Friday, September 21, 2007

Peter David Rocks

Like the title says (link).

That is all.

Well, okay, so does Wil Wheaton (yes, the guy I had a crush on as a kid...and how cool is it that he grew up to be a nerd?).

It's Amazing What... notice when you're waiting out a child's...drama.

We had a fairly good day, but it was exhausting because everyone seemed just on this edge of a colossal meltdown.  No one actually did, but I'm drained from the sheer effort of preventing it.

Meanwhile, Aide D was back today -- without even an apology for missing three of five workdays this week.  She then proceeded to spend recess on her cell phone without paying attention to the Bulldozer.  After conferring with Aide S and Aide J to see if they really wanted to take on (1) another sub who could potentially be worse or (2) no one at all, we jointly decided to ask the office not to invite her back.

I suspect I won't be popular on Monday after they speak with her.

However, that's not what this post is about.  This post is about our Places in the News map, which I have hung up in my classroom. Whenever we read about a new place in News-2-You, we mark it with a Post-It on the map.  Each month, more or less, we take those Post-Its off and mark the places on the world map in the back of the kids' agenda books.

My ultimate goal is that every child in the class be able to find America (unlike many high school graduates), with the exception of E., who I would like to at least understand the direction "come to the map."

Here is the map so far:
Last week, one of the places in the news was Egypt.  We were reading about the new list of the seven wonders of the world but we also read about the Great Pyramid of Giza.

I was busy with...probably the Bulldozer...and asked Aide K to put Egypt on the map with whoever's turn it was to read.  (Whoever has read the sentence with the place in it gets to put the Post-It on the map.)  She goes up to the map and stares at it for quite some time.

Finally, I say, "It's in Africa."

She examines Europe and Russia.

"Down south of there," I say.

She examines Europe.

"It's the...purple one, I think, at the top right hand corner of Africa."

"No, down to the left," puts in Aide J, who is watching this in morbid fascination.

Finally, she puts the Post-It on.  I assume she has located Egypt, and go about my life.

Yesterday, as The Bulldozer was wailing about...whatever...I stare at the map, so as not to give him eye contact.
You will notice that the pink "Egypt" Post-It is not near Egypt.  It's not even in Africa.  Nor is it at the "top right" of any conceivable landmass, let alone Africa.

Even E can match words by matching the first letter.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Science Dilemma

One piece of fallout from the whole Aide S versus Superhero situation is that Superhero has been having a hard time in science class. Granted, it's probably not what I would have chosen as an mainstreaming activity for him, but since Teacher JT volunteered it at his IEP, it's what we gotta do.

Superhero likes science. Once, when Aide S brought him back from science, he pulled her towards the door and wanted to go back. The problem is that my choices for sending him to science are:

Aide D. If she ever came. Which she hasn't all this week except for Tuesday. Plus, not so good with the Superhero, or anyone, really, except for Boy J and the Angel. She was good with J, R, and A last year.

Aide J. Leaving me with E. Or, y'know, putting Aide S or Aide D with E. Aide S would but would get scratched to death in the process. Aide D would quit on the spot.


And Aide S. Hence the dilemma.

Anyhow, he had a very hard day in science on Tuesday, which surprises me not at all as he had to listen to over an hour of The Bulldozer wailing, even though they had a break and read Charlie outside, while the Bulldozer wailed at me.

So, I spent the last couple of days making several active things for him to do during science -- kinda like what I do for E during News-2-You. I gave him letter matching and copying and spelling all relating to the scientific method -- which I hope is what they're still doing, so that his separate/modified work is on the same topic, but no one has actually told me what is going on in science, and it's a measure of my distraction that I never thought to ask.

Anyhow, he has nearly 15 pages of work. Let's hope this works.

Meanwhile, I told the science teacher B that she was more than welcome to ask R to step outside until he can be quiet. My inclination is that since he wants to be there, a few times of that will be enough to shut the kid up. ;-) The only hitch in the plan would be if Aide S harped on him continually -- don't worry, I'm telling her not to do that, but if she's still PMSing....

