A tiny bud of a smile on our lips nourishes awareness and calms us miraculously. It returns us to the peace we thought we had lost. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I want to be calmed miraculously.
The first time I met Andy, he wouldn’t look me in the eye. “Talk to him,” his mom told me, “he’s listening.” So I talked, about anything and everything. While I talked, Andy spun in circles and flapped his arms. He never made eye contact, but his circles would occasionally bring him close enough so that he could brush his hand against my arm. At the end of our meeting, as my words dwindled, Andy began to screech and hit his head. His mom smiled. “He likes you,” she told me. We arranged to meet again the next day.
Working with Andy and his family for the next three years changed my life. Diagnosed with Autism at an early age, Andy had been neglected by his birth parents and abused in foster care. When I met him he was eight years old, living with his adoptive family, and just beginning to move past the traumas of his early childhood. Doctors had predicted that Andy would never be able to communicate, and early evaluations had labeled him profoundly retarded. Working with a team of caregivers assembled by his parents, I helped Andy find ways to successfully interact with his community. Time and time again I saw him struggle against the limitations detailed in his initial prognosis. I read to Andy, and watched him emerge into language and begin to write poetry; together we practiced facilitated communication, and I saw him type love notes to his first crush. I witnessed Andy’s parents fight to prove that their child belonged in a “regular” classroom, and I saw first hand how a misdiagnosis, a label, could be overcome with passionate advocacy and tireless effort. I learned how teachers and parents, therapists and respite care providers, could come together to provide a child with the tools and opportunities that he needed to succeed, in the classroom and beyond.
I took the lessons that I learned from Andy and his family with me as I worked with a variety of children in a number of different roles. As a special education assistant teacher, I saw how special-needs children, lacking the advocacy and support Andy received, could slip through the cracks of public education. As a para-educator in a behavior disorder classroom, I learned how simple things, like patience and consistency, were sometimes the only tools I needed to connect with a child. As lead teacher at a private preschool, I worked to prove that a small group of typically functioning children could successfully be educated along side their special-needs peers.
I have worked with children in various ways throughout my life. I have been everything from teacher to nanny, from soccer coach to respite worker. No matter what my title, however, I have always been an educator. A child’s education is a process comprised of innumerable influences and countless opportunities. I want to provide children with the tools they need to take advantage of these opportunities at an early age, and I believe that your M.Ed/Initial Licensure Program in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education can help me achieve that goal. I want to anchor the hands-on experiences I have accumulated over the past ten years in the research based methodology and best practices that I will learn through your program. After completing your program I will be able to provide special-needs children with the opportunities and tools that Andy never had as a young child.
This post is dedicated to the wonder that is Cosmopolitan magazine. Some of you may laugh derisively as I wax poetic about the sex advice and dieting tips that Cosmopolitan so generously spews forth, but we’ll see who has the last laugh when you ladies come running to me begging for tips on “What Makes a Great Girlfriend” (Feb. 2009: 48). Also, did you know that when a guy says, “I’m not looking for a relationship,” what he’s actually saying is “I really just want to do you”? I know that because I read all 50 of the “guy phrases” Cosmopolitan took the time to translate for readers like me (Feb. 2009:103). Psych.
See, Cosmopolitan isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Never mind the insidious sexism engendered by a magazine billing itself as an “agent for social change” while featuring articles that warn women not to gain weight lest they “feel self-conscious about [their bodies] and be less provocative in bed” (Feb. 2009: 149). Forget about all that and admit that, while it might not be pleasant to hear, your ass shouldn’t “grow in direct proportion to your affection for your guy” (Feb.2009: 148). Cosmopolitan is here to help you sister, so stop slouching and pay attention.
This month’s issue of Cosmopolitan had me at hello … if by “hello” you mean the cover’s promise that “Once [I] Know The Key Arousal Triggers, [I] Can Double His Satisfaction” and by “had me” you mean that though I’ve tried to cancel my mysterious subscription for 2 years I’m still receiving the monthly issue.
Aside from learning how to double my man’s pleasure, February 2009’s issue taught me a number of valuable lessons. I now know that red turns men on more than any other hue, Ali Larter’s favorite part of her body is her butt, leggings are sexier than sweatpants, 59 % of women polled prefer David Beckham with spiked (over simple) hair, gossiping is an ultimate deal breaker and will make my man leave me, it’s skanky to wear a dress with a massive hooded collar (though a small ruffled collar on said dress will catapult you right over to sexy), and I should never sleep with a man on our first date, no matter how much he begs, because doing so will rob him of the chance to “treat [me] like gold” (Feb. 2009: 162).
Sure, Cosmopolitan’s purported message of empowerment can get lost amongst the bombardment of sexual advice. And yes, it will be difficult for me to remember all of their tips for reigning in my behavior so that my man doesn’t think that I’m too needy, possessive, jealous, bitchy, frigid, wild, or opinionated … but at least I’ll have a man!
Nobody said love was easy, but Cosmopolitan seems to think that it’s all I need, and they’re willing to provide me with the tools and detailed abdominal workouts that will get me a life partner (excusing future weight gain). So bring it on Cosmopolitan! This fun, fearless, female is ready to clean out her closet and bone up on seduction tricks that will keep my new guy hooked.
Said cheese was the gift I received at the family gift exchange on Christmas Eve. It was accompanied by a Packer’s bottle coozie and stocking cap. The only gift that was traded more frequently was the bottle of Bombay gin my brother provided.