Teachers Anonymous

(you know, instead of AA)

We would all sit in a circle, then one by one we would introduce ourselves: "Hi, my name is Sarah. I'm a teacher and my best is never good enough."

Then we'd all go out for drinks and laugh about our kids and cry about our administration.

After that, we'd fall asleep promptly at 7:30 from sheer exhaustion...

Fool me once...

Students are reading quietly (or, as "quietly" as is possible for fifth graders). "Logan" comes to my desk to ask this question: "Can I go to the bathroom 'cause I need to throw up".
"Can I go to the bathroom 'cause I need to throw up?"
It was such an odd request and totally threw me off guard, so I said... "Okaaaaaayyyyy"
Then he turned around, walked out my door, and started skipping and jumping down the hallway.
Next thing you know, I'm half-yelling down the hall: "WAIT JUST A MINUTE, GET BACK HERE, YOU'RE NOT SICK!!!!!!!!!!"
Obviously no one has taught this boy how to fake it......

He forgets I'm untenured

Every weekend, I do my lesson planning for the week ahead. It's extra time consuming because my principal wants me to submit my lesson plans on this special form. The form and the way it's set up is completely counter-intuitive and is in no way helpful in actually implementing my plans. If a substitute came in and was handed my week's lesson plans on the principal's form, she might say something like: "Oooh, that's a pretty form!! Now what should I do with the students?"

So, like most of the other teachers at my school, I end up having to make two sets of lesson plans: one to appease my principal, and one that I can actually follow. Double the work!

Ten minutes ago, I finished MY set of lesson plans. I was about to go to the computer and fill out the principal's set of plans when my husband suggested that instead of tediously filling out all those boxes, I just write: "See diploma. See resume"

Because I do know what I'm doing, after all.

Plan B: Quit

Remember when I said that no token system is going to stand against a chemical imbalance in the brain? 'Member? There is just no defense but to brace yourself against the wrath and fury that is sure to be unleashed when that One Student walks into class with murder in his eyes...

"Jose" is that One Student on my caseload. He's had trouble regulating his emotions since preschool and is frequently defiant (but maddeningly passive aggressive about it!), avoids any kind of work, is verbally and physically aggressive, and loves to engage adults in power struggles.

As far as I can tell, the staff that have worked with him have been great: documenting what goes on, involving the parent, enforcing consequences to the best of their ability, trying 101 strategies to find one that works, writing Behavior Plans and Functional Behavior Assessments up the wazoo, and calling the behavior specialists when they are out of ideas.

Unfortunately, the behavior specialist assigned to our school is less of a behavior specialist and more of a Professional-Documenter-and-Boss-of-the-World.

I had my first interaction with her last week and she was quite rude. She asked me what had been going on with Jose since the beginning of the year. I tried to tell her, but PDBW kept interrupting me to berate me for behavior documentation done last year that wasn't on the CORRECT FORM. Last year, you know, when I was in Michigan and not in this state. And the form!!! If we document on the incorrect form the world will stop turning!!!

After SEVERAL interruptions to my answer, I started to get pretty ticked. First of all, listen to the answer to your question, or don't ask the question in the first place! Secondly, I shouldn't have to feel defensive when I'm doing all the right things!

Trying my best to keep the anger out of my face, I succeeded in being respectfully assertive. I started with "LOOK..." then talked very quickly to get out what needed to be said.

I ended my mini-speech talking about appropriate placement: his primary disability is no longer his hearing impairment, it's his emotional impairment. She responded by saying that she didn't want to put him in a behavioral unit because he was just going to get worse.

And she may think that she has the authority to single-handedly decide the placement for a student, but she has another thing coming.

My plan? Document (on the CORRECT FORM) the heck out of every misbehavior, then call an IEP meeting where the IEP team will make a decision about Jose's placement in a behavioral unit based on our data.

If that doesn't work....

Good luck to me!!!

After weeks of looking, we finally settled on a dining room table we were happy with. Max spent lots of time putting it together for me... and now we can finally have people over for dinner!!

Here are some different views from which you can ooh and ahh over it:

Do you see those two shelves underneath? They're really to store stuff or display stuff, but our cats think it's a place for them to lounge! We've been zealous with the water spray bottle....

Anyways, I am lusting over FLOR rugs--I would really love to put one under the table to soften the space up a bit! But since we're trying to be careful with money right now, my best bet in getting one of these incredible rugs is to win one!

So I've entered two different "giveaways" in the hope that my comment will be randomly selected to win a free FLOR rug!! You can enter to win one of your very own here, and here!

Keep your fingers crossed!

Living Proof

Today was Junior Achievement Day at school. Local business people came from a nearby national bank to every classroom and did five to six activities designed to teach kids about how business works, etc. Teachers were told over the speaker system to sit in their classrooms and catch up on paperwork while the business people taught the class. It was an all day affair, and I'm sure for some of the business people, the Longest Day of Their Lives.
Watching them in action reminded me of the No Child Left Behind legislation that mandates that all teachers need to be "highly qualified" in their content area in order to teach it. So if you've been teaching science for twenty years, but you don't have the science endorsement on your teaching certificate, you must either get the endorsement or get another job. This has been causing headaches for special ed teachers at the high school level; suddenly you can't teach your students with severe learning disabilities in a self contained room all day unless you are endorsed for English, Science, Math, and Social Studies. And no one gets endorsed in each subject area! So there are some problems with this.
My BIGGEST beef is with the underlying principle of "highly qualified": it assumes that in order to be an effective teacher, you simply need to be an expert in your content area. When in reality (not that I recommend this) you just need to stay a chapter ahead of the kids. So... no, no, NO! A highly qualified teacher should be someone who can take any subject area and construct an engaging lesson, utilizing effective classroom management techniques; it should be someone who knows how to use assessment to drive instruction and is an expert in educational psychology and methodology.
My point was made painfully clear watching these very highly qualified business experts flounder in the classrooms. I don't care who you are or how smart you are, if you don't have a quiet signal, you're screwed!