Meanwhile, Aide K's profound comment of the day, in response to my aide hint that I put on the wall was:

"Okay, so...I don't is eye contact attention?"

My brain stuttered, and I (in yet another display of oratorical brilliance, thus proving why I prefer to communicate in writing) said, "Because it's attention."

(Which, duh, it is. You're looking at the child, in the child's eyes, focusing your visual attention on the -- oh, never mind. I'm sure you all get it.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Backup -- We Need Backup!

Before I continue with our tale of woe begun earlier today, I must share this lovely caption under an artist's conception of NASA's Ares rockets -- the space vehicles due to replace our aging shuttle fleet:
NASA's Ares launch vehicles are supposed to replace the space shuttles, but won't be ready until 2010 -- five years after the shuttles are retired.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's currently 2007 and the shuttles are flying.

Are you with me so far?

Saying the shuttles are retired immediately, five years from now is...ta-da...2012.

C'mon, Wired, you're a tech publication.  You write for nerds.  Do your math.  Please?

Even better, in the article itself, it says:
The nation's most visible launch vehicle, the space shuttle, will have its wings clipped in 2010, and current plans for a successor rocket to lift cargo and crew into orbit won't come to fruition until at least 2015, when the first Ares rockets make it to the launch pad.
Okay, so, you fail either at math or at reading comprehension. Yay you.

Anyhow, when we last left off, The Superhero had eventually decided that I'm the boss (yay) and that he would do what he was asked (double yay) quietly (triple yay).

So I innocently head off to my recess break, while the whole class goes to the 5th/6th grade yard since Aide D was absent again.  Then I go to pick them up, and chaos has ensued.

Boy J has been slapping girls on the butts and the Superhero -- after sitting on the wall -- went to the bathroom and then refused Aide S's requests to go sit back down.

We had a fire drill, so I basically said, "Fine, I'll deal with this later," and walked the class to the fire drill.

By the time we get there, Girl J has committed some heinous act of treason -- the specifics of which I have either since forgotten or was never told -- and is also in trouble.  This leaves Princess, New Girl, and, of all people, the Bulldozer.

During the fire drill, Boy J plays with the grass and begins throwing it at Aide S, who continues on her campaign of terror.  I am distracted by The Superhero and before I know it, Boy J has lost several of his tickets.  Aide J, bless her, steps in and calmly (hooray for her!) tells J that if he continues to do X, Y will happen.  If he wants good things to happen, he needs to make good choices.  Etc. etc.

So we go back to class, and I sit The Superhero at his own table with visual cues/gestures only, so he knows he's in deep doo-doo.  Boy J tries to rip the kids' cards off when asked to take off his so he's redirected to the Bulldozer's table where he can be easily blocked in.

And then he begins the godawful baby voice singing of which Teacher M spoke (darn her).  This behavior, also, is attention-seeking, and yet, while Aide J ignores him until he stands on the table and then simply says calmly (hooray for her!), "J, get down," Aide S goes off on him too, as I'm moving The Superhero farther away because he's begun to imitate the godawful baby voice singing.

And dancing.

On the table.

Have I mentioned the godawful baby voice?

So, I split the class into small groups and move myself near Boy J, where I redirect him only with taps on the shoulder until he stops the godawful baby voice singing (have I mentioned it's godawful?) about half an hour later.

Meanwhile, Aide K has come and I debate which group I can give her.  I dearly want to keep Aide S away from The Superhero at this point, but it's not like Aide K could handle him either.  So, I pray that a miracle reboot has occurred and give her The Bulldozer and Girl J.

I look back at Boy J to get him started copying his note home and look back at the table, which is really four double desks put together in a long rectangle.  The Bulldozer is drawing pizzas for Aide J (who is really supposed to be taking a lunch at this time, except, yeah, that didn't happen) while Girl J is at the other end of the table as Aide K stares aimlessly at the white board.


