Gary's Third Pottery Blog
"Men are but gilded loam or painted clay" --Richard the Second, Shakespeare.
Gary's third pottery blog

WRITE TO ME! garyrith@yahoo.com Come see me! Open studio HERE October 11-12; Binghamton, NY Unitarian Church Nov. 1-2 All material on this blog unless stated otherwise is copyright Gary Edward Rith 2013-2014

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

sidestepping Sandy and Time Warp Tuesday!

I was not too concerned about this storm until a weather guy on the radio was talking about it....then I started collecting water and checking for batteries.  We happen to live on a river that does flood, very badly sometimes, but we are high.  We also happen to live close to the electric company.  I can't see them, but there are power lines all over the place around us.  As our well guy told us last year "you guys have power coming from 2 directions.  You're lucky, it means you won't easily lose your power" which would mean NO WATER etc.  And we don't seem to lose power .... unlike our last house, at the end of a country dirt road.  We lost power all the time!
Anyway, I have pots of water all over the place because life without water sucks.  But its pretty quiet outside.  maybe we are in the eye of the storm?
ANYWAY back to our regularly scheduled....

(You know that Jenn started this and there are many of us who participate including Brightside Susan and smalltown me  and jen rants and raves and Tonya Lynn    and Fond of Snape  . Basically, a fun way to dig up and share some old photos!!!!)

So like I said last week, my 22 year old self was a pre-school teacher with few chances of advancement...or decent pay.  I was in New York but heard that since Chicago famously had the "worst schools in America" (the Reagan administration actually said that) money was being thrown at Chicago and the University of Illinois was throwing money at future teachers.  IT WAS TRUE.  Not knowing anything about special education or Chicago, I applied to the masters program there, got in, got a full scholarship and a job with the university and moved there.  Financially a very good deal, educationally?  It was a terrible program and I didn't learn a thing!  (but I did mess around in the university ceramic studio, which had nothing to do with becoming a special education teacher, and that IS HOW I MET THE WIFE...funny, huh?)

Anyway, I got a very good teaching job at a very good private school for blind and multi-handicapped children called Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind.  They built a new school facility while I was there, state of the art.  It was filled with kindly and hard working people, almost everybody from a modest and poor background.  It was right next to University of Illinois, so I was obviously familiar with the area, but the school and everything about it changed my life because until then...I had always been surrounded by privilege.  Poor, blind, physically and mentally handicapped children and assistants from housing projects were all pretty new to me.  But I learned.

I can't say I did anything amazing or taught anybody anything.  To tell the truth, you were trying to teach kids whatever they needed, the most individualized instruction possible.  So, many were learning to feed themselves (remember:  blind and physically handicapped), dress themselves, go to the bathroom, clean up after themselves, etc.  One or 2 students I could try some reading skills with, and I did know braille at the time and how to teach it (don't remember it now!).  There were also students with hearing impairments and one student with autism.  He could not see and his functional IQ was in the mentally handicapped range and only spoke a couple of words but....he played piano brilliantly.  It was a reward for him:  do some school work then take a break to play piano.

The ceramics studio I mentioned the wife running at the university was just a block from the school and she let me bring kids over to make a mess which was a LOT of fun for blind kids.  We also went to a swimming program, and you see both those pictures below.  I was swimming with Eric there and that picture with his smile made it into a lot of newspapers and the annual report too....
(I taught there 1990-1993)




10 comments:

Barbara Rogers said...

That is so touching. I also worked right out of grad school with mentally handicapped folks, but my crew was adult. We never did clay, however. Good story!

Lori Buff said...

I'll bet you wonder how those kids are doing today.
I'm glad you're doing okay with the storm (as of the posting anyway).

Hilary said...

Very cool.I wonder if you ever hear about or from any of them.

Michèle Hastings said...

what a wonderful story, i bet you were great with those kids!

Gary's third pottery blog said...

No, I never hear anything. All of my students had mental handicaps and few could actually vocalize words. I suspect, sadly, that being small and living at home and going to school may have been an easier time of life for many of them because there are fewer resources available to take care of adults with extreme handicaps.

Janet said...

I love how you help people via your art...and how your art helped you right back (meeting your wife) :-)

smalltownme said...

Awwww.

Jen said...

That sounds like a very fulfilling job. Isn't it funny how one decision can alter the course of our lives? (you meeting your wife at that school)

JB said...

I was recently asked to do some pottery with clients at Vision Australia. I did some work for them years ago but having recently experienced lack of sight in one eye, I now realise I had no idea what low vision felt like and how difficult to follow my instructions must have been.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Gary, I hardly know how to describe how many kinds of awesome this post is... and how incredible it is that you had this opportunity and GAVE those opportunities. Sure, you were paid for it, but as you said, it was the first time you had been exposed to a different kind of life and it did effect you.

I'm working on a post about compassion and seeing things from a different point of view. (Actually wrote most of it in a comment already at Jenn's blog.) Look for it on Sunday, I think.

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I am a part-time pottery instructor at Cornell University Pot Shop and a full-time studio potter and sculptor, married to superhawt Missus Tastycake.