Whether it is a first-grade teacher or an Ivy League professor, the beginning of the school year or semester is spent introducing students to rules and expectations. When I was growing up, rules were written in chalk on a blackboard. Now in some schools, rules are displayed on interactive whiteboards and typed out using a computer keyboard. The tools have changed, but the rules haven’t changed that much. Such as there’s still the rule that one can’t talk when the teacher is talking and that rule is still a popular one that students break.
I am a retired government employee and my post-retirement job is being a substitute teacher’s aide. I started my fourth school year in a gym class for two days. I heard the P.E. coach’s list of rules 14 times in those two days. It reminded me of playing my favorite song over and over again on my record player back when I was growing up.
The coach didn’t just read the rules out loud; she deciphered them. That was particularly helpful for those who take verbal instructions literally — word for word — a common trait for those of us on the Autism Spectrum. If she hadn’t explained them, some students might be trying to live up to something that wasn’t realistic and/or totally confused when the class was playing tag.
For instance, one of the top five was to do your BEST at ALL times. The teacher admitted that the literal meaning wasn’t realistic. She explained she wanted the kids to do their best with what they had that day. If they were in a fantastic mood with energy to match, they should be at the top of their game. If they were not up to speed, she asked they just do the best they could with whatever energy they had to give. I was glad she explained that because I wasn’t as much an eager beaver on my second day as the first day of being her sidekick.
Another one of the top five school district-wide rules was “Keep hands and objects to yourself at all times.” If taken literally, one would think it was NEVER appropriate to touch someone. That’s a good rule when students are standing in line or sitting side-by-side on the gym floor, but not when playing a game like tag where tagging is, more or less, touching someone. The coach gave examples as to when the rule applies and when it doesn’t. It’s a good rule, but the “at all times” phrase just needed deciphering.
The coach had her own dozen or so rules in a computer document that she read out loud. One of them was one that took me by surprise. I never heard of a coach having the rule of “no jackets in the gym!” The students could wear jackets to school but were not to enter the gym wearing one. Her reasoning behind this rule was that kids might get sick from getting too hot wearing a jacket while doing their exercises and playing games.
This rule gave me an uncomfortable feeling since I was in violation of it. She didn’t ask me to take it off and I didn’t volunteer to do so. I was not working in a hot-boiling gym or even a warm toasty one. It was so cold in the gym that I felt my knees shivering. I mean that LITERALLY! I assume I was given a pass since I was a substitute or maybe the 20-something old coach wouldn’t ask a thin gray-haired lady to take off her jacket.