Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Am Kind Of Getting Sick Of First Days!

Well, friends... If you've been reading this blog since I first started it, not long ago, you may be familiar with my many "First day" posts. There was my first day of student teaching internship at the preschool program, on January 17 of this year; my first day of regular student teaching on February 21, and my first day at the summer school program on June 28.
And then, October 10 was my first day as an aide at Apple School, where I currently work. I was hired to work with a 3rd grader with Cerebral Palsy, but when I arrived for my first day of work, I learned I'd be an inclusion aide for a first grader with a behavioral disorder. But then, on October 30, it was decided that the child I was working with no longer needed an aide, and I was switched over to working with another first grader. So I had another first day.
After working with Toko for a little over a month, I went out of town for a week on a family trip that we'd planned on long before I got this job. I knew that that week there was going to be an IEP meeting for Toko, and that they were going to try to convince his parents to allow him to move to the self-contained special education class. I doubted the parents would agree to it, and I assumed that, even if they did agree, Toko would be transitioned slowly. I imagined he might move to the new classroom after winter break.
Yesterday was my first day back.
As I walked through the front door, I ran into the resource teacher who has been the case manager for both Wyken and Toko. She told me, "Toko is in the special needs class now, so you'll be working with him in there all day long. I have to be at a meeting, so I don't have any time to talk."
Since I didn't even know where the self-contained class was located in the building, I went to my very first classroom and talked with Mr. Shizuko. He knew about the change, and he let me know that I wouldn't be working with Wyken at all any more. He also told me where the special ed classroom was.
I went down to the special education room and got the rest of the story. The special ed teacher, Mrs. Peasgood, explained to me a little more about my new job. Basically I now intercept Toko as he puts his things away in his original classroom, bring him down to the special ed classroom for reading, math and spelling, shuttle him to the first classroom for things like social studies and science, take him to gym and music and art with his original classmates, and then bring him back to the special ed classroom for the last hour or so of the day to do work and special activities in there.
Although I am getting a little tired of completely starting over, I am actually really happy with this newest classroom, for Toko's sake. It is a very small class consisting of only four other children, all of whom also leave the classroom at various times to do things with regular ed classes. There is a classroom aide, in addition to the teacher. Most of the subjects are taught either in very small groups of two or three kids, or individually. The environment is very calm, and very positive. I have never heard Mrs. Peasgood, or the classroom aide Mrs. Black, speak harshly to a child or glare at them.
And I can really tell that Mrs. Peasgood cares about the kids. She really wants to educate him. She believes that Toko has more abilities than the other teachers thought. I totally agree with that. Whenever I've worked one-on-one with Toko, he's surprised me with the things he's been able to do and understand. But whenever I mentioned this to the other teachers, they looked at me like I was off my rocker! Mrs. Peasgood lets Toko take breaks and ride on the schooter (the little, flat kind that gym classes have, not a razor scooter!) He rides up and down the hall and gets his energy out, so he's more able to settle down and focus when it's time to work. And she just talks to him so kindly. It makes me happy to hear someone actually being friendly to Toko, instead of being exasperated with him!
I feel like I will really be able to enjoy my job and get things done, from now on.
But on the other hand, do I even dare relax and get comfortable? If I start settling in, you know they're going to announce that Toko doesn't need an aide any more, and send me packing to another classroom!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weird Moments With Taz

OMG! Have you noticed that, as of late, I've been starting to get comfortable with my newest job? That I've been starting to enjoy it? That I've been getting to use some of my own teaching ideas?
Yep. The powers that be at my school must have noticed it too.
Yesterday I found out that the school has an appointment with Taz parents next week, and that at this meeting, they are going to attempt to persuade the parents to accept a self-contained special ed classroom placement for Taz. If his parents agree to it, Taz could be moved to the new classroom as early as the very next day!
On one hand, this would be great for Taz. He'd really benefit from being in a smaller classroom, with teachers who could really concentrate on his unique needs, instead of just being the most problematic student in a classroom of twenty-five first graders.
On the other hand... WHAT ABOUT ME?
I don't want to be selfish, but first of all, I don't want to start all over again in another classroom. And second of all, I've really been enjoying working with Taz! I feel like there is a lot I can do to help him! And he really is a nice kid. Just so happy all the time. Well, almost all the time. Sometimes, when he starts getting tired of my "redirecting" him, he looks at me and says, "Don't you need to go help in Mr. Shizuko's class now?" He gets kind of upset when I have to spend an entire day in a different classroom. I try very hard to have as many positive interactions with him as possible, and I think this has helped make him feel comfortable with me. Which was my goal originally, because I think kids learn best when they're comfortable. And now it seems sort of mean (to both of us!) for me to have to turn him loose again.
There is the chance that I will still be working with Taz, even if his parents accept the self-contained classroom. Of course, different people in the school tell me different things. Taz's current teacher says that I'd probably accompany Taz to his mainstream subjects, and possibly also help him in his self-contained room. But another teacher told me that there would be no reason for me to work with Taz any longer, since the special ed classroom has it's own aides already.

On a funnier note, the other morning when Taz got to school, he excitedly told me that he'd written me a note. He showed me a piece of notebook paper with a bunch of letters on it. Taz can write all of the letters of the alphabet very nicely, but he can't really spell or form sentences on his own, so his note looked something like, "DMSSRSFEUNEAHOND."
So, I asked Taz to read it to me.
He took the note, looked at it, and read aloud, "Dear Miss Read. You need a husband. Love, Taz."
(He then added, "And also two sons!")
Uh, thanks, Taz! I guess...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Five Minute Math and Reading Activities

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great long weekend, and a great Thanksgiving if you celebrate it!
I was lucky enough to have the entire week off. I made good use of it by putting together a bunch of reading and math activities that I can do with Toko and whatever kids end up in my small group. Each of these games is meant to take about five minutes. Not only will I use them when I take Toko and other kids out in the hallway to work on skills, but if I ever do get started on a reading group, I can use these games as incentives for good behavior and hard work. Want to see what I made?

This is a "Clank Can" for practicing counting to one hundred. Toko can count to about thirty, but when he gets to the twenties he pronounces them, "Twenty-twenty-one, twenty-twenty-two..." He and a lot of the other kids also have trouble recognizing and naming double digit numbers. For instance if I show them the number 43, they may call it forty, fourteen, thirteen, thirty-four, or some completely random number that I am never sure how they come up with. With this game, players close their eyes, draw a chip (poker chips that I labeled with numbers) from the bag, and look at it. If they can name it they get to drop it through the slot in the can, making a lovely "clank" noise. If they can't name it, they put it aside to try again later. Players can also divide up the chips and drop them into the can in order, while counting to one hundred together. They can also work together to put the chips in the right order on a table or floor, and then clean up by dropping them all noisily into the can!

Next we have Tower Of Power, which I found on Pinterest somewhere. Each cup has a sight word written on the bottom. Players take the first cup from the stack and turn it over. If they can read the word, they get to add it to their tower. The idea is to build your tower as big as you can! You can play competitively by building two towers and trying to get the tallest one, or you can play as a team by working together to build one huge tower. (Most people who make this game store it in a Pringles can, but I haven't finished the Pringles yet, so I'm storing it in a plastic bag for now.) My favorite thing about this is that you can keep on adding words as kids get better. If Toko becomes great at reading these site words, I will add more advanced words and mix them in, making even taller towersr possible!

This is simply a dry erase workbook. I always find great workbooks at Dollar Tree, but I hate to use them because then they're all gone, and because sometimes kids just whip through them and circle all the wrong answers, defeating the purpose. So I went through all my workbooks and tore out the pages I thought would be best for Toko and the others. I slipped the pages into sheet protectors, and put them in a binder. Kids always love doing anything at all with dry erase markers, so I'm hoping that will put a fun spin on ordinary workbook pages! And, if a kid makes a lot of mistakes, I can reteach the skills, and then wipe off the page and have him try again!

This one is really simple. I made it especially for Toko because he loves sports. It is a football field (in case you can't tell from my drawing skills.) You start on the very first line at either end of the board. You take a site word card (not shown in the picture) and try to read it. For every word you read correctly, you get to move up a line. When you get all the way to the last line on the other end, you score a touch down! It can be played by one kid, or by two people starting from opposite sides of the board.