Or maybe just a seatbelt

Throughout testing (a week of district testing last week and now a whole week of state testing--the TAKS -M- field test), my token economy continues to work its magic.

HOWEVER. I have found that it cannot overcome certain issues. I have one fourth grader who is severely ADHD (never seen anything like it in 4+ years of special ed!!). And though he loves those tokens and he loves buying stuff at my store, no amount of bribery can overcome a chemical imbalance like the one he had last Wednesday when grandma forgot to give him his meds.

In fact, every morning it's like a bit of a gamble. I think to myself: Is he on his meds today? Will he be, or won't he? And then at 7:55 when I go pick up my motley crew from the playground, I can tell immediately from a long way off what kind of day he's going to have. If he hasn't had his meds, he walks with a pronounced swagger and bobs his head up and down and calls out props to imaginary peeps. Meanwhile, the real "peeps" are usually avoiding him and telling him to STOP being SO annoying! But if he has had his meds, he walks like any regular little boy and is generally quieter and in control of himself.

Then some days he has had his medication, but just very recently and it hasn't started to take effect yet. On those days, this is my life:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

And then I think to myself: does the Tie Chair come in a Size Fourth-Grade?

He's 9, not 517

All week we've been doing benchmark tests, which are a district assessment. Most of my kids get the test read aloud to them as an accommodation (except the reading test, of course), so it's been pretty tedious. This morning was the Social Studies' test. In Texas, like most other states to be sure, Social Studies gets kind of lost and forgotten during the day because of the rigorous demands of the Math and Language Arts curriculum. So I didn't exactly know how my kids would do.
Sure enough, the very first question said something like: "In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail in search for: _______" and there were choices A, B, C, D. I read the question. I read the answers. Then one of my students raised his hand and, in total bewilderment, said: "But how do I know? This long time ago. I only born 2000 !!!!!!!!"
Yes, indeed. Maybe that one shouldn't count ...

A lesson in Economics

Well I can safely say that the new Token System.... works!!! I hope it will last and that blogging about it won't jinx anything, but so far so good ;).

I explained to the kids which behaviors get tokens. I pulled out each item from my store and made a huge deal about it (the students complied by oohing and ahhing). I added that they could save up for something big-- 200 points for an extra recess one day!-- or a movie at lunch! And each child promptly declared they were going to save up for something big.

And then for the next 2 hours that I had them they were total and complete angels. I mean, it was mind-blowing. I was like "who are you and what have you done with my awful, awful students?". I opened the store at 10:40 (right before they go back to their general ed classrooms) and gave them all an opportunity to spend their tokens--they had each gotten about 20-25.

Despite their good intentions of saving their tokens, they all broke down and bought something. Someone bought a miniature slinky. Someone bought a mechanical pencil. Someone bought a spinning top. "Brandon" was the one who bought the top. After I put the store away, Brandon was fingering his new toy while everyone packed up to go to their next class. He asked me: "What this do again?"

I spun the top around on the desk to show him. He watched it spin, looking at it doubtfully. Then he said: "Can I have my tokens back?"

Buyer's remorse! I had pity on him and gave him his tokens back. Within the next three minutes, my other kiddos wanted their tokens back too--I guess they changed their mind about saving for something big!

Forty dollar investment into my sanity

One of the reasons why I dread going to school in the morning is my fourth graders. That sounds awful, but it's true. I have a grand total of four of them that I pull out into my classroom for Language Arts every morning, then follow them back into their general ed. class to assist when needed until lunch. Here's a snapshot of what I deal with:

"Jose": Both Hearing Impaired and Emotionally Impaired. Very defiant but passively aggressively so... like you tell him not to do something and he'll do it anyway--as he looks at you and smiles. Can't move on after a real or imagined unfairness/insult/issue. Frequently tries to leave my room and walk off school grounds.

"Thomas": Both Hearing Impaired and Emotionally Impaired. Severe ADHD and is on meds. Unfortunately, these don't kick in until mid-morning. He goes from being uncontrollable to a total wallflower.

"Brandon": Hearing Impaired. Overly sensitive. As in he will completely shut down so that you can't get him to participate or even look at you for 20+ minutes all because you had the nerve to NOT call on him when he had his hand raised. Frequently bursts into tears over things like: "He didn't let me borrow his eraser"

"Martha": Hearing Impaired and Cerebral Palsy. No behavior issues here, she's just really low and needs a lot of attention and help to do any sort of task.

I have been through two behavior plans already that have clearly not worked. Both have been based on taking things away and losing privileges. But tomorrow I'm trying something new: The Token Economy. Anytime they show desired behavior, they will get a token. They will have a chance to spend their tokens every day or save up for something big. The ultimate plan is to phase out the tokens. I usually don't like behavior plans this involved, but I'm dealing with some, ahem, special kids here.

So I spent some of my weekend getting my "store" together:

Like it? I hope the kids will and that it won't take them long to buy into the system!

More signs

You know you're having a GOOD day when you can get through your whole morning and teach ALL of your lesson plans without any major incidents!! Yay!!
Also? The day before a three day weekend is automatically good anyways, no matter what happens :)
Newer Posts Older Posts Home