Taking Over the World

Instead of posting about my annoyingly long day, I thought I would share another recipe with you. I make these Make-Ahead Lunch Wraps in big batches on the weekend. I wrap them in plastic wrap and they are good for up to three months in the freezer. Short on time? Can't think of what to pack for lunch? Simple! Grab a wrap! All it needs is two or three minutes in the microwave! It has totally revolutionized my school lunches. And my school lunches needed revolutionizing because I don't do sandwiches. It used to be leftovers from the night before or crackers and cheese. But now with my wraps, I can eat something quick, healthy, and filling!

In fact, other teachers in the lounge have noticed my lunch wraps and have requested the recipe. Since they have started bringing wraps to school, others are noticing so it continues to spread. Soon, my plan for lunchroom domination will be complete! Moohahaha (evil laugh)!

What do you pack for lunch?

Leaving My Mark

This morning, Mrs. Hufflepuff (one of our three cats) left her mark on the kitchen counter by way of a gigantic hairball--complete with splatter against the wall.

This afternoon, our dean of curriculum and instruction told me that I had already left quite a mark on our school after not even a full year of being there. He wanted to thank me for starting up and implementing two school-wide curriculum (Rocket Math and Read Naturally). That was a nice bit of encouragement!

Messy mark = bad
Resourceful mark = good

Can't Make This Stuff Up

Do you remember this kiddo, a six-year old first grader with high-functioning autism? He is making great gains in being able to stay in the mainstream. We are lucky to have an aide whose specialty is working herself out of a job as she teaches her student to function independently in the classroom.

Even though he's been doing so much better, there are still times when he becomes overwhelmed by certain activities. And even though he is very verbal, he has a funny way of communicating his frustration (we're working on it). Like yesterday, when he had had enough of doing his writing assignment and his aide continued to keep him on task....

Kiddo says to aide: "I wish you had NEVER given birth to me!!!!!"

Aide: "Oh, hon, I didn't give birth to you; your mommy did!"

Kiddo (said matter-of-factly): "You are getting on my last nerve. I'm going home"
[He then proceeded to make a beeline for the door]

Needless to say, our aides wear tennis shoes to work!

Hooray for Today!

So today was my first good day of the school year. And it's no coincidence that my first good day was also my first normal day where I was able to stick to my regular routine.

I am a creature of habit by nature. I have a routine for going to bed, for getting up, for eating breakfast, and for doing chores. I have a vacation routine and a work routine. I like my routines. They help me to be a happy, healthy person. It doesn't matter that Max makes fun of me for always ordering the chicken quesadilla when we go to Applebees. I don't care if people think I'm weird for having the exact same breakfast in the morning. I have to do what works for me!

And today, pulling kids at their regular time to work on the regular stuff... well, that just made my whole universe fall into place. I finally felt grounded; I knew what to expect and when. All my perfect little ducks lined up in a row. Happy, happy, happy!

I know my universe will start to spin too fast again and my ducks will step out of line later on this week. (Tomorrow, I can't even see any kids because I have IEP meetings all day.) But for now, I'm going to savor the normalcy. Yummm--it tastes like chocolate....

Everyone Learns

Thank you all for your encouraging comments in my previous post! That boost was just what I needed! In looking at my school calendar, it looks like the light at the end of my tunnel will be Oct. 31st. Then things will slow down to just normal stress, not scary-stress (get it? scary? Halloween? Ha!) Today, I thought I would share an anecdote with you.

I was standing in line with "Mason" (not his real name) and the rest of his first grade class for hot lunch. Mason is new to us this year and he has Aspergers. His one-on-one aide was not there on Friday and the substitute we had contacted decided not to show at the last minute. So I had to e-mail all the teachers of the kids I work with and inform them of the emergency situation and apologize for not being able to pull their kids for services that day (so I could sub for Mason's aide).

