After a year of being on medical leave and pretending I was really an author instead of an Instructional Assistant on medical leave/leave of absence, I returned to work on January 4th. To put it mildly, it is kicking my butt. I’ve had to go back to my old schedule of being in bed before or at 9, which makes me feel like one of the elementary school children I work with (along with the subsequent whining about how I don’t want to go to bed yet, it’s still early or just one more chapter–which works for either reading or writing or editing, take your pick) except I’m getting up fifteen minutes earlier, so 5:15. My hours are 7:30-2, so I really do have to go to bed that early because I am a little like a sloth, and I am not a morning person, so in an attempt to actually work with my little ones in a somewhat comprehensible fashion (for both of us) I feel like I should try to be a responsible adult. I think it’s amazing that it takes me so long to get ready. I take my showers in the evenings, because even when I take what I perceive to be a quick shower in sloth time, time has passed much more quickly outside the bathtub. We have a turtle timer. Really. I just can’t take a shower in ten minutes. I blame that on my hair being too long.
I like my classroom. I know four of the kiddos from when I was in a class next door at an Elementary school the school district has now closed and is home to high school age…oh, let’s not sugar coat it. They’re tilting perilously on the deviant side. I used to work where they had their school before, and seeing these girls who hadn’t graduated from high school with all their babies in strollers, smoking heavily (the girls, not the babies) swearing with words I wouldn’t even use around their babies, it didn’t make me feel particularly hopeful. Especially when they were sharing that campus with younger children from another school who had to move there because one of their buildings was destroyed in a fire and they had nowhere else to go. What bothers me the most is the babies. They’re not being given much of a chance. Would they be better off if they were taken away at some point? Who am I to judge.
Anyway, I was talking about my class, where I think (hope) I will be staying for at least the rest of the school year, unless someone decides they hate me and makes a huge fuss. I was sort of wondering about my placement, because it’s a nice school, and then when I went in there were two extremely pregnant women and I had one of those ah-ha moments. I’ve already fielded one very strange, persistent question from one person about whether or not my weight loss (I lost a lot of weight, no one could figure out why, which is why I had to have a ridiculously expensive CAT scan October before last) (btw, if you have to have one and they’re giving you the warning that the iodine will just make you feel flushed and warm, the thing they’re _not_ telling you is that the iodine hurts like hell, probably because they don’t want you to try to bolt from the room) was due to something like cancer or tumors or whether the polyp in my gallbladder had grown (it had, and it had friends) or some other nasty thing. I already slightly know this woman because I have worked in the classroom before, once for two weeks when I was an at-large sub and then once last year when we had too many kids out therefore were over-staffed and had to call in and see if any other classrooms needed subs (the dreaded call). Yesterday she asked if part of the reason I was out on medical leave…and here I sort of lost the train of thought–I think it was something about if I had something done to lose weight that required me to be out on medical leave for a year. I told her no, it had to do with my ulnar nerve in my elbow and not being able to lift. Then she phrased it a little differently and I gave her the same answer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, though. Why would anyone take a year off on medical leave/leave of absence, to lose weight? If I had been snarky, but I didn’t think of this until I was already home, and I wouldn’t have said it anyway, I could have said, “yes, in all my unlimited wealth, I flew to Sweden to have this very rare fat transplantation operation done where they take excess fat and give it to thin, starving children in Third World Countries.” I mean, honestly, some people are so obsessed with appearance. I was somewhat overweight, but I’m tall, so you could tell, so it wasn’t horrific, but noticeable. I lost, say, around 70 or 80 pounds for no reason other than I was mysteriously not hungry, so yes, I do look thinner now. I don’t know why I lost the weight. I don’t mind having lost it. It bugged me sometimes to have the extra weight. Why? Because of superficial people to whom outward appearances seem to be the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter how good you are working with the kids, whether that be actually working with them while being thrown up on by them (we have one of those, one of the guys I knew from before–little habit that seems to have gotten worse over the years that he does when he doesn’t want to do something. I believe there are some creatures that do the same thing for protection, so really, he’s just adapting to his environment (or happened to see that particular nature show)–he’s non-verbal–who can blame him, really. Although I don’t think it’s a reasonable response when asked to hang up his coat and backpack or when changing him. As long as he doesn’t do it on me physically–and he does recognize me from before–I’ll be fine), or whatever else I have to find out about my new little students that they might do to me, as long as I look good when they do it, it’s fine? That sentence got a little convoluted, but hopefully makes sense. Ugh.
I know the teacher some, she used to be an Educational Assistant before she became a teacher, so she empathizes with us. One of the Educational Assistants I worked with in the last classroom I was in before I went out who was one of my favorite people to work with in that classroom is in there, and the little guy who it seems like I’ll be working with a lot is adorable and funny. Also, we have the same speech language pathologist and occupational therapist team that I worked with for three years, both of whom I love, and the same physical therapist from last year, who I did get to know sort of well because my little guy I worked with in the mornings needed PT and so does the guy I work with now. She popped into the classroom yesterday, saw me and said hi and asked how my arm was. So, overall, it’s been pretty cool in the two days I’ve been there. Granted, two days isn’t long, but I could tell from the time I was in the class I subbed in (I’m not even going to go into the story about how I got lost and it took me an HOUR to get there, so I was very late–let’s just say that Springfield (where the school was) and Eugene both coincidentally have streets named Aspen Way, and somehow, the person typing the addresses into GoogleMaps, namely me, put Eugene into the destination instead of Springfield. The fact I was surrounded by school buses from the Bethel School District–where I worked last year and is actually two districts away from Springfield–sort of gave it away) that I wouldn’t really want to be in that room, although they had some pretty cool kids.
