For 18 years I was a New York City high school and middle school public school teacher. Most of the time I taught various social studies classes, but I also taught photography in two high schools, music and even several weeks of English. I would say that I have learned quite a bit about adolescents and their behavior. I have prepared many lessons on various history and civics topics. So many times I have taken attendance, marked exams and graded lots and lots of homework.

But I just started a different kind of teaching position a few days ago. I am now working part-time for a Jewish educational-social service agency, teaching and supervising developmentally disabled adults. And this is a very different "gig". I am helping adults with life skills and socialization, art projects and simple tasks. Some of the people served here can have a detailed conversation with you; others can barely say a word.

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I had certain expectations about the work, and some have been met. But one thing I did not realize is that some of the adults have very keen senses of humor. This was a bit of a surprise, and I might add, a pleasant surprise.


A few of the individuals are apt mimics, imitating teachers' turns of phrase and mannerisms. A few employ well-timed wisecracks; for instance, one woman with Down Syndrome enjoys working in elementary school math textbooks, and when I forgot to give her a dollop of hand sanitizer she said "What am I, chopped liver?" Another youngish woman gushed over a male worker who stopped by earlier in the day and confessed to me "I'm blushing. Tell me, am I blushing?" When I told her she was a "laugh riot," she giggled loudly.

Some of the people I work with here can come up with mildly sarcastic commentary about the activities we do, as well as their fellow classmates. Honestly, I did not anticipate this, and it does remind me of my experiences in the classroom with teens. I am glad to see this kind of banter. Sadly, some of the other students here have such limited verbal skills, and/or are exceptionally shy or introverted that they have great difficulty interacting with others.

We Jews certainly believe that everyone in our community should have the opportunity to learn, and I have this new chance to be involved in this.

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