Next is a fishing game! I worked very hard at coloring each fish, while watching DVRed episodes of "Parenthood" and "New Girl" with my mom. Each fish has a site word on it. You may be able to see the ever-so-crafty fishing poles I rigged up from craft sticks, string, and round refrigerator magnets I found at the DollarTree! I bet you can guess how the game is played! (Each fish has a brass tack attached to him.)

I didn't really make this one, so much as I took something I already owned and shoved it into a new bag. I have the Busy Bugs Learning Set leftover from when I was a caregiver for preschoolers. The object of the game is to match the rubber bugs to the pictures of bugs. Most of the cards in the set are too easy for Toko (he does know his colors and is able to match things to pictures) but there are also some cards that require you to finish a pattern. I pulled those cards out and put them in a bag with the bugs. Kids can also create their own patterns. Eventually I may add my own task cards with more complicated patterns to recreate!

Another super simple game. In the tub are alphabet beads that I had left over from the Alphabet Discovery Bottle I made during student teaching. All you do is take a site word card, find the correct letters, and string them onto the pipe cleaner. You can separate each word by a star bead or a plain bead, and see how many beads can fit on the pipe cleaner. Kids could even keep the pipe cleaners and wear them as bracelets, which would help them learn their site words even more thoroughly!

This one isn't really a game on its own, but it can be used along with any games that require dice. I hate playing dice games with kids because they either arrange the dice the way they want them and then toss them ever-so-gently onto the table, or they get out of control and whip their dice across the room. I had some of those little plastic bubbles that you get out of the machine at the bowling alley, with little rings and stuff in them. So I just put two dice in one of those. Now the kids just have to shake the bubble, set it down, and see where the dice landed!

I have even more activities in the works, and I'll probably post them later in the week as I finish them. Here is a sneak peak at one of them that is not quite finished...

Have a great week, everyone! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Miss Read Puts Her Feet Up!

Hi everyone! One of the perks of working at my new school is the fact that we get all of Thanksgiving week off! When I was a kid we just got Thursday and Friday, and when I got older the schools started giving kids Wednesday off. But now it is a whole separate vacation! Do any of your schools do it that way? 
All week I've been thinking of so many things I wanted to write about, but now that I have some time, my mind is just blank. I feel like I need to lay down and put my feet up all week long! Because I go to three and sometimes four classrooms a day, and don't really get a break, I hardly ever get a chance to sit down at work. The days go by so fast, and usually I am full of energy at work, but when I get home I just crash. 
I've been having a good time with Toko! The little dude had absolutely zero impulse control, but he is a really sweet boy. One problem I've been having is the fact that I feel like I am "redirecting" him all day long. A lot of it is things that I don't have a serious problem with, but I want him to stop doing because other teachers or staff members will yell at him. I get tired of hearing my own voice going, "Toko, sit down. Toko, stand up. Toko, walking feet. Toko, put your glasses on. Toko, come back to your desk. Toko, stop talking. Toko, turn around. Toko, pay attention. Toko, hands to self!" I know Toko is starting to get tired of my voice too, when he looks at me and says, "When are you gonna go help Wyken or Bess?" 
I want to find a way to redirect him without constantly talking to him or scolding him. Although he doesn't have autism, I've thought of trying something that I've often seemed used with children with autism or very young children. I thought of bringing a camera, and having Toko demonstrate for me the correct way to behave in different situations, such as sitting at his desk working, walking in the hallway, or standing in line. (He does cognitively know the correct ways to do these things, but just forgets in the heat of the moment.) I'd take pictures of him demonstrating each behavior. I could actually tape the picture of him working at his desk onto his desktop, and put the other photos on a key ring. That way, instead of constantly giving him verbal reminders, I could just point to the picture that showed him what he is supposed to do. Then I could save my voice for more positive comments like, "Great job sitting down," or "I like how you're walking so nicely in the hall!"
What do you think?  

Meanwhile back in Mr. Shizuko's room, Wyken has been getting out of hand. I think he's starting to drive Mr. Shizuko crazy! He doesn't really behave poorly, but he never stops talking and singing. The other kids complain about it when they're trying to work independently. Mr. Shizuko asks Wyken to sing quietly, or sing in his head, but a minute later Wyken will be singing audibly to himself. It seems to be a sort of unconscious habit. I told Mr. Shizuko he could send Wyken over to my other classroom when he needs a break. but then the resource teacher told me I could not do that because Wyken and Toko have apparently had conflicts in the past and Wyken can't stand Toko. Any ideas for getting a kid to stop singing and talking? All I can think of is giving something else to do with his mouth, such as allowing him to chew gum or suck on a hard candy... but I don't think Mr. Shizuko would allow it. Even though he's one of the less strict teachers, the problem with kids with special needs in inclusion classes is that the teachers think, "If I give this kid something, I'd have to give it to everyone." Something like a bouncy seat cushion can be explained as a physical need, but allowing one student to have candy would probably not fly. 

I have a week to stew about these issues, so I hope you can give me some ideas! In the mean time, here are some funny kid quotes for the day!

Kid: "How long is Thanksgiving break?"
Me: "A week."

Me: "I found this pencil on the floor. Is it yours?"
Kid: "I have never seen that pencil before in my life."

Teacher: "Toko, can you think of something you're thankful for?"
Toko: "My football!"
Teacher: "We're trying to think of things we really need, like our health, our homes, or our families. Like your brother, maybe! If you could only pick one, what would you rather have... a football, or your brother?"
Toko: "Uh... my football!"

Have a great week, everyone! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fighting Over Wheelchairs, Veterans, And More

Hi everyone! I'm pleased to let you know that things are starting to turn around at my new job! I am no longer feeling so overwhelmed, and am now feeling more confident and happy. The resource teacher actually came through with her promise to give me some training for working with Toko... and basically her "training" was to sit me down and tell me that I can do anything I want with Toko as long as it ties into education. She has given me permission to go into her room to get games and other materials to work with him on, plus a bucket of materials in Toko's classroom, plus encouragement to bring in anything else I have or come up with my own ideas. In addition, I will eventually be able to gather up a small group of other students from other rooms (such as Annie Elizabeth from my other classroom, because they are on a similar academic level) and work with them on basic things like phonics and simple math. So I'm finally going to be able to use my brain! I am really excited! 

Except I didn't really get to do anything at all with Toko, or even see him or Wyken, today. I had to stand in for another aide. You may remember that when I originally was hired for this job, I was told I'd be working with an 8-year-old girl named Bess who has cerebral palsy... but then when I arrived for my first day, I was told I'd be working with Wyken (and then two weeks later got told I'd be working with Toko, of course...) Bess ended up getting paired with a different aide who was already working at the school and who had more experience with children with physical impairments, but I have often gone along as a third party to help Bess use the bathroom. Usually I don't do anything but stand there while her real aide assists her, just for safety and liability purposes. Today, though, Bess's aide was sick, and for some reason they decided to have me work with Bess (I guess because she already knows me) and get a sub to work with Toko and Wyken. I was so sad to leave my little guys, but Bess is a pretty cool girl! The odd thing is that all the kids fight over who will push Bess's wheelchair from place to place. They don't really even have any interest in playing with her or talking to her, but they all clamber over each other to help her out in any way! It's hard to tell whether they just want the "fun" of pushing a wheelchair or the attention of being known as the helpful children who look out for the girl in the wheelchair, or if they genuinely want to be friends with her but don't exactly know how to play with her since she can't run around like they do. 

There is one particular girl named Sonya who actually does play with Bess at recess and stuff. The two of them make quite a pair! Bess is very sweet, but it is also pretty easy to tell that she is somewhat spoiled at home and that she spends most of her time with adults. She doesn't have the best social skills, she can be very bossy and demanding, and she'd just prefer to spend time with adults (maybe because adults are more likely to let her "run the show" than other children would be. For instance when Bess asks me to help her color, I don't demand that we play a different game instead!) On the other hand, young Sonya is an only child who is also fairly bossy and lacks social skills. She doesn't have many other friends in the class. So she plays with Bess. They both fight about what to play, and Sonya often ends up stomping off, with Bess wheeling after her trying to apologize. Sonya also really enjoys pushing Bess's wheelchair, reminding her to put on her breaks when they're stopped somewhere, helping her with her coat, etc. It would be nice if she wasn't so bossy about it, and will even push other kids out of the way! Also she's not great at pushing the wheelchair. While helping transport Bess from the playground to the classroom after lunch, Sonya crashed into a teacher and then nearly mowed down a group of three kindergarteners!

