Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From hitting to biting and sentence writing

I am still feeling quite sick with a nasty cold. It appears to be making its way away from my head though. Celebrate progress in all forms. I dragged myself in today for two IEP meetings that didn't happen. The parents did not show, the special ed chairperson was meeting with her financial advisor in person in the meeting room, and the speech therapist did not show. So my sick self is there specifically to attend the meeting that, for all intents and purposes, did not happen. After fifteen minutes, I finally told the chair that I needed to go back to class. My reports were placed in her mailbox last week. She had the nerve to tell me to be patient. Excuse me? She was not even doing anything relevant to the two students at hand. I explained that if we were not going to have a meeting that I needed to be in the classroom, with my students. Sounds reasonable, right?

One of my students who has been very physically aggressive decided that biting his friends would be better than hitting them. I did not agree with his plans and so the day was.. a little challenging in that regard.

On a positive note, one of my very young students has taken to writing sentences. He wrote two full sentences this week, complete with capitalization and punctuation. Hooray for him!

Wondering what else will happen this week...

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Another look at the week, this time through random quotes:

Me to the class: Oh, it looks like the lights are out in the bathroom. I wonder what happened
One student: Someone spilled turkey bacon in there!

One of my students to me during recess: He is in trouble, I brought him over so you can whoop him, Mrs K1 teacher

Me, as a student gets off the bus in the morning: Good Morning!
The student: I hate you. F*** You!

Me to parent at open house: Excuse me, that is my desk, it is a personal area.
Parent: Oh I was just looking at your stuff
Me: Well , you can look at the student work or the centers. I can answer any questions you have....
Parent: I just wanted to look at your files and papers....

Week 2

The second week is over. This week was a challenge because of illness. My husband was sick for th beginning part of the week. I wanted to stay home with him to monitor his health. I used my prep periods and lunch time to call whenever I could.

I had a severe stomach ache for several days, complete with loss of appetite, nausea, and other unpleasant digestive situations. It got worse and worse over the course of the week. Finally on Thursday night at open house, I had to sit down. I apologized to the parent I was speaking with. I was really scared to drive myself home and thought of calling my loving husband. I jotted down some sub plans before I left school Thursday night and a letter of apology to my para. Most teachers would agree that it would be very difficult to miss a day so early on the school year.

When I finally made it home, my husband looked at me and determined that it was necessary to go to the ER. I tried to convince him that I would be fine, but I was too scared and too weak. Off to the ER we went. A few iv bags of fluid and medicine later, I was feeling a little better. I slept soundly through the night and felt much better Friday morning. I went into work, storing my letter of apology for another day. As the day wore on, I marveled at this sensation called hunger and I picked at simple, bland foods. By Friday evening, I had the makings of a pretty nasty head cold, complete with chills, heavy head and sneezing. It appears like the third week of school for my students will start pretty much the same as the second one did,, with me feeling under the weather.

Oh, the ER doctor was helpful and had some possible theories about my seemingly very frequent upset stomach. One of which involves following up with a GI doctor. It is definitely time for me to this. As a teacher, I know I can not meet all of my students needs. I often look to other teachers, specialists, therapists, parents, and community resources. I need to apply that same theory to caring for myself. I cannot ignore my problems and hope they go away. I need to take care of this situation. I cannot simply expect to handle it by myself without some specialized support.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thankful that the first week is over

Sometimes in the school year are more challenging than others. The first week of school is certainly one those times. On Monday morning, I was ready. The room was clean and organized. Their first activity was set out on the table. The clipboard was loaded with bus information and blank pages for notes. I had made fairly detailed notes in my plan book for the first three days of school.

Then the students and their families arrived and I detailed some of that an earlier post on this blog. By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted and frustrated with the prep period schedule. It is at a different time each day, which makes teaching routines to children inexplicably difficult since we literally had a different schedule every day this first week. I have plead my case to the administration several times, and carefully explained that a consistent schedule is not about me or my needs but it is about what is best for the children. Since they cannot advocate for themselves, it is my responsibility to advocate for them. It was to no avail. My concerns were answered with shoulder shrugs and a wiping hands gesture, which only aggravated me more! Use you words, Mr. Administrator!

Tuesday came and I was determined to make it a better day. The students arrived to find their laminated picture name cards on the table. For some of them, this seemed to ease some of their worries and anxieties. They saw their picture and relaxed a little, feeling just a tad more comfortable. Oh and then there was the observation. A therapist came to observe on of the students. One the second day of school. I protested and didn't think this was fair to anyone, including the student who was being observed. For some kids, it can take a while before they settle into the routine and are performing to their best ability. Again my protests were seemingly in vain.

