Just a warning to any of my close friends who are reading this…I am going to express some “emotions” and “feelings” in this blog post which I know is uncharacteristic of me, but traveling with SkillCorps does some weird, amazing things to a person.
As the trip is coming to an end it is incredible to think that two weeks ago we met in New York, flew to India and were told to go make sustainable changes in a place that I had never been, and with limited time. This was one daunting task and honestly, one that I was nervous about completing.
Our first week at SOREM was spent observing the classrooms, collaborating with teachers, creating goals and holding discussions with the teachers. After many conversations of how to make sustainable changes and touch on as many goals that we and SOREM had, we decided to start the implementation of independent activity tasks along with First-Then boards and reinforcer menus, in an effort to reduce challenging behaviors occurring during down-time. After discussing this with the teachers, they all seemed to understand and were on board. Although it had just been three days, it already felt that we had done so much, because we had something tangible to work on the next week. After a productive first week, I was ready for our weekend excursion to Amritsar. By this point the five of us on this trip were inseparable and there was no topic too personal to discuss—and believe me, they were all discussed.
While vising the Golden Temple on our excursion I really got to thinking. This is amazing. I loved this feeling. It was addicting. It was a mixture of accomplishment, joy, amazement, curiosity and a dash of nervousness. (There’s the feelings part, y’all. I warned you.) It was this moment of viewing something spectacular that I never thought I would see combined with looking back on the past week, thinking about the next week, wondering why I was here in India and how it would effect my future that I suddenly felt comfortable with what was going on.
When we returned to SOREM on Monday we were in full “git’er done” mode. We immediately went into classrooms to start developing materials with the resources they had. Normally back at home I would Google some pictures, type some things up, print it and then laminate it all and Ta-Da! it would all be done and beautiful. This however was not an option here. Luckily for me, and my lack of artistic skills, I am not a perfectionist. So as we were helping make materials by cutting apart medicine boxes, paper bags, drawing with pens and using tape to make it all durable I was okay with the un-evenness of the pictures and tape sticking off the side of the boards. One of my wonderful teammates, however, did not like my artistic style and would snag my materials and cut the edges to make everything look great. I thought my way added character—but whatever.
By the end of our second day back at SOREM the teachers that we were working with were using their First-Then boards and reinforcer menus, which left us (and them) with huge smiles on our faces at the end of each day. Not only that, but two of the classrooms had independent activity stations set up and were implementing it with their students which made us want to dance (to 2000s Hip Hop, obviously).
So how has the experience helped to shape my future? Well for one, I have already signed up for my second SkillCorps trip to Indonesia in March! (You’re not done with me yet, Global Autism Project!) Second, it has made me realize the importance of having a team to be able to collaborate with, which will be critical during my new adventure of job searching. And third, the importance of getting out of your comfort zone so you can see how much you are truly capable of when you’re not limited to a little box that you are familiar with.