In other news, we had our Veteran's Day celebration today at school. It was very nice. The whole school went out to the flag in front of the building and said the Pledge together, and then sang "God Bless America" together. Two soldiers and some police color guards were there for the ceremony. Afterwards, several veterans came to talk to the kids and answer their questions. When I heard that veterans were coming to talk to us, I was picturing World War II veterans, or maybe some Vietnam vets. I just pictured old guys. Instead, the veterans were in their early twenties at most, and had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The youngster who talked with Bess's class had three purple hearts, and casually mentioned being shot three times, stepping on a bomb and getting "blown up," and having his best friend save his life by pulling him off of a landmine. It was kind of shocking to me... I guess in my naive mind I thought that today's soldiers are somehow safer than the soldiers in the past. 

Although I did start to become more aware this summer, when I went to a local amusement park and saw signs in front of the rides that I'd never seen before. Besides warning people not to ride rides if they had heart problems or were pregnant or whatever, the signs also mandated how many arms and legs a rider needed. A sign might say, "Each rider must possess at least one complete arm and one complete leg to ride." At first I thought that was a little funny... exactly how many people with multiple limbs missing show up at Six Flags? But then someone pointed out to me that a lot of people have been coming back from the war with their arms and legs blown off from landmines. Enough people to warrant special signs at Six Flags. Sobering, isn't it? Makes you really have a new appreciation for the people who voluntarily go off to war.

After the talks with the veterans, Bess's class watched a video about Honor Flight, and then started writing letters to World War II veterans, which will be passed out randomly to passengers on the next local Honor Flight trip. 

So it was a nice day I got to spend with Bess. But I'll be happy on Monday to see Toko and Wyken and all my little buddies again! 

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wyken and Taz

I am now working almost full time with Taz, and only seeing Wyken for an hour a day. Wyken is absolutely fine without me, and when I do go in there I am often either observing or working with other kids, especially Davey who follows me around at all times when I'm in there. If anything, I try to check in with Wyken at least once a day and keep an eye on him on the days I have recess duty, as more of an emotional support person. A lot of times he will come and talk to me when he feels like he's been slighted in some way, like if some of the other kids won't play with him, if he's been yelled at by one of the cranky lunch supervisors, if he's lost his blue marker and is certain someone has stolen it from him, etc. I'll just sort of listen to him and help him put things into perspective, until his attention wanders and he dashes off to play. I really miss working with Wyken all the time... even though I was only really with him for two weeks, it was a fun two weeks!
Taz is another story. I mean, I definitely like Taz, and it is fun working with him, but he is very different from Wyken. Taz is a tough nut to crack. 
Taz's biggest obstacle in life is his impulsiveness. He is also very fast and intense. For example... You know how first graders are sort of prone to "cutting" in line? Taz does this himself quite a lot. But if anyone else cuts in line either in front of him, in back of him, or somewhere else completely, Taz will scream and just give the person a healthy shove! One time this very small first grader named Shay got behind Taz in line, and Taz felt that he had cut. So Taz turned around and pushed the kid so hard, he toppled and fell to the floor! I watched the whole thing happen. And you know, I very rarely raise my voice or even use an extremely firm voice. So when this happened, I marched over and looked Taz in the eye, and said, "You pushed him? I think you need to say sorry, and then go to the end of the line!" I barely raised my voice at all, but it sure shocked Taz, and he quickly said sorry and went to the end of the line. (And then I felt kinda bad. But jeez, you can't just shove people like that... especially people who are about twenty pounds soaking wet!) He now has a behavior sheet where he can earn stars for working on a weekly goal. This week, his goal is keeping hands and feet to self. And he's actually able to do this, most of the time, as long as I keep reminding him, "What are you working on?" I also try to show him what he should be doing, and point out kids who are doing the correct thing, such as sitting on the carpet during circle time instead of leaning over and poking people. 
Another of Taz's obstacles is the fact that, academically, he is a lot lower than the other first graders. He is pretty good at faking it though. For some reason the teacher is always having the kids copy sentences off of the board, and calling this Writing Workshop. They have to copy entire paragraphs. Taz is fairly good at copying, but he often leaves out letters or entire words, and he never has any idea of what he just wrote. Today I worked with him on writing a page about Presidents, and he just kept asking, "What does this say? Can you read this again?"
Other times, he completely surprises me with his ability to know what is going on. Today the kids were reading a Weekly Reader comparing the two Presidential candidates. I had spent most of the afternoon working with yet another student, filling in for the student's usual aide who was at a meeting. When I came back into Taz's class he was sitting quietly, looking at his Weekly Reader, and listening to what the other students were reading aloud. To look at him, you would have never guessed that he had no idea what most of the words on the page said! When the teacher asked questions, Taz was able to answer them correctly every time. However, when the kids were supposed to circle those same answers on the page, Taz couldn't do it and needed me to point out the very same answer he had just mentioned. 
An important obstacle for Taz, in my mind, is the quiet battle going on between his parents and teachers. His parents, who adopted him a few years ago, are dead set against him being in special education. They allow him to have speech therapy, but that is all. For the classroom teacher, Taz's behavior is the main concern. In fact she has started keeping track of the number of times she has to redirect him. Even if she asks him to sit down and he does it right away, because she told him to sit down it is counted. Even with this new behavioral sheet, it was almost as if she was hoping Taz wouldn't be able to get the stars. As if she were setting him up to fail, just to be able to offer proof that he needs to be in a special education class. Today I felt like Taz had an awesome morning... he got almost all of his starts, and the ones he didn't get were for very small infractions... but the teacher felt that Taz had had a terrible morning as usual. She just can't stand if he talks out or does anything. Once I was walking with Taz from his locker to his classroom, and he was bopping himself in the head with his folder, which I didn't even notice... I guess I was just dismissing it as regular 7-year-old boy behavior. He was otherwise being fine, walking and not making noise. But the teacher came out, saw him, ordered him to go back to his locker and walk again without bopping himself with the folder, and scolded me for not being more firm with him. Five kids in the class can be doing the same exact thing, but if Taz is doing it he is the one who will get yelled at. 
I feel like poor Taz is not getting served at school. He spends so much time just copying things he doesn't understand, and so little time really learning things at his own academic level. All the attention is on his impulsive and distracting behavior, and instead of trying to find ways to teach him how to behave properly, or putting things in place to help him behave properly, the teachers just yell at him, give him consequences, and write down what he did in hopes of convincing someone to get him out of the room. 
I really hope I can make a difference for Taz, but I am not sure how I will be able to... there are just so many people in the situation already who want to be completely in charge and feel that their way is the correct way. 
What do you think? Any input? 
Oh well. I am going to take a nap. Despite the "fall back" time change, I feel like I haven't slept in days! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ms. Read Has More First Days Than Anyone Alive Except Maybe Substitute Teachers But That Doesn't Count