(Did I mention that my instructions were to "complete the game page through the crossword puzzle and then work in their black folders"? and not five minutes later did Aide K go to Aide J and say, "I'm really confused about what they should be doing here."  And then, when both I and Aide J had repeated those instructions, she told got her kids doing only the crossword puzzle?  Yeah.)



As it stands, the Bulldozer is drawing pizzas, Girl J is hiding under the table, Boy J is writing his note home, E is grouchy 'cause of all the noise (plus what eventually ends up to be stomach trouble), The Superhero and Aide S are at it again, and New Girl and Princess are working together like the little angels they are.

At this point, I send Boy J to work with Aide K, thinking that he at least might be able to work with her.  I tell Aide J that since The Bulldozer is at least not hitting anybody, I will for the moment let him be.

Then I tackle the next problem, which is, at this point, an extremely hyper, overstimulated, thoroughly pleased with himself Superhero.

So, back to the Superhero's point of view.


Hey, Miss Teacher, what are you doing over here?  You wanna laugh too?  Look, I can squeal at you!  Wait, where are we going?  Why are you pointing at me?  Hey, look at me!  Come on, I've got cute puppy dog eyes!

Aw, not with the work again!  Come on!  Aide S and I were having so much fun!  Just look at how loud she was!  Almost as loud as me!  See, aren't we fun!  Wow, I feel like I'm running at 70 miles per hour.  Yee haw.  Life is funny.  You're funny.  I'm funny!  Hey, look -- Girl J is hiding under the table!  That's funny!  Funny funny funny!

Am I ready to work?  I'm not ready to work!  Work isn't funny!  I'm having too much fun with funny.

But c'mon, look at me, will ya?  I know how I can get you to look at me!  It's even funny.  Look, I'm so good at spitting.  Hooray me.  Isn't it funny that I got your glasses?  Funny funny funny.


C'mon, Miss Teacher, why'd you put that folder there?  Then I can't spit at you and you can't look at me, and why should I spit at you if it doesn't make you look at me in the first place.  C'mon, put the folder down.

Aw, man.


Woah, it's lunch time?  I want lunch.  Lunch is fun.  Lunch is funny.  Life is funny.

Isn't it?

What do you mean, which word do I want to type?  I have to work first?  Oh, fine.  See, that wasn't so hard.  Okay, I'm gonna go now, see you later, I want more funny stuff....

...what are you looking at me like that for?

Seriously, Miss Teacher.  What are you looking like that for?

What do you mean I have to sit down at recess?

Oh.  Right.  Yeah, I was kinda loud.  And, yeah, I didn't listen to Miss S.

Am I gonna play or sit?  Duh.  I'm gonna play.

I'm gonna play, right?

Miss Teacher?  I'm gonna play, right?

Uh oh.

I'm gonna sit?

What do you mean, why am I gonna sit?  What did I do to have to...


Fine, I'll repeat it.  "I was mean to Miss S.  I was loud."

Okay.  I'll sit.  You are such a party pooper.  Can I have my lunch now?

Okay, I'll walk with my hands folded.

Okay, I'll sit.  I remember.

Was I saying something was funny?

Hey, stop looking at me like that.  It's not funny, okay?  I get it.  It's not funny.

So, after lunch, I let the two angels (a.k.a. New Girl and Princess)...

...You know what?  New Girl is henceforth known as The Angel.

Anyway, the Angel and Princess got to be on the computer having fun while the rest of the class spent a very boring half an hour practicing how to follow simple directions like "walk to the door without touching anything" and "walk past your friends without touching them."

Here's to a half day tomorrow, and we are all going to hope that the sore throat I've had all day is not going to turn into anything worse, because there is no way on God's green Earth that I am calling in sick anytime in the next...really long time.


Like I said to the Superhero's mom when she commented on how well-behaved the class was during our spelling test before our field trip last Friday, the fact that they could do it, even just that once, means that they can do it.

Therefore, they will do it.

At least once before the school year is over.

Incidentally, today spurred me to do something I've planned all along: put up little hints for the aides of things I've learned along the way.  September's is this:
Hopefully Helpful Tip of the Month

When redirecting a child who is seeking your attention inappropriately (calling out, using inappropriate language, etc.), redirect the child using . . .

