Saturday, September 29, 2007


Why, oh why, have I never ordered a Bear Pit sandwich on garlic bread before?

What was once delicious becomes oh-wow-that-is-awesome.

Also, why have I only been there less than 10 times in my life?  It's less than 10 minutes away from where I grew up, and less than 15 minutes from where I live now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We're Cursed

After finally being rid of our oft-absent flake Aide D, I was at least relieved that Aide L (no matter how nosy or...frantic, I think is a good word for her) was very consistent in her attendance last year when subbing for Aide S.

Until she didn't show yesterday.

Or this morning.

So, our frantic office clerk (our office manager was out yesterday and today) was trying to deal with at least 3 other aide absences, but eventually called her.

She missed the part where it said the job was more than one day.


Meanwhile, in the continuing Aide K saga, I made the kids their own checklists for "Catch Up Day," including Boardmaker pictures and listing the color of the appropriate folder.

That is, it said:

Catch Up Day

Go in order.  Check each folder on the list and make sure all the week's work is done.  Check off each one as you finish it.

1.  Agenda book.

2.  Journal.

3.  News-2-You (Orange)

4.  Literature (Green)


Not only did Aide K not understand it (I heard her muttering about whether Angel should go in order), Angel had to explain it to her.

My student.

A girl in my special day class.

Had. To. Explain. A. Visual. Checklist.

To an aide.


That, however, was topped by the moment when she went over to Aide S with Angel's agenda book.  Angel had a brain freeze on Monday and instead of writing the date in each box in her agenda book, wrote:

Monday, September 24, 2007.

Monday, September 25, 2007.

And so forth.

Aide K asked Aide S if that was correct.

Not, should she fix this?  But if it was supposed to be that way!

You know, it took Aide ME (the one who talked all the time) four tries, purportedly, to pass our district's aide test.  Aide ME wasn't exactly firing on all thrusters, but she was more with it than K.

Which leaves me wondering: how in the name of all that's holy did this woman pass the aide test?

On the plus side, it bodes very well for Former Student A (who was reclassified -- correctly -- last year as having learning disabilities and a processing disorder rather than cognitive disabilities), who would make an excellent aide.  I always worried about her passing the test, but if Aide K did, there's no way A wouldn't.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Writing With Symbols does not always play nice with my printers. Sometimes, it prints the bottom half of the page over the top half of the page.

A while back, I noticed that if I printed to a PDF file first (via a very old set of drivers that shipped with the pre-installed Word Perfect on this computer), most of those problems were eradicated -- plus, it gave me a chance to review the document before I printed it from Adobe Reader.

Tonight, however, it is not playing nicely. I've been trying to print chapter 9 of Charlie for, I kid you not, over half an hour. Chapter 8 worked flawlessly. I still have to make the questions that go with the chapters.

But I can't get chapter 8 to print!

Everything looks like this:

If I fix page 1 and get it working correctly, page 4 is all screwed up. Grr.

Edited to add: As much as it makes my techie heart weep, I gave up. I printed pages 2 through 10 with my laser printer, and page one with my inkjet, and prayed.

It's not printed double-sided, but it is legible.

Thank Goodness for Small Favors

Thanks to lots of sleep last night, I seem not to have succumbed any further to the epidemic plaguing my classroom; that is, I feel no better, but I also feel no worse.

However, the Bulldozer and E were both absent today. I didn't dare believe it was really true until around 9:00, but by then, it was pretty clear neither was coming. It was, naturally, a relatively calm day, except for Girl J (henceforth known at The Boss -- thus christened by Theresa (thank you) because she thinks she is the boss) decided that rather than actually do her journal, she would draw circles all over it.

In the on-going "ohmigod, Aide T, please come back soon!" saga -- Aide L, who was supposed to finish up the job until she can come back, was not at school today. That, more than my impending illness, is why I was so grateful that neither E nor Bulldozer were at school today.

I am now left pondering whether I would rather Bulldozer be absent tomorrow. On the one hand, if he is at school, he will likely be only partly recovered and likely very grouchy. On the other, Mondays are bad enough after two days home -- imagine what it'll be like after four!

In other news, Superhero has not had a snack for three days. On the first day, his whole snack bag was missing. He dug into his backpack, muttering, "Where is it?"

On the second day, he had a lunch bag, a Capri Sun, and a napkin. He poured it all out and said, "Where go?"

