Friday, June 6, 2014
One Last Look Back...I Love Second Grade!
I got to visit my youngest daughter's class! Her amazing and creative teacher who understood the importance of teaching both academics and real world skills asked me to come and talk to her class about special needs. Actually, she wanted Isaac, but he was in school so I was a decent second choice.
I was thrilled! My background is in education and honestly I do so much better with children than I do with grown ups! Children are honest and free and fun....adults....well, not so much...
The class gathered on the carpet and I got to say hi. I got to tell them that everybody has special needs. They looked at me like I had grown a third head until I showed them my glasses. I showed them how without my glasses I could not even read the title of a book until it almost touched my nose, but with them I could see well. I told them about some other special needs. I need coffee before I can have a reasonable conversation in the morning. Several of the children related to that one. Their parents had a similar need. We talked about some more special needs and about how as people we all have the need to love and to be loved.
They were listening and making connections. It is exciting to see children's minds opening!
I continued and brought out one of my very favorite books, Let's Talk About It: Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers. I of course had to explain who Mr. Rogers was, but after that we explored the book together. Mr. Rogers did such a great job with children because he was also very honest...even when speaking about difficult topics. His text was simple and straightforward. He introduced his readers to six children some of whom had special needs and some of whom were typical (or at least as typical as children get). Beside the picture of each child was a description of who that child was and the things that child enjoyed. Mr. Rogers would have been pleased as the second graders on this carpet lit up with each description.
"I like to play dress up too."
"I love pizza."
"Hey, I play soccer!"
The children were excited about each of the little ones the book introduced and as yet were not paying a lot of attention to the special needs and equipment that some of the pictures displayed.
We continued to read. The photographs in the book showed all the children going through their day. It showed the kids at school and at meals and at play. The text reassured the readers that it is OK to wonder about others and it is OK to be curious. Mr. Rogers encouraged the children to ask questions if they want to find something out. I got to encourage the children on the carpet to ask questions too. I got to tell them all the things I wish I could tell adults that are uncomfortable in Isaac's presence. It is OK to wonder. It is OK to ask. It is OK to be curious and want to find things out. Any question is OK as long as it is honest and kind. I got to show the kids that people are more alike than different and then I got to show them pictures and videos of Isaac. These children did better than I could have imagined. They opened their eyes and saw Isaac's antics. They laughed when he was being silly and smiled when he was being cute. I reported Isaac's accomplishments and I told them about his special needs.
Then I asked if they had questions. Hands shot up all over the carpet. One girl asked why her mom's friend with special needs would sometimes get behind her on the couch, count to three and push her off. I wondered with her if sometimes we don't get our behaviors confused. I asked her if she ever got called down for using an outside voice inside. "Oh, yes." she assured me. I asked the others if they had ever gotten in trouble for throwing a ball in the house. Several kids responded positively to that one. "Well," I wondered, "what if your mom's friend got a little mixed up. Pushing you on a swing is great...but pushing you off the couch isn't so fun." That made sense to the child. Another friend from the carpet asked about someone she knew with special needs who would approach and feel her hair. The girl in front of me said that a young girl she knew spoke differently and repeatedly complimented her hair. We talked about so many different situations. It was an open discussion of differences and similarities. I so wish grown ups could be as mature and forthcoming as these children.
It was time for lunch so we had to discontinue our time. I think we could have talked a lot longer. Throughout the conversation, the children were understanding more and more that people are all people and that everyone has the same basic special needs...the need to love and to be loved. There are so many important things to learn in second grade. There are so many lessons to be learned. I pray that these children will hold onto at least that one lesson on that one day...that we are all important, we are all special, we all have value and we are more the same than different.