As few words as possible


As quiet a voice as possible


As little eye contact as possible

Remember: The more attention you give for inappropriate behaviors, the more (and longer) they will happen. Any child who knows your buttons are pushable will push them more because they want you to react.

This is not the easy way, but it is the best way.

It's All M's Fault

Teacher M, that is, not Student M.

Y'see, we were chatting about my fourth graders yesterday, and when I mentioned Boy J's godawful baby voice thing he does sometimes, she blithely said, "At least he hasn't done the dancing/singing with the baby voice."

Guess what Boy J did today?

For half an hour.

The Bulldozer, on the other hand, had a relatively peaceful day.  He tried to throw my glasses a couple of times but I was able to block all hits, and he even sat with the group for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

He. Sat. With. The. Group!

Aide D was out again today, but at least she called this time.  I suppose.

Meanwhile, however, Aide S either woke up way on the wrong side of the bed today or she's forgotten everything I've taught her over the last two years.

Let me present this entire interaction from Boy R's (henceforth known as The Superhero, thus christened by Cat) point of view.

Boy, everybody is doing their journals.  Even The Bulldozer is quiet.  Hey, how come nobody's looking at ME?  I'm working too.  Princess and Girl J and Boy J don't really need Miss S's help.  Hey, look at me!

Hey, look at me!  I'm cool and awesome and wonderful.  Why aren't you all looking at me?

Ooooh, I know how I can get them to look at me.  Hee hee, I'm so clever, I'll just --

"Superhero, put your HANDS DOWN."

Wooo-oooowie.  That got Miss S's attention, didn't it?

Hee hee.

Hey, let's try -- hey, that feels good...I think I'll keep my hands --


Huh?  My green what?  What are you -- ?


Okay, okay, I'll stand up, but -- oooh, look, there's my chewy.  What was I doing again?

"Superhero, Miss S told you to get your green card, please."

Man, Miss Teacher is a party pooper.  Oh well.  She looked real serious.

"Now go sit down please."

All right, all right, Miss Teacher.

Oh, the COMPUTER MOUSE.  COOL!  I love the computer!  It's awesome.  It's the most awesomest thing --


Mwuh?   Oh.  Yeah.  My journal.  Coming Miss S.

So, what was I doing again?  Oh, yeah...trying to use these stickers to write Thursday.  Man, I could use some help.  No one's looking at me again.

What does a guy have to do to get some attention around here?

Oh.  I know.

Hey, that squealing thing feels good.  I think I'll do it again.  This is --


Heh.  That got her.

Wait -- she turned away again.  Well, the squealing thing worked before, let's just try it again.


Wait, what?  My yellow card?  Oh well.  This is fun.

Oh.  Man.  Miss Teacher is giving me the look.  I'd better...nah, this is more fun.

Hey, wait, what's Miss Teacher saying to Miss S?  Who's this R they're talking about, and what's with all the spelling?  Oh, she's looking at me.  I wonder if she's telling Miss S to pay more attention to me?

Let's see.  Hee hee.

Oooh, that growly thing is even more fun.  Makes my jaw feel good.  Cool.


"Superhero, you're hurting my ears.  Please stop."

Wow.  Miss S and Miss J both looked at me.  This is SO COOL!

Aw, come on, Miss J, don't notice Miss Teacher trying to catch your eye.  She'll make you stop looking at me.

Dang.  It worked.  She looked away and started helping E. again.

Better distract Miss S before she sees Miss Teacher too.


Oh, you GO, Bulldozer!  You're awesome!  Thanks for distracting Miss Teacher just as she thought she could make Miss S start ignoring me.  You drive me nuts, but I love ya, man.

"LOOK, Superhero, you're on your red card.  That means NO RECESS."

How come Miss S sounds like she's enjoying that idea so much?  And what's this "No recess" of which you speak?

Oh well.  That's later.  Right now, she's looking at JUST ME.  Wheeee!  This is going so well....