This is longer, of course, than I meant it to be. I’m happy to be in a classroom that isn’t very far from home–about ten minutes if you take the Beltway and the North Delta Highway, both of which used to terrify me because people go very, very fast and seems to be where many of the accidents in Eugene happen, but it’s ten minutes if you don’t get lost (I only have once out of two back and forth trips, and that’s considering that it’s completely dark in the morning when I leave, and I do need new glasses. I don’t know if that would help, though, because the “N Delta Hwy/Ayres Rd” sign is too small and right AT the offramp. Particularly, on the side just past the offramp. How is that helpful? So I can tell myself, “Oh, yeah, that was the offramp I was _supposed_ to take?”) I don’t know that part of town as well as some of the others, but did manage to get myself there with five minutes to spare.
What has made me sad, however, is that despite the fact that I get off at 2, which seems bright and early enough, I am so tired when I get home (I know part of it is adjusting and it will get better) that it seems like the evening goes so quickly. I have to do my exercises for PT. I need to build my arm up some more–we do two person lifts, which is great when I have the legs, but harder when I have the top half. Of a wriggly child. Of course my guy would be wriggly. If he wasn’t attached to a constant drip feeder (for those who don’t know, it’s a tube connected to a button in his stomach (this isn’t a good description) so he can eat indirectly–it’s for kids who are at high risk of aspiration–accidentally getting food into their lungs, which is very dangerous, especially for little ones in wheelchairs. Well, anyone in a wheelchair, actually, and anyone who doesn’t have a very strong coughing reflex. With the food going straight into his stomach, he still gets the nutrition he needs, but with no risk of aspiration. Most kids or adults just have a few feedings a day with a tube and a giant syringe without the needle looking thing and it’s called a bolus feeding, where you just give them a whole can of the formula at one time, and then that’s it. You disconnect the tube and they’re free to move around again. My SO had a student in the high school class we worked in (the first room I was in when I started working here) who had to have bolus feedings (no, Stephen, I didn’t practice on anyone in that classroom-that was later) in the mat room (where students in wheelchairs can get out of their chairs and stretch out and hang out, which is good–some of them don’t get out of their chairs a lot) away from all the noise of the classroom. I would go in there sometimes when he was having his lunch, and for some reason I would always make him laugh pretty easily, especially if I made fun of or teased my SO (who wasn’t my SO at the time). I kept telling him he was filling the syringe too full (all the way to the top, which I would never do because you don’t know what will happen, which he found out). When someone laughs who’s getting a meal this way, things tend to back up a little, e.g. come back up the tube and into the syringe, and one day I made the student laugh a little harder than usual, I think after I’d told my SO he had the tube too full (and he was probably wondering, who the hell is she, to come in here and tell me I have the tube too full when I’ve been working with this guy for years), and the tube overflowed all over the floor, which made my SO swear (the student was 18, and had had a brain injury just a few years back, so he understood everything we said or spelled, as we found out when we spelled B-O-O-B in front of him once and he started to laugh–he was left non-verbal after the accident and I’m sure had a full complement of swear words to draw from before the accident), so the student laughed harder and it got worse until my SO sent me out (which also made the student laugh) and banned me from the room while he was giving the student his lunch or any other meal. I told him he filled the syringe too full, as he was mopping up the floor, as my parting shot, and that made the student laugh again. Sometimes I had to go in and get some silverware or something for another student, and I always said I was just passing through. My SO never did stop filling the syringe so full. He would stop feeding the student when I came in. He and I are both very stubborn. You may have to be in Special Ed to appreciate that story. Otherwise you might just be completely grossed out. I think it’s hysterical. People who work in Special Ed and stay there for longer than a year or two develop (or already have, which is why they’re there) an odd sense of humor, (often akin to a gallows sense of humor).
I digressed completely from my point, but I love that story. My little guy, being on a drip feed that’s constantly running, has to stay hooked up all day, which makes it harder to move him around (and boy, he really is wriggly, I’ll say it again). Having one of those buttons pulled out is not a pretty picture, and I don’t want it to happen when I’m the one responsible for him. So when he’s on the mat, I think I spend more time trying to keep him from rolling around/over his tube than anything. Anyway, I suppose that was a lot more information than many of you wanted. I tell you, it’s a glamorous job.
I was expecting to resent going back to work more because I won’t have as much time to write. I think if I were in a classroom I didn’t like, with a supervisor I didn’t like (I have the same supervisor I’ve had for the past three years and adore) it would be different. I get attached pretty quickly, maybe too quickly, try not to have favorites (which is impossible for me) and try to find redeeming qualities in the ones that do annoying things or have sympathy for things they’re trying to do but aren’t being accepted fully for, e.g. trying to play with regular ed kids and sometimes be acknowledged but not all the time, which sort of makes my heart hurt a little, even if he’s often an annoying kiddo. It’s also hard to not find the funny things when the same kiddo, at lunch, after having pasta, has sauce spread over the entire side of half of his face, the tip of his nose, and even a little on his eyelashes. That takes serious talent. Of course, he does know the regular ed kids well enough that he gets two hot dogs instead of one at lunch. I’m not sure if that’s admirable or the signs of a future manipulator. Or both. Hm.
I apologize to those who have checked to see if there was anything new and there wasn’t. If you check again, that it. I still plan on doing to thing with photos, someday. Maybe I’ll discuss plotlines with my little guy and see what he thinks. He’ll probably just laugh. Which could be the right response.