The JoJo Experience: Sisters deal with same situation, different experiences

Monica Godnick, Editor-In-Chief

Dear readers,

The start of school compresses the overflow of emotions of over 2,300 hundred students in one building (that hasn’t been renovated since the ‘70s).

The freshmen are anxious to see how this whole high school thing works; the sophomores are chillin’, yet they don’t have that satisfaction of feeling like an upperclassmen; the juniors are frustrated with balancing school and standardized testing; and the seniors are feeling pretty confident on the top of the “food chain,”but also stressed with college applications or the future in general.

No matter what, due to my overthinking nature, having new teachers in the fall has always made me extremely nervous. I need to make sure I make a good impression because starting off the year with a teacher who dislikes you is never a good sign. However, I should be used to it by now since the school makes you switch teachers all the time from semester to semester.

My sister Joanne also has a new teacher, which isn’t as common for her since the school that she goes to is smaller. Joanne, or as we like to call her, JoJo, was born with a rare genetic condition. She is deaf and has the cognitivity of a toddler along with lower muscle tone and smaller hands and feet. She is fully dependent on my family and me. When she is at school, she is fully dependent on her teachers as well. Joanne having a new teacher impacts her and us as a family on a whole different level. We must trust that the teacher knows what to do when JoJo throws a fit, needs to be fed through her feeding tube or when she wants to move around. Fortunately, my parents were able to meet the teacher and, like everyone who is part of the staff of Longview School, he was trustworthy.

Nonetheless, it got me thinking. If I come back from a bad day I can always tell my mom that I am stressed out from school, or if I have issues with people or if I witnessed or was a victim of any injustice. My sister cannot directly tell her own parents if she was fed the wrong way, if something physically hurts and if so, where, or if she had a hectic day in school in general. We have to guess what is wrong, and that is why it is so important for Joanne’s teacher to send notes home of how the day went, or what she did, because as much as she would want to, she cannot verbally tell us herself.

Despite that heart-breaking reality, I am glad my sister has such a strong personality, that when she is mad or frustrated words aren’t needed. She will signal what is wrong through gestures and body language. Sometimes, when she wants my attention and I am focused on something else, she yanks my long curly hair, which definitely gets me to doing what she wants. What is beautiful about spending time with my sister, or with kids of special needs in general, is you get to learn this very individualized language that goes way beyond words and where emotions are crystal clear.

With words or without, communication is key in any aspect of life. This school year, speak up when you need to and do not take your ability to get your idea across for granted. Whether it is a conflict with a friend or a teacher or an unbearable workload, if you are unhappy with how things are turning out, advocate for yourself to see a change.