Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's Like I'm Alice

Things sure have changed.

No longer can I see laundry to put away, dishes to wash, floors to sweep, meals to be organized and blog posts to be written and think "... meh.  I can do that tomorrow."  Tomorrow I have to go to work.  And I can't count on having much energy when I get home.

(I started a new job - new career, really - this year, after a 5-year stint as a more-or-less stay at home mom.)

Oh, how is the new job going, you ask?

When I walk into work every morning, it's like I'm Alice and I've just fallen down the rabbit hole.  Or rather, I'm voluntarily throwing myself down the rabbit hole.

Only, this ain't no Wonderland.  It's an often loud, occasionally scary world of bland, calming, uninspiring-on-purpose surroundings where crashes, bangs, and cries are common and everyday.  It's kind of a last resort for kids who have struggled and failed at getting an education and fitting in to even the special education programs in their home schools.  It requires a different mindset.  For one thing, the colorful language these kids use constantly is beyond anything I have ever experienced.  If you removed the "f" word from their vocabulary, a few of them would lose the ability to communicate at all.

A lot of people would say that using vulgar language is lazy, but some of the words and phrases I hear are quite imaginative.  I've considered asking for a definition once in awhile, but I don't think I'm supposed to give it that kind of attention.

We are to ignore most of the undesirable behaviors.

I have always been bursting with respect for the aides who work with children with disabilities, and that feeling is all the stronger now that I'm trying to be one of them.  These are the most special, intelligent people on earth - those who can understand the inner workings of these kids' brains and deal with them.  They are angels.

It's been a big adjustment, though.  The first couple of weeks were tough, stressful.  You can never let your guard down around these kids, and with some of them it's a full day of mind games, trying to stay one step ahead of them.  Some of them are actually a joy to be around and a couple of others require such an intense amount of focus, a half hour with them is exhausting.

I have to remind myself that they are troubled kids, but as I get to know them better, that gets easier, because it's clear that they seem to have not only lost a genetic lottery but got shuffled into a less than stellar home setting as well.  The world seems to have pushed them over and kicked them while they were down.  So it's no wonder some of them are so angry.

Anyway.  Every day I'm a little more comfortable there.  After three weeks, I'm starting to be able to merrily throw myself down the rabbit hole every morning along with my fellow class aides, and cope with all the strange and frightening things that happen down there.  Maybe because I know that I get to climb right back out at the end of the day, and I know full well how lucky my family and I are.  For a lot of these kids, coming to this school is the more comfortable, predictable, supportive time of their days, and maybe for them, the strangeness and fear comes when they go home.  Maybe their rabbit holes start when they step down from the bus, back onto their own driveways.

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