knew he wasn't going anywhere if he sat down. You couldn't give in to him because he was smart enough to know who's eyes he could pull the wool over. He loved computers and I was looking forward to seeing how he reacted to a magic whiteboard/mimio thing I have yet to set up. His speech pathologist was working on trying him with a mighty mo that would enhance his communication by using his motivation to use computers. I was about to start teaching/insisting he used sign to communicate. He had the dexterity and would have picked it up after a few months (probably weeks) of him screaming at me and me refusing to back down despite the noise. His one noise was a terrible sound but one that it will take me a long time not to be listening out for. How do I spend my time in the class now without him. Explaining death to the others has been very hard and trying to guess how much they understand about it. Trying to have patience this week with my other spoilt little man and his tantrums was so hard... but nothing will be as hard as what those parents are going through. Yesterday the funeral was hard. I wonder if they get easier as you get older and accept death as a part of life. I don't know with these kids, it's not death so much as the lives that they struggle through for such a short time. So many questions without answers... Is it better to have a short life if you have their burdens? Is it a miracle they have lived at all? Are they only here for a short time to learn something - or to teach others? I don't have any answers even for myself.

This kid was good at riding a trike and could say when he'd had enough. He make choices that weren't even on offer. He could stear the electric wheelchair well and when he crashed into walls he meant to and you'd soon see where his hands were reaching to grab, tangle, pull. He liked haveing a choice of music and flicking through after I'd set up over 9 hours of music on the computer he switched to the next song through all of it, after about a line a song, in about half an hour. He was a challenge to engage and has probably made my teaching better, helped me understand my limits, my stubborness, my creativity, my desire to find a way to get through to him. He like it when we made things. He liked being able to reach out and feel things and if you weren't quick enough put them on his head! On his last day of school he had an old wet leaf stuck to his face for a bit whilst he was surrounded by leaves and dirt. He did a great job of putting the leaves into the container once he knew that was what was wanted. He, however, was also intent on grabbing them straight back out again. He sat well on a stool and it was great to get him out of his wheel chair as much as possible, but if you didn't have his attention he'd be off to put on a CD or tangle something up.

There was so much more to that kid that met the eye and I'm glad to have been able to be a part of showing that to more people this year. This stuff is probably what I should have said at his funeral but on short notice I was a lot more brief.

He'd not been sick or hanging on and fighting for life, he'd been living it and his death was sudden and a great shock. In the end I've come to the conclusion that there is never a good day. I'll pack up his stuff from the classroom this week and decide what things to move and what to leave, and how we will remember him.