It’s been a while since my last update…! It is an understatement to tell you that this term has been a challenging one for schools, students, their parents and staff. As you will have already gathered, students and at times whole year groups have been instructed to self-isolate at home, with some students missing more months of their education and losing the structure that being in school provides. I now relate better to how it might have felt/feel for my students to be trapped within the same four walls, or to carry a confusing label with a stigma attached, or to be out of sync socially with their friends and family, especially at an important time of the year. Dyspraxia and other hidden learning differences can certainly exacerbate the anxieties associated with COVID-19, as there is a tendency to overthink situations, process them differently to others, and feel the emotions of overwhelm more intensely than neurotypicals might do.
As ever, poetry and the arts provide a helpful way for many of us dyspraxics to process this overwhelm, ground ourselves, and make sense of challenges, hopes, fears, triumphs, and our favourite word of the year, “unprecedented situations”! I know this is the case for my students, too, whose poems and courage to share them continue to energise me and strengthen my sense of purpose as a new teacher. The following poem might not be the most uplifting one I have written in 2020(!), however I am sharing it in the hope that it might be relatable for some of you, whether you are dyspraxic or not:
It is but it isn’t. If it isn’t the label of disordered fine motor control, then it’s the loss of control in a train engine planned to stop at the station three days ago, back before Saturn collided with Jupiter and gave me a new label. If it isn’t a hot turkey dinner made for six, then it’s an empty plate and one absent voice with only several paranoid ones lingering in the background of a laggy Zoom call. If it isn’t Tiers like on last summer’s fancy wedding cake, then it’s only a second-rate ready meal eaten alone and its shredded paper wrappings tossed to the bin, right where Christmas is now, rotting away in the company of crushed-up carrots that Rudolf missed, and chicken past its sell-by date. (Let’s not forget my own saliva stuck to tears that fester in a camouflage trap that convinces even wild animals of its safety.) If it isn’t squeaky-clean laminate flooring and polished windows, then it’s the insanity of the ones who sanitised obsessively, who were negative about being on the positive list, all in a split second. You didn't break me like you broke all the others, shattering their windows, and like you broke Christmas. You spared me like you spared the turkey I won’t be eating, and if it isn't Christmas, then it's a miracle that I am sparing others.
I wish you all a safe holiday period, whether you celebrate Christmas or otherwise. If you are spending the holiday alone this year, then I hope that you can find little joys and lightness among the darkness. All dyspraxics carry inner strength necessary to overcome struggle, even if it doesn’t seem like it – I hope you can recognise yours and learn something from it.
I will write again in a few days with a more detailed review of my first term as a dyspraxic teacher, including some reflections and advice for managing distance teaching and Google Classroom as a dyspraxic teacher, and managing distance learning as a dyspraxic student (along with some hopefully amusing anecdotes as always!).
Until then, do take care everybody,