It’s amazing how simple gestures can cross language boundaries. I watched a teaching assistant encouraging a child to eat. The boy seemed to only know two words of English, his name and the word ‘shit’. She pointed out he was about to leave the lunchtime table, having only eaten a few mouthfuls. “Shit!” he said, pointing to his plate. She asked how old he was, by pointing to the boy next to her and displaying ten fingers. He indicated he was nine. She then cut his pizza into nine slices and for each mouthful, she counted down. “Shit!” he said happily, having managed to clear his plate. I nearly shouted “shit!” back, as we waved him off.
I was then asked to take a picture of an autistic boy’s plate, before and after lunch. He too is difficult with food, but the same teaching assistant has managed, despite endless tears and tantrums, to get him to eat. All the more incredible, as this is food that he can avoid at home. It’s nice to occasionally glimpse into another teaching assistant’s world.
Roisin had a neat little glimpse into mine too. She took over from where I left off, trying to persuade Zak to enter class. She took a full ten minutes before he sloped reluctantly off. She sat with him for a while longer in class, showing me how it’s done. I heard my name mentioned by Zak, a little while later. I suspected it was probably something unfavourable. At break time, I discovered that he’d actually said he hopes he has a teaching assistant as nice as me, in his next School. I think this is because, in comparison with Roisin, I’m a softer touch.
The positivity continued into the afternoon. One of the teaching assistants fought back tears as she showed me an ultrasound scan. Her sister had tried for a child for a long time, at last there was some amazing news. The autistic child told me that, although he wouldn’t be on my team for lunchtime football, that he still loves me. This prompted a lot of stifled laughter from the attending staff. I even saw Zak giving Mrs Godsend a massage, while she recovered from a trapped nerve.
Finishing the day, Zak revealed that he’d been bitten on the arse by a dog, the previous evening. Undaunted by this, he would still one day like to own one. Stuck for a name for the pet, we went into role-play mode. We took it into turns to be both owner and dog. We would choose a name and try it in the sentences ‘(name) here boy!’ ‘(name) come here!’ or ‘naaaaaame!’
With Zak trying out the name ‘Caaaaeeeesssaaarrrr!’ and me on the far side of the library, pretending to be a dog, this would have been a legendary time for the Head Teacher to walk in. She didn’t though – I’m chalking off the days (29 left), but today was a good day.