Guess what everyone! Today was my first day, again!
No, I didn't get fired from my job and have to find a new one. I'm still at my usual school. 
But remember how I said the principal and people wanted Wyken to be more independent? Last week the assistant principal sat down with me and explained that, in order to start easing Wyken into being independent and not having an aide, they'd decided to have me split my time between Wyken and another first grader named Toko. I agreed that this was a good idea, and I figured Wyken would be happy to have some time without me hovering around him. 
Later that day the vice principal came in and gave me my new schedule. Apparently I'd start the day getting Toko into the building and settled into class, then go in and spend an hour with Wyken, then go back for an hour and a half with Toko, then go to lunch or lunch duty, then go to the gym class where I work with the boys with autism, then go back and spend the rest of the day with Toko. If Toko went to speech or OT or something, then I could go check in on Wyken. 
I said to Mr. Shizuko, "This isn't exactly going back and forth between Wyken and Toko!" 
Mr. Shizuko agreed with me, but basically said, you can't fight City Hall. 
So, today was my first day of that arrangement. 
Toko is a seven-year-old boy who has fetal alcohol syndrome. His mother definitely had a drinking problem and was negligent, causing Toko to be taken away from her when he was a toddler. He was in foster care and was eventually adopted. Toko's new parents don't really like the idea of his receiving special education services, which is why he is in a regular education class all day long except for speech and OT. (Yeah, I know those are actually special ed services, but apparently those are common enough that Toko's parents agreed to them.) 
When Toko's teacher, Mrs. Merton, and the resource teacher, described him to me, they said Toko was at the academic level of a three-year-old. I am not sure about that yet. On one hand, when I sat next to Toko and worked with him, he could add one digit numbers, and write the answers. He can read simple words, and he can recognize longer words that are familiar to him. (For instance he pointed out the word Halloween on a worksheet.) But if you don't sit there with him, he turns into a ping pong ball bouncing around the room. Since Toko doesn't actually qualify for his own aide, I was told to try to help other children as well. But every time I turned around for a minute, when I looked back Toko would be out of his desk and running around! 
Mrs. Merton is the kind of teacher who subscribes to the "Don't smile til Christmas" theory. The whole time I was there, I never saw her smile... never even saw her eyes light up... even once. She mostly just yelled at them the entire time, and if they asked a question after she'd explained what to do, or talked when she was talking, she'd glare at them. I think having your teacher shouting at you all day takes the fun out of school! They're only six and seven years old, after all. 
The hour I was in my old classroom, I did math assessments with different kids, and barely saw Wyken the entire time. I did get to see him for a while at lunch though, since I had lunch duty. Lunch hour wasn't going well for Wyken. While the kids were lining up, Warren knocked into Redfree (supposedly accidentally), and Redfree pushed him. One of the lunch ladies came and started yelling at them right away. Redfree told her that Wyken had pushed him first, and the lady pulled Wyken aside and started yelling at him more. (A lot of yelling goes on at my school.) 
Of course if you've ever worked with kids with behavioral and emotional disorders, you know that immediately starting to yell is not the best course of action. Wyken got upset and started yelling back at the lunch lady, which caused her to yell more at him, and so on... I half expected them to start duking it out! I pulled Wyken aside and told him to take some deep breaths, and talked quietly with him until he calmed down. Later, at lunch, I tried telling him that when someone is yelling at you, the best idea is to just stay quiet, because the louder you get, the louder they'll get. I tried to tell him it was best to stay calm. I demonstrated by using my hands as puppets, showing him two hands screaming back and forth at each other, and then one hand screaming and then running out of steam as the other hand just stayed quiet. Wyken laughed, and said that he tried to stay quiet, but that people just punched him in the face. (I don't really like the lunch ladies, but I am pretty sure they've never punched him in the face!)
Then after lunch, still at recess, I saw Wyken lying in the grass crying. I went over and asked him what was wrong, and he said that a bunch of the boys he had been playing with had told him he couldn't play. When I went and asked the boys in question, they told me they'd said no such thing and that Wyken was welcome to play with them. 
The thing about Wyken is that, first of all, he really feels that everyone is out to get him, and second of all, he'll never admit when he did something wrong. So lets say you stand there and watch him push another kid. When you go over and tell him not to push, he'll insist that he didn't do anything, and if you push the issue he'll get upset and say that you hate him. When I worked with him I tried to stick with saying things like, "Well, if you had done that, how do you think James would feel?" or "Did you do it just a little bit, maybe?" But you can't really expect everyone else in the world... especially his peers... to talk to him like that. If he flips out every time someone speaks harshly to him, he's going to have a rough life ahead of him! 
Okay. So, tomorrow is Halloween. And even though we don't get to have a party at our school, the kids are really hyped up about Trick-or-Treating and everything. So tomorrow should be interesting!
And by the way, in my last entry I challenged readers to figure out where I got the aliases for all the kids and teachers this school year. Kara from Spedventures got it right... all of the names are types of apples! Congratulations, Kara... a $10 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers is on its' way to you! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Where I Am

I have now been working at my new school for 16 days. Each day, things get a little better. Want to see how my usual day goes? Sure you do! If not, scroll to the bottom of this post, because there is a little something there for you! 

8:15 - I arrive! I go sit at my desk. Yes, I have a desk. Sometimes I make copies for Mr. Shizuko. If not, I usually just sit around until the kids arrive. 

8:35 - The kids come bursting in! They usually hand their homework to me or Mr. Shizuko. It all ends up on my desk eventually. I sort it into piles. (They always have a math worksheet and a handwriting page, and then there are always the late assignments trickling in, permission slips, reading logs, etc.) The kids are aloud to read, draw, or work on already started work for a while. We say the Pledge, have a moment of silence, hear announcements, and all that junk.

9:00 - Today is the first day that we started Guided Reading. I had a crazy group of five boys: Antonovka, Redfree, Spencer, Adam and Davey. You may remember from my Meet The Kids post that  I said Davey is a sad, quiet little boy. Well, I've since learned that he has a mischievous side. He craves attention, and will push as hard as he can to see how far he can go with you, either by clinging to you and asking for you to help him with everything, or by purposely misbehaving by acting like a monkey and making goofy noises and saying "No!" when you ask him to stop. Adam also has trouble controlling his behavior. Nothing terrible... just goofy, like making silly noises, grabbing things off the table, standing up and jumping around, yelling, etc. Antonovka, Redfree and Spencer are much more mild-mannered, and are often just sitting quietly and waiting while I am trying to settle the others down,  but of course, being 6-year-old boys, they can get drawn into it and start acting out as well. So Guided Reading should be fun, huh? I'm going to try doing what I did with the Early Literacy Skill Builders kids in student teaching, and letting them earn the opportunity to play a reading game after we finish our regular work. 

9:30 - Mr. Shizuko teaches a whole group reading lesson. This is a time that Wyken has a lot of trouble with. Sitting on the floor and staying quiet is torture for him! He blurts out whatever he is thinking, of course without raising his hand, and squirms around like crazy. Mr. Shizuko tries to be tolerant with him, but often gets irritated at all the distractions. I try to take Wyken for a walk or to the gym to play basketball during this time, but sometimes he doesn't want to go because he doesn't like being different from the others. 

10:00 - Usually the lesson part of whole group reading is followed by an individual assignment, like a worksheet. Wyken is good at this and will sit and concentrate. This is when I grade homework and mark it down in the grade book. Not grades, exactly. I draw stars on their papers, correct any mistakes, and put a check in the grade book if they did it at all. 

10:30 - Sometimes there is some sort of science or social studies activity here. Today they learned about cumulus clouds, and then made some of their own by gluing stretched out cotton balls on paper. 

11:00 - Gym class, Usually pretty fun. Since they're only in first grade, the usually get to play games. I don't have to do much but stand and watch them and be amused! They look so cute when they are running around frantically! Especially today, since it was Pajama Day, and they were playing Tag in their jammies!

11:30 - Time to just work more on whatever projects we started during the day. 

11:45 - Lunch time, yay! At least, yay for me on alternating days. I have been illegally nominated to do lunch duty every other day. Since lunch is the only break I get in the day, this is torture. Most of the people who do lunch duty are hourly hires, retired people or students' moms or whatever. No teachers do lunch duty that I know of. But the kids with the supposedly most severe behavioral disorders... Wyken, and two other boys in different first grade classes... require an extra staff member out there keeping an eyeball on them. The girl who had this job before me told me that she never got to eat lunch and just went hungry all day. I can't do that (I'll pass out if I go hungry) so I bring my sandwich in my pocket and eat it on the playground. 

12:45 - Time to go in, yay! The kids get in, get settled, and start a math lesson. I walk around and help kids, for 15 minutes. 

1:00 - I go back to the gym to help out in a third grade regular ed gym class, where four boys with autism are included. The boys are sweet, but wild. They spend most of the day together in a self-contained classroom, where they are the only students, so they are at eachother's throats most of the time. Although it is an inclusion class, the third graders are learning real sports, which these four boys just can't do. So we go off to another section of the field. Sometimes three or four girls from the regular class are sent to help out. There, another assistant and I try to teach the boys sports. Have you ever tried teaching four boys with moderate levels of autism to play soccer? People's shoes fall off. People kick balls into the wrong goal. People get interested in looking at the clouds, and dance off away from the soccer field. Goalies suddenly run out of the goal box in order to join the game. People scream and throw themselves on the ground if they don't get a goal. It is a long half hour! 

