Saturday, December 06, 2008

Friday at School

Friday we had an assembly at school. It was a group of 15 dancers called "A Moving Experience" from the Arc of Monroe County. If you're not familiar with that organization it was formerly called Association of Retarded Citizens. This troop was made up of male and female dancers who varied in ages between early 20's through 50's. Several had Downs Syndrome and a few had suffered traumatic brain injuries. There were two dancers in wheelchairs and some were what you might relate to as "slow". I hate the word retarded, even as a kid I didn't use it in my vocabulary. It sounds so mean and disrespectful and I cringe when I hear others banter it around. I was happy when this organization changed their title.
The school invited them to visit so they could preform and so our students could learn a few things. First; everyone is different, we are not all the same. Second; you can do things if you try. Third and what I think is most important; empathy. (Click the link if you don't know exactly what that word means. We need more of it in this world.)
The dancers had three adults that took care of them, led them in the dances and helped with some of the movements for the wheelchair bound. Of course the dancing was simple movements so they could do it and they had scarves to add to drama of it. The performance was interactive in the sense that the choreographer, Susan Ware taught the students some of the same motions that they could do from their spot on the gym floor. She explained that the dancers liked to see the audience dance with them. I wish you could have seen the dancers. You could see that they were proud of themselves and the joy that they took in it. The music was perfect and kid friendly. For one dance the gentleman with the troop took the hand of a wheelchair dancer and did a routine complete with spins.
For the final dance Ms. Ware explained that the group came up with the words to a song they called Peace Table. They discussed and decided that to have peace in your life you need four things. Respect, Kindness, Love and Understanding. She taught the children the sign language for these words so they could participate. A card table was brought out with a cloth and dishes as well as chairs. The dance began, the music was beautiful, everyone did the signs as Susan spoke the words. After a minute or so I noticed that one of the ladies in a wheelchair was starting to slip down. (For all assemblies the students sit on the gym floor and one thing about kindergarten is we always get the front row.) Now this woman is almost out of the chair and on the floor and nobody on the dance floor seems to notice. I'm thinking what do I do? I'm the closest adult to her! Well finally they noticed and turns out it was part of the dance. She crawled over to the table and pulled herself up into a chair. It took her what seemed like forever to do this but in fact was less than a minute. The dancers continued to dance until she was seated at the Peace table. Then they all came to her and put their arms around each other. That was the end.
Now if you know me, I am an emotional person and it turns out I'm not the only one. Every teacher around me also had tears flowing. With over 400 students, grades K - 5 in the gym you could hear the proverbial pin drop. They all realized that they had just seen something very special. It made everyone stop and think how lucky they are in their lives to be healthy. Now I know how lucky I am, I see what's out there. I have worked with autistic children, emotionally disturbed children, Downs children and kids with learning and physical disabilities. I have 2 very smart and healthy boys and am the luckiest mother in the world.
This was truly a moving experience.