Last night I had the privilege of attending a charity poker tournament to raise money for Conductive Education, more specifically, ConductAbility Inc., which is a program I have been working alongside in my classroom this year. I thought it would be a fun chance to meet people and share some stories, as well as a good opportunity to really “grasp the rules” of Texas Hold ‘Em.
So there I was at 8 p.m., sitting at a small table with very, very large men who could shuffle their chips in one hand without looking while I just stared at mine and felt the dreadful realization of what I was in for slowly wash over me. I knew I was in trouble when the first question out of the guy across from me was, “So what number tournament is this for you?” Um… does “number one” sound intimidating enough? I thought he must be kidding.
“Conductawha . .?” was the response I got from quite a few at my table (before the clock started and the sunglasses went on, of course). I didn’t really get to explain to them just how important the money being raised was. Recent news broadcasts in Pittsburgh and few other U.S. cities had acknowledged national Conductive Education Day, so I thought it might be nice to talk a little bit about what that really means.
Conductive Education “…is a way of life that teaches people with neuromotor impairments, such as Cerebral Palsy, how to become active participants in society.” The only reason I quoted that was because I honestly can’t put it any better. Conductive Education teaches the students to participate in their environment and build upon the strengths that they have. It is a form of education that pairs academics with physical awareness and I witness its tremendous value on a daily basis.
Our room probably looks like a typical OH classroom, except my students don’t stay in their wheelchairs. We have a “parking lot” where they park their chairs in the morning; they then walk with assistance to their seats, which are either wide stools or sled chairs. When they sit, they hold onto bars in front of them so they can stabilize themselves and focus on their computer/AAC screens.
When people visit our room, they are amazed at what our students can do. I think of it as building upon the old saying about accomplishing what we put our minds to. I have watched my students’ motivation and control translate directly into their ability and enthusiasm to connect to and use what we learn every day in class.
Before I assumed my current job position, I was unaware of Conductive Education. Seeing its benefits encourages me as a young educator to spread the word that this program is out there. While it may not be for everyone, I think it is important that families and individuals with neuromotor impairments know that it is an option to consider.
I’d like to mention that I wasn’t the first one out at the tournament. I did make it to the end of the first round, but it all happened so fast I couldn’t tell you how I did it. While I can’t express how AMAZINGLY AWESOME it would have been to kick all those guys’ butts as a rookie, I’m not bummed out. Switching to this new job so suddenly and so late in the summer was probably the biggest gamble I’ve ever taken — and it turned out to be the best bet I ever made.