A new student arrived on Wednesday. On the bus with no name tag, no identifying information and a very styling hairdo. When I approached to ask what his name was, he greeted me with a string of expletives. So that teacher -student relationship was off to a great start, as you can imagine. He eventually told me his name and he was one of the students on my class list who did not show up at the beginning of the week. He was angry and aggressive throughout the day. I read through his IEP later in the day and familiarized myself with some of his goals and his history.

In addition to helping a new angry and aggressive student adjust, more people arrived to observe the same student who was observed on Tuesday. The message I received said they would come "late morning". That to me is before noon. They did not arrive. So as any classroom teacher knows, the show must go on. When they arrived slightly before 1pm, the students were resting. They were baffled and annoyed. I tried to be professional and polite as I explained that I was expecting them earlier in the day. I also told them when the students would be getting up from their nap and told them that they were welcome to come back then. This did not work for them and I did not see them for the rest of the day.

So that brings us to Thursday, meeting day. By this point in the week, I was marveling at how much my students don't know. In other words, I forget every year how much they learn by June. When we start in September, everything is brand new. I am tired from lack of sleep and stressed. I am still trying to help my students with routines but still have not received any administrative support. The parents of the student who was observed have requested a special meeting. Many people were involved in the case, including private and district therapists. The parents are requesting extra services. The district claims the student does not need all of those services.

I did not want to go to the meeting. I felt like it was more important for me to be with my students since it was only the fourth day of school and all. Even though Ms. S, my para, is fabulous, the kids still need a lot of support and I worried about them. Unfortunately, my presence is mandatory. So off I go to a 2 hour meeting. Everyone in the room is tense. Not much was accomplished. I felt vulnerable, anxious, personally attacked and generally sick to my stomach. Chaos was brewing in the classroom when I returned. I couldn't wait to go home. When I had my prep period at the end of the day, I was distraught and unproductive. Finally, the kids left and I headed to yoga class with a wonderful teacher. Thank goodness for yoga.

Thursday night I was angry about the meeting and some specific things that were said. I felt sorry for myself and for the student. I was bothered by some other unresolved issues from the week and worked feverishly to plan and organize. Mr. K1 teacher, my wonderful husband had worked hard to fixed my computer and I was extremely grateful for all of his hard work. And because of all the stress and intense emotions, I ended up erupting at him about some stupid little thing not working just right on the computer.

Friday was probably the best day of the week. I was buoyed somewhat with the knowledge that it was in fact Friday and that weekend was approaching. The students were adjusting and I started to develop a behavior modification plan for the angry and aggressive student. We will start to implement that plan on Monday. I worked on some paper work type tasks during my prep period, including copying emergency cards, and starting student files. And I taught. That's the point.

Stress, lack of administrative support, and general lack of understanding in my building about early childhood special education drive me insane. I want to teach. I want to enrich young minds. But sometimes, I find all these other things get in the way. I start looking for other jobs and wondering if I should quit. Then I look at the calendar and try to remind myself that its too early in the school year to feel this badly and that things will get better. I hope.

Monday, September 14, 2009

first day

My students started today.  I feel like I have been waiting a while for them to come.  Despite the fact that it is my fourth year in my current classroom and my 6th year of teaching full time, I was still feeling the first day jitters.  Do they ever go away?

Many parents were eager to get their children into school earlier than school officially starts.  I understand that the first day of school is a big deal but I feel that if I let parents drop off students before school now, then I am setting a tone for the rest of the year.  I value and desperately need my time in the classroom in the morning at the start of the day.  Since my kids are in the classroom most of the day everyday, the time I get there before school starts is truly my time to get things done.  Some see it as me being rigid and that may be true, but I see it as setting boundaries.

Another parent told me how her kid doesn't need to be in the classroom because she is advanced.  She already knows everything.  And she is very concerned about her daughter regressing.  I assured her that regression is not our goal for anyone, including her sweet child.

One parent asked for my cell phone, fax, and zip code.  

I have mostly boys this year.  I am starting the year with a full house, which, hopefully, means that there will be less transitions and new arrivals as the year progresses.  The specialist schedule sucks and is at a different time every day.  This makes it difficult for the students to learn a routine and challenges my planning abilities.  I have explained to the principal several times about the importance of consistency and routines in early childhood and special education but it seems to be to no avail.  I have offered to sit with some other teachers who have similar concerns and rework the schedule FOR him.  I have suggested simple switches.  I have communicated my concerns many  times over only to be sadly ignored.