....Bulldozer?  Why'd you stop?  Miss Teacher is going to make me do my work.  Bulldozer?  Hey!  Bulldozer!!

Oh well.  I can get Miss Teacher to look at me.  I'm the Superhero!  I can do anything!

(It's worked so far, right?)

Miss Teacher?  Come on, look at me.  Listen?  I'm squealing my head off.  I'm calling myself a dog!  I'm saying "Bulldozer, shut up!"  Miss Teacher?  Hello?

What did you say?  I could barely hear you.  Why are you whispering?  Miss Teacher, TALK TO ME!

You're not looking at me!  Why aren't you looking at me?

"Superhero, are you ready to work?"

Oh, that's what you said.

And you looked at me!'ll look at me when I work?  And talk to me?

Okay, I can do that.  I'll just yell too -- hey, wait, gimme my paper back!  I want you to look at me!

Oh.  I have to work and be quiet.  You're such a killjoy.  Fine.  Whatever.  Can you help me find the H?  Cool.  Thanks, Miss Teacher.  I guess this is kinda fun.  At least this way, you're smiling when you look at me.

And then, they go out to recess.....

To be continued later.

'Cause it would have been too easy for that to be the end of it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Aaah, Distraction

I am very good at the art of self-distraction.

That is, I really don't want to chooseify our vocabulary for this week (I really should have done it over the weekend), so what do I do?

I made a personal schedule for the Bulldozer, taken from the large schedule I have in the classroom, and copied and pasted down to size, so that we're using the exact same pictures he is already familiar with. I just have to figure out what to use as a "finished" container (probably his pencil box).

The whole thing:

For legal purposes: note that the Bulldozer's name and picture have been blacked out to protect the innocent. The yellow boxes are things he has to do (the white -- every day -- and blue -- not-ever-day smaller pictures) and the green ones are his reward for completing his schedule.

Eventually I would prefer to fade out the green part and have him follow his schedule 'cause...well, 'cause at school, you follow the schedule. But I'll take what I can get at this point.

Top left closeup:

Note that his reinforcers include "get a drink" -- because this is apparently his favorite thing in the world to do. Also note that the symbol for "talk" is his Mighty Mo because I am encouraging his use of his device.

(Which he used today to tell me he wanted to go back to Mrs. S's class. Heh.)

Bottom left closeup:

Now back to vocabulary....

The Bulldozer was a Bear

So, Mondays are clearly not going to be the best of days for a while, as we work to teach The Bulldozer that there are in fact rules at school that he must follow.

He was not a happy camper about that prospect after recess today, though he did well both before and after.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, Aide D-AM (our sub for Aide T) was out again today and did not call in to let us know.  Yipppee.  Add to that a weepy Aide J this morning (she is having drama with her oldest daughter) and a sick Aide S and we had a fun morning.

I had more to blabber about but today is catching up to me and if I don't get up and move, I will fall asleep before I get anything accomplished tonight.

Happy Birthday Enterprise

Yes, I am a nerd.

However, this is cool.  In my younger and more naive years, I would look at a picture of the cast of Star Trek standing next to the Enterprise, which towered over them in all its gleaming white splendor, and always wished they would christen an actual working shuttle "Enterprise."

Instead, Virgin Galactic's first ship is to be given the name.  That is either even cooler or kinda sad, depending on how you feel about the privatization of space flight and exploration.

In other news, Patrick is officially exactly six months away from his 21st birthday.

This is:

1.  Extremely disturbing.  I remember having a conversation once with Amie while sitting on the swing of Patrick's back yard play structure about how I couldn't picture him as a six-year-old.

2.  Potentially lucrative.  Patrick has a knack for pointing out slot machines on the fly.  This started when I would always play a quarter for our grandma, who dearly loved Las Vegas but eventually couldn't go because of her emphysema.

(Although, if she could have gotten past her generation's intense disdain for assistive technology such as scooters, she could have been enjoying her favorite past time until she became too weak to pull the lever -- long after she couldn't walk from the garage to the slot machines.)