1:30 - Back with my class! The kids go to recess. Sometimes I play tag with them. I actually almost got them in trouble because I taught them to play Monkey Tag, the game where the person who is "it" has to stay on the ground and try to tag the people who are up on the jungle gym. The kids loved that game... it started off as just me and Wyken playing, and turned into the entire class! But later, another teacher told me that the students are not allowed to play tag on the jungle gym. So when the kids begged me to play it again with them the next day, I had to tell them no. :(

2:00 - The kids usually have a "special." They have music three times a week, art once a week, and library once a week. Today was library. Usually there is a very nice, patient but firm librarian who reads them a story and helps them find books. Today it was a librarian with anger issues. She basically yelled at them the entire time... not for things they had done, but for things they could possibly, hypothetically, do in the future. You know, like, "You are to go and get a book for your level. You are not to go to the back part of the library! You are not to make noise or run around! You are to take your book to the counter and get it checked out! You will then sit at your table in your assigned seat! Do not sit at a different seat! Do not have conversations! Just sit in one place and read!" It was so much fun for the kids. 

2:30 - Back to our room! We do handwriting. They learn a different letter each day. Today we were on U. After they run out of letters, they will learn numbers. 

2:45 - Today we did Creative Writing for the first time. You know how classes try to build up stamina for reading by reading as long as they can without stopping? Mr. Shizuko told them that they were going to try to build up stamina for writing. They were supposed to write a Halloween story and draw a picture for it. They were supposed to stay in their seats and write, and not get up for anything except to use the bathroom. If they couldn't spell something, instead of getting up and asking a teacher, they were supposed to try to sound it out. We were going to see how long we could make it, with everyone silently writing away, before someone got up or talked. 
We made it a minute and ten seconds before Annie Elizabeth stood up, walked over to Mr. Shizuko, and asked him how to spell a word. 
Since we had time left, Mr. Shizuko started the stop watch again. We made it thirty seconds before Johnny got up and asked a question. 
We tried once more. That time we made it three minutes before both Johnny and Beeley got up to ask how to spell things.
We're aiming for four minutes tomorrow!

3:00 - The kids get ready to leave. This is usually sheer chaos. They are supposed to go to their mail boxes, get their papers, set their papers on their desks, go to their lockers for their backpacks, come back and put their papers into their backpacks. Usually, instead, the whole room is a cloud of papers flying around! We often have to stop and sort out what belongs to who! 

3:15 - End of the day! Hooty hoo! Go home, kids!
The kids must be getting excited for Halloween because they were all getting banged up today. Four kids in our class alone had to go to the nurse. Wyken crashed into Redfree while they were running, and he skinned his knees. Galarina fell off the monkey bars and hurt her elbow. Scarlet's lost tooth fell out. And Ariane may or may not have swallowed a bee. (She was screaming bloody murder at first, insisting she had swallowed it... but when she went to the nurse, she stopped crying and seemed to be in no pain at all, so we deducted that the bee, if it existed, hadn't stung her. Ariane later explained to her friends that she had spat out most of the bee, but accidentally swallowed its eyeball, and later puked it out. Uh... don't ask me!) 

And now, for the little something I promised you. It's not much but it's something! In celebration of my first paycheck which I got today, I am offering a small giveaway. 
I've mentioned before that I always choose a theme to assign pseudonyms to the students and other people I write about. For instance, during student teaching I used different types of birds. 
What theme am I using for this newest class? Any ideas?
The first person to comment with the correct answer gets a $10 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers!

Good luck, everyone. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Always Something, Isn't It?

Hi everyone! So, my new job has been going okay. Not awesome, but alright. The only thing is, I feel like I do everything ass-backwards! I don't know if I'm getting old, or I need more sleep, or what, but this is the first job I've had in a long time where I really feel like I'm a disappointment! I just make all sorts of random mistakes. Mr. Shizuko asks me to make copies of some worksheets, and it takes me half an hour because the copy machine keeps shooting blanks. (I know how to work that type of copier, so I can't figure out why I'm all thumbs on this one!) He asks me to get the orange reading books from one of the storage lockers, and I take out all the peach ones instead! (They were in the first storage locker I opened, and they looked orange to me!) He asks me to get a bag of ice from the freezer in the teacher's lounge, and I come back with a grocery bag with a handful of ice in it, which I thought he might of brought from home, but it turns out he wanted one of the giant bags of ice actually! He asks me to put "the whole bag of ice" on a tray, and I dump the ice into the tray instead of just setting the bag on it. One minute I'm supposed to be giving Wyken space so he can be independent, and the next minute the teacher is asking me why I'm not "redirecting" Wyken for laying on the floor when he's supposed to be sitting in the circle. I feel like Amelia Bedelia!

Despite all that, I was excited today when Mr. Shizuko mentioned that we were going to start Guided Reading soon, and that I was going to be in charge of working with a group of kids who needed the most help. He said that I might be able to come up with some new ways to help these kids (I think it was going to be Annie Elizabeth, Johnny, Ginger, and maybe one or two others) to reach their goals. That would be a way that I could actually implement lesson plans and teach! 

As far as Wyken goes, I actually thought today was a breakthrough. Wyken was being squirmy during a lesson, so I whispered to him to ask him if he needed a break. He said no. Then Mr. Shizuko loudly told Wyken to go take a break. Wyken was upset but followed me out into the hall, where he complained that he hated when Mr. Shizuko called him out in front of the other kids. He said he felt like Mr. Shizuko hated him and just wanted to be in trouble. I tried to explain to him that Mr. Shizuko didn't hate him at all, but wanted him to learn how to control his own behavior and take breaks when he needs them. I suggested Wyken give me a secret signal when he needed a break. He liked the idea and decided that he'd pull on his earlobe when he needed a break. I added that I would do the same to him when I felt he needed a break. We then went to the gym and shot some baskets. Wyken was in a very good mood after that, and when we went back to class he was able to sit through the rest of the lesson.

At the end of the day I mentioned to Mr. Shizuko about the secret signal Wyken decided on. To my surprise, Mr. Shizuko frowned and said he didn't think Wyken would be able to decide when he needed a break or didn't need one. He then added that, at a meeting he'd gone to that morning, the principal had told him that I was going to be phased away from working with Wyken, and start working with another first grade boy named Galloway in a different room. I would be called back into my current room if Wyken needed a break or if an extra hand was needed in the classroom.

When I heard this I felt disappointed for so many reasons. For one, I've already gotten to know the kids in the classroom pretty well. One of my strengths is being able to figure out kids really quickly, and understand all of their different dramas, issues, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, etc. I know Davey, in particular, who is usually a gloomy little guy, always asks me to work with him, and after gym class he waits by the door so he can walk back with me. I reached out to him purposely because I could tell he needed more positive adult attention. I feel bad now that I'm going to be gone already. Plus, I like Wyken. And I like Mr. Shizuko, despite the fact that I have trouble figuring out what he wants from me exactly. And I was so excited about getting to be in charge of a Guided Reading group. I just don't want to start over in a new class again! 

Mr. Shizuko seems to agree with me, plus he's not sure if Wyken is ready to be on his own with no aide. But he says we have to pretty much go along with the principal. So... ::sigh::... I guess I will just wait and see what happens.

If nothing else, by the time I get through this year of confusion and chaos, I will be ready to take on a classroom of my own for sure! Nothing will phase me anymore!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meet The Kids!

Hi everyone! You know I am starting to get over my depression about being an aide, when I am excited to introduce you to the newest kids I'm working with. The job is still a little confusing... one minute they're telling me to back off from Wyken and let the teachers deal with him, and the next minute I'm being told that I should be disciplining Wyken for getting up during a lesson... but the kids make it worthwhile. Some of them I know better than others. So without further ado...

Wkyen is the boy I supposedly work with. He's a spirited 7-year-old with a ton of enthusiasm for just about everything. Warren is always the kid singing the loudest in music class, running the fastest in gym class, and writing the most letters on his handwriting practice sheet. He's the one constantly raising his hand to ask a question, make a comment, or share some wild story. Wyken has a story for everything. For instance, today while were talking about Red Ribbon Week, Wyken said that once someone put out a cigarette but it somehow flew right into his mouth, and he chewed it, and he got sick and had to go to the doctor. He also told me that his best friend at home is a man who has an 800 pack instead of a 6 pack. In many of his stories, Wyken is beating up "bad guys." He keeps life exciting!

