Crotched Mountain is a rehabilitation center, hospital, and school for people with disabilities. The mission is to eventually integrate all clients back into the community. People’s disabilities range from traumatic brain injuries to developmental disorders diagnosed earlier on, and these conditions impact the lives of both the clients here and their families alike. There is one more group who is affected as well. Staff. This is where we come in. The staff at Crotched Mountain come from various backgrounds and disciplines. Teachers, doctors, physical and occupational therapists, nurses, kitchen workers, paraprofessional educators, and more. Despite the differences between the staff, there is a mission for all of us to support the students and patients here while always keeping in mind to treat them with dignity and respect as fellow, competent human beings.
I personally work as a paraprofessional educator, basically working directly with students in the group homes in the morning (preparing students for school, feeding, possibly clothing, and finally walking them to school), and in the school during the day (adhering to schedules, supporting in activities, helping teach, occasionally feeding). There are teachers and other paraprofessional educators to work alongside at all times as there is normally a healthy 1:1 staff to student ratio. Working with these students day by day is challenging but also enjoyable. I have never worked with anyone in such a meaningful way, to the point where I know there will be memories of me and my co-workers with these students forever.
The experience is mostly positive here but there are times that things go awry. Helping anyone is difficult but here that difficulty can be multiplied by possible miscommunication, frustration, or apprehensiveness on both sides: student and staff. This is not a cakewalk of a job. Some students, due to possible conditions, can become upset or frustrated from a demand, a situation, or some type of disruption/bad transition. I have been slapped, kicked, grabbed by my collar, and multiple other small injuries by the students and it is shocking to receive a hit and simply understand that it is not their fault. Working here is a test of patience and growing trust. The longer I have gone, the less incidents I have been a part of as we develop trust together and for each other. It is so hard, but it is always worth it at the end of the day because caring for these students is the #1 objective. There is a lot of joy and fun to be had during work.
I have not stopped to think much about my own personal goals and gains from this as much as I have been focusing in on the experience, but in the future I would not shy away from work like this. Supporting people is something I think I do well in general and this is a trial for all of my skills on empathy and community. This is a huge opportunity to learn about myself and others, and I know it is that type of dynamic that I want to see in my future.
Here is a link to the website if any of you all are interested.