The most interesting part of Friday was in the lunch line. A little boy right in front of Mason and me (I'll call him Herb), turned and looked at Mason and said very sweetly: "Hi, Mason, my name is Herb. Can you say 'Herb'?" Mason just ignored him. I hung back and decided to let this play out as a spectator.

Herb tried again. "Hey, Mason, our teacher is "Ms. Fox"; can you say 'Ms. Fox'?" Mason can actually say quite a lot of things but was getting tired of this conversation, so he said in a rather bored way "Ms. Fox".

Well Herb was very excited about his progress. He looked me directly in the eyes, pumped both of his little fists up in victory and shouted: "HE LEARNS!"

And I Mean This Reflectively, not Negatively...

About one year ago, I was praying that the Lord would give me a teaching position where I could "do the most good". I didn't ask to be in a school where everyone collaborated and got along swimmingly. I didn't ask to be in a school led by an amazing administration. I didn't ask for a supportive staff or principal. I was pretty specific in wanting a situation where my gifts and talents could fill a need.

That's why I shouldn't be so surprised when I look around me and realize that my school is a pretty toxic environment in which to work. My only question is.... what, what, WHAT can I possibly do to change it?

Because--bottom line--it would make me feel a lot better about being there if I knew that there was a specific, eternally significant reason to be there. And... maybe if I thought about it long and hard, I might be able to think of some reasons; but right now, I'd just like this year to be over so I can move on to a different school.

Chomping at the Bit

It's simple, really. All I want is to give my kids the services they need, to collaborate with their teachers, and to keep their parents involved. It's really not that complicated.

So why isn't this happening? I'll give you the short list:

  1. Two weeks of district testing cause me to spend all of my time accommodating for special needs students (translation, I read tests out loud all day instead of servicing my students)
  2. Principal decides that paperwork should be our priority, not the kids. This means keeping services to the absolute minimum to allow time for paperwork... if it says that kid X needs four to six hours in the resource room, I pull him four, not six.
  3. Principal schedules special education meetings once a week during the school day that last for TWO HOURS.

We've begun the third week of school and I have yet to start servicing my kids. Teachers are bugging me about it; parents are bugging me about it; my kiddos catch me in the hallway and ask when they get to come see me!

I would me a much more effective and well-adjusted teacher if I could just go and do my job in peace...

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Hello world. It's 7:30 AM right now and I've been up and out of bed for nearly an hour this Saturday morning as a part of my sleep experiment. It's been seven whole days that I've been doing this and, I have to admit, I'm sold on the concept! Granted, it is extremely unpleasant to hear the alarm go off that early on the weekend, but I've noticed some definite changes during the work week:

  1. It's so much easier and quicker to fall asleep.
  2. I still get a little tired during the day, but nowhere near the exhaustion I used to feel when I was afraid to prolong a blink in fear of falling asleep on my desk!
  3. My Friday evening commute home is no longer a dangerous flirtation with death. I used to have to fight to keep my eyes open and to stay on the road. Not so anymore! Even when I stay at school until 6:30 at the end of a long and stressful week, I'm very much awake as I drive home!!
  4. My weekends feel L-O-N-G.

Now, the sleep research also says that you shouldn't eat food or watch T.V in the two hours prior to going to bed. But.... you have to draw the line somewhere, people!

B is for Busy

This morning, I got an email from my new Resource Room colleague... she wrote in passing: "You're the busiest person I know." After I wrote her back and told her to interrupt me at any time should she need help or advice with anything, I got to thinking.

If there was an award for "the busiest person ever" and it came with say, one million dollars, this is what I would do:
First, I would hire a secretary to handle all of my paperwork, keep track of my meetings (or better yet, just go to my meetings!), and schedule kids. This would allow me to actually focus on teaching my students.
Then, I would hire a chef, a housekeeper, and a personal shopper to cater to my every whim. This would allow me to come home and crash on the couch!

Or... maybe I would just retire and live off the cash.... Hm.

