Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Saga that Never Ends

After three hours, which included a call to A's doctor because apparently 12-year-olds are now being encouraged to get a booster of one of their vaccinations that included a live virus, the end result of the IEP was a dramatic...


A's mom wants A to be there.  She has several good points, not the least of which is that most of A's friends from elementary school -- as well as his sister and sisters' friends -- are at VV now.  The teachers, on the other hand, are freaked because they have never had a sixth grader attend their SDC program -- which is where he would be placed initially because SBS believes (and I agree) that for the time being, he will need more support than an itinerant inclusion support teacher could provide.  The SDC program at VV is inclusion-oriented anyway (most of the kids are out more than 50% of their day, with some up to 80%).

The sticker is that the VV teachers, ultimately, don't want A there.  They are down 4 staff members and are convinced that the other staff members would be bitter that A would have his own private aide support (even though it's medically necessary for him at the moment to have contact with fewer people).

SBS is worried that when A's mom goes to visit next Friday -- to see, as the teacher put it, the program As It Really Is -- the teacher, N, will present her class in the worst possible light.  She's concerned that the kids will be held back from their inclusion classes and allowed to work up into meltdown mode so that A's mom will freak out at the confusion and drama and say "never mind."

Apparently, she did it before, when the district was searching for a placement for C, a kid from GG (the kid that resulted in the card we made for MN, Cat).  So SBS isn't entirely borrowing trouble that doesn't exist.

The other problem, of course, is that A is very, very attuned to when people don't want him around.  90% of his troubles in 2nd and 3rd grade were because he had teachers that didn't want him there.  I tried to warn N, and her new partner-teacher, about that, but I don't think they really took me seriously.

Of course, I also told them not to listen to anything ME said about A (the ME who used to work in my class and who could talk the bark off a tree) because she'd only ever seen him at his absolute, utter worst, and didn't understand the reasons behind his behavior, even then.  I also told them not to, under any circumstances ever, to have ME support A in class.


Ever, ever, ever.

You know the sad part of all this?  Despite the havoc he can wreak when upset, A is a very cool little boy of whom I am very fond.  He's survived intra-uterine chemotherapy, a disease that killed 2 of his siblings, every infection known to man, and three -- three -- bone marrow transplants...the last of which being from a non-ideal donor.

It's a shame that his mom's reputation in the school district so colors people's opinion of him that someone would deliberately present their very good program in a bad light just to delay his coming to the school by a measly year.

In other news, I have an 8-year-old teenage girl in my class.  Yay me.

Permit me to elaborate.

J is a young lady with Down syndrome.  J is generally easy-going and agreeable, but can be mischievous and sometimes gets it in her head to...not be either.

Yesterday, after we finished News-2-You, we were to have our duly appointed Friday Catch Up Day.  That is, you look through your journal, your agenda book, and any other work we've done during the week, and finish anything that's not done.

J decided it would be more fun to climb around on our beanbags.

I redirected her.  I told her the consequences of listening to me (good ones) and of not (bad ones).  She eventually lost her green card and had to go sit by my desk and calm down.  She stuck her tongue out at me and kicked the wall.

Bye-bye yellow card.

She continued to kick the wall.  I employed my 3-2-1 warnings visual aid and she eventually got to the card that meant losing recess.

At which point she plants her feet on the ground, folds her arms defiantly over her chest, narrows her eyes and announces, "I call my mom!  I get recess!"


The saga continued over recess, but after recess when I engaged my own stubbornness and required that she did, in fact, write a letter to her mom explaining her actions (rather, she copied from a model which I then translated) and complete the work she'd missed before, she was appropriately contrite.

In fact, after she apologized to Miss J., she ran back to me with a huge relieved smile on her face and tried to hug me.

In other classroom drama, A hit Boy J twice yesterday; after losing his green card for retaliating Thursday, J showed remarkable restraint and simply howled for help.  He was prodigiously praised for that, and even earned an extra ticket for our principal's recess chart.  Given Boy J's personality, that was a huge display of self-restraint and self-control.

E. is still babbling away, repeating most everything she hears.  She even named the crayons she was using to color -- color! without throwing across the room! -- without prompting.  During News-2-You, she kept saying lunch, so I said, "E., you want lunch?  You must be hungry."

"Hungry," she repeated.  (I am not going to try to replicate her non-perfect pronunciation here.)

Later, unprompted, she said, "Lunch.  Hungry."   Complete with signs.


Of course, she shut up like a clam when DFT came in...but I would expect nothing less.

All of this drama resulted in me sleeping like a rock for 12 hours, hence the lateness of the post.

Oh!  One other mind-blowing development.