Annie Elizabeth is a tiny little girl who wears glasses and has learning problems. She acts much younger than 6 years old, but she is pretty smart in her own ways. While she has trouble with school work, she often succeeds in getting one of her friends to do her work for her, while calling it "help." We've had to explain to other girls in the class that if they do Annie Elizabeth's work for her, she won't learn! She greets me with a hug every day.

Ginger moved here from Poland last year, and spoke no English at all when she came. She now speaks English pretty well, although she is a little behind on her reading skills. She's friends with Annie Elizabeth, and is one of the girls who always helps her. The other day I told Ginger, "If you keep helping Annie Elizabeth, she'll have to take you to college with her so you can do her work for her there, too!" Ginger found that quite funny.

Antonovka is one of the boys I don't know as much about, because he's been absent a few of the 6 days that I've worked. The things I know about him are that he's very friendly and helpful, and loves football!

Redfree is a boy I don't know much about. Sorry, Redfree!

Ariane is a sweet girl who talks with a cute lisp, and is usually smiling. Except today, when I found her crying on the playground. I asked her what was wrong and she told me, "My grandma is going to die tomorrow!" I couldn't figure out why she thought that, except that during our Red Ribbon Week talk the kids had been bringing up grandparents who smoked, some of whom had died. When I asked Ariane why she thought her grandmother would die tomorrow, she told me, "Because she's 100 years old!" I tried to explain that being 100 didn't necessarily mean a person would die the next day. She seemed to feel better and went off to play on the monkey bars.

Johnny is from Russia, although he looks Japanese. Apparently there are a large number of Japanese people in Russia! He's a sweet and funny boy, who has a lot of difficulty with reading and writing. He is notorious for cheating on spelling tests by trying to look at his friends' papers. He usually gets sent to do his spelling test at the back table in private, to keep him away from any temptation.

Nittany is the class tattletale. Every time I turn around, she is tattling on someone for something or another! It is actually hard for me to think of anything else I know about Nittany, because just about every interaction I've had with her has been her tattling on someone.

Davey is my little buddy. He's a very somber and quiet boy, who reminds me a lot of Ani, the angry little boy from the at-risk preschool program where I did some of my student teaching, and also a little boy in one of my field work placements who had selective mutism. Davey often refuses to talk, especially when things aren't going his way. It drives the teacher crazy because he thinks Davey is being rude. But because something about him reminds me so much about those other boys, I have to wonder if Davey is being rude or if it is something deeper than that. The other day I had to take Davey, Johnny, Ginger and Annie Elizabeth out in the hall to give them a spelling test that they had missed while they were getting help from the Resource teacher. All four of them were moaning and groaning the entire time. Talk about the worst four kids ever to put together for a spelling test! Annie Elizabeth cried because I wouldn't "help" her by giving her the answers, and Ginger and Johnny just took forever to write each word. But Davey actually started crying, the first time he wasn't sure how to spell a word, and he refused to write any more. I knelt by him and assured him that he should write the word down however he thought it was spelled, and that if he got it wrong it wouldn't be a big deal... the test was only a way for him and the teacher to discover what words he still needed to practice. But he continued to cry, and said, "My mom will yell at me if I miss one!" I wasn't even sure what to say about that. There was no way I could assure him that his mom wouldn't be mad, nor could I tell him he didn't have to take the test home. I finished up the test with the other kids and sent them back to the room, and then sat with Davey and coaxed him to write the rest of the words, letter by letter.

Beeley is a smart boy who likes to show off his smarts. Whenever the teacher is explaining something new, Beeley will raise his hand, and then rephrase what the teacher said in his own words. Not sure why. For instance, when the teacher was explaining to the kids that they had to stay off a certain playground after a rain because the surface was slippery, Beeley raised his hand and said, "If you're running, and you slip, you might get hurt badly!"

Malinda is also very smart, and is in a special program for gifted children. She goes down and does extra work, on a higher academic level, a few days a week. I think she reads on a fifth grade level. Everyone in the class knows how smart Malinda is, except for Malinda. She just acts like an ordinary first grade girl, always smiling and friendly and compliant.

Galarina is kind of mischievous. She has an odd sort of friendship with Wyken, and they goof off together during classes when they are able to sit together. She can also be bossy and kind of mean to the other kids, in a way that you'd expect to see in a fourth or fifth grader. You know, kind of snarky. For instance, she told Johnny that he couldn't play with her and some other kids. When Johnny told me about it and I confronted her, she said, "I didn't say that!" With a little more prodding she said that she had said it but was just kidding. I explained to her that it wasn't a funny joke and that it had hurt Johnny's feelings, and she agreed not to say it. Then she and Annie Elizabeth got up and walked away. Galarina glanced back at Johnny, and then looked at Annie Elizabeth and said loudly, "I hate when people follow us, don't you?" Sneaky!

Adam is another buddy of mine. When I started this job I was told that he was another kid I'd have to keep an eye on because of his behavior. The teacher indicated that Adam was not a very nice boy. But he is all smiles whenever I talk to him. He is definitely off task a lot of the time, and sometimes he does things such as insisting that he is the only one who can play with a certain soccer ball at recess, but that isn't too unusual for a first grade boy. I haven't seen any "terrible" behaviors from him, so far.

Richared's desk is near Wyken's, and so I am often on hand when he needs help with something. He's often daydreaming and just misses the directions, and I have to remind him what the teacher just said. Today, though, he started being plain old naughty. First, when the teacher asked the kids to take out two crayons, he took out his pencil bag and taking out all of his crayons, after he just watched Wyken get redirected for doing the same thing. A few minutes later, Wyken was rocking his desk. Wyken needs to be moving a lot, and he's allowed to rock his chair forward, but rocking the entire desk looked kind of dangerous. I asked him to stop, and he stopped right away. But then Richared started rocking his desk, and when I asked him to stop, he just grinned and kept doing it! I asked him again, and he still just laughed and did it even harder. I quietly asked him if I should "turn his card." (They have red, green, yellow and purple cards for their behavior management thingy.) He said, "No," and stopped... but then started up again less than thirty seconds later! This time, I put my hand on his desk and said, "Stop now," in a firm voice. He stopped for good. Maybe Richared is there to teach me a lesson on being a little more firm when I need to!

Sharon is a cute, tiny, dark-haired girl. I really don't know much about her. It seems that the kids I know the best are the ones who sit on Wyken's side of the room!

Scarlet is a tiny girl who has severe allergies. Her allergies are so severe that we have an air purifier in our classroom, and she goes to the nurse's office at lunch time each day to take an allergy pill. I have allergies too, although mine are more likely to give me sneezing fits and itchy eyes than to endanger my life. Still, the two of us have had several conversations about how allergies are a pain in the butt!

Lyman is another kid I don't know much about, although I've recently been told that he is one of the kids that I am supposed to keep an eye on, because he frequently ignores directions when the teacher says something. Like, blatantly ignores them. Not like a kid who is daydreaming or a kid who is so involved in what he's doing that he can hardly tear himself away, but a kid who will look right at you and then turn around and not do what you asked him to. Other than that, he is a super cute kid, little for a first grader, with beautiful red hair!

Nehou is a quiet little boy. I've helped him with his work a few times, and yesterday I helped him retie his shoe after it flew off his foot while he was playing soccer! Don't know much else about him yet, though. \

James is yet another kid I don't know a whole lot about, except that he is cute as a button and kind of hyper. During gym class, James is often playing so intensely that he hurts himself. For instance, chasing a soccer ball, he'll run so fast that his body gets ahead of his feet and he flies to the ground! I've seen that little dude take so many face plants... but he always gets up, with a grin on his face, and runs off to play some more.

Spencer is one more kid I don't know much about, because he rarely talks to me, even when I talk to him. But today we did have an odd conversation. It was right after our Red Ribbon Week talk, and the kids were all still talking about cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, as they lined up to go out for recess. Spencer came up to me and told me, "My big brother drinks wine, but I don't." "Well, I'm glad you don't, Spencer. That's a good choice," I replied. He nodded and said, "Yeah, I don't like wine. I drink piña coladas." I kind of drew a blank at that one!

