Published: May 12th 2012May 12th 2012
Friday marked the beginning of the end of my journey as I completed my final shift at the Special Educational Needs school that I have been working in for over two months now. It was an emotional finish to what had been a very emotional week all in all, a real rollercoaster ride.
Part of the work that I have observed here, and been part of, is with very troubled youngsters who have need of real understanding and for many, medical care as well. The school has many specialist staff members who put their efforts into making each day as positive and productive as possible; these include psychologists, physiotherapists, musical therapists as well as a staff of teachers that really care and love the children and adults that they look after. This week I witnessed more of the pyschological needs than the physical, these can be the hardest to understand and the most complex of all. If someone has physical disabilities, this can be seen easily by all around and adjustments can be made. However, as we know from our own community and society understanding the non-physical needs can be much more difficult. This is especially true for children who are coping with their own difficulties. It can be a real struggle for them to understand why their school friend has become suddenly angry and taken it out on them. Some of them instinctively respond with anger and others become frightened and worried, often from experience, about what will happen next. Each of these types of children needs special love and care, we know that. However seeing it up close is a very heart wrenching reminder. Luckily for these children they are in the care of people who genuinely love them and they can be reassured and forgiven as appropriate and this is beautiful to watch. I hope that even a fraction of this care and patience has rubbed off on me.
The highlight of the week was a celebration that was held in school. Tomorrow is Mother´s Day in Brazil and so for weeks now we have been working on cards and presents for the pupils to give to their mothers. They have made flowers, dangled their feet in paint and printed their footprints on cardboard hearts and covered everything in glitter, I am not sure whether I or they enjoyed it most! Aswell as the craft based tasks they have practised songs and dance actions ready for presentation day. All of the mothers were invited into school for the morning, given coffee and biscuits and then they sat and waited to see their children perform. They turned out in huge numbers and the courtyard quickly filled with smiling women keen to see their offspring showcase everything that they had practised.
Within minutes of the first group beginning I was already an emotional wreck! I was crying the sort of tears that come when you witness something so wonderful you need to express it somehow. Now normally it is just me that is moved to tears in a crowd but I am in Brazil and here things are very different to England. The people here are so expressive, whatever they feel they act on, there is no hiding it to be appropriate, there is no ´let´s just remember where we are´, no fear that people will see them, they just go for it. The music started and mothers were on their feet blowing kisses and calling out I love you to their children, the pride that poured out of every pore of them was obvious for the world to see and the love that they exuded was utterly overwhelming. Tears of joy fell from parents and students alike and the playground was full of more happiness and pure love than I have seen in a long, long time. How was my rational ´let´s not cry´part of the brain supposed to cope with that?! Quite simply it didn´t! And after a few hugs I went home at the end of that shift exhausted!
Yes, you read correctly. I was hugged. Me, the person whose catchphrase has long been ´don´t touch me´. This is another thing that I have had to adjust to, and quite a bit of reprogramming went into that! In Brazil they touch all the time and I mean all the time. They sit on the sofa that little bit too closely without feeling uncomfortable, on the contrary they feel very comfortable. They hug you when you greet them, when you leave them and at any point in the conversation when they want to. A huge culture shock for me, but honestly, being so far away from home it has been really nice to have that warmth. Who knows whether I will revert to type on landing in England, maybe, I guess we will have to wait and see!
Less than three weeks to go now and saying goodbye to this school has really made the countdown clock kick in. The school has taught me so much and part of me is keen to get back to the UK and to put my new ideas into action however there is a big part of me that wishes there were more time left to enjoy this fascinating country. Let´s see what I can do with 3 weeks...
Take care and I will speak to you soon,