Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Human Biology

When I substitute for teachers, I love to look around their rooms and learn from the information displayed on bulletin boards and models, magazines and textbooks. I learn so much this way. However, when I substitute for the human biology teacher at the high school, I try not to notice anything in the room.

There are reasons why I took chemistry in college. I firmly believe that the Lord put skin or an outer covering over the bodies of the creatures he made for a reason. Yes, it is to protect the body from infection, but also to cover the icky parts so that we do not have to see them if we don't want to. I admire medical people. They are saints in my book. Mothers, too. My five children have displayed more than enough red stuff for my liking. I do not wish to see what the good Lord so graciously covers up for us more squeamish people.

I am rarely called on to substitute for this teacher, but when I do, I enter the room with trepidation. The teacher prefers the real to the plastic in most things, and she changes her displays with the curriculum, except for the real human skeleton that hangs in the front of the room. I remember scrutinizing it the first day of my science class substituting. It looks more brown beige than the yellow white plastic ones most teachers display, and it hangs loosely, threaded together with eye hooks and wire. That's when the students told me it was a real skeleton. As I backed away from the skeleton, the students delighted in showing me the real cow fetuses in various stages, the pigs' brains, and the sheep stomachs in the classroom. All these biological parts of the anatomy sealed in glass boxes of formaldehyde solutions are like a treasure to the class and, I'm sure, the teacher. But to me, they are the icky parts that the Lord conceals with skin so that we do not have to look at them.

When I substituted for the biology teacher this time, I knew to look at the floor as I walked to the front of the classroom. I said hello to the students without lifting my head and went straight to the teacher's desk to view the plans for the day. I screamed and the students wanted to know what the problem was. The problem was that a complete forearm; okay, the radius and the ulna together with all the metacarpals, was sitting on top of the plans. The real forearm of the real skeleton. I guess it must have fallen off. It was only held on by wire, remember.

A male student came and took it away so that I could get to the plans, but then he started playing with it, stuffing it into his sweatshirt sleeve and raising it as his hand to ask questions.

"I understand that everyone can use an extra hand once in a while," I informed him, "but if you break the skeletal forearm, the teacher will use yours to replace it."

He immediately returned the forearm to my desk.

"Not on the desk!" I screeched. "Put it on the side lab table toward the back!"

Now for the day's plans. I usually assist students with any documentary video sheets; however, in biology...let's just say it is extremely difficult. I try not to watch. Only listen to try and catch the answers on the worksheet. As long as the students are actively engaged with the video, we work together and I stop the video early, marking the time on my substitute report for the teacher, and we as a class discuss the video and answer questions. I must say, I do learn a lot this way.

The Gift of Inner Sight

Like many people, I believe that where the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window...or two. This is especially true with a beautiful young student I know. She is blind, yet she possesses a vision much clearer than mine.

She has an aide to assist her, carry a Braille writer and book shelf, and offer her an elbow for guidance in clogged hallways. Of course, the assistant does so much more; type up her tests in Braille, coordinate state assistance in Braille and abacus work for blind students, etc. As a substitute, I am merely a pack mule and guide for her as she navigates her school time world.

As for the many windows the Lord has opened for her, memory shines the brightest. Not only can she remember classroom material, but also math examples from weeks ago. When the teacher put a problem on the board for review, she immediately remembered the two-step operation and numbers and didn't need her abacus, her "scrap paper" according to the teacher from state services, in order to answer it. While I'm repeating the problem on the board to her, thinking she couldn't remember it, she informs me that she remembered it from weeks ago and knew the correct answer.

Kindness shines through her smile as she greets all who address themselves to her, while goodness sings through her voice. A confidence springs from her step. Indeed, when the hallways are clear, I can't keep up with her and her sweeping cane. Of course, I'm lugging over 30 pounds with Braille writer, shelf, and my personal bag. At least the school provides a book caddy for her to wheel behind now. Last year when I substituted as her aide, I had to help carry the Braille books too. So I'm lugging less this year, and I shed my own personal bag at lunchtime to help with the afternoon classroom run.

Now if I can only stop asking her what color the science notebook is, I'd feel so much better.