Saturday, March 13, 2010

the best plans...

I know I have a problem with trying to do too much at once. I've had this bad habit my whole life, and as much as I think I break myself from it, when I'm not looking it sneaks back into my life and pretty much interferes with everything I try to do, leaving me utterly exhausted and defeated.

Which is how I ended up in a hole-in-the-wall diner last night trying to keep myself from falling asleep on the largest chocolate milk shake you've ever seen, on a Friday night at 9 o'clock.

On Thursday I accompanied my jump rope team on one of our whirl-wind tours of the Northern Virginia area. On the bus, perhaps because I was being forced to sit and do nothing but think, it occurred to me that Friday night was Dance Night at our school- my favorite school holiday- but we hadn't thought about how Amazing, my kindergarten student in a wheel chair would participate in the event. Dance Night takes place at the nearby high school because it provides more space. The only hitch to this was that my Amazing's power wheel chair stays at our school- there is no good way to transport it ourselves. Amazing is an awesome dancer in her power chair- she moves the chair to the right and the left, back and forth, in time with the music, following the steps of the group dances the kindergartners have been learning in PE for the past month. She rocks out in her chair. We just need to be able to get the chair to the performance so she can dance with her friends, like every other kindergarten student out there.

By the time the bus pulled into school I was on a mission- we were going to make this happen.

I sprinted to my computer and started sending emails with my ideas- emails to her parents, my partner-in-crime, and other members of our team that work with her. My original idea was that we'd walk the chair over to the high school and walk it back.

Something you should know about me: my original ideas are not usually thought through very well. I can be very creative, and I don't like hearing the words "it wont work" or "there is nothing we can do". I like to make things happen. I don't, however, always use logic. Mr. Lipstick knows this. He's the logical one, who grounds me and makes sure we don't end up in another country without lodging. He's probably the reason I'm still alive.

My partner-in-crime looked at my skeptically since the weather was calling for a ridiculous amount of rain, but in the spirit of making this work she was totally prepared to walk the chair to and from the high school with me. Now, while this is a short walk, it's not the safest. There is gang activity in the neighborhood, and just a few weeks ago a high schooler was stabbed in our neighborhood.

Yeah. So. I'd just suggested to a parent that we'd walk their very expensive wheel chair through a not so great neighborhood in the pitch black.
Thank goodness my principal replied to my email with "REALLY!!!!"
Yeah. I think she meant ????? She might think I'm crazy too.

But, the rest of the team, composed of the Occupational Therapist and the Physical Therapist got into the spirit of "we're getting Amazing Friend to Dance Night no matter what".
Emails shot back and forth last night- could we get a bus to transport the chair?
No, wait- a taxi! A taxi with a lift! Those exist! We're on.

So, I spent Friday morning running around, confirming with the various members of the team that we could pull this off. I chatted with my principal to let her know that my partner-in-crime an I were not out of our minds and we would not be walking the wheel chair in the dark, nor were we suggesting that the parents do that for their 5 year old child. The Occupational Therapist secured a taxi, AND called back later in the day to confirm that the taxi would be there. I confirmed with the parent that our plan would work, and confirmed with the custodians that they'd work with us on giving us access to our rooms after school hours.

We were set. Emails flew back and forth with words like "Success!" and "We're on!" and "Bingo!"

Of course, there were other fires to put out yesterday afternoon. I may have had to break into a locked filing cabinet because the owner of the filing cabinet was out unexpectedly, and papers inside the cabinet needed to go home with a child. Some filing cabinets open when you kick them really, really hard. Some don't. My toes hurt. And I don't have the paperwork.

Another fire involved taking a kiddo to the office after he smeared his feces on the wall of the class bathroom and then blamed it on another student. I mean, it's one thing if you're so confused that you smear your feces on the wall, but to do it and then leave the bathroom, get the attention of a teacher and say, "look what B did..." ????

And it goes on and on....

The day ended, and my partner-in-crime and I went out with other teachers for light snacks (really, that was all since we had to be back at the school in a few hours for Dance Night) and we boasted of how we were so excited to have pulled this off.

Yes, we celebrated too early. Counted our chickens before they hatched.

We sprinted back to the school to meet the Occupational Therapist, the parents, Amazing Friend, and the taxi.

Except the taxi didn't come.

