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! 

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