Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Mystery Solved

So, we've had a bit of a mystery in good ol' Room Mine. (I'm paranoid about googlers, so I'm not even putting the number.) Anyhow, of the three fourth graders, I suspected that the two who would have the most trouble would be Boy A (henceforth referred to as The Bulldozer, because of the way he crashes through life) and Boy J (haven't thought of a nickname for him yet).

Boy J has done remarkably well. After the day The Bulldozer hit him and he hit back -- and got in trouble for hitting back -- the worst he's done is whine in that godawful annoying fake baby voice he has.

(Incidentally, Teacher M: While I sympathized last year, I now send you buckets of virtual chocolate. I had no idea -- I had no idea -- exactly how annoying that could be.)

The Bulldozer, on the other hand, has been having a very difficult time. He has not hit any more children (mostly because I gave him two spots away from kids to sit at when he felt he couldn't control himself; to his credit, he's actually chosen those spots at troublesome times without prompting) although my glasses have gotten tossed several times, and he shoved his Mighty Mo (a very expensive communication device) hard enough to snap the stand in the back.

(Also incidentally, DFT asked me the other day what we were calling his Mighty Mo in class. A bit stymied, I said, "...a Mighty Mo?"

"Oh. Last year, we called it his 'talker.'"

I blinked, and cast about for a polite way of saying, "It's his device, which he'll probably use for years...shouldn't he know the name of it?" Finally, I said (in a stunning display of oratory brilliance), "But it's called a Mighty Mo."

"Yes, but 'talker' is shorter. It's easier for the other kids to say."

"Only by one syllable."

I get the dubious look which I generally take to be a pitying, "how little you know" stare. "Well, okay, we'll call it whatever you do.")

Anyhow, The Bulldozer was very upset with himself when he broke his Mighty Mo. It's an easy repair, and the fact that he was upset with himself at least shows that he wishes he had better control of himself.

The Bulldozer has had, since starting our school in kindergarten, four teachers (counting myself but not counting various summer school teachers). While I give props to JB for starting the work that M finished, culminating in him getting his Mighty Mo, it was only last year that he had a teacher that really made him work.

So I was expecting him to...well, to not be a fan of mine, because M went through a lot with him last year. So...I hadn't really mentioned his behavior to his family yet, other than the occasional "he's had a rough day" because...well, because that's just The Bulldozer -- though to an extent I hadn't expected.

But he smacked DFT's aide A the other day -- my guess is she commented on the broken Mighty Mo stand -- and so DFT asked his dad. Turns out that mom -- who hand feeds him -- and dad have been arguing about how to discipline him. My inclination is that dad wanted to and mom did not.

(Keep in mind, this is third hand information, as I'm repeating what DFT says The Bulldozer's dad told him.)

So, dad just decided to give up and let mom (not) handle it. He's seen more aggressive behavior at home too.

We've been making some progress at school, but this leads me to believe that Mondays especially will be very hard for quite some time, until The Bulldozer learns the ugly truth that while there may be no rules at home, there are at school -- and there certainly are in Room Mine.

This is a tough thing for kids to learn, but it's not the first time I've been down this road (cough! R! cough!). In fact, my entire first week in this classroom was spent convincing a sixth grader (with autism) that he did, in fact, have to do some work before he could be on the computer. "Closed!" he'd yell at me (a.ka. "get the *#*$* out of my face!").

But, you know, once the battle was over, he thrived. On his last day in my classroom, he came in and said, "Excuse me, Miss ____. G is doing two paper works, then computer please?"

In other news, I got a boatload of work done today. Hooray!

(We had the day off for Rosh Hashanah. Having gone to private (Christian) schools until I was at CSUN getting my credential, this was a bit of a surprise to me at first. I realize the ultimate motive is money -- the districts don't want to lose all the ADA money they'd lose from all the absent kids, nor do they want to pay subs for the teachers -- but it's still nice.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Anniversary Post

(I wanted this separate from the school ramblings.)

In lieu of long commentaries or memorials, I offer this simple quote in memory of the victims and in support of the victims' families:

"The spear in the Other's heart is the spear in your own; You are He." -- Diane Duane


Well, we had an absolutely awesome morning -- even though Aide T's sub didn't show or call in.

The kids' "This Day in History" section of their journal was, of course, about the September 11th attacks: "On September 11, 2001, airplanes crashed into New York's World Trade Center. It was a sad day."

New Girl asked Aide S. about what had happened -- she was intrigued by the picture I'd included and, I think, the gravity in Aide S's usually-cheerful voice when she helped her read the sentence. I reminded Aide S. that New Girl (she is in sixth grade now) would have been in her first couple of weeks of first grade when it happened.

She was...her response was very interesting. She's a very caring girl -- reminds me of Former Girl A. a lot actually -- and she looked at the picture for a moment, then back at Aide S. "People were in there?" she asked, pointing at the picture of the World Trade Center.

"Yes, there were," Aide S. said.

"They all died?" New Girl said -- Aide S. had not said anything of the sort, but she figured it out herself. She looked at the picture again. "Ooooh," she said.

Meanwhile, we were able to get our work done much earlier than has been the case; in time, in fact, for us to follow the New Computer Rules -- this group is a bunch of bickering old married couples and I'd had enough of the arguing over whose turn it was. So I made numbers 1 through 8 and stuck them up by their names in reverse order; that way, whoever's left over from it being their turn to be "person of the day" (we don't call it that, but that's essentially what it is) will get first dibs at the computer.

Anyhow, I guess Boy R. was a pill in science class, but that's to be expected. It was a dad weekend, and as good as Aide S. is becoming, squirrely post-dad R. is just too much for her.