We waited, with what use to be a very excited five year old in her power-wheel chair, by the doors of the school, as though we could wish the taxi to us. The father and I keep our faces pressed against the glass of the front doors, not wanting to turn around to see the crest-fallen face of Amazing.

We called the taxi company. They said "It's coming"

We called back in 15 minutes. They said "It's coming"

Partner-in-Crime drove over to the high school and asked them to hold the kindergarten dances- getting them to promise they wouldn't start without us. Now we just needed to get there. 200 kindergarten and first graders and their families were waiting on us.

Sadly, we accepted the reality of the situation and ditched the power chair and decided to bring Amazing there in the small stroller her family uses sometimes.

Now, while we were waiting for the taxi another family appeared at the doors of our school. They were confused about where to go, thinking that Dance Night was suppose to occur at the elementary school. Luckily or not, I'd recently met this family at one of those meetings where we bring the parent into a room with a school psychologist, a social worker, a special education teachers, a principal, the student's teacher, and a guidance counselor, to share with the parent that we don't feel their child is typically developing and it may be time to think about administering educational tests to see if their child qualifies for special education.

So, yes, this father knows me. And I don't think he likes me very much. It's not me, it's what I had to say. (not that I was rude or blunt, but hearing that the school has concerns about your child is hard, no matter how anyone says it).

For the life of me I couldn't explain how to get to the high school using words- maybe it was the language barrier, or maybe it was my utter exhaustion, but the father kept looking at me like I was crazy, until he finally said, "I'll follow you."

We all caravaned over to the high school, the lost family whose not thrilled to see me, and Amazing's family, who at this point is holding their tongues from saying "I told you so" because they were skeptical about getting their daughter's hopes up in the first place.

We arrived just as my jump rope team is finishing up their routines- but with enough time to get my two kindergarten friends onto the dance floor to do their stuff.

I pushed Amazing's stroller as best I could- trying my best to blend into the background to let the show be about her- not me, or even us. The idea about her participating was to let her be independent, just like every other kindergarten student out on the floor without an adult.

Trying to push a stroller 4 beats to the right and then 4 beats to the left isn't the easiest, fyi. Those suckers don't have a good turning radius, nor do they react quickly to the moving back and forth in a horizontal line.

This did put me on the floor to help with my other special friends, including the one whose family I'd caravaned with to the high school with. These friends don't always follow oral directions in a classroom with only 20 people. Now, here we are in the gym, with hundreds of loud children and adults. I did a lot of reminding, restating, and reinforcing of these little ones, who, if left to their own devices, would have happily sat in the middle of the gym floor watching their peers dance around them.

I think Amazing had a good time. She got to be on the dance floor with the other kindergartners, she participated, she did the hand motions and sung along. It didn't let her be independent like I'd hoped. She didn't have the freedom to zip around and see her friends without an adult beside her. I can't help being bitterly disappointed. All that planning and she still ended up being the cute, helpless one in the stroller, instead of the bright, independent girl she is.

When it was over the Occupational Therapist, my partner-in-crime, and I all sat wearily down on the bleachers, wondering what we could have done better. We got her there, and I suppose that was one victory, but next year, next year we're going to do it right. We're getting the power wheel chair there- we're going to start planning ahead of time- next year she will be able to be independent.

Before they left the family I'd just recently met at the special education meeting sent their child over to give me a hug. If nothing else, at least I forged a sort of partnership with them. And perhaps they observed support their child required on the gym floor...

Mr. Lipstick surprised me by showing up. Although he was 5 minutes late and didn't get to watch my stroller dancing, I've never been so glad to see him in my life. When it was all over he asked if I wanted to go for a drink.

Somehow, a drink turned into a large, delicious chocolate milk-shake. Because there are some days that you need something stronger than wine.


Sneaker Teacher said...

I love how much of an effort you put in to make this child happy and even if it didn't work out as you planned, I think this is a situation where it's the thought that counts. You tried so hard and that is good enough!

Blink said...

OC- your efforts (along with the other partners) were heroic. Darn taxi service. She will never forget Dance Night and being included. Your post illustrated just how many it takes to keep kids going. It takes a village. Chocolate and ice-cream heals all:) Well done!!!

Anonymous said...

Really above and beyond!
I hope Amazing's parents know how much you did for her!