During lunch, 2 of my aides thought it necessary to accompany the 2 remaining fourth graders to recess, leaving 4 fifth and sixth graders -- which included M and R! -- on their own for recess.  (Miss J had E with her while she supervised J.)

Not only did no one run up to me yelling "R licked me!  R licked me!" -- all four of them were quietly lined up on their appropriate spot when I went to pick the class up after recess.

All four of them.

I was so shocked that I completely forgot to mention to the aides involved that it probably hadn't been the wisest distribution of resources.

I was...flabbergasted (in a very good way) doesn't even cover it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And the Verdict Is...

...There is no verdict.

E. was here today. Though she was obviously very happy to be at school -- she was gently hugging everybody and saying "kissies, kissies" (her speech has exploded, not that I can expect her to speak in front of D. or on command) -- she was also very obviously not in "school mode." this point last year, she barely interacted with anybody but me and thought she was supposed to be away from all the other kids, to the point that she would remove herself to a corner. :-( So that's progress.

Boy A. and J. got into a knock-down drag out fight today. For no reason that any of us could see, A. just hauled off and hit J., who hit back, causing A. to howl like a wounded moose.

A. promptly lost his "green card" for the day and sat in a corner wailing for 10 minutes (which made M. cry real tears, but which E. handled with unusual equanimity). Of course, I think I also made Miss J. mad; she was hugging J. and trying to console him, when I came back to him and made him take his green card off for hitting back.

She gave me a wounded look at that -- but J. is an "if you give an inch, he'll take a mile" kinda kid, and if he so much as suspects that I feel sympathy for him (I did), or that I feel that A. deserved what he got (he did), he'll take that as carte blanche to beat the bejeezus out of the guy on a daily basis.

New Girl and Princess have bonded; New Girl realized that Princess speaks Spanish (New Girl's English is not good, and I suspect that that has caused at least some of her academic problems...which people are supposed to account for when assessing for special ed, but whatever) and chatted happily with her several times a day. New Girl was also fascinated with E. and brought her her Charlie folder without even being asked.

She reminds me of Grepsie, a girl in Patrick's class when he was little.

Splitting the kids up for recess worked wonderfully; I can see the fifth-sixth playground from the staff room, and saw E. (a sixth grader with Down syndrome who's fully included) figuratively dragging R. around by the ear while he reveled in the attention. (I sense a crush developing, actually, based on how they interacted waiting for the bus yesterday.)

M. desperately, desperately, desperately needs her pressure vest; I hope the OTs come by soon. After dealing with E's mini-meltdown (Miss J. has forgotten not to give her lots of "E, that hurt, don't do that") I had to take her into the office to wait for the bus, just to get her away from all the stimulation.

Tomorrow is Home School A's IEP to officially make him a middle schooler...but it's not quite as set as I thought -- A's been fully included throughout his educational career, though since he's been at my school, he's had time in an SDC as a fall-back. I guess the idea this time is to put him on the SDC's caseload and gradually increase his time in general ed. Of all times to try to get that by his mom, this seems like a good time, because the teachers at VV are very inclusion-oriented anyway...but who knows?

I'll feel better, I think, when we settle fully into our routine; we've been making classroom stuff (a book about our class) all week, and still have to make our Anti-Cheating Devices before our practice spelling test tomorrow.

I'm still feeling guardedly positive -- I've been reminding myself that after last year, there was little choice but to sense drama this year, but that doesn't mean it's anywhere near what it was when I had C. and A. and S. and R. and A. and C. and the rest of them all going insane at the same time, with C. in a corner howling and the other C and A running for the parking lot....

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 1

As I told everyone who asked today (once I find a suitable answer to something, I tend to script...sorry), while this year's class does not quite evoke the relieved-and-blissful-sigh of last year, it also does not evoke the Oh My Frelling God What I Have I Done to Deserve This?!?!?! of the two years prior.

However...we will definitely have to work on proper "reading together" behavior. I am temporarily making News-2-You a small group activity to practice listening to each other read. The whole purpose of my whole group activities is to get them ready for middle school -- if they go to S., they will be expected to follow a rotating schedule within the SDC program just like all the other kids, and to attend to a lesson for 45 minutes. If they go to VV, they will be included in classes 45 minutes at a time.

Either way, they need to be able to sit quietly and attend for stretches of time. We will have to work on that.

Anyhow, E. was not in school today...she may be the tipping point, much as I love her, from "meh" to "aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!"

Either new Girl's IEP was a complete joke, or she suffers from new person anxiety to rival A's last year...she could barely read 10 words. Wow.

The adults were mostly okay -- I have to come up with an R. cheat sheet so people stop inadvertently reinforcing his...ahem...puberty-like behavior.

