It Takes a Special Person
It Takes A Special Person
By Emily Jarger
“That’s wonderful. It takes a special person to do the work you do.”
It’s the most common response, stock -compliment, of my job when I explain it to someone for the first time. They assume things about me the second I mention the word, “disability”. They automatically think I’m special–as if patience, understanding, and passion are all things I was born with–traits bestowed upon me; gifts granted from a fairy godmother that could not possibly be learned, acquired.
The truth is I was none of those things before I came to P.G. Chambers School; it was the children here who changed me. Just like they change every single staff member employed at our school. Our students embody patience and understanding, teaching us the true meaning of the words.
For our students…
It takes an enormous amount of patience to come to school. On a bus, you undergo the sudden starts and stops of traffic, driven by a person who may not exactly understand you. Some bus aides are personable, some are quiet, but nonetheless, your day begins. Then off you go, down the lift or stairs to school. Maybe your classroom is quiet; maybe there are some new faces today, interns or therapists. Your schedule is often changing, and although you are made aware of it—it still constantly alters, as life tends to, and you accept the ebbs and the flows. You go about your day patiently, working with adults who try to figure out what’s best for you. You trial new equipment and strategies with them, communicating your thoughts and feelings as best you can. Sometimes you are understood, sometimes you’re not. Sometimes, things get lost in translation. Nevertheless, you continue on with the day. You allow staff to assist you, and wait for them to realize the things you know you can do on your own. You work hard with them, taking pride in the successes, always willing to tackle a new obstacle on the horizon. You laugh some days, and some days you cry. And so do your teachers.
You try really hard, even when it isn’t so easy to learn how to use a new device, to try a new exercise, to be independent. Together you and the staff learn how to read each other, learn when to wait and when to insist. You teach each other. There’s a lot to be learned by attempting a task from a new perspective, and you do that, day after day, until you master it. And in turn, you show us the endless creativity you have, constantly showing us new ways to accomplish goals, teaching us to think outside of the box, and patiently waiting for us to do it. That takes determination, endurance. You give staff the time to troubleshoot and fix and rework things because you know you both have the same goal in mind, your independence, your growth.
But even with the most state of the art technology, even with the most understanding and hardworking staff, even with the best intentions–that doesn’t make any of it easy. And you know this. You let the staff know you are still on board, still willing to work, with a smile, with a look of knowing. And that is all we need. That is the seed that plants our patience, our dedication, our love for our job and our passion to watch you grow, helping you along the way when you need us, enjoying every moment you take into your own hands and succeed.
It might take a special person to do this job, but we’re only special because you made us that way.
Thank you P.G. Chambers School Students.
About the Author: Emily Jarger is a valued member of the P.G. Chambers School staff, where she works as a lead teacher assistant in one of our preschool classrooms. In addition to working directly with students, Emily has made excellent contributions to our school program by designing instructional materials and participating in our Movement Committee. Emily is eager to learn and open to new ideas. She attends numerous workshops and training programs here at PGCS and is also working on her master’s degree in education with a concentration in Teacher of Students with Disabilities. This year, Emily was chosen as First Place Winner for the 2017 ASAH Region II Paraprofessional of the Year Award.