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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)

TITLE: Jelly Time
By Coleene VanTilburg


Summer school for our special education class was quiet different then our normal routine for the school year. There are more outdoor activities planned, more crafts, and a more "active" agenda. However, why did the kids seem to be more hyper than normal, more antsy then usual?

Today was our field trip to the aquarium. It would probably take an hour or so on the bus to get down to Long Beach. The kids arrived with their sack lunches and school t-shirts; yellow and black so they resembled buzzing bees. There were twelve students, three teachers and one parent accompanying the students. The day before the kids had watched "Finding Nemo" and created an art project with watercolor paints. Today they were going to witness the real thing.

One particular autistic student was quiet a handful, even during "quiet" times. His echoing was usually very loud and when 10:00 a.m. occurred everyday, he would announce, "Price is Right is on, Price is Right is on!" He never missed this declaration and everyday one teacher would reassure him Mom would Tivo the show. Another student, Ryan, would easily take off in a second and run like the wind. He loved to run and if he could hold your hand, you would be running too! Then there was Jackie who was non-communicative except for an occasional guttural squeak when attention of some sort was needed. She has a "picture book" we use with yellow-faces and symbols attached with Velcro that she could change out. They display her feelings, frustrations or desires.

It was a beautiful afternoon in Long Beach with the sun glistening off the harbor and the Queen Mary sitting stately in her berth. Since it was a weekday, there were many groups of school kids arriving to learn about our underwater world.

Our kids step down off the bus and immediately Ryan starts to run. We call out his name and he returns and we instruct him to stay close to the teachers. As he grabs my hand, I feel his hyperactivity and tensions literally through my skin. It is like holding the button on the alarm clock that will not turn off; you feel the vibrations. But his face is ear to ear grinning as he monotonally expounds, "Go now to fish. Go now to fish."

The teachers and chaperone take the kids through the turnstiles and we begin to explore the massive aquariums filled with amazing creatures. As we enter one particular section, the lights are turned low and we are told it is an exhibition of "jellys". The tanks are exposed to some kind of special lighting, which gives a fluorescent glow to the tanks. I suddenly feel Ryan grab my hand and pull me to one particular tank where there is a bench to sit for viewing.

"Sit here Mrs. V. Sit with Ryan."

I sit next to him and he looks into the aquarium watching the rainbow translucent jellys pulsate and glide as if they were choreographed. Ryan is holding my hand tightly, and then I feel it; that vibrating feeling through his skin dissipates. I look over at him and his usually statuesque posture is relaxed and calm. He does not want to run. The other kids start to gather around as well and no one is talking. I notice that it is almost 10:00 a.m. Aaron is not even looking at his watch he usually obsesses over. The "Price is Right" time comes and goes; it is "jelly time". We all sit and stand around this one tank in silence, yet there is so much being said. Tears fill my eyes as I wish we could capture this moment and make it a permanent part of our routine.

If we are blessed with normal capabilities, we may still relate to Ryan, buzzing from the third Starbucks of the day, and off running from one obligation to another, soccer fields to grocery stores, lap tops to cell phones. We may even be holding someone's hand. God reminds us in Scripture, "Be still, and know that I am God." We may not have an aquarium full of black-lighted jellys in our living room, but we have scripture and the discipline of prayer to call us over to the bench, sit and worship, release your noise, your flurry and Velcro on your humble face. Relax in the calmness of the Lord and allow Him to fill your spirit with awe.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 09/20/07
Oh, this was very good. I have a special place in my heart for special education students, as I've worked with and been around them in various capacities.

I think this would have been a bit stronger all in past tense, as it would help get rid of some of the passive sentences.

Great job. Keep writing!
Marty Wellington 09/23/07
Enjoyable read. Loved your analogy of the kids being like buzzing bees and the feeling of tension in the little boy's hand. The alarm clock description was nice too. Watch the word "quiet" in several places should be "quite." Probably just a simple typo. Overall, very nice descriptive writing.
Laury Hubrich 09/30/07
This is a great piece! Makes me wish I were sitting there with all those kids watching the jellys!!! Nice calm moments with kids -- few and far between:)
Joanne Sher 10/01/07
Congratulations, Colleene. Your entry has placed 11th in Level 1. The Lists for the Top 15 in each Level and the Top 40 overall are available in the Weekly Results and Highest Rankings forum of our Faithwriters Message Boards.