Updates from Upperclassmen: Life lessons learned in the DAPE class

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2022

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Updates from Upperclassmen by Ella Bordeaux

Developmentally Adapted Physical Education (DAPE) is a class where special education students take PE in an environment designed to help keep them safe. I had never heard of DAPE prior to 2021, but I am so grateful that I did. To me, DAPE is so much more than a physical education class — it is a class where relationships are formed and flourish, a class where life lessons are taught daily and a class where fond memories are made.

Ella Bordeaux

At the beginning of my junior year, I asked one of my teachers if she needed an assistant. Luckily, she needed help in the DAPE class she taught. I had never been around students with special needs before; the thought of this terrified me. Taking a gigantic step out of my comfort zone has not disappointed, and this class has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. I learned acceptance, friendship, compassion, gratitude, humility, patience, humor and so many other unforgettable life lessons.

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The first day I went to DAPE, I walked into the gym and an eighth-grade boy came right up to me and introduced himself. He went on to introduce me to the other students, paras, teachers and one other student helper. This helped me to feel comfortable and build connections. I was able to say hi to these kids in the hallways, which I quickly noticed was not common. I wanted them to know how important and valued they are. This taught me my first lesson — in acceptance.

Through taking DAPE, I have also learned compassion. I see these kids every day at school. They all have different levels of functioning, backgrounds, classes and things with which they struggle. But everyday we spend in class, they show compassion for one another, they encourage each other and they give hugs and high-fives. I see this come out in my personal life as well. Some of these kids are so high functioning that if you were to see them in the hallway you might not know they even have disabilities; this has taught me that there are things going on below the surface in everyone’s lives that I might not be able to see. This has helped me be less judgmental when I see people struggling and more willing to lend a helping hand. One time, I was sad about something, and that eighth-grade student noticed; he came up to me, told me to stand up and gave me the tightest hug I ever received. It was at that moment that I truly realized that I was loved and valued in this class. I was then taught my second lesson — in compassion.

One of the most important things DAPE has taught me is the power of friendship. I have met some of my best friends by taking this class; that will never change. It was through this class that I was taught my third lesson — in friendship.

Gratitude is the lesson I am currently being taught. Although I cannot take this class next semester, I am grateful to have been a part of it, for the things I’ve learned and friendships I’ve made. I have learned gratitude can co-exist with sadness, but gratitude is always overpowering. Thus, I have learned my fourth lesson — in gratitude.

I have been taught humility, by losing every single game of Popdarts and Uno we have ever played. I learned patience, by seeing behaviors be repeated, even when they have been asked to stop. I have been taught humor, by seeing and hearing ridiculous things but still being able to laugh about them. I am incredibly grateful for the experience I have had in DAPE, and I hope one day someone else will get to experience this class and learn just as much as I did.

DAPE, for most, is just a PE class. For me it goes way deeper. I have learned incredible life lessons and would not be the person I am today without DAPE. I am forever changed because of this experience. Someday, I hope to become a special education teacher and use the lessons I have learned in DAPE to continue to impact special education students.

Ella Bordeaux is a senior at Albert Lea High School.