Then I got a call to sub for a special education class. I was glad I accepted the assignment blindly. If I had known what I was signing up for I would not have done it. I walked into a class with 4 teacher aides and 8 autistic kids. With a 5:8 adult to kid ratio, I don't think I need to explain the nature of the assignment. It's very much hands-on and involved, on your feet, all the time. You know how you set your radio to scan through channels? That's how my eyes operated today, trying to see every corner, door, window and hallway to keep track of a special group of kids. If I stopped scanning the class, I would literally see the heels of a kid as they whipped away down a hall like Woody after Andy.
By the end of the day I had a headache. But I spent the day with some quality kids and adults. In God's plan I haven't yet reconciled why kids are autistic. I've heard some say they were so good before this life they no longer have to be tested. Others say it's a protection against Satan. I heard one report there's no way God could create such imperfection. I don't know and I think I don't want to know. I do know one thing, I walked away from school today feeling closer to heaven than when I woke up. Maybe it was working with these unsung heroes, the teachers and teacher aides who everyday provide a service that's physical demanding and graceful at the same time.
In my first ten minutes in class, one aide said, "watch your knees or you might lose function of them for life." She was warning me about Elijah, a tough little nut who plays a nutcracker on a patella like it's Christmas Eve. It was this same aide who came to my aid when I was trying to get Elijah to come in from the playground. She pulled a photo of the class out of her pocket to show Elijah and when he saw it he folded his arms and walked right into class. Apparently he doesn't communicate well with words. That aide showed grace in communication.
Maybe what I thought was a feeling of heaven was actually me feeling better about myself because these teachers and aides create a space where there is room for error. It's okay to mess up in special education because messing up is tolerated, even expected. If you do something wrong, call it for what it is and move on. Don't worry about the past because you need to be on guard for mistakes to come. I messed up a lot today but I was forgiven instantly. All the aides asked was that I keep going. When I went out to lunch they joked, "don't worry if you don't come back for the afternoon, some subs never do." I confess, I was daydreaming all morning how I could manage to work my way out of the afternoon. But seeing the assignment through was better than any hike I've ever finished.
In afterthought, I don't think the aides had much to do with me feeling so good at the end of the day. I don't think it was my work ethic that compelled me to do once in a lifetime what these teachers do 175 days a year. I think it was the time close to Elijah and his seven classmates. That can sound really cheesy when I read it at 12:24:40 AM, but it's what I feel, and I'm sticking to it...
As a side note, I arrived at the school very cold this morning. You know how your face gets so cold all you want to do is speak words like you are throwing bricks out of your mouth? It got me in trouble today because when the brick "spencer" came out of my mouth it sounded like "stuart" to the staff. So I was stuart today. Funny, but better than the previous two misnomers of "dexter" and "special." And I wasn't even cold that day I told someone "I am special." How's that for special education?