I’ve spent the last three days teaching in my favorite kind of classroom: special education. I enjoy being around people who were born with developmental “handicaps” or conditions, because God made them that way on purpose. They have great lessons to teach the rest of humanity.
This high school class had 4 students, and it was so nice to instruct students who spent their class time filling out worksheets and asking politely to get a drink of water, rather than the typical classroom full of students who throw things, tell me the wrong name when I’m taking roll, exit the classroom without permission, and complain about every single assignment I announce.
I realize different conditions affect people in different ways, and some are very painful or make a person less-than-pleasant company. My heart really goes out to parents of autistic children; these kids are often super smart, but they look at the teacher with a flat, hard look in their eye and can be just plain rude. It would be so tough to parent a child who was born without a natural desire to show affection.
But back to this week. These kids were all so sweet and honest! I helped the lowest-functioning boy one-on-one with assignments while the others worked on their own. We played Bingo with facts about Arizona (did you know it is the 48th state and joined the US on February 14, 1912?), and when a square was called I pointed to it on his board, and he put a marker on it.
I noticed this boy would put the marker on a square next to the one I specifically pointed at. He then looked at me sideways with a mischiveous grin on his face, waiting for me to notice his little trick and exclaim “Hey! What are you doing?” with a big smile of my own. His trying to fool me and my being extra vigilant to catch him was more fun than the actual game.
This boy, about 16 or 17 years old, can follow directions and write short sentences with quite a bit of concentration. He can’t read and understand written English, and he doesn’t speak at all. He knows one word, “Mom,” which he directs at anyone when he wants to get their attention. He has this handy dandy little electronic deal that looks like a cell phone with several commonly used phrases on it, and to communicate he pulls it out of his pocket and points to a phrase. Pretty slick, really.
I was just so taken with how happy this kid was! Always smiling, and truly delighted over a piece of candy or a basketball. He strove to make sure the tail of his written y’s, g’s and p’s went sufficiently far below the line on the paper, and proudly pointed out his handiwork to us teachers.
Such a great dose of perspective. Another reminder that God created all of us individually and specifically, and that we all have value to add to their world. It may be a very different kind of value that was is commonly taught by the world (go to college, get a good job, volunteer, recycle your milk jugs, open doors for elderly ladies at the grocery store, and set up a substantial retirement fund), but it is an equally important kind of value. Under all our human striving, we are all just souls in some kind of body.