Or, How the REAL Heroes are our Teachers
Please allow me to begin this missive with a brief sidebar. I chose to adopt a rather silly, ironic affected voice for the titles of these blog entries and even some of the language within these entries. It was just a way to help myself past the writers’ block when I first sat down to write this blog, and it amused me when I first started out and so I’ve kept it for my sporadic entries therein.
However, to be clear, I do this ironically. I do not think of myself as a heroine, and I hope—through the course of this entry that fact becomes abundantly clear. I’m a woman, bumbling through life, and occasionally choosing to write about my adventures and misadventures that stem from said bumbling—as well as spouting my opinion on a few aspects of politics, pop culture, and anything else that strikes my fancy.
Okay? Good. And now . . .
…on with the rest of the story…
Puppies as I’ve noted [a few times] before are a big part of my life. I have a wonderful dog of my own (Dora) with whom I volunteer at Wags for Hope and my roommate has a dog (who does not have a facebook page—yet). Additionally, my roommate and I also serve as a foster for Jasmine’s House. The work with Jasmine’s House and our therapy dog activities intersected when Dora and I were invited to help out with Project Mickey, a program to help kids learn about dogs and learn about themselves in the process.
Of course we agreed to do so! How could we not. Dora loves going out and meeting new people and I fully support the goals of the program.
Our first day was yesterday. It was a bit different than our normal library work—the emphasis was on training and positive reinforcement, and Dora was happy to enthusiastically demonstrate everything and anything she’d do to get a little liver treat.
Where things got even more different than our normal volunteering, though, was that about 45 minutes into it, a voice came over the loudspeaker asking whether everything was okay, and then very directly and calmly stating that the school psychologist (who was facilitating the program) was to close the door and lock it (with everyone inside) until further notice.
There are a number of different clichés about being calm under pressure, and I’d like to believe I was—because it was immediately apparent based on the school psychologist’s response and a few things she said under her breath that this was NOT a normal situation. However, the mood among the kids in the classroom never changed, and her primary concern was ensuring that the kids continued to have a good time and didn’t have cause to worry.
Which is, why even though I was painfully aware that things were very much not right, that became my primary concern, too—how can I ensure the kids aren’t upset, and how can I be sure that my presence there is not disruptive to the school’s efforts to keep the kids safe?
Things got a bit more interesting when a few minutes later someone came to the door and informed us that we were all to move to the library (along with the other school personnel and students that were on site. Someone was wandering the neighborhood with a weapon, and there was a concern that he may have gotten onto the school grounds [this last bit was communicated to adults, not to the students].
Okay, then! I told myself, this is unexpected…
I don’t know how much danger we were really in—they could’ve been acting out of an abundance of caution, but it was enough to move us to a central location, and again my goal became to listen to instructions, try to find a way to NOT get in the kids’ way and keep them from listening to instructions (even something as simple as saying that Dora and I were waiting for them to get in line because she hasn’t walked in a line before and wanted to see how it was done), and let the people in charge do what they had to do without adding to the things they had to worry about.
And after a number of minutes (I don’t trust my memory to indicate how long it was—it feels both longer and shorter than what was likely reality), we got the all-clear and were allowed to go back to the classroom to finish the discussion of training and dogs. And I watched the school psychologist—a Baltimore City Public Schools employee—who masterfully worked the dogs into other lessons (math—turning Dora’s 13 human years into 91 dog years; respecting boundaries [both human and animal]; and self control) outside of regular school hours.
I looked at the school psychologist who was probably about the same age as me, and was filled with such respect and admiration for what she does—on a daily basis—not just teaching kids but preparing them for life in an environment that is literally hostile. It’s one thing, entirely for me to take an afternoon to show off my dog. It’s quite another to develop a lesson plan to incorporate what my dog and I do in order to give these kids a leg up—and to do so beyond the regular school work. It was humbling to be there.
So, yeah, it was unnerving. And, yeah, I was glad to go home that night. But I’m going back in December—because two things became very apparent that afternoon. 1) If people like the school psychologist can do what they do on a daily basis, I can certainly spare a few afternoons 2) The work is needed. I’d been planning to go straight home after the session at the school, but as I was trying to find may way out of the city I got a phone call, a young dog was slated for euthanasia at the Baltimore City Shelter. Jasmine’s House had a foster, but they needed transport, since I was already in Baltimore, could I pick him up. Harley in the photograph—painfully emaciated, suffering from a horrible cut on his chest, and one of four dogs tied up in the rain at an abandoned house. There he was, tangible evidence of what we’re working to prevent, and if participating in Project Mickey helps keep that from happening to just one pit bull then it would’ve been worth it.
P.S. he’s the sweetest little thing—simultaneously scared to death and desperate for love—he cowers and wags his tail at the same time and after a just few hours with us (he stayed overnight and is going to his permanent foster today), his confidence grew to the point that he had no problem soliciting affection by head butting my legs and even jumping up (and I had no problem giving it to this poor boy who was literally starved for both food and love.) Once he’s healthy, he’ll be up for adoption, so think about it.