They are a fun class! I am starting to enjoy being there! I guess it was inevitable, wasn't it?

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Monday, October 15, 2012

This Could Be A Good Thing

Hi everyone! When we last met, I had just started my job as an aide in a regular education classroom, supposedly working with a first grader named Wyken who has an emotional/behavioral disorder. (BTW, all names in this blog are changed. So if you actually know a little kid named Wyken, I am not talking about him. Or her.) I was very confused because everyone I talked to seemed to have a different idea of what my job was going to be, including possibly being a "back-up aide" for a child with cerebral palsy, maybe or maybe not being an aide in a regular gym class for four boys from the special education class that joined in, maybe or maybe not having lunch duty, etc, etc, etc.

Last week it continued to get more confusing on Thursday and Friday. I had been told that I didn't need to be intensely involved with Wyken, but I did feel obligated to at least supervise him, and step in when he was misbehaving by doing things like talking out of turn (which he does a lot) or running out of the room, or refusing to follow the teacher's directions. Over Thursday and Friday I noticed the assistant principal, plus the special education resource teacher, drifting in and observing. I told myself they weren't observing me... but as it turns out, they were. I was actually nervous that I wasn't intervening enough with Wyken and that he was still misbehaving. 

So on Friday, after school, I asked the classroom teacher, Mr. Shizuko, if he had any comments, concerns or suggestions for me. To my surprise, he said, "The only suggestion I have is that you back off a little from Wyken." He went on to say that Wyken's goal was to learn to be more independent, and to not need an aide anymore, and that I should just let the teachers talk to him and discipline him. 

I explained that in all of my other jobs as 1:1 aides, I was supposed to closely supervise the students and keep them from misbehaving, because their misbehavior took time and attention away from the teacher and other students. When I explained this, Mr. Shizuko said I should definitely mention this to the principal, vice principal, and special ed resource teacher.


Then this morning, the actual principal, Mr. Dulcet, came into the classroom and sat down, with a clipboard and paper and pen and everything, and was writing stuff down. By this time I just assumed he was observing me. And this is only my fourth day of work, remember. I noted that I'd been told not to spend too much time with Wyken, so I tried to drift around the classroom, checking on other kids and helping them if they needed it. At one point the teacher asked me to put together some things in a notebook for two students who were absent. The two absent students happened to sit right next to Wyken, so I was sitting next to him at one of their desks while I worked. I kind of talked to Wyken then, only to whisper for him to get his highlighter from his desk (to which he whispered, "Oh thanks, I forgot!") and to remind him not to rock backwards in his chair because he might fall. 

After I finished what I was doing, Mr. Dulcet asked me to come out into the hall with him. He then told  me that, while he understood that I was probably moving around the room because he was there and I wanted to look busy (he didn't say this meanly, but said that he'd started out as an aide and this was what he would have done if the principal walked into his classroom) I should try to avoid "unnecessarily" helping kids or walking around the room when it wasn't needed. He then said that since Wyken didn't need much help, I might also be called out to work with another first grader in a different classroom, who has more severe behavioral issues but does not have an IEP yet. 


I was feeling anxious about this because now I really had no idea what my job is! I was supposed to be a classroom aide for Wyken, but now I was not supposed to interact with Wyken or help the other kids?

However, later that afternoon Mr. Dulcet came back and wanted to talk with both me and Mr. Shizuko, while the kids were in music. That time he told me that his goal for me was to move up to an actual teaching job, and that instead of having to do busy work, I should actually be almost co-teaching with Mr. Shizuko. Co-teaching! That is, like, almost teaching! Except I'd still be getting paid as an aide. But still. Mr. Dulcet pointed out that I'd be able to add a lot to my resume, and that I could use this job as a professional development opportunity, somewhat like student teaching but with a paycheck! 

So that is nice, right?

Also he said he is going to get me out of lunch duty, as soon as he hires someone else to just come for lunch duty. Which would be awesome, because I have no break other than lunch, and since I get sick if I get hungry, I can't just skip lunch. I've been trying to bring my lunch out in my pockets during lunch duty. Today I ate a turkey sandwich, some cherry tomatoes, a pudding cup of flan, and a Pepsi, all out of my coat pockets! LOL!

I also did help out a lot today with the other kids, and made several little friends. First graders are so sweet, and I know I am going to end up loving these kids just as much as I loved my little friends during student teaching. 

Funny moment of the day... During morning work, Mr. Shizuko told Wyken, "Wyken, you are working so hard! I am glad to see you focusing and getting right down to business today!"
Wyken casually replied, "That's because I take a chill pill every morning. So I can chill." (Okay, that wouldn't be so funny, except that Wyken really does take a pill every morning for his hyperactivity! His mother must explain it to him as a chill pill. Okay, I guess you had to be there. Shut up.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not Another First Day!

Hello, everyone! If you read my most recent post, you know that last week I was feeling a little bummed, because I was unable to find a teaching job for fall and instead took a job as an aide. (By the way, I wanted to give a shout out to Miss L for her kind comment that really helped me feel better and put things into perspective!)

Last week when I wrote, I said that I had been hired as a 1:1 aide for a child with Cerebral Palsy, a third grader named Bess. Well, today was scheduled to be my first day. So yesterday I emailed the principal, Mr. Dulcet, to see what time I should arrive. He replied that I should arrive at 8:20, and mentioned that I'd be placed as an aide in Mr. Shizuka's classroom, and that I would also serve as a "backup aide" for the little girl named Bess. I was a little confused by that! When they hired me they tld me I'd be working with Bess, and they even had me meet with Bess's teacher, but then they told me I'd be working as a classroom aide in a regular education first grade classroom!

Today when I got there, things were cleared up a bit. An aide named Ms. Lane had been working, since the beginning of the school year, as a 1:1 for a first grade boy named Wyken. But Ms. Lane has a strong background in working with children with physical disabilities. So somewhere between last week and this week, it was decided that Ms. Lane would work with Bess, and I would take over working with Wyken.

The weird thing is that Wyken barely needs any help. He has a mild behavior disorder. Apparently last school year there was an incident in which he brought a kitchen knife to school inside his folder, causing all hell to break loose with the parents of the other kindergarteners. So that's when it was decided that Wyken needed an aide. He also has some mild sensory issues. But otherwise, he's fine, a little hyper but very eager to please. The goal is for him to not need an aide at all next school year. So my job is really to keep an eye on him, and step in when he does need help, but really let him be as independent as possible. Which is great, for Wyken, because he hates having an aide and being different from the other kids!

So today I did mostly busy work. I had to pull out all of the pages from the students' math worksheets, and collate them, so they could be passed out one at a time throughout the year. I hung up the students' art work in the hallway. I graded some homework. I distributed some papers and finished schoolwork into the kids' mailboxes. I helped Ms. Lane take Bess to the bathroom. (All I had to do is stand there, just so Ms. Lane wasn't in the situation of being alone with a child in a bathroom!)

One weird part of my day is that I was told I'd also have to go to a PE class to help out with four boys who are in special education but are mainstreamed into a regular PE period. I think they are in fourth grade. But when I went down to the gym, the PE teacher told me that the person who worked with the boys had to be a certified adaptive PE teacher, who could modify the activities for them. Ms. Lane, who had been doing it before, was a certified adaptive PE teacher. I stayed for that PE period, but really had no idea what I was supposed to be doing... the kids were playing some game I've never heard of called Four Corners Soccer. Balls were flying everywhere. Afterwards I went and asked the special education teacher, who I was told knows what is going on, what I was supposed to do during that gym class. She told me that my only job was to be an extra person and help out with the boys, but not modify anything. Later I asked Ms. Lane. She said that she did modify things, and that she thought she should still work with the boys, in which case I might take over and work with Bess for that half hour each day.

Then there was the issue of some people telling me that I'd take turns with two other people for doing lunch duty... and then some other people told me that I wasn't supposed to do lunch duty without getting paid, and that someone was being hired specifically for lunch duty. And other people told me that I would have to do lunch duty but would get paid for it.


Not bad, though. Everyone seems very nice. And the pay is good. Not as good as a teacher's pay, but much better than what I earned in the ESY program or at any other job I've worked at. So, I guess it will work out fine, for now.

