Student versus Teacher / My Favorite Role

I have spent the past 28 years working and “teaching” people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. I currently teach adults that live in the community to manage their own finances and avoid exploitation. However, over the years I have taught everything from brushing teeth to operating difficult machinery. I like to think I have touched many lives and instilled a bit of independence in each person throughout the years. Often times when I am teaching “non-disabled” people about people with Intellectual disabilities I stress the fact that they are able to learn…the difference is it will likely happen a bit slower. For this reason it may take years to see significant progress. But progress will be made. I have always enjoyed looking back on where a person started and acknowledging how far they have travelled.
I think it is hard to know if we made a difference in another person’s life. The first group of guys I started working with in 1986 have all died now and sadly I had not seen many of them since I moved out of state 15 years ago. Did they ever think about the things we did together? Did they remember the hours upon hours we trained together so they could ride the city bus independently? I don’t know and sadly I will never know.
However, I do know one of the reasons I have stuck around for all these years is because they taught me. The people in my care taught me that unconditional love is possible. Those that enjoyed arguing with me, taught me to choose my battles. The people that moved at a pace slower than mine, taught me to put my hands behind my back and wait for them to complete a task in their time. The people that asked me every few minutes what we would have for dinner, taught me patience.  They all gained my respect and they all taught me what it meant to deserve respect.
My entire professional life I have been in the role of teacher, mentor, and coach. But the role I have cherished the most has been that of student!


This post was inspired by The Daily Post – Weekly Writing Challenge/ Student, Teacher


13 thoughts on “Student versus Teacher / My Favorite Role

  1. beckyg1003

    That is beautiful and very inspiring.I do similar work and teaching and training adults who have developmental disabilities to live as independently as they can. You might think that they don’t remember all the staff that have worked with them over the years and they don’t remember everyone.Sometimes the staff turn over rate is so high that they can’t possibly keep up. But they sometimes do remember the staff that are around the longest and who make the most difference in their lives. I think they remember the professional staff who cared the most.

  2. Joan T Warren

    I really enjoyed your post. I have, in the past, worked as an OT teaching older people with developmental deficits for basic life tasks and presently work with the 0-3 age group. No matter the age, our “students” have much to teach us. Thank you for the reminder.

      1. Joan T Warren

        My pleasure. You’re always welcome to check in on me later; I’m working on a response to this week’s prompt, probably won’t be up before tomorrow!

  3. Snoring Dog Studio

    You learned valuable lessons that most people never have the chance to. You can also look back at a life well-lived.

  4. Jackie Mosely

    And one hell of a teacher you are. Dont think schools would have the peoblems they do today if they could clone you. Thanks
    for being there for all your kids.


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