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! 


  1. A favorite colleague of mine has said that kids should love their first grade teachers. I try to remember that on my bad days because I think she's right.

    I hope this teacher was just having a bad day and it'll get better!

  2. I, too, hope that teacher (and the lunch ladies!) was just having a bad day...Otherwise, it sounds like they all need your hand puppets about yelling! How sad...

    I wasn't sure if I'd guessed apple types correctly! I guessed off a couple I recognized but didn't know the others. Who knew there were so many! :) Thanks for the giveaway - I'm excited for TPT money :) My email is if you need it :)

    I hope Halloween craziness went well for you today!



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