Of course, it was the first day, and there's a honeymoon and all that, so we'll see. As is my custom after the first day of school, I came home and crashed hard, then woke up and had some dinner. I'm now modifying News-2-You for next week...I'll have to do agenda books and journals tomorrow, because I have an IEP at 3:00 on Friday (yup, an IEP on the third day of school) to officially transfer A. to middle school. summation: the jury's still out. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Teaching Randomness

1. Home Teaching A will be going to middle school after all. I think this is a good choice for him because he's already a year older than his classmates (he must have been held back a year, or delayed beginning school due to his illness) and he would have been with kids 2 years younger than him if he stayed at our school.

2. This means E. will lose her chair. Good thing I bought the flourescent pink shirt.

3. The classroom is immaculate. This will last exactly 5 minutes, until the Hurricane Children blow through.

4. Homework is stapled and ready to go for next week -- but it may need modifications, depending on what A can really do (we all know IEPs lie sometimes).

5. R's mom ran into someone who badmouthed my classroom, and defended me. Yay. :-)

Erm. This should be obvious, but I mean the R. who is still here, not the R. who went to middle school -- 'cause, her defend me? Yeah, right.

6. R's mom is cool with him using some sort of assistive/augmentative communication. Speech-D will no doubt hem, haw, stall, and act like I'm crazy 'cause he can talk. Personally, I'd rather he use a device than spit on me out of frustration, but heck, maybe I'm just nuts.

7. My wrists hurt. I know I said that yesterday, but please allow me one whine.

8. I forgot to buy something for lunch tomorrow.

9. I need more word sized labels. By the time I get to Walmart, I will accidentally buy number-sized labels, just like the last 2 times I attempted that task.

10. Half of my word wall is still missing, but I found my cursive alphabet.

11. I got the kids' computers set up, and even convinced the touch screen to work with headphones for the first time.

12. I don't want to come up with answers to News-2-You's think page questions, hence the pointless blog post.

Note to self: (I can't email from this computer) E-mail M and tell her about the 25-user News-2-You license the middle school teacher at S. wrangled from the district. For that matter, email N at the other middle school too.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Teaching Randomness

In no particular order...

1. Sixth-grade girl A who I had last year will henceforth be referred to as "Princess." She is convinced she is one, and is treated like one at home. I considered several varieties of animals that attach themselves too you, in honor of the day she latched onto Cat and had to big wiggled off, but they all sounded gross.

2. Fourth-grade boy A will remain A unless I get another boy named A, or if the other A comes back from home teaching. At that point, I'll reconsider.

3. New-girl A's nickname is pending my actually meeting her, but for right now, she's NewA.

4. I went through a truly staggering amount of laminate the last couple of weeks. Plus, the two rolls of crunchy Velcro + one roll of soft Velcro I thought I ordered somehow became 3 rolls of crunchy Velcro.

5. E. may lose her chair, if Home Teaching A. goes to middle school like his mom wants. So, I bought a bright pink shirt and put it on the chair. While the chair is good for E's posture (she has really low tone...very common in kids with Down syndrome) I think it also helped her orient herself in space and find "her" chair. Hopefully she'll associate flourescent pink with "her" chair so that I can put it on a regular classroom chair if needed.

6. My staffing situation isn't as scary as I thought...only two new names on there, and one is a sub for T, who had surgery. S. is back from her we'll see how rusty she is. There's one 15 minute portion of the day when I have three adults in my class! Besides me! (That's almost overkill and almost a bad thing, except that it makes it a perfect time for J. to take her lunch.)

7. My classroom is nearly done -- down to one table of clutter. Once I finish symbolifying our first poem, I've got the first week taken care of. Not as far ahead as I wanted to be, but oh well.

8. We had a (boring) PE training today that had even the general education teachers worried about injuries if we played the activities as described. Suffice it to say, E + touch football = it'll have to be modified. Oh well.

9. The text of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is done -- all 30 chapters! Yay! (That takes us right to Christm...err...winter break.) I haven't done questions or anything yet, because I can't quite predict what level of questions, etc., the class will actually need.

10. I started switchifying Charlie today (mostly for E, but M was beginning to read the words last year, and I hope that'll continue), and finished the About the Author and Pre-Writing sections. I also switchified our vocabulary practice for the next 2 weeks.

11. My wrists hurt. A lot. I've resisted it 'cause it's expensive, but it may be time to trade in my trusty Mircosoft Natural split keyboard -- which I've had since 1994...well, I've owned 2 of them over that time period, but they were identical -- for the (gulp) more expensive Kinesis keyboard.

12. Patrick is traumatized because he's convinced the book is called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because that was the name of the movie.

Also? Wank ensues in my family again...we think. No one really knows for sure.