Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 30 – I meet a mentor

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Looking Back: 30 – I meet a mentor

     The several conversations I had with the Art Therapist at Worcester State Hospital marked an end to my period of drift and pointed in a new direction. I discovered by chance something that interested me enough to consider going to graduate school. The combination of working in a psychiatric environment and becoming acquainted with the field of Art Therapy as a non-analytic therapeutic process that seemed ideally adaptable to troubled children encouraged me to look into graduate programs for educating and certifying special needs teachers in the area of emotional disturbance in school age children.

        As I had done years earlier working full time at a printing company and taking evening classes at a junior college, while working full time at the State Hospital, in 1970 I enrolled in the graduate program at Fitchburg State College in the town where I was born. I attended classes in the evening continuing education program for a Masters Degree in Special Needs Education focusing on what was labeled “emotionally disturbed” children in those days. That designation may no longer be considered politically correct; it seems to be termed “social/emotional disabilities” nowadays.

        I had the great good fortune to meet a very special teacher by the name of Eleanor McKuen who was also studying for her Masters Degree in the evening program. She was already a special needs teacher working in the Worcester Public School System, and had a class for emotionally disturbed children in one of the city's neighborhood schools. She was a fountain of information and insights into education in this area and invited me to visit her class to see for myself firsthand whether it would really suit me or not.

holding my newborn niece and my
"Little Brother" Lance
        I took her up on the invitation and spent a day in her classroom and quickly realized how suited she was to the job. She made me feel welcome and communicated that welcome to the eight kids in the class who reciprocated it. I wondered if I had the character and patience to do as wonderful a job as she did. I suppose I was a little in love with her. I was also in a relationship with someone else at the hospital that seemed to be taking a serious turn, but that's another story.

        I was much impressed with Eleanor and her class and decided to pursue my diploma. I also joined a “Big Brother” program in Worcester and worked with one of Eleanor's boys named Lance who was in foster care in a group home in the city.

        In due course I had to come up with an idea for the Masters Thesis and conceived of the idea of doing research and an experiment in art therapy in a classroom for emotionally disturbed children. I consulted the Art Therapist at the hospital and discussed the feasibility of such a thesis and whether he would be willing to help me. He was most enthusiastic and offered what help he could. Then I discussed the idea with Eleanor and asked her if I could work with her students for the experimental part of the thesis. She was also supportive and excited by the idea.

       Now, all I had to do was convince the department head at the college.

To be continued...

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