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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

OTA as Non-Classroom Educator? I think so!

Integrating Teaching and Learning with Non-Classroom Educators

Focusing my New Career as an OTA as a Part of the Larger Picture

I read an article today that touched the teacher in me.


Non-Classroom Educators Help Students Cope Inside and Outside the Classroom By John Rosales

*Direct quotes are indented.

“A student’s psychological functioning has a significant impact on academic success,” says Dr. Mark Sigler, a school psychologist with Lewis County Schools in Hohenwald, Tennessee. “I have worked with students who were so focused on controlling their emotional upset, that most of their cognitive abilities were used to maintain their composure. This results in a constriction of cognitive functioning which interferes with attention, memory, and reasoning abilities.”

“Absenteeism, retention and dropout rates would increase without the services of psychologists and other non-classroom educators,’ says Sigler. ‘Without intervention, for example, students suffering from depression might be seen by parents and peers as being lazy.”

              I love to write and work with children, and I know firsthand (no pun intended) the importance of non-classroom and classroom support in the lives of students. My left arm was amputated below the elbow at the age of seven. If it weren’t for all the people working together to make my life better, I hate to think what would have become of me. 

              Again, everyone involved makes a world of difference--educators of all sorts.As an aspiring health professional, I know I will be able to aid in some child’s life in need of my services and/or to coordinate in a school team where a child is reintegrating himself into the daily routines as a confident, independent learner. My dream work setting is to inspire and motivate youth facing adversity of sorts as they regain independence.

                A part of my job as an OTA will be inadvertently addressing psychological needs as a result of an incapacitating condition of sorts.  People need OT to reintegrate back into the routines they are used to in daily life.  As time elapses in an overall therapy plan, generally patients are able to gradually become independent.  That is the goal.  Without independence, patients may feel as if they are worth less than they previously deemed which affects every aspect of their lives.  It all starts with a positive attitude and some headstrong motivation to move forward in the recovery process. 

My Younger Mind's Eye

                I can remember feeling a bit confused at first when I was in recovery at the hospital as to what was next.  At the age of seven and under the constant care of medical professionals and family, academia and independence were the last things on my mind.  If I would have been treated as a stunted potato left to rot rather than be expected to pick up and go again, I would have become a spoiled brat with no sense of independence nor the desire to be so!   I received a gift package delivered from the principal himself along with a humongous neon pink card signed by my entire class.  I felt very special.  Then I opened the package.  It was a box full to the brim of school work I had missed!  My initial reaction was a blend of shock and disappointment followed by a melting sensation in my heart that I mattered.

My strong parents, family, school principal, counselors, teachers, and even my classmates gave me the push I needed to feel accepted.  I left that hospital with the sensible, unaltered mindset that I am going to continue to develop and be just like a normal kid. 

Recognizing the Medical Professionals

Psychologically, my social and emotional development was on track (I didn't say perfect.  Remember, part of development is making mistakes.)  It wasn’t until I started receiving OT that I really had the complete idea that I could do all the things I could before—just in a different way.  I accepted my new physique as a challenge, and I never let it stop me from trying something new unless my doubts stemmed from a totally different angle—such as my fear of flying baseballs or my whininess when it comes to sprinting.  I was like every other kid with their negative thinking habits!  One thing was sure, though—you’d never hear me complain about me not being able to do something because of my one arm (and a half).  And so, I thank all the medical professionals for being devoted to a profession of acute sciences that help people continue to live and live well. 

Blossoming Passions

I got involved in a Med Camp called Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, AR as both camper and volunteer counselor for years. It is here that I met other children and teenagers facing similar and varying disabilities due to birth defect, trauma, or condition. I admired them. It was good for me to be involved and to be able to connect with new people of all ages, abilities, and positions. I was in awe, still am in fact, of all the passion and devotion that exudes from the camp as a whole. It became a part of me and my life that I looked forward to each year. 
I loved every experience—from being a shy, unsure “one-armed” girl (as I saw myself) to a helpful, inspiring counselor. Something so impressionable never quite leaves the memory. I long for that again as I aspire to become an involved, motivating OTA.

Happiness, My Vice

It became somewhat of an addiction to be all smiles and happy, and I think I was this way because of how many people were completely opposite.  I wanted to make people laugh, ease up on their worries, and simply spread my optimism as I went.  To this day, I feel completely adequate in most ways.  I have times when I see myself on video and wonder how I am so confident in my abilities.  That doubt melts away quickly, as it is unnatural and emotionally draining, toxic, for me to be negative.  I’ve had to be strong in many trying situations. 
One such instance was in the seventh grade when I was one of two girls who did not make the basketball team.  I had to make a split decision: I could either melt down and hate myself or I could just shrug it off and do something else—with a smile on my face!  I stayed in track all through HS instead, and although I was not very fast, I stayed in it for the health benefit and as a natural outlet for my bursting energy.  I was not about to allow any one event or failure keep me down.  I was a busy bee, so I was always looking for something else to do anyway. 

I guess you can say I learned four things: 
1) I am not entitled to any special treatment,
2) When in doubt, busy myself by bettering myself,
3) Happiness is easier than forced negativity, even if I have to fake it at first, and
4) Avoiding competition allows me avoid any of this. 
Maybe this is not expert advice, but it is what has gotten me through life so far.   Okay, so maybe I have some minor issues stemming.  If I wasn't so fearful of rejection, I think I could handle competition and the potential for failure more frequently.  I guess I'm afraid someone is going to try to burst my bubble I'm in surrounded by the notion I am adequate.

Failure, a Saving Grace

                I told my story to help one understand where I’ve been in my mind as far as a developing person having endured a life-changing orthopedic impairment.  What I really mean to get across through all of this is that everyone involved matters in the life of a child in need of services to foster healthy development in all aspects of life—from psycho-social to physical to academics and beyond.   Without the motivation to get on the right track, where would our children be in times of need?  

               I'm starting to come to terms with my new reality of never being a regular classroom teacher.  This "failure" of mine may be what I needed all along to get back on my track.  I mean, come on, I have had writer's block for ten years.  Suddenly I'm bursting to life, fueled by my new career choice.  I think my life skills and experiences will get me where I need to be--writing, helping others of all ages, working with children--watching the script of life unroll around me. 

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