Today, he had a bag and a napkin. When I asked him what happened to it, he said, "Who say?" ("Who can say?")

He sits next to Preschooler I on the bus most of the time...I told his mom we'd check I for Dorito breath.

Meanwhile, has posted the groundbreaking news that The Seeker: The Dark is Rising bears little resemblance to the eponymous (mostly) book.


I coulda told you that when they changed the name from The Dark is Rising to its current title -- often shortened in the commercials just to The Seeker. Clearly, they were trying to distance themselves from the book.

Also? Why does Sam look like a blonde Vala (sans pigtails) in the Stargate: Atlantis teaser ad?

And finally, how on Earth did I forget that the Alien Nation movie DVD set (so far, a Best Buy exclusive) came out two weeks ago? Bad fan. No cookie.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


So, the Bulldozer had no meltdowns today.  None.  There was no crying at all.  I realize this may be a temporary reprieve, but it was a relief, as I am apparently catching the cold M had last week and E had today.

Aide L (our sub for Aide S last year) is now our sub for Aide T until she comes back.  I'd forgotten how nosy she is!  Eesh.  Fortunately, Aide S just kept working with kids, and Aide J answered as briefly and non-specifically as possible.  Good for her.

At least we have someone consistent, though the inevitable comparisons will be forthcoming: Oh, the Bulldozer didn't do that when I subbed in his class last year!  Wow, is Girl J more stubborn this year than last year?  My goodness, M is still having bathroom issues?  They seem worse than last year.

Anyhow, the Bulldozer had no meltdowns, and even participated during the Let's Learn the Rules Second Step lesson.  As in, if someone is talking, you are silent.  You raise your hand to ask a question.  You listen to others.

I made "turn" cards I saw at a Barbara Bloomfield workshop a while back.  Every kid got three.  If you answered a question, you gave one up.  Once yours were gone, you didn't get to answer a question until everybody else's were gone.  If you were using your turn card, everyone else was to be silent.

It actually worked pretty well.

Also, Superhero knows the word (and PECs picture) for frustrated. Cool.

You know the saying about having someone on a short leash?  This group of kids needs a four-inch choke chain.  I have utter faith that we will get there eventually -- the Second Step lesson proved it -- but it's going to there.

But I must say, it was nice to actually get a chance to teach today.  Since E was out sick, Aide J was available to help other kids more than normal, so I was able to pull M during small group working time and work one on one with her.

Tomorrow is principal's recess, which all but three of the kids earned.  I suspect the three who didn't won't be very happy -- but Girl J (I need a nickname for her, by the way) connects actions and consequences well enough that the reminder should do her well in the future.

Incidentally, the five item schedule was way too much for Bulldozer.  Right now, only the bottom spot has an activity in it, and then his reinforcer (i.e., an if-then board -- if you do your journal, then you can draw).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Commercial Randomness

Can someone please explain to me why we need to tell people that they shouldn't take birth control pills if they are pregnant?

I mean, either they are trying to abort and therefore suspect it will have that effect, or...


Sorry, can't think of an "or" except "very extremely stupid."

Only 2

As in, the Bulldozer went from (I think) 6 meltdowns yesterday to only 2 today, one of which I was expecting and was logical (in Bulldozer-think) -- hitting had allowed him to escape speech the last two weeks, so he figured it would do the same. I ended up on my knees scooching him across the floor.

Superhero had a small one after recess (he came back from science totally wacko) which I managed to deal with (though I did have to shush Aide J and Aide S...grr...). I did get spit on for the first time in a couple of weeks, but only twice, and he soon realized that wasn't getting him anywhere.

In the continuing saga of Aide S, E is back to beating her up on a regular basis. Why?

Well...despite me mentioning (repeatedly) that E is trying to get attention from her (and pointing out her TalkTrac as an alternative) her reaction to anything E does is a very loud, "E, no, we need nice hands; E, I'm not leaving until I get nice hands; E, etc. etc. etc."

In other words, attention.

A lot of it.

No wonder E's first act upon seeing S is to take a swipe at her.

Le sigh.

It's funny -- you can teach people the reasons for behavior and they might even get some of it (e.g. she understands that the Bulldozer's main motivation is escape) but there's often this one little blind spot.

