Hi everyone and welcome to my first blog post ever!
I’m not really sure what I should write so I’ll tell you a little bit about me and my experience studying primary teaching!
My name is Liz, I’m 26 and I live in East St Kilda. I have a massive family, a lot of them are teachers so that probably had a great deal to do with me finally choosing education for my career.
I went to catholic schools my whole life and after I finished secondary school in 2003 I went on a “gap” year with an organisation who were called gap, (now known as lattitude http://www.lattitude.org.au/) where I spent 9 months volunteering with people with disabilities. It was the most amazing experience of my life, I was faced with so many things that I’d never even thought of in my sheltered 18 years of existence, I had 4 “families” that I supported all with completely different needs:
Every thursday morning I would go and sit with a little old lady who suffered from macular degeneration (basically her sight had gone as she got old), she lived with her best friend who was her sole carer and I spent 4 hours there while the friend went into town to do their weekly shop. The poor lady was severley depressed because of her blindness, and she also suffered from alzeimers and forgot that I was there.
Once or twice a week I would visit Thomas, he was 10 and autistic, Thomas was gorgeous and sweet but very demanding, his mother had suffered from a break down earlier in the year and lost all her hair because of how full on Thomas was. My job was just to give his poor mum a break, and an opportunity to spend some time with his younger brother Jamie. I would usually take Thomas swimming which he loved, but he didn’t like noise so he’d hide in the corner of the swimming pool and tap the water. Thomas was obsessed with tapping, he also loved to be tickled, we’d often spend hours sitting on their hammock and he’d make me tickle his arms! Thomas loved eating, so much so that he even once ate the registration patch for his mum’s car.
Every weekend I’d spend a day with Charles, he was 12 and his family were pretty wealthy. Poor Charles was proof that money isn’t everything, he was born completely normal and healthy, he’d run around and play with his younger sister until he was about 5 or 6 when he started detiriorating. Charles suffered from a neurological degenerative disease, when I met him he couldn’t bare his own weight, he was blind and his only response to anything, pain, pleasure etc was laughter. Charles’ parents had tried everything, they’d taken him overseas to different specialists, herbalists, chinese medicine men in china, witch doctors in africa yet they had no real diagnosis and no cure, he was just getting worse and worse. Charles went to a special school but his Mum was frustrated because they treated Charles like he was intellectually delayed, reading him baby books and singing nursery rhymes with him, his Mum was adament (and after I got to know Charles I agreed) that Charles had the mental capacity of a normal 12 year old boy, his laughter was out of boredom when read a baby book but out of intrigue and excitement when you read Harry Potter to him.
I spent time with a boy called Cristian, he was 5 and had Cerebral palsy. Cristian started school towards the end of my year in the UK and that was one of the biggest struggles I have ever witnessed. Cristian was still in nappies, he only spoke about 5 words and you had to hold his hand tight when you went out in public. There was a massive amount of issues in that family, domestic violence etc and Cristians father did not want his son to go to a “special” school so demanded that the local public school accomodate for his needs. He started school and had an aid, however the teachers or aid didn’t change his nappy and Cristian wasn’t being stimulated enough, it seemed he was left to his own devices in the back of the classroom because although the school had been renovated over the summer holidays so there was a change room for him, it just wasn’t possible to accomodate for his mental and academic needs in the mainstream classroom.
The last family who I only spent a little bit of time with had twin 2 yr old girls, the girls were healthy and well but their Mother had become legally blind as a complication from giving birth. I didn’t visit them very often, I feel terrible because I can’t even remember their names off the top of my head but it was such a sad case, the Mum could sort of see, she could make out shapes and shadows of people but she had never been able to see her own babies faces, she couldn’t see the finer details when the house was covered in dust or the dishes weren’t actually clean.
Whenever I think about a hypothetical classroom and the possible students I might have I think about these families, and what if I had one of these children in my class, or one of their siblings? How would this impact their learning? What would I need to do to acknowledge this aspect of their life and accomodate for their individual learning needs, or psychological needs or physical needs?
So something that I did when I was 18/19, I knew I was doing something good for these people but really I’ve gotten so much more than I ever expected from it. It’s amazing how some things you experience in life, even a tiny seemingly insignificant detail, can stay with you forever, always in the back of your mind. I always think, especially about Cristian and Charles, about how they were treated at educational institutions and I hope that if I’m ever faced with a child in the same circumstance as either of them that I’ll be a positive influence towards their education!
So I’ve had enough rambling,
I started this over a week ago and saved the draft but have had the most hideous flu and barely been able to lift my head let alone “blog” so I’ll finally post it, here ends my first BLOG post!