"Chew Food Not People"

This, of course, is good advice for everyone, but it is especially good advice for a certain six-year-old boy with autism who I happen to work with.

The advice (well, it was more like a direction) was given to him by our assistant principal after he had bitten his aide on the arm twice. When we brought him to her office, he was screaming at the top of his lungs that we "don't call dad!!" Screaming and sobbing. When we were finally able to calm him down, our AP told him in plain and simple terms that teeth were for chewing food, not people, and that if he made that choice again, we would be calling dad. When we were sure that he understood the rules and the consequences, we sent him back to class with his long-suffering aide.

About an hour later, I'm walking out of the lounge towards my classroom when I notice our social worker RUNNING down the hall to my room. Never a good sign. It means a kid is having some sort of fit or meltdown, or timeout. It was my little guy again. He had bit his aide again! This time the regular ed teacher and the aide brought him to the office. We called his dad while he was half screaming, half crying, and curled up in a ball against his teachers' chest.

When the aide hung up the phone, she started to discuss with the kiddo what his dad had said. He didn't want to hear any of it, so he flattened himself out like a board (laying across his teacher's lap), closed his eyes, crossed his arms in the shape of an X across his chest, and stuck out his tongue. He was literally playing dead. The sheer unexpectedness of this action (in all of its six-year-old wisdom and logic) was enough to make each of us turn away from him and laugh into our sleeves.

Must... keep... a straight face... for discipline....

Sleep Experiment

After feeling continuously tired and having so many problems falling asleep and staying asleep, my husband has convinced me to try to sleep the way the research says we should sleep: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (or within an hour of the same time every day). For me, that means going to bed around 10 and getting up before 7 ON THE WEEKENDS! A little part of me died just typing that.

So we've been trying it out this weekend and we're going to stick with our plan for the next couple of weeks and see if we become more rested and less cranky individuals. Wish us luck!

Think Happy Thoughts

I worked a thirteen hour day (okay, eleven hours with two hours total of commute) and brought work home with me. But the good news is that I get to do my work on our brand new laptop! Yay for new toys!

Stretch Marks

Imagine a rubber band. Imagine seventeen different people pulling at different points on the rubber band. That's how I feel this week. Pretty soon, if someone's not careful, this rubber band is going to snap and poke someone in the eye....

My body knew I was way stressed out before my mind caught up with it. It's been giving me clues like sleeplessness and tummy aches and head aches after lunch. This morning right after our first IEP team meeting with the principal (which lasted 2 hours and forty-five minutes!!), two of my colleagues told me I looked like a volcano trying not to erupt--and this after much prayer on my commute for peace and calmness!!

So my task is this: to LET GO of the things that are out of my control; and to stay late after school to accomplish all that I can. This means training my brain to somehow stop worrying about what I can't change. This means sacrificing more personal time on weekdays at least until mid-October. Also, this means sleep..... If only I could push a "standby" button and sleep....

A Matter of Perspective

I knew today would be a little rough, because over the weekend, one of our one-on-one aides resigned. She was assigned to a mainstreamed sixth grader who has Down Syndrome. Until we can find someone new, I'm in charge of making sure she participates, follows directions, and does her work. She can be difficult to work with.

I had a busy day, bouncing between my sixth grader and two first graders who need a lot of support. Add to the mix a few teachers who need me to get down to their classrooms because they are seeing major red flags in some new students, and I felt a bit stretched.

I think it was overall a good day, aside from my sixth grader pooping her pants in the afternoon.

But at least a kindergartner didn't pee on my bare arm from the top of the playground slide. My general ed. colleague can't say as much. So I guess it can always be worse!!!

Last Craft of the Summer

There is no better way to start the school year than with chocolate. That's why, when I saw these instructions for Hershey's Nugget boxes, I just had to make them for the members of my special education team! Half of them are pictured here (without the chocolate).

5:30 AM is going to come sooooooo quickly....
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