For some people -- for a lot of people, really -- it's sensory-seeking behavior -- some people just don't get that M squeezes your...chestal area (to quote someone; I can't remember who) because she needs to feel that squeeze -- but for S, it's attention-seeking behavior.

This morning, E scratched my arm twice. I blocked her arm, looked away, and said nothing. As soon as I felt her body language relax, I turned and said "hi" and gave her lots of attention. She made one other half-hearted attempt, to which I responded the same way. Next thing I know, she's relaxed, slumped against me (I don't think she feels well), and is seeking out my hand to hold it.

As I said in yesterday's rant: my way works people. You've seen me take E in full meltdown mode back into quiet, semi-independent working. Ditto the Superhero. Matter of fact, he calmed down enough today to tell me his rules without me asking him too.

Yeah, it took a while, and, yeah, I did get spit on, and, yeah, he was godawful loud.

But you know what? He responded to my (non-verbal) prompts to raise his hand to ask for a squirt, and rephrased when I asked him to say it more quietly. Later, when he was even more ready for work, he was able to quietly ask for help when he needed it and he finished his work independently when he was ready.

So, let's compare. Had I done nothing but redirected him ("Superhero, that's too loud. Supehero, be quiet." "Superhero, I don't like that.") all he's done is hear his own name and me talking to him for quiet a while, and he travels farther up the excitement slope.

This way was less convenient for me, but he learned that to get my attention, he had to work quietly and ask for it.


Really, though, except for the fact that I haven't been able to implement M's sensory diet appropriately (though I did send the class outside to read today so I could sit in the dark (with the front door open; I'm not stupid) with her, brush her -- which she tolerates, kinda, sometimes, but the OTs say to do it -- do joint compressions -- which she doesn't seem to like, but the counting calms her -- and get her calm.

As she's calming, she tearfully says, "M crying."

"Why are you crying?"

(No response.)

"What's wrong?"

"Why she's mad, M?" (As in, as nearly as I could tell, she was mad at herself.)

"Why are you mad?"

"Where bike -- I want -- where -- she's mad bike. Crying sad."

It's the most spontaneous, non-echolalic conversation I've ever heard from this child.

"I'm sorry, M. But it's not your day. It'll be your day soon." (My bickering bunch of old married couples was not sharing well. Actually, they just generally pick at each other. They have assigned spots in line, assigned seats at each table, assigned order for chances at the computer, and an assigned order for the bike.)

"It's not your day! Bike!"

I began some feather-light touches on her hand and forearm, which often calms her way better than deep pressure, thus further proving SBS's hypothesis that everything the OTs believe is backwards in M's neurological system.

"It'll be your day soon."

"M sad, crying sad."

"I know."

After that, she rubbed her eyes and we started to read until -- darn it -- the kindergartners came out for lunch. She had trouble focusing after that, but eventually was able to sit with me and Superhero and get some work done (independently, even).

I have to say, it was almost enough to get me to bend the rules and give her the bike.

Meanwhile, Boy J did nothing horrible but was generally testy all day. He did something at recess and did his singsong voice, but this time, I printed out a page of "I will act like a fourth grader" and made him write it. I'm generally not big on standards, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. He did stop and did well the rest of the day.

Our adapted social studies lesson went well, except for Bulldozer's meltdown -- but he recovered partway into the lesson and sat with the group and participated (!!!) for about 20 minutes before he lost it again. Well, that and the fifth and sixth graders moving at a snail's pace because Aide K had to read her instructions (which she still didn't carry out correctly; I overheard her having Angel (New Girl) circling all the Native Americans, when her job was to write a sentence about one, but whatever). I have a few things to tweak for next time, but overall I was happy with it.

Plus, it took a whole hour. :-)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Chair Adventure

Apologies to anyone I may have inadvertently freaked out with my last post (cough!Theresa!cough!)...I just didn't have the mental wherewithal to describe the drama in detail.

Things that happened today include (note: include, but are not limited to):

1.  The Superhero, the Bulldozer, M, Boy J, and Girl J all melting down at the same time.  Seriously.

2.  Aide D not showing up.  Which is not a huge loss, considering we were going to tell her "Thanks, but no thanks" today anyway, for exactly that.  Especially since it turns out that she's been going to her afternoon sub position even on the days she flakes with us.

2a.  And, yet, another body for the moment described in #1 would have been...nice.

3.  The Bulldozer tried to lock me into my own computer area with a bookcase.  You have to at least give him props for the audacity.

