Saturday, August 22, 2009

What I (do I ) Do?

November 10 marks the 5th full year I have been employed as a Speech Therapist working at the same elementary school. My drive to work is a very peaceful and uplifting part of my routine. I used to take the congested Taylor Road route but a year ago started cutting through Bell Road/Montecello and on the way I notice green pastures, ponds, and even buffalo... if you are familiar with Montgomery you know the house I am talking about. There is this one house that seems to have never been inhabited that sits back off of the road that I drive past and think is my dream house. It is two story, gray siding, wrap around porch, wooded back yard, long driveway. There is just something about this house that is perfect to me. In town yet secluded. On cool mornings I put the sunroof down and listen to NPR while I sip my coffee and drive 45 thinking "what a beautiful morning." Once I am at school I dig through my purse for my classroom keys and walk up the sidewalk, say hello to the bus drivers and crosswalk guards and head inside where I am washed over with the aroma of waffles and syrup. On the way to my room I watch tiny students bobble down the hallway with their huge backpacks as they pull their pencils out of their pockets to show their friends - new sharpened pencils can be a symbol of status when you are five. My room is always 70 degrees and smells like apple cinnamon. I check my email first, heat up my oatmeal, and start shuffling through the day's progress notes of who is coming in and what we will be working on. A lot of times my lesson does not match up completely with what is on the IEP because my students' needs are so much greater than single phonemes. I teach of lot of syntax, basic concepts, and pragmatics. Reading and listening comprehension, turn taking, and conversational skills are big targets in my classroom. I have never given out candy as rewards. Stickers and certificates mean more to the kids and aren't as bad for their teeth. If a student is really good and returns his homework he might earn a turn on the computer playing a language based game on a website called Grammar Crackers. I have friends at work too. There are a handful of ladies that I can talk to about babies, church, weight loss and gain, other students, and plans for an upcoming holiday. In between sessions I'll give Nick a call and ask how his day is going - who is he eating lunch with, how did his meeting go, what comes on T.V. that night...

Occasionally there is a student that really touches my heart. Last year I fell in love with a little girl I'll call Jan. Jan is 6 years old and lives with her mother, twin sister, and 15 year old brother. I have visited their house before and as I sat on their sofa talking with her mother I looked around, trying not to gawk, and noticed that there were no pictures on the walls or end tables, each kitchen cabinet door was open but there was no food in it, and the carpet was stained and bare in some spots. Jan's bed that she shares with her twin sister was simply a box spring and mattress with tears and rips and a single flat sheet. Jan would talk to me about seeing her mother go in and out of the hospital for "laughing too much." It is no secret to the faculty that her mother suffers with addiction - on and off. Jan has a foster mother and father but is no longer allowed to visit the foster mother because she is abusive. The times Jan has visited her dad in Georgia she said she didn't like staying there because she didn't like listening to her dad and his girlfriend do it. She said that she doesn't like that her dad lies to his wife and that she has to keep a secret. Jan has asked me about God and if I believe in Him and it is so hard to try to explain to a child in such circumstances that we have the same loving Father... she doesn't understand why she is scared and sad all of the time and she has begged me to let her come to my house.

One day in the summer I was thinking about Jan as I folded towels. I told God, "Lord, if you want me to, I'll take Jan, and her sister too." Then the thought came to me, "Impossible. Impossible. Two little black girls from the west side coming to live with a white family on the east side - plus I am one of her teachers? impossible." In that moment I felt strongly led to go and read my Bible... my daily devotional that is more like every other weekly devotional. I stopped what I was doing, turned to that exact date's daily reading, and there looking me in the face was the verse, "Jesus replied, 'what is impossible with man is possible with God." Luke 18:27. My blood ran cold through my veins and I put my hand on the page and looked up. I closed my eyes and made God the promise, "if you bring her to me, I'll take her as my own."

Jan is at a different school this year. Her mom found an apartment zoned for a different Title I school. I took her folders to the speech therapist that will be seeing her but before I left I went by her classroom. She ran from the door to grab me around the waist and she said, "oh Mrs. "Mikee." She didn't let go for a solid 10 seconds. She grew a few inches and gained a few pounds but her face is still the same. She tried to tell me how to get to her new house and that her brother doesn't go to school and that he got bitten by a police dog this summer for trying to rob a BP station. She asked how my babies are doing and I showed her a video clip on my cell phone of the babies playing in their nursery after bath time. She said, "ooh look at all those toys." Before I left she hugged me again and said, "ooh I love you." I bent down and said, "I care about you so much and I'll be coming to see you again soon." As I drove away I repeated the verse, "what is impossible with man is possible with God..."

It is mind boggling to me to think that her world and mine are just 12 minutes away.


Stephanie said...

It is mind boggling to me too.

jessica and corey said...

wow, laura. this post made me cry just to think about the circumstances this child has to live in and also the deep compassion you have for her. you're right... it's amazing the differences 12 minutes can make.