I knew visiting children would be something I would want to do as Ms Wheelchair Tennessee. After the pageant, I immediately started the hunt for a couple of storybooks I could read to children when I went to visit with them. I quickly found two books that would work great.
The first storybook is called "Susan Laughs"by Jeanne Willis. This book is very simple and tells all the things Susan can do. Susan laughs. Susan sings. Susan's good. Throughout the storybook, you can tell Susan is a very active girl. On the very last page, you realize Susan is in a wheelchair. So, Susan is just like you and just like me!
The second storybook is "A Rainbow of Friends" by P.K. Hallinan. This storybook tells that each of our friends are different in their own way. It encourages us to be kind to everyone regardless of their differences. And, of course, one of the friends is in a wheelchair.
Both of these storybooks are great! The first one teaches that there are countless things you can do while being in a wheelchair. And the second one teaches us to be kind and accepting of others and their differences.
I first visited with Lila and her classmates. Lila is in a Pre-K Inclusion class. These children were all so well behaved and interested in the stories I read to them. They had lots of questions and not all of them were about the stories or Ms Wheelchair Tennessee, but that was perfectly okay!
After my Pre-K visit, I was off to read to Blake's kindergarten class. Blake's kindergarten teacher is Mrs. Greene and she just so happened to be my kindergarten teacher when I was at Westview. (Mrs. Greene and I would appreciate it if you did NOT do any calculating to figure out how long ago that was.) To my surprise, all SIX kindergarten classes wanted to be apart of my story time. All of these children were equally as well behaved as the children in Lila's class. They listened quietly as I shared a little about myself and the Ms Wheelchair Organization. While I was reading the stories, David Moore, chief photojournalist from News Channel 12, tiptoed in and began filming. After story time, I took questions from the children. I love how curious little kids are. They have the BEST questions and I did my best to answer them in a way that they could understand. One popular question was how my wheelchair worked, so I finally caved in and went around and around in a circle for them to see. They loved it!!
David Moore from News Channel 12 interviewed me in the hallway after my reading session with the kindergarteners. He was so kind and very patient with me. I still get tongue tied whenever there is a camera in my face. The Ms Wheelchair Organization has become so important to me in such a short period of time that I just want to be sure all the media coverage they receive, as a result of me, is positive coverage. Once you say something on camera or in print, it's out there.....FOREVER. I know I still need a lot more practice at quickly composing my thoughts for the media.
Before we left, there was still one special teacher I had to see. I was never a student in her class, but for some reason we just clicked when I was in kindergarten. She even took me home with her on several different occasions. The teacher I never had, that to this day holds a special place in my heart is
Mrs. Ratchford. She is no longer located on the kindergarten hall like I remember but is now teaching 2nd grade. When I poked my head in Mrs. Ratchford's room, she quickly came out to give me a hug. Sometimes when you don't see someone for a very long time, you forget just how special they are to you. This was definitely the case for me concerning Mrs. Ratchford. I just love her!!!
Mrs. Ratchford told me she would love for me to visit with her class sometime. I had nothing else scheduled for Friday (well, I needed to study for my Corporate and Partnership Tax Final.....but that could wait) so we decided I would chat with her class right then. She checked and there were a few other teachers that thought their kids would enjoy the visit. After just a few minutes I ended up with three or four 2nd grade classes in the hallway ready to listen. My storybooks were a little juvenile for their ages, but they politely listened anyway. During their Q&A I could tell they really understood what I was telling them by the questions they asked. The older the children, the harder the questions, but I loved it. One of my mottos has always been you never know unless you ask.....and ask they did!
I can't thank everyone enough for the wonderful time I had while at Westview. It was great to see people I haven't seen in years, from high school friends to my very first boyfriend's mother. You just never know who you will run into when you go back to elementary school!!
The overall experience made such an impact on me that I now have a new platform for the Ms Wheelchair America pageant in July. I don't have all the details ironed out yet, but I know I want to educate the children.