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Friday, March 10, 2006

Oh my DAYS, Miss!!

The title of this post is what I hear about 40 times a day at my current job.

This week I have been employed as a teaching assistant (TA) at a high school in South Harrow. For those of you who don't know London, Harrow is literally on the other side of London from where I live in Raynes Park (near Wimbledon). Its a two hour commute in the morning- and you should all know how much i am not a morning person.

As a TA, my job is to help students with learning, physical and BEHAVIOURAL disabilities and problems... and it is hell.

Essentially, I teach at Gangsters' Paradise High School for the Criminally Insane. It's Friday night and I am a nervous wreck from being verbally abused all week. Do not underestimate how bad it is for teachers in this country. I'd heard all the complaints before, but you cannot fathom how awful it is until you have actually spent some time there. I've been called everything from skank to retarded to fucking bitch-whore by 13 - 18 yr olds, male/female, rich/poor ....basically everyone. The teachers look shell-shocked, huddled into the tiny shelter that serves as a smoking area, freezing their tits off and glancing around nervously, like spooked rabbits.

As for "Oh my DAYS, Miss!" this is the standard response to "stop talking", "get out your books", "where is your pencil?", "why havent you done your homework?", and "stop smacking the disabled kids with your football".

Another thing you may or not know about the british school system is that disabled kids are completely integrated into normal schools, and not in the american "special ed" kind of way. It's an interesting but extremely difficult policy. My first lesson ever was with a boy who is so disabled that he cannot talk, hold his head up or control his hands for long periods of time. He has a degenerative disease (forgotten the name), and he bounces between the physio room (in school) and normal gr11 classes. It was really challenging, as I have never worked with handicapped people, and dont know anyone who is this severely handicapped, so I wasn't sure where the boundaries were. I wasn't given any idea of what he's capable of or what he needs assistance with.

We were in an art class and I had to move his hand to the paper, and essentially guide it for him. Now he's going to do an art exam with the other kids in his class, without an assistant - he will fail that exam, because everyone's too pc to say that he is not a normal kid -and that is the grand plan for his life: to be constantly set up against tasks designed for able-bodied individuals and not make the grade. It's really frustrating, because he is smart, and he's completely aware, but he has no muscle control. You can see his frustration too, When he was concentrating on the picture we were copying from he stops shaking, but the second he has to move his hand to do some painting he loses that control.

Sorry...I'm beginning to ramble now... no real other news.

P.S. think how broke an individual has to be to work in the hellhole described above, then send me love-filled emails.

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