Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Big Picture: An old tale retold

Once upon a time three blind men met an elephant the street. They had no idea what it was.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it’s like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it’s like a branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched his trunk.
They could not agree on what the elephant was like and began to argue.
A wise man was passing by and heard them. “All of you are right,” he said. “Each one of you touched a different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features that you said.”
…Some of my friends can’t see. Some of my friends can’t hear. Some of my friends can’t talk.
But a blind person “sees” with his ears; a deaf person “hears” with his eyes; a mute person “speaks” with his hands. And overall, my friends hold the secret of true joy and pure love clutched tightly in their tiny hands.
So you see, none of them are really handicapped.
…How many disabilities do you have?
It’s only when you can’t love that you are truly handicapped.
Mr. Pat is no saint, anymore special than the parents who spend the night awake worrying about their child’s safety, or the teachers fast approaching sainthood in their perseverance of love.
We are just ordinary people who are fortunate enough to love extraordinary children. We are all heroes to our friends, and if we aren’t, we need to try harder.
And that’s really the elephant in our street—the big picture—isn’t it?
…It’s all in your point of view.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Excitement! That’s the word for what’s happening at the Frankie Lemmon School. We’re excited to be back; we’re excited about our new teachers; we’re excited about making footprints!

Ms F. captured our feelings when she read from The Way I Feel. She taught us through her dramatic facial expressions and the book’s whimsical characters that emotions are a normal part of life—that it’s OK to be silly or scared or thankful—or even angry. It’s OK to be happy and it’s OK to be sad.

Then we swung into joy with Inside a Barn in the Country, a rousing melodrama led by the just-arrived Miss Paula. It is a cumulative tale in the style of "This Is the House That Jack Built." We each adopted a favorite character as we happily mimicked the clamorous noise of a cat who chases a mouse and—one-by-one—wakes up every animal in the barn, including a horse, a cow, a rooster, baby chicks, some sheep, a dog, a pig, some hens, and even a duck. They finally end up waking the farmer, too! All is chaos, reflected in the ping-pong-ball eyes of open-mouthed cartoon-like characters.

After all that, we took a walk in the hall. You’ve heard the campers’ slogan: “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints.” Well, today I took the pictures while my friends left the footprints. They stepped barefooted onto Jumbo washable stamp pads and walked the length of a giant wall poster. Ms W. signed their footprints and hung the poster by the door for all to see. It was an altogether wonderful day!

Friday, September 10, 2010

First day back

September 7 was my first day back as a volunteer at the Frankie Lemmon School. It was a great day—even though I had “first day of school” jitters. They are always so—jittery! But it gave me a good adrenaline rush, I have to admit. I got to meet all the new kids in my class—mostly four-year-olds—and maybe even a couple of new “best friends” for the year. But I’d worked with the super staff and terrific teachers all last year and they welcomed me with open arms. They’d had their first day last week. Even with multiple college degrees, lots of preparation, and the drive to succeed, first-day jitters are tough to get through for staff and teachers, whether they are experienced or brand new. But I can tell you one thing for sure: these “special needs” children—as well as the three- and five-year olds in the other two classes—are very fortunate indeed to have such a loving and energetic support team. They all want to to share their love and passion for teaching with the kids of Frankie Lemmon.

And today was Miss Paula’s first day back as well. With her traveling Yamaha keyboard and her big bag of musical fun—tambourines, sticks, bells, drums, shakers, and something called a cabasa—we were soon making a “joyful noise” and singing “Shake a friend’s hand and say hello.” Our jitters became smiles!

We also read Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe. We sang “Five Green Speckled Frogs” and painted stuff with little round Crayola "Beginnings." I had lots of fun, but what do I know?—I’m just a big kid who comes to play on Tuesdays.