Wish me luck for tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Allow Me To Wallow For A Minute, Please!

Hi everyone! Did ya miss me? Can't believe it's October! I've been hiding under a rock for quite a while now.

The good news is, I finally got a job.

The bad news is, it is not a teaching job. I got a job as a 1:1 aide for a 3rd grader with cerebral palsy.

It;s kind of been depressing for me because, all last year, whenever it was a holiday or special occasion, I'd be thinking, "Next year at this time I'll be doing this with my own class!" And I have this huge pile of classroom materials and things in my room, all these books I've collected, all in hopes of being a teacher. And I'm not going to be using them. Instead I'll be working in someone else's classroom, doing what I'm told to do and nothing more.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic and feeling sorry for myself... but in real life I've been forcing myself to be cheerful and look on the bright side all the time for the benefit of my family members and others. I'm too embarrassed to talk about my real feelings. So in this blog, I feel like I just need to vent a little and say, I feel like a failure. I really do. One reason I've been avoiding this blog is because it is so hard for me to read about all the teachers doing great things with their students, while I have nothing to contribute. It's kind of pushed me into depression. I mean it's been getting hard for me to wake up in the morning, and leave the house and things, which are symptoms of my getting a depressive episode.

Sorry, I really don't mean to be wallowing in my misery, but I really just have to get that off my chest. To my parents and everyone, on Facebook and everywhere else, I have been all, "Oh, I'll do what I have to do, at least as an aide I'll get more experience, etc, etc, etc." So this is really the only place, where I can hide behind my fake name and cartoon avatar, and admit that I feel awful.

The weird thing is, even though I started applying for aide jobs after labor day when it became clear that I wasn't going to have a teaching job right away and I started to run low on my savings, it took me this long to find a job. Part of this is probably because it was obvious I still do plan to get a teaching job, and schools want to hire aides who are going to be pretty stagnant so they won't have to be hiring and training a whole new person in six months. I had already decided that if I got an aide job I was going to stay with it for the entire school year, and not start looking for teaching jobs until the fall of 2013, because I don't think it would be fair to be a teacher's aide for a few months and then leave. But still I guess schools want someone who is going to be there as an aide for years. A lot of the aides I know in this area are older women, married, with grown children, who don't have any plans to move up on the career ladder. They are basically just chilling and saving up money so they can retire. So I actually got turned down for a whole lot of aide jobs, which just made me feel worse!

At one private therapeutic day school where I applied to be an aide, the principal (who showed up to the interview wearing sweats, a T-shirt, and a baseball hat with her ponytail sticking out the back) actually said to me several times, "How come you can't get a teaching job? I would think special ed teachers are in high demand right now. Why couldn't you get a job?" (Never mind that she works at a special education school that is not hiring any teachers!)

I applied at another therapeutic day school that works specifically with children with autism, and I really thought I was going to be hired there. They were hiring multiple people, and I have a ton of experience with children with autism. However, they sent me a rejection letter. I was actually a little relieved, because the one bad thing about them was that they were a year-round school, so you don't get summers off, and although I don't necessarily need the entire summer off, my family is planning a 2-week cabin/boat/woods vacation along with several other family members, including my brother who mI haven't seen in years and my cousin whom I've only seen once in the past ten years, and I really didn't want to miss that!

So anyway, last week I went on about five different interviews at various schools, but none of them called me back. And then, last Thursday, a principal called me and asked if I could come in for a second interview the very next day. The "interview" turned out really to be just a chance for me to meet the classroom teacher I'd be working with... I guess so she could see if she had a good feeling about me, and so she'd be able to give the principal her input before he made a final decision.

And this morning, I got the call, saying I was hired! I'm going on Thursday to fill out all the papers, and then I'll start next week.

By the way, did I mention I know nothing about cerebral palsy? Of all the jobs I applied to working with kids with disabilities I have experience with, the one I got hired for was for working with a disability I admitted I didn't have any experience with! They hinted that one of the reasons they wanted to hire me was because I said I don't have issues with helping kids with toileting. LOL!

So... everyone! If you've worked with children with cerebral palsy before, have any hints for me? I know all kids with cerebral palsy are not the same, just like all children with autism are not the same. This particular girl is cognitively high functioning, is able to speak, and from what I've heard has a great personality and everyone loves her. She's a third grader. So I imagine it will be like working with a typically developing third grader, and movement is the only thing atypical about her. But I don't know. I haven't met her yet. I'm a little nervous. What do you think???

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another Update

Hi everyone! Long time no speak! Since I haven't gotten a job yet, I haven't felt like reading everyone's blogs... no offense, its just that it would have made me sad to hear about everyone getting their classrooms ready and doing first week activities, when I couldn't do those things.

Anyways things may be looking up. I have two interviews this week. One of them is as a K-5 LD Resource teacher. The good things about that job would be that it is at the school my little cousins attend, and close to their house, although it is 45 minutes away from where I currently live. I'd be able to see my cousins,  and visit my aunt more often, and if there was a blizzard or something I could always sleep over at their house and have only a five minute drive in the morning. Since several of my family members live out that way, I'd probably look for an apartment between my parents' house and the school, so I'd be close to everyone! The rent rates are lower in that area.The negatives about this job would be that I would be a resource teacher instead of having my own classroom, and I'd have a long drive at least for a while.

The second interview is for a K-1 self-contained crosscat classroom. The positives would be that I'd have my own classroom, I'd be with the grade levels I'm most comfortable with, and it is only about a 20-25 minute drive from where I'm now staying. The negatives would be that it is at a "failing school" that is in a district that isn't too wonderful... since most of the schools in that district are failing, they are obsessed with test scores... and also that, while I would still want to get my own apartment as soon as possible, the rent in this area is a lot higher. Plus, it just wouldn't be my cousins' school. Not exactly a negative, because obviously working at my cousins' school isn't a requirement... or else I'd have very narrow job prospects!

I also have an interview as a library aide at another school. I am not exactly sure what a library aide does... I guess I would be straightening out books and reading to little kids. It is also about forty minutes from my house. That job would be more like a last resort.

I'd be so excited to get either one of the two teaching jobs! I'm actually studying for the interviews, to make sure I don't get taken by surprise by any of the questions! Everyone send me their positive thought! I'll write again over the weekend and tell you how all three interviews went.

See ya later!

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Running Out Of Time!

Hi everyone! It is now the middle of August, as you may have noticed, and I have not found a job! I was out of town for a while and had no access to the Internet, and I was hoping that, upon my return to civilization, K12jobspot would be filled with jobs needing to be filled! But there only turned out to be about five new special ed teaching job posts in my area. (I applied to all of them.) You know what there are a ton of? Aide jobs! Every district calls it something else... teacher's aides, teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, associate teachers, superhero's sidekick, etc, but they are all basically the same job description, and every district is looking for them. It's almost as if districts are saving money by hiring more assistants, who can do a lot of the same work a teacher would do, but for way less pay. For instance, they could probably justify having larger classes, if they could give each teacher an aide or two. I'm not certain this is the case. It's just a theory. 

But anyways, here I am, beginning to panic! I was just on summer vacation with my cousin, who also has a teaching degree. He got his Master's degree a year ago, and he spent the entire school year trying to make ends meet by subbing and working part time in a book store, because he couldn't find a teaching job. This summer he finally managed to score a teaching job, thank goodness! But I don't think I could do what he did. I'd be too nervous to sub... it would be like every day was my first day of work! Kind of like "50 First Dates," only it would be "350 First Days."

I'm highly qualified. I have a great resume and great references. (I've actually been told this by a few potential employers.) The only thing I don't really have is experience... but how am I going to get experience without a job? I already have plenty of aide experience.  What I need is teaching experience. 

You may remember that a lot of the things have happened for me at the last minute, this past year. I got my first student teaching placement at the last minute. Then, I got a ten-week student teaching placement, only to be rejected from it after they realized I wasn't a reading specialist. I didn't receive an actual student teaching placement until the Friday before I was supposed to start! And this summer, I searched frantically for a job, and had almost given up, when I suddenly got hired over the phone for the ESY aide job that started less than a week later. So my only hope is that, like everything else, a wonderful teaching position will just fall into my lap at the last minute! Otherwise, seriously, I have no idea what I'll do. 

Send positive vibes my way, everyone!