So we read Charlie and even made it through 5 pages of News-2-You -- even while we were being very particular about the rules. Boy A. even managed to sit next to his classmates without hitting them or anything.

Then, at lunch, I did a dumb thing.

I said what a good day we were having.


Within 10 minutes of recess being over, we'd descended into the 7th layer of hell.

Aw well.

Incidentally -- I have been asking...begging...the OTs for a sensory diet for M since more or less her first day of fourth grade. At first, I got the boilerplate "sensory suggestions" paper they give everybody in lieu of a real sensory diet. Then, I got a "well, I'll need some data -- I'll tell you what to look for." Then I got ignored.

Today, as they were leaving, the OT looked at me and said, "By the way, we need to design a sensory diet for M."

On the one hand: woohoo! On the other: DUH!

School Days Since a Child was Lost: 2

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Note to Interested Parties

I realize this is petty, given the anniversary that looms in less than an hour, but you'll have to forgive me.


When I say, "I'm really not feeling very social right now," these are the things that will not alleviate my anti-socialness.

1.  Try to make conversation with me.

2.  Put on your "aw, I'm sorry, tell me all about it" face.

3.  Ask if I want to talk about why I feel antisocial.

4.  Come back in an hour and ask if I'm over feeling anti-social yet.

5.  Ask if everything was really oh-so-bad.

You may have detected a trend: namely, these five responses all require social interaction on my part.  This just ensures that I will feel anti-social longer.  Perhaps it's the spectrumy part of me, but I assure you that the more you make me be social now, the longer it will be before I feel social again.

Thank you and good night.

(Also?  Free online Snood -- aka Bubbles -- is the coolest thing ever.)

How to Save Your Sanity

From here on out, my school days will be measured thusly: Did any children get lost?

So...Boy A hit Girl J at recess (right in front of Aide K, thus forcing Aide D to run over and save her)? Meh. Everyone is present and accounted for.

So Boy R's first real "spit" at me all year went right in my eye? Big whoop. No one is missing.

So we didn't get to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory until after lunch? Oh well. Head count resulted in 8 kids.

So Boy J decided to use his most obnoxious little baby voice for an hour and a half? Whoop-dee-doo. No one is walking alone on the freeway!

See? Life is good.

And, mostly tongue-in-cheek, a new daily feature of the blog:

School Days Since a Child was Lost: 1

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Have I Mentioned I'm Bad at Titles?

I did something dumb last night.

E. is just learning to use a formal communication system.  She imitates some words, has a few signs, and is beginning to use a VOCA (Voice Output Communication...Aid) -- specifically, a TalkTrac -- to request attention.

However, that addresses only a miniscule portion of her needs, and she sometimes uses other means to get what she wants -- one of those is pinching/scratching.

That's fairly common among kids with severe disabilities; it's something I knew going into it, and it doesn't bother me (in the sense that I understand that there's no intention to harm me or anyone else, not in the sense that it doesn't physically hurt).

In any event, while E. is overall scratching much less this year, early this week, she got in a good dig on my left arm.  It had scabbed over and was healing nicely until I was installing my grandpa's new speakers for his computer.

(I say "installing" -- it was really just plugging them in.)

In any event, my arm was itching, and for some reason -- most likely sheer stupidity -- I forgot that there was a scab there and scratched.

And ripped the scab off.

(Which, incidentally, hurt way more than the initial scratch.)

However, that was not the dumb thing.

The dumb thing was, when I asked for a Band-Aid, I answered honestly when my grandpa asked what happened.  Y'see, despite the fact that this is my fifth year of teaching, no one in my family has any real conception of what my job is.

Despite having Patrick around for 20 years -- almost exactly 20.5 -- now, they (1) don't really understand cognitive disabilities in general and (2) have no real conception that Patrick is way more blessed in communication and coping skills than many other kids.

Even as a kid, Patrick never had to scratch or grab hair to get someone to interact with him -- even if it was just "hey!" or "sissy!" or "mommy!" or "Amie!" he had enough verbal skills to accomplish that without using inappropriate means.

Last Christmas, when E. was still really struggling in school (she did not yet have aide support, although the wonderful Miss T. was with her in the mornings by necessity, and every Friday I was left running the class on my own for an hour due to staffing issues -- something E., who does not share attention well at all, did not handle easily) I consciously hid my scabbed hands under the table at all opportunities.

Had my dad's mom been alive (even when she thought I'd be teaching a bunch of kids with Patrick's abilities or more, she thought I'd chosen a pointless career that was wasting my life) I'd have had to take up wearing gloves.

The funny thing is, my grandpa has nearly electrocuted himself many times -- twice with lethal voltages.  He has scars from that.  So does my cousin.

And yet, I feel like I have to defend myself -- and E. -- and that makes me sad.

The really funny thing is, the two injuries I've gotten at work that hurt the most (besides nearly breaking my ankle...that was just clumsiness) were when S. head-butted me (he was trying to bang his own head and as I was distracting his hands, my head was the nearest hard surface...he would have done the same if it was a wall behind him) and when E. chucked that roll of masking tape at my shoulder and it rebounded onto my head.

Scratches really don't hurt much at all...until I rip the scab off.

I'm not sure if there was any profound point to this, other than, "Duh, SpooWriter, next time say the cat did it!"

Happy Sunday, folks, and a belated happy birthday to Cat.

By the Way

The last episode of Feasting on Asphalt 2 was on tonight, and I think it's safe to say that Alton's face upon smelling the lutefisk was at least as good, if not better, than the look on his face just before he took a bite of pickled pig's foot in the show's first season.