Introducing Students To Disability- Year 2

Last year I wrote about how I explained to my classes why their teacher who was previously using a stick, then crutches, was now using a wheelchair. Or for those new students, why the person in the wheelchair was in fact actually their teacher.

https://thehippygeek.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/the-easy-way-to-introduce-260-students-to-a-big-change/

I’m starting to look at how I should update that message to reflect where I am now & what I learnt from last year (yes I know it’s the start of August, but yes I’m also already planning for September).

The past year has taught me a few important things.

  • Discipline is harder from this vantage point – set boundaries and [insert deity here] help them if they cross it. 
  • Kids are often curious. Often a question about me is really about a family (or even them) that they’re worried about.
  • Kids adapt – after a few weeks, you’re just “Miss”

We use Google Classroom & as such I will post this to each class which allows them to read it in their own time & stops it eating into lesson time.

Dear students,

You’ve probably noticed that Mrs Geek has evolved wheels & you might have a few questions. Our lesson isn’t the time for this, but you can always ask me questions during break / lunch! Until then, here’s the biggies:

Why are you in a wheelchair?
I have a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome & POTS. EDS makes my joints & organs more stretchy than they should be, so I get hurt quite a lot and those injuries don’t heal very well. POTS means that when I stand up, or get too hot, my heart beats too fast & makes me dizzy. I’m using the wheelchair to stop me from hurting my joints, or dizzy, & getting too tired to mark your homework! People use wheelchairs for lots of different reasons. I love teaching you & this will help me to stay teaching you for longer:)

Can you walk?
Yes, a little bit. Don’t be surprised if you still see me stretching out my legs in the chair, or stand up. You’d be achey too if you sat down all day! Lots of people who use wheelchairs can still stand, but it’s safer for them to use the chair.

Why do you sometimes have other bandages?
You might see me wearing various different neoprean supports. I can damage my joints very easily & these help. Lots of you have noticed my knee brace (yes, you may call them Robolegs. I do!). Sometimes you might hear my joints cracking or pop – don’t worry!

What do I do if I need your help?
In some rooms it’s hard for me to get to you, but you can come to me & I’ll take control of your screen. We’ll keep using Google Classroom & that should help us lots! If you are at all worried that you’re not getting enough of my attention,  please come and talk to me.

Is it OK to ask you questions about your disability?
I don’t mind you asking outside of lessons. I can’t promise I can answer them all, but being with someone disabled isn’t something to be scared of. Even adults aren’t always sure what is ok to ask. I promise not to be offended as long as you are polite.

How fast does your chair go?
The powerchair you see at school goes 4mph which is a quick walking speed. I’m much faster in my racing wheelchair. Keep an eye out for me at sports day!

Can I have a go in your chair?
No. I rather need it:)

Can I help in the classroom?
Sometimes I may ask you to carry books / chrome books for me & holding the door open is always appreciated. Please keep your bag & coat under the desk & your chair tucked in to allow me to get around the room. Other than that, our classroom is business as usual.

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The Binary Scarf – let’s play a game…

Never let it be said that my lessons are boring. In an attempt to keep busy and retain my sanity while the bugs are away at camp, I am going to prepare all my lessons for the coming term (and a but further). The prep that I need to be doing is for the Computing courses for GCSE and A Level (that’s High School & college diploma equivalent if you’re from the US).

I’ll accept that computer science has nerdy overtones to it, so I’m working with it and setting them a term long mystery challenge which will roughly cover every topic in the first half of the course. In a similar way to the random puzzle that GCHQ stuck on Facebook a while back to enhance their recruitment process, I’m trying to give the students some augmented reality games to improve their independent learning ability. Just without them knowing.

The first clue in the puzzle is to learn to decode binary into denary, then translate this into its ASCII equivalent. Simple enough. Only, the first clue is currently being knitted into my school scarf.

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I’m using an excellent online pattern from Knitty for a binary scarf, which I have adjusted so that it holds my message. The trick here is for them to realise that the message is here. They’ll be told to look out for a secret message somewhere at school…

This will lead them onto another clue which will require them to create some programming. The result of this will lead them to a specially built web page which takes them further through the mystery. But I’m not going to give the game away just yet. As they solve it, I’ll write up the game and the clues I’ve left for them.

What’s the point? Well, if they’re up for a challenge, that singles them out as potentially good coders (you need to like beating a problem into submission), and it sets a bit of competition through the ranks. Especially if the kids aged 14-16 are up against the ones aged 16-18.

I’m enjoying the scarf creation too. It’s blindingly simple but relies on me changing the colour pattern constantly so I’m not bored. I’ve already added tassels to the first end which makes it look much more like a scarf, and because it’s knitted in the round, the double layer means it’s going to be really toasty!

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There’s a lot to knit here, so I think I should be able to keep myself amused for a good week!