|Old vs. New|
I have learned a lot about strength this year. I think that the greatest part of being a teacher, is that I learn so much from the students. Many of the lessons that I learn are easy. One example is the lesson that all kids teach: be friendly, and show you care. Kids always chat, make you presents, tell you jokes, make you laugh, and more. They are givers and builders. I'm not sure at what age that stops, but I've never met a kid who didn't leave me a better person than I was beforehand.
This year, I've had the privilege to work with a student who frequently uses a wheelchair. It has given me a whole different perspective on the world. We visited a museum on a field trip and students had to climb down a flight of stairs and then up another flight at the entry. Because the building was constructed in the late 1960's, my student and I had to wheel through a labyrinthine series of hallways, storage rooms, and back offices in order to get to the same level as the rest of the students. At one point, we had to back into a tiny elevator, which tested the turning radius of the wheelchair, and my driving skills, to the limit. It was a lesson in the inconveniences that many people face every day. We attended another field trip where the other students in the class hiked along a rugged trail. With the wheelchair, we had to walk about a half a mile out of the way, on a poorly marked rough road, in order to meet up with the rest of the class.
I feel that I truly now understand the efficacy of having "handicap" parking near the front of stores. And, I have felt a tiny portion of the frustration that comes from having to take a "portable" wheelchair apart, and not have it fit in a car. It seems like sidewalks and curbs are never smooth and the way is always ridiculously circuitous. Yet, my student perseveres. I find myself feeling a rising tide of annoyance and impatience at "the system" with every experience. And, then something inside my heart tells me to settle down, and appreciate the understanding. And, to observe the strength that my student shows in the face of difficulties.