Monday, September 25, 2006

Talking to Myself

I continue to substitute for a yet-to-be-hired special education teacher, although the precise nature of the unfilled position continues to change. I've been at three different schools and I'm uncertain how many students I'll be working with next week. (I assume I will be working next week.)

Although the heavy lifting is over, and I am no longer physically exhausted when I get home, my daily activities still interfere with my writing habits. While my students have little in common with one another, there is a certain continuity. Most of them have difficulties processing spoken and written language. Whether they can't take in verbal information because their brains are different from most people, or because they are too angry, too anxious, or too distracted by ambient noise, they don't attend to what they are told. I speak slowly. I say simple things. I repeat myself. I repeat myself. I REPEAT myself. If a teacher fell in the classroom, would there be any sound? I come home with little faith in the whole process of communication. It seems more interesting to can tomatoes than to write.

On the other hand, this is reminding me just how amazing it is to be able to read. A visual representation of speech--how did someone come up with this? The non-reading adults I've worked with have completely different ways of thinking about words than readers (even poor readers). They are unaware of rhymes in song lyrics, incredulous that words can be broken apart into component sounds, and skeptical that a word and the thing it names can be separated. Several of my young students are struggling with these same concepts. Most people participating in the magical world of written language have forgotten they ever lived anywhere else. It's a gift to be reminded of that other condition, and the hard work involved in crossing that border.


Dave said...

Very thought-provoking. I can understand how this experience might diminish your appetite for writing, but if you do get the chance to write about this at somewhat greater length, I'd be delighted to consider it for qarrtsiluni's current feature on education.

Patry Francis said...

Hi Rebecca,

How fortunate these students are to have a teacher who truly understands the gift she is passing on.