Mr. Apron and I were discussing last night, or this week, how change comes so very slowly.  We were particularly discussing starting new projects, new careers, new businesses, and how “five year plans” may look very different indeed at the five-year mark from how they were initially projected. 

We then moved onto talk about one of my kiddos at work — I’ll call him Antoin — and how slow his progress is in speech therapy.  I’m pretty sure (110%) he has childhood apraxia of speech, which means he has difficulty sequencing the movements needed for speech.  His speech is enormously difficult to understand and I’ve taken to fretting more than I should about how arduous and painstaking slow his progress has been.  How slow any progress or positive change is. 

Today, I had some blessed down time.  Many children were absent, and the children who were here, I had already seen this week.  I had a lovely lunch with Monet, where she requested for and consumed three bowls of mandarin orange segments, and then I came  back to the office.  I spent the next hour writing up an IEP for this afternoon, and making materials.

In grad school, making materials was a necessity.  There were premade flashcards and commercially available toys and such in the cabinets, but they were often being used by the other 59 student therapists at the clinic, or they were inappropriate for our clients’ needs.  I had one little guy who said so few consonants correctly I couldn’t find any word targets that focused on only one sound he was learning.  So I made my own.  I found and printed images from google image, cut and pasted them onto record jackets (excellent weight cardboard), and laminated them in the back room, inhaling the heady fumes of melting plastic.  At my school-age practicum, I continued to make materials when I grew tired of the materials in the cupboard, or when I was looking to tailor an activity specifically to a child’s targets.  One little boy was having difficulty answering questions and using pronouns correctly.  I don’t even think he knew what I wanted him to do.  I drew a boy and a girl, several props (jump-rope, skateboard, bicycle, book, snacks), and three backdrops (home, school, and playground).  I started by just placing a character on a background, and asking where the boy/girl was.  Since there were few distractions (compared some some I-Spy-style of other illustrations), they had more success.  I upped the ante and gave the boy/girl a prop.  “What is he doing?” I asked.  And they were able to do this.  I worked on “he” and “she”, and even “they”.  The interactive nature of the toy meant I had raptly attentive six-year-old boys, and because the materials were done thoughtfully, I was able to achieve my (and their) objectives.

Today I found myself again making materials.  This time it’s not because there are no commercially available tools, or the center doesn’t have money for educational materials.  The kids in room 6 are starting to get assigned daily “jobs”, such as feeding the fish, holding open the door, and, the perennial favorite, being the line leader.  On Monday I saw them struggling to tell the teacher which job they wanted, without any sort of visual hint.  They ended up asking for jobs that were already taken, or just telling the teacher where they wanted to play.

So today I made a job board.  I found images online, printed, laminated, and glued them to a recycled file folder.  Now the teachers can use clothespins with the kids’ names on them to select daily jobs. 

I presented my gift to the teacher this afternoon.  Why did I bother?  This is not in my job description, per se.  It will end up helping the children I support in that room, but it was not done with them specifically in mind.  I’m not particularly smitten with job boards, but I do love to see kids helping out in the classroom.  After seeing so many daycares where the teachers don’t know what to do with the kids while they, the adults, set the tables, it’s refreshing to see teachers who want a systematic way to involve the kids, and lighten their load. 

But I didn’t set out to that end, either.  There are so many changes I want to make here, so many ways I see I can enrich the experiences of all the children, but I am not their teacher.  Those are not my classrooms.  I do not run them, I do not make my own decisions about materials to go in them, the routines the kids do, or the objectives they learn.  I am part of a team.  If I want to stand a chance at introducing my knowledge and experience in music-based transitions, at brainstorming new ways to organize and stock the house corner, at rearranging the furniture to decrease running and facilitate ample room for circle time, at innovating new art materials, I have to build my rapport with the team.  I have to build relationships and trust with the teachers.

No one likes anyone new to come from “outside” and descend upon her and tell her how to do her job.  I’ve seen and heard the vitriol aimed at the program directors who mix and match lead teachers and associates, who dictate new bizarre mandates, and who change things from above without consulting the teams.  I have no need for those attitudes. 

Even though the changes I want to make are not huge, they are significant, and I need to make baby steps into the collaboration between teachers and therapists.  If change occurs in a thousand tiny moments, I need to seek out and seize those moments as they come by.

And that’s  why I was inhaling the fumes of melting plastic this afternoon — to start making the thousand tiny changes.

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