3.  Unbe-frelling-lievable.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Busy Few Days

So, Friday was the annual field trip to Simi Valley Days' "Special Kids Day."  Every year, they offer a morning where kids with disabilities can come and ride (some) of the rides (fewer each year, it seems) with volunteers from the Kiwanis Club and a local middle school.

Most years, it's scorching hot and rather uncomfortable for me, but the kids love it, and I enjoy getting to see former students (J, R, and C this year).

Oddly enough, the morning was the highlight of the day Friday.  R's mom came with us on the trip, and got to see him (and the whole class) being exceptionally well-behaved.  Plus, I got to feel like a competent teacher and actually got E, who was totally overstimulated and really upset, calmed down in time to go.

(As the days go on, J forgets more and more the rule that you don't respond to E's scratches with lots of attention.  "E!  Hurt!  That hurt!  Look, E, that hurt!"  I have tried the modeling route, wherein I demonstrate redirecting her by blocking her hands and denying eye contact until she chills out.  This is doubly true when she's overstimulated -- the last thing she needs is more verbal feedback.  I am now planning on giving each aide a copy of the "child cheat sheet" I put in my sub plans.  Maybe that'll help.)

In any event, as expected, M went through the roof.  M has echolalia and when she's stressed, she echoes things she's heard at home -- usually swearing -- but I guess this time she came out with a few "that's stupid!" and "you're stupid!" to J -- who took it personally and was a bit perturbed that I brushed it off.

(Which I didn't, really, I took M back to our quiet corner and just redirected my poor little heart out, but I got her to the point that she could walk to the bus calmly -- yay me!)

Meanwhile, Aide L (our long-term sub for Aide S last year) worked for Aide B, and shoved her nosy self into everything, including me and M -- "Wow, is M having a really hard time this year?  Boy, I don't remember that happening.  Of course, my son T is really behavioral right now..."  Eesh.

Then, while I only had agenda books to get ready for Monday, J's mom was an hour -- An Hour! -- late picking up J.  So I wrote a note -- she called to J from across the school and disappeared.  All I got out was, "So, what happened?"

"What happened, J?" J's mom asked her.


So, needless to say, I got stuck at school late, but I got some much-needed organizing done for Back to School Night Tuesday.

On Saturday, I went up to Oak Glen to get apples -- in particular, Honeycrisp apples (which are the best apples ever but very hard to find -- though Gelson's carries them sometimes).  While there, I tasted a variety I'd never heard of before -- Mutsu apples.  They are good!  They're green apples, and they taste like a slightly tarter Honeycrisp.  Yummy.

Of course, driving there down the 10 Freeway, I kept having tiny panic attacks watching the plume of smoke from the fire in Big Bear, but the sky was clean and beautiful in Oak Glen.  Plus -- fresh apple cider donuts!

Today wasn't quite as eventful but it was productive.  I went grocery shopping and got a bunch of work for school done.  I copied the News-2-You that was posted last Thursday on Friday, and modified it today -- so I'm set for News-2-You for three weeks.  :-)  My goal is to continue that and have a buffer zone because...

...part of the kids' journal now includes practicing their spelling words, because of the 8, only the three sixth graders do their homework.  So, if they're not practicing at home, they should at school.  But this means that I have to have spelling words chosen ahead of time, in enough time to copy and modify as necessary.

In random other news: posted a news article that the abomination that was Galactica: 1980 is coming to DVD.  However, what brought me up short was the cover art, which featured, naturally, the cast.  Duh, right?  

But get this -- ever since I started watching Farscape, the identity of Crichton's father Jack has puzzled me.  He looked terribly familiar, but a cursory glance at yielded nothing.

Apparently I didn't look closely enough, because, there is is on the cover art, clear as day.  He played grown-up Boxey.  Wow.

At least he eventually got to be on good sci-fi, right?

That's almost as weird as seeing Greg's dad (from Dharma and Greg) on a 2nd season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation playing Riker's estranged dad.  Almost.  At least in that case, I like both shows.

Here comes another week.  :-)