Friday, September 17, 2010

from the mouths of blind babes

He came rushing in that morning, nearly out of breath, his plump cheeks red from the cold. He couldn't wait to tell me what had happened on the way to school that morning!

Rodney was six. He lived in the country.

Rodney was blind.

I worked for a regional center which provided braille services to small, rural, school districts. With youthful energy and a Perkins Braille Writer in the trunk, I drove to those little towns to teach braille to students like Rodney.

I drove a lot but it suited my night owl lifestyle. To have a quiet, hourly drive to work every morning was a gift. A typical day would find me driving north to Bonham, then down to Quinlan, and on to Forney before heading north again at the end of the day. For five years, Joni, Phoebe, Mick, Fleetwood Mac.... and I, drove five hundred miles a week to see the kids who made each mile worth it.

I asked Rodney if his news involved an animal. Rural life was hard on pets, strays, and wildlife, and I'd heard one story more than my city heart could take.

Obviously another animal had suffered, so ignoring his attempt to tell me about it, I instructed him to get out his book and turn to a designated page. I watched his little face squish up as he considered his options. His fierce need to tell me what I knew would be lengthy and gory details won, and when he began his story again, I harshly reminded him of our ground rules. I told him I was stepping out for a few minutes and when I returned, he was to be ready to read.

The classroom door was typical of time and place; old, blond-stained, solid wood with a cut-out window. I watched Rodney oblige, pulling out the grosgrain ribbon, a standard page marker in braille books. His fingers checked the numerals in the top corner, making sure he was on the right page. Then he waited.

I watched through the window for quite a long time, letting his excitement wane and then I entered as though nothing had happened. We began to read.........

It's moments like the next that built bonds between me and my students. Caught off guard, unable not to laugh, ground rules became inconsequential and those shared moments were priceless.

Well into our chapter, at a natural pause between lines, Rodney said in a monotone but unbelievably-lightening-fast voice, "Thebirdhitthewindshield."

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