This week we are taking a second to revisit our initial impressions of our CBSL experience and thinking about how are views of the experience have changed over time. I have been very fortunate with my volunteer experience to have a very consistent interaction with the Student Researchers that are part of Astonished!. Although I only spend two hours with the Astonished! group a week I really appreciate that I get to see the same group most times and that I have been able to start to develop relationships with everyone. If I look back at my first day of volunteering I probably should’ve realized that I was going to be spending a lot of time with Landon. Quite often no matter where I sit while we are together Landon always finds a way to roll his chair up beside me. I can’t really put into words how great it has been to get to know Landon. Even though there are many differences in our experiences we definitely have a ton in common. Landon is a bright, outspoken, entertaining, young man and he “dishes it as well as he takes it”. That love of sarcasm and teasing is where we have found our best bonding. When Landon is part of my astonished volunteering there is always lots of laughs and loud conversation. I certainly didn’t assume that I would walk away from this volunteer experience with a new friend but I have definitely found a friend in Landon and the rest of the Astonished! student researchers. Every one of them has their own special talents and personalities that make it impossible not to have a good time while I’m with them.
My initial thoughts of Astonished! were pretty close to my experiences so far. If I underestimated anything it was just how quickly I would grow to love the company of everyone involved in Astonished!. In the time that I have been volunteering I have met Kennen’s family including her nephew (who was only 8 months old); Becca’s Aunt Ruth who instructs the ATLC! group in yoga for every body; I have had a great chat with Kelsey about art and (dis)ability; I’ve learned how to listen to and communicate with Kaitlyn and laughed with her, Sean and Landon non-stop. I have also met other students volunteers (mostly Kinesiology undergrads) and support workers who all love this group as much as I do! We’ve gone out for beers at the Owl, we had a Social Club night at the Cathedral Social Hall. The experiences I have had with Astonished! have not just been great fun but they have also been full of educational experiences. I have learned more about those with complex physical disAbilities and their lives then I could ever have imagined. I have learned about how paratransit works in Regina. I have learned about the small obstacles they face surrounding accessibility of pretty much everything. Most importantly I have learned about their needs, desires, experiences and family. This practical education in disAbility is invaluable as I start to think about working with anyone in my classroom who is differently abled in anyway and how I make adaptations so that everyone feels safe and welcome in my classroom.
My greatest learning experience has simply been time spent with others and taking the time out of my life to spend time to get to know them. It is so easy as a busy student, parent, and working two jobs to loose track of what is truly important. Even though at some level this was a mandatory experience taking time to schedule an hour or two a week to really get to know some new people and learn about them and share laughs and love is really important. I will certainly continue to meet with the crew from Astonished! even when my 20 hours are done and hopefully I can find a way to make it work to continue to spend time with them next semester, next year and far into the future.