To those who regularly visited the school staffroom at lunchtime, my absence compared to previous years might have suggested an indifference to the school community beyond my classroom. Closer inspection, however, would have revealed quite the opposite, once their eyes settled on the duty roster, where my name was posted twice.
Being a teacher with cerebral palsy, I circulated the playground on a scooter, getting to know students outside the walls of my classroom. Often kindergarteners would amble up to me, seeking permission to blow my horn. It had obviously never occurred to them that some people like to toot their own horn—literally, figuratively, or both! Other kids would approach my four-wheeled “throne of judgment” awaiting what they hoped would be a fair pronouncement on their playground skirmishes. One group of grade one boys would bring their soccer game to a complete halt, just so I could parade on through unscathed.
However, some students acted as though either they were invincible or they believed I was, as one kindergarten boy aptly demonstrated. While I was zipping across the field, he, standing a couple feet ahead of me to my right, waved to me shyly, and then, to my bewilderment, attempted the unthinkable! My delayed reflexes frantically responded to the ball he booted into my path. Before coming to a jolting stop, I did what I always do when there is a flying object in my vicinity—I closed my eyes. Upon opening my eyes I beheld a very befuddled little boy, but no ball in sight. Indeed, the ball was where it could logically be expected under the circumstances—beneath my scooter, substantially compressed. It took a few minutes for it to be dislodged from its unaccustomed position. In due time, the boy trudged away carrying a severely deflated ball and an equally deflated ego, I’m afraid. After that, I drove my scooter a little more defensively on the playground, seeing as it was, after all, a school zone!
One blustery November noon hour, I ventured outside, inwardly lamenting the fact that the size difference between my grade three students and me was not more extreme, as gusts of wind threatened to push me off balance. I hunched over my handlebars, my already-spastic muscles stiffening further in protest against the unrelenting blasts that wreaked havoc with my hair. Feeling sore, cold and defeated, I inched up the ramp to the door, grateful that my duty-partner let me sneak inside shortly before the bell rang.
After school, another teacher, who, as conversation later revealed, was unaware of my exhausting battle with the wind during lunch recess, teased me about my “dishevelled” appearance. The implication of this blunt remark on the deplorable state of my tresses was not lost on me: to my uninformed colleague, I looked like I had, quite literally, reached the point of pulling out my hair in dealing with my students!
Actually, though, I had reached the point of pulling at other staff members’ heartstrings as I begged them to take over my supervision responsibilities, with the days having frozen into winter. I returned the favour—in the spring—when I was a novelty on the playground once again!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After obtaining a B.A. (Honours) in Psychology and later getting a teaching certificate, Julia Byl ventured into elementary classrooms (grades three to five) in B.C. and Alberta and taught part-time. Beyond the elementary classroom, she has tutored a post-secondary student with cerebral palsy and monitored students with intellectual disabilities in work experience placements in an employment preparation program. Having cerebral palsy herself, she conducted disability awareness presentations for pre-service teachers in several post-secondary institutions. Currently, she works as a special education teacher with Heritage Christian Online School.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2016 issue.