May 18, 2009

Clap Your Hands!

Some of you remember the story of the young boy I teach in Sunday School, the autistic one. I love him to pieces. His quirks endear me. J and I get along famously. A few weeks ago when I tried to get him back on track with a lesson, I said, J, you know how I know so much about Supermario from you? I want to give you that same gift about the lesson. I want to be the one who teaches you the way you teach me...

He lit up and said, I teach you about Mario Bros.? I said, absolutely. How else would I know about Luigi and Wario (the evil version of Mario, I'm told). And off he went on his elaboration of more about Supermario... so much for that!

If you've ever been around an autistic child, you know that there is a piece of their brain that just never puts them on track with the moment. I am not an expert in the least. I merely understand that they don't get it. I realize that his inattention has nothing to do with poor manners or lack of respect. It is in his brain. I see past my agenda and try to relate to his. His agenda is to behave the best he can until class is over so he is allowed to play his video games. I have to report to his father every week how he behaved so they determine if he can play Mario or not.

His agenda rarely is conducive to teaching the class. There are days I wonder if I taught ANYTHING. I keep forgetting, I am not the teacher. Because I learn much more than I teach. The books of the Old and New Testaments will not go away. The prayers remain the same, and the history of Martin Luther remains in print. The time to learn from J is this instant.

The days when J kisses me four times at the end of class, because J gives four kisses to people he likes, teach me something I can never capture in a lesson plan. I try to capture it in my humble blog. I try to take what I learn from this exceptional young man and spread the word. It's not happening.

Yesterday we had our last class until the fall. I let the kids pick through the box of teaching tools I had. Take whatever you want, it's yours. There were balls, Frisbees, plastic hand clappers, Styrofoam planes, stickers.

J took the hand clapper. And clapped, and clapped. The remainder of class he clapped. He went to the car clapping them. I did not envy his dad's long ride home accompanied by the clapper. I'm sure he is still trying to find the words to thank me for giving J a plastic clapper.

Then I realized.
He took my standing ovation for a fabulous year with him.
Because I am still clapping, too.


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