Last October I trained to become an Early Literacy Tutor in reading and math for our local Office of Education. I was warned, however, that I probably wouldn’t be placed because my service dogs “were a problem” and no one would want them in their classroom.
Needless to say, I was disappointed. “What about the ADA?” I asked. “Children might be allergic,” I was told. The dogs are Miniature Schnauzers and don’t shed. “They’ll be a distraction.” They’re trained to lie down quietly next to me. (I have two because Jake, the oldest, is past 17 now, and we are training his replacement.) I was told that they would try to find me a place, but not to get my hopes up.
In November I got a call saying that a teacher at a nearby school would like to have me volunteer in his classroom, and so started a grand adventure. Mr. R is one of the most positive people I have ever met. Everyone is successful in his classroom because he tells them they will be. The children who needed my help were seen as a special group getting a special reward, and the kids I didn’t work with kept asking when it would be “their turn.” I looked forward to my two mornings a week at the school.
I was so impressed with this first grade class, because the children were writing expository paragraphs, and learning the times tables, although they weren’t presented that way. They were ways to explain an opening sentence, and to explore number patterns, and they were fun. When you walked into the room you saw a quote from Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist,” and although there were only “found” materials in the art budget, the children had fun creating paper bag owls and paper plate aquariums and jellyfish.
What was truly remarkable, however, was that when I would mention that I volunteered at a school, and people asked which teacher I worked with, and I said “Mr. R,” everyone would say, “Oh, isn’t he the best?” He radiated his love for teaching and children, and for helping people, everywhere he went. I learned he had been at another school, which was extremely sorry to lose him. He also works two nights a week at a popular local restaurant because his wife and his young son have Lyme Disease and she cannot work.
He shared with me his frustration at getting his wife diagnosed, and how some doctors would just tell her she was crazy. I reassured him that was a common, albeit disturbing, occurrence. That explains why he was so sympathetic when I was having a bad day. It is so good to know that God plants his angels all around us, lending kind hearts and sympathetic ears.
Dear Father God, Thank you for all the men in our lives – fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, those who act as fathers – who have loved, guided, counseled and protected us. Please bless them and let them know that you hold them in the palm of your hand, loving and protecting them as they love and protect us. Guide all of our steps until we return safely home to You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.