Each teacher was given one single package of paper.  The rest of the paper and supplies are "coming"... some time.  

While I am excited to learn about the children and develop our classroom community,  I am wary of the many challenges that exist.  The job is challenging enough of and in itself without adding additional challenges to it.  

Off to catch a little rest and relaxation before bed time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trepidation about the school year

Today was not a good day.  I arrived at school all eager and ready to work for several hours, only to find out that the custodian was painting the hallway outside my room and I could not get in to actually work.  The principal then recommend that I not come in tomorrow either because of the paint fumes.  He mumbled something about needing 72 hours for the fumes to dissipate.  So I can't help but wonder why not paint the basement after summer school ends or on the Friday  afternoon of a long weekend (instead of on a Thursday).  Not being able to work in increments leaves me feeling anxious, unsettled, and semi-unproductive.

I went to the office to see if I could get a class list with addresses.  I introduced myself to the new secretary.  I never start the year with a full list and it seems like I will be doing just that this year.  I have 15 students, 9 of whom have a disability and 6 who are "typically" developing.  My ratio is supposed to be 7 and 8, with the idea that the kids who are typically developing serve as models for the other students.  It is hard for the students with disabilities to find models if there are fewer "typically" developing students in the classroom with them and that partially defeats the point of the program.  Of those 15 students, 12 are boys. There are 21 students currently enrolled in Pre-K and I have 15 of them?  That means that between my two other grade level colleagues, they have 6.  Something is not right about that math to me. 

When I looked through the master list, I noticed that one of my former students who was discharged from special education at the end of last year was placed in a substantially separate classroom.  A similar thing happened last year and it was a huge fiasco at the beginning of the school year. I wrote to the principal when I got home to explain the situation and hopefully avoid a similar conflict. 

All of this is tiring and frustrating.  It makes me nervous for the start of the year.  My goal was to work in that building for five years but days like this make me question the validity of my goal.

Hoping it gets better and goes smoother from here on out.

Back to school thoughts

I have recently realized that many people have already started school.  We haven't yet, which is why there has not been too many posts here.  

Earlier this week, I spent two straight days with Nicole, one of my best friends.  She teaches in a nearby district and recently had knee surgery.  She was nervous about moving the rearranging the furniture in her classroom with the knee being not quite healed.  I have known her since college, shared many teaching experiences with her, and was eager to help.  She has helped me set up my classroom several times over and it was high time I repaid the favor.  

So, on Monday I met her at her house and we went over to her school.  Of course the doors are locked and there are still ongoing miscellaneous construction projects in and around the school so we have to use the back entrance and wind our way through the maze of a basement.  We get to her room and I am ready to work.  She was overwhelmed so I toned it down a bit.  Then it was on, we were moving and rearranging desks, removing chairs that were too small for her students,  trading out one book shelf for another and unpacking boxes.  I marveled at how much we got done and how well we worked together.  

Then it was off to my school.  It was my first time back since I left in June.  And it was my turn to be completely overwhelmed.  I took a few deep breaths and tried to quiet the voice of the frantically crying teacher inside of my head.  We started moving furniture and had a good portion of the center areas set up when the custodian came in and stated that he was not finished with my floor.  I explained that I could leave and that prior to coming, I had called the principal, who assured me that all the floors were done last week.  I was frustrated and he went around the hallway having a grown up temper tantrum.  I offered to leave but he said not to bother so we kept working.  We worked for just over an hour and I was thrilled with how much progress we made.  It is so much easier to do certain things when two people are working together on it.

Also, we have known each other for a long time and so certain things just didn't need to be explained to the other.  I could make a gesture or she could say some vague phrase about how she wanted to arrange the furniture and we were on the same wave length.  On Tuesday we started out at my school and then went to hers.  We were just as productive.  I share these thoughts here because I just love her, she is fabulous and, more importantly it is rare when you find someone who gets you personally and professionally.  When we go to each others' classrooms, we know what is important to the other and throughout the year we have that visual in our minds when we share our stories.  

All of these positive experiences made me think yet again about co-teaching.  When I was in graduate school, I student taught in a classroom with co-teachers and a classroom assistant.  It was a fantastic classroom with high outcomes for all of their students and the model has inspired a deep interest in co-teaching within me.  My teaching assistant is a teaching assistant, and although she is fabulous, she is not interested in all of the teacher responsibilities like planning curriculum, collecting data, and conducting assessments.  If the opportunity presented it self to co-teach with Nicole, I would certainly take it in a heartbeat and I really don't think it would compromise our friendship.  Maybe my next job will involve some co-teaching with another teacher, just to see what that is like.