|Inside an institution for special needs children |
in Belarus (from the article mentioned below)
- To the aide who succeeded in never being seen doing anything - other than standing, or sitting immobile or texting.
- To the numerous other aides in C.'s class whom I often encountered mid-morning doing absolutely nothing while surrounded by their 7 pupils, also seated and doing nothing.
- To the aides who unabashedly spent work hours in personal use of the class computer - surrounded, of course, by the unoccupied children.
- To the creative hydrotherapy staff whose stock of novel excuses for cancelling C.'s sessions on average once every two weeks was impressive. For instance, "C.'s therapist did not show up today." Or "There's no staff-member available to shower C. afterwards." Or "The chlorine level is unacceptable today." Or "Somebody just vomited in the pool." Or "Somebody just pooped in the pool."
- To the chief administrator of C.'s school who graciously opened the door of her office and emerged whenever visiting wealthy donors requested a guided tour.
- To C.'s teachers who succeeded in interacting with their students from a distance of at least a yard and without any physical contact whatsoever.
- To the entire staff for once again scrupulously disregarding my request that they speak to C. in English, the language spoken at home and the one she understands - despite the printed list of ten sentences C. most often hears which I prepare and distribute to them afresh at the start of each year.
- To teachers, aides and therapists alike for the self-congratulations expressed in every letter sent home and in every speech given at class events. Those reminders of what a wonderful job the staff does and how very much the children enjoy and benefit from their efforts were incessant. This satisfaction with mediocrity in the face of zero progress from the students is a rare achievement indeed.
But should we be silent because our children's problems would be deemed trivial in other countries? Whenever parents at C.'s school dare to gripe that's the response: "Other schools are far worse," we're reminded.
Granted, but does that mean we should back off? Is the status quo "as good as it can get"?
On the other hand, should we complain and risk repercussions - which our children can not report to us - from a disgruntled staff?
So we choose our battles carefully and wage them with kid gloves. So far this has spared us being blacklisted by the staff; or so it seems. But it hasn't really reaped any progress.
As C.'s sojourn in this school nears its end (three years to go), I think I'll soon remove the kid gloves.
[Note: The full caption for the image above reads: Professional nurse Laura Murphy (R) and volunteer Loretta Gaughan from Ireland feed children at an orphanage for mentally disabled children under the Vesnova institution, near the Belarussian village of Vesnova, June 6, 2013.]