Saturday, February 06, 2010

With 22 inches of snow .... and more continuing to fall... there is a good chance we won't be going to school again on Monday. When on Thursday afternoon the county closed school a full 18 hours before the snow even began to fall, we knew we were in for a doozie.

I have to lament that learning is being disrupted; with a break in continuity comes an increase in kids' frustration and inappropriate frustration response. That is... we can expect lots more acting out behavior when we finally do get back to school. Lovely.

Here's where experience helps. I've learned that on that first day back, plan to review content that the students' already have a good handle on. Plan active learning, game time, and class favorites. Still, stick with the tried-and-true schedule. Re-establish the familiar as quickly as possible.

As I listen to the news updates, I wonder if we'll even be back to school on Tuesday.

How many on-demand movies can I make myself watch? How long will the food in the fridge last? When will my hubby and I get sick of this intense "alone time"?

Thank God for good books, hot tea, and the company of my sweet dog Cayenne.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Organized for a better tomorrow....??

I spent 45 minutes today looking for a flashdrive so I can revisit a project the staff put together a few years ago. I found the darn thing... but 45 minutes of my life was wasted. I guess I should wish I was more organized. Or wish that I had kept a paper copy in an easily accessible place.

The idea of a paperless society scares me.... And this writer sees more of a down-side than I ever considered.

I often feel inundated by stacks of paper that sit on my desk and in my file folders. It's the culmination of 2 or 3 grades/curriculum for my mixed age and ability class. The good news is that I can usually put my hand on what I am looking for in just a minute or two. But I have to find a better way.

Until then, I'll dream of a time that my desk is fully functional and my time is never wasted. I'll reward myself for taking the time to weed out and sort through it all. I'll mentally tie the organized workspace to better teaching, thereby making it seem more worth my while.

Now, where did I put my TO-DO list????

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Closing doors. Opening hearts.

There's the gentle click of my classroom door closing. Our work continues, the children intent on the pattern shapes on the table in front of them. Timmy breathes a sigh of relief, and looks up to catch my eye. He almost smiles.

With the closing of the classroom door, the angry yelling sounds coming from the crisis room are muffled. It's suddently much easier to concentrate. It's not just that the discomforting noise is lessened. It's also that when someone out in the hallway takes the time to unobtrusively close doors, they honor those kids who are doing the right thing. We are, after all, a place for learning and teaching.

Living the school day in a program for children with emotional disabilities means that, of course, we will be hearing some rageful shouts, anguished tears, even loud, inappropriate laughter. But when children come to learn that they are accepted and valued even if their behavior falls short of expectations, they also learn the value of empathy, not judgment, for their peers. They learn that loud and angry or sad are feelings that their teachers and counselors are ready to help them with. It may be upsetting to hear the noise, but most of our students trust that the situation is under control and will be worked out safely.

And that can be a very big relief.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Power of a New Start...

It's 22 degrees outside, and half the building is toasty warm, and the other half is only a hair above 50 degrees. Bleary-eyed, smiling, and even - dare I say- chipper, my colleagues meet this morning just before the kids' arrival in order to update each other on any pressing matters:

Who got what for Xmas?

Who traveled and who got snowed in?

We discuss who was getting a new kid--me.

Any behavior plans need reviewing?

Who already needs a nap?

As the kids arrive, their calls to each other are almost gleeful, their smiles, contagious. I am exactly where I want to be.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another post with too many cliches...

It's happened again.

"He has really come a long way!" "Wow, what a wonderful attitude!" "Way to go, buddy!"

So says his teacher.

And then comes...

The Compliment Jinx: When teachers dare speak aloud about a child's recently improved efforts... and the very next day ( afternoon, minute) the child completely blows up and makes us all out to be liars.

Why, oh why does this have to happen? Are the gods out to get us? Do the fates find joy in squelching any feeling of satisfaction we dare to feel? How about karma? All this hard work should lead to something positive!

Perhaps it's more simple than that. Maybe it's all cyclical, and we are just missing the bigger picture that could reveal a pattern. Or Mom was right all along... what goes around does come around.

Here's what I do know: "One step forward and two steps back" has become a way of life for me. It's a slow process, but nothing will keep us from plugging on. What's at stake is just too important.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Is it the flu? Or the Teacher Workday blues?

Today was our first day back with kids after 2 teacher workdays. Sadly, we sent another child home with flu-like symptoms... fever, cough, etc. Poor kid looked gray/green. 2 out of 6 kids down; who will be next?

With 2/3 of the class gone home, we had a terrific day--everyone got the attention they wanted, and all was right with the world. I was able to do some math enrichment...ENRICHMENT!!!... and we are effectively making our way through the geography unit. (I have to keep reminding myself: there are 5 oceans now, not 4.)

This short week leaves me feeling a little discombobulated. Two teacher work days throw us all off kilter: without the natural flow, the kids don't trust what's coming next. Is it a PE day? When do we go to computer lab? Where did we put the sidewalk chalk? Do you really mean it when you say "raise your hand"? Are we allowed to jump off the desks now?

Teachers can't get all the stuff done we think should have been done on the work days: parent calls, report cards, IEP progress reports, re-organize the files by Friday, plan for the next quarter. Truth is, work days really mean conference days, and meeting days, and staff development days.

It's a lot of work to make up for two teacher "work days".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One step forward....

This afternoon we saw a great breakthrough moment.... and in this business, that's rare! After weeks of teaching, reteaching, modeling, practicing, reinforcing, ignoring, following a complicated behavior plan, and reinforcing some more.... he walked out of the room safely and to the counselor's office...WITHOUT DESTROYING PROPERTY OR HURTING ANYONE!!!

It was a sweet victory, and even though he was very mad, I think he recognized his personal accomplishment. He did the time out, and genuinely participated in the "processing" portion of the crisis cycle. I can't ask for much more than that.

The most satisfying part: the behavior plan we created and implemented was complicated, time consuming, and intense. Time after time, we were required to follow through, even though our hearts were hurting. It's never easy to stand firm when a cute little guy is begging for another chance.

We stuck to what we knew was right... and it paid off.

We're sure to take a few steps back soon, then a few more forward. It's a long process to make true changes to one's behavior and approach to life's challenges. But today we did take a step forward.

It felt good.