10. What do you want to be when you grow up? by Carole Chamberlain

5 years ago I was made redundant.

We all aspire to that position, dream of that moment when we no longer have to be part of the ‘rat race’, as it is so charmingly termed. I was no exception – and now, I have to say that I can thoroughly recommend it!

My redundancy money helped us to cushion that money gap between receiving a salary and being eligible for my pension.

But….I had left an interesting, well paid, responsible job, with lots of variety and plenty of interaction with other people. It is quite difficult to accept that, suddenly, the world is going to go on revolving without you…..that actually, you are not indispensable!

What was I going to do with all this free time?

I had my ’lie-ins’ – I decorated – I met up with friends (also now redundant!) for coffee – we got a puppy that I was happy to walk and train, but where was my interaction with other people? I may be redundant to my previous employers but I still had plenty to offer!

3 minutes’ walk up the road is a school. I had always wished that I had followed up my desire to teach, so I decided to offer my services as a volunteer – in whatever capacity they required.

I have to admit that I was very nervous. Here I was, a pensioner (I know….how can that be???), a Mother of 3 and Grandmother (at that time ) of 5 who has had a lot of experience with children and their ‘little ways’ and I was worried about walking into a school full of children – I had just cause! Like all children the world over they sensed my nerves and took full advantage of me….and I loved every minute of it!

I had spent a lot of time helping out at school when my Sons were younger and still in First and Middle schools – by the time they get to High School, you’ve missed your chance! I found that nothing has really changed over the intervening years –indeed, why should it? The children all still need a hand to undo buttons, put their shoes on the correct feet, dry properly after swimming, hold a pencil correctly or put that piece of jigsaw in the correct place. They all still want to only eat their favourite bits of lunch or snack and somehow manage to hide or drop the rest on the floor! They still want to run around at top speed during playtime and, if possible manage to lose hats, scarves, gloves, coats (and shoes in some cases) during the process.

Totally unrelated picture of Eilidh!

Totally unrelated picture of Eilidh!

Nothing has really changed over the past 2 decades since my Sons were at school. I used to worry about what they would do for work when they grew up! What exams results did they need? Were they working hard enough to get them? Would they perhaps go to university? If so, how could they cope without me there to encourage (nag), shop & cook (nag), clear up after them (constant nagging)….well, I can’t have done too bad a job, they are all well balanced, reasonably mature men and they now have wives to do all that nagging for me!

But then I started to worry about the children at my school, especially as I got to know, care for and understand them better. What would they do when they grow up?

You see, my school is a school that takes in children from the ages 3 -16, who have special needs, special needs that can’t be met in mainstream schools. Some of them have DS, some have ADHD, some have Cerebral Palsy, some have Muscular Dystrophy, some are visually or hearing impaired (or both) and many have a combination of these disabilities. Many of the children are wheelchair users but that doesn’t stop them hurtling around the playground at speed!

My nerves, when going to the school for the first time were all about me! How would I feel when I first saw these children? Would I feel sorry for them? Pity? How do I talk to them? How do I help them if I see them struggling to do something, something that was a piece of cake to my Sons – like picking up a lego brick off the floor?

As I said earlier, I needn’t have worried! These very special children soon taught me not to pity them or worry about how to talk to them – they are just children struggling to do the same things that my children struggled to do. They are trying to grow up to be the best they can be. Yes, they have great obstacles to overcome and their learning needs are very different but the school and its’ dedicated team of teachers, support workers, dinner ladies and volunteers are there to remove any obstacles and enable access to learning.

It is a tough but wonderful place to work and I just wish I had been made redundant many years ago. You see, I now know what I want to do when I grow up.

Carole is a Learning Support Worker, Mother and Grandmother.  It would not be dishonest to say Stevo’s mom has got it going on.

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