4.  The Bulldozer decided that I did not actually want a chair and moved it out from under me as I sat down.  Hence the large bruise on my back and -- thanks to Aide J -- the report I had to file with Risk Management.

4a.  I have done worse to myself.  However, there is something about having it done deliberately that smarts.  Not like he hasn't been hitting me or anything, but still.

5.  The Superhero was processing things as slowly as molasses today.  Like, 10 seconds' processing time or better.  Naturally, because I was busy with the Bulldozer (see #4), I missed Aide S. getting on his case and assuming he was being defiant.

5a.  I would have assumed the same except that even when I asked him if he was ready for snack/recess/other thing she likes, it took at least 10 seconds to get a reply.

5b.  He might have been, some of the time...but Aide S is still not-grasping how to redirect him.  Despite my explaining in detail to the Superhero's father what "we" (a.k.a. me, Aide J, and Aide Mrs. B) do to redirect him right in front of her.

5c.  What the frell is going to happen in science tomorrow?  :-(

6.  We made it through News-2-You relatively unscathed.  However, the Bulldozer was at it again...I forget why except that it was Monday.  But, I tied his pen to the table with a long piece of yarn, and it took him about 10 attempts at throwing the pen to realize it wasn't going anywhere.  I have to admit, that was amusing.

6a.  I miss teaching News-2-You.

7.  I miss teaching...all I'm doing these days is putting out fires.

7a.  Or sometimes not.

8.  Nobody noticed until I asked that Princess had taken her BRAND NEW (as in, just brought them to school today) glasses off at recess and left them in the grass.  Thank God we found them.

8a.  I was hoping we'd have a week or two before I flashed back to losing RL's hearing aids....

9.  Aide K had a simple instruction after we did science today:  Finish agenda books and then journals (note the "then").

9a.  Five minutes later, Princess is completing a week-old journal, and Boy J is PLAYING IN OUR BEANBAG AREA!

10.  E had a good day.  Thank goodness.  If she hadn't, Aide J couldn't have helped me when...

11.  ...M lost it.  As in, royally, totally, nearly knocked Boy J over off the bike lost it.  As in, screaming, squealing, swearing, cackly laugh lost it.

11a.  The OTs are going to ask me tomorrow how her sensory diet is working.  Aide D hasn't been at school since the day they brought it -- so I haven't been able to try it.  Hooray.  :-(

12.  It's that time, and my stomach hurt all day, which didn't improve my mood.

13.  I don't know if it's the hormones, but comments like "he's still going?" about the Bulldozer, or just "still?" about M really bothered me today.  You think that I like listening to that?  You think I'm not doing everything in my admittedly-stretched-to-the-breaking-point multitasking ability ('cause, really, who can handle five simultaneous meltdowns with only one reliable adult for backup?) to get everybody under control?

13a.  My bag of tricks work.  You have seen it.  Before making snarky comments, you might consider TRYING SOME OF THEM.  Hmph.

13b.  Seriously.  Try them.  You can't comment 'till you try them.

13c.  TRY THEM.

On the plus side, I've come up with what I feel like is a good way to modify our social studies texts -- I feel like I've got a fairly good balance of functional skills like counting, word/letter/number identifying and vocabulary development versus simplified modified content.

Also, I task analyzed the entire thing and printed it out with each step highlighted so that Aide K will not be totally useless.  I hope.

Seriously, one group's thing leads off with:

1.  Open to Unit 1 (page 1)  -- this is the highlighted part.
a.  Direct the kids to the page numbers.  Every child in this group should be able to find this page.

2.  Show pictures of Native Americans (color page, attached)
a.  Elicit some sort of response from each kid (e.g. which one has feathers, which is a boy, how many, etc.)

3.  Take out "Native American" worksheet from social studies folder
a.  M, Superhero, Princess --> circle all the Native Americans
b.  The Angel (new girl) --> Choose 1 Native American and write a sentence about him/her

And so forth.  Tell me she can't screw that up.  Please?

On the minus side, it's taking longer than I thought it would.

I'm gonna go find myself a Mountain Dew, have a peanut butter sandwich, and go to bed.

Today Sucked

That is all.

Edited to add:  Turns out it sucked more than I thought.  Somehow, my chair adventure resulted in a large bruise on my back, more or less in the middle (above the small of the back, below the shoulder blades).  Now how did I manage that...?