And this is a trend that I hope continues as the year goes on. Fortunately it looks like my new paras are fairly sharp and are rapidly catching on to a new routine and are taking up some of the slack that I inevitably leave in a wake of growing responsibilities. Advocating for my paras is sometimes even more difficult that advocating for my students. Since my students are so dependent on adult support, it’s practically the same thing, anyway.
Today we were all better prepared and met the various challenges head-on. And we did see a few new challenges that didn’t show up yesterday, but we’re all dealing without the wheels falling off. I’m encouraged by the students settling in to what little structure and routine we presently have in place. I was actually able to have a bit of structured class/group time with the kids today. However, 8 is way, way too many to group with this population. The fact is, is that with a population of SID/PID students you have to be in close physical proximity to effectively teach anything. I have to be able to reach out and touch every person I am working with. Yes, having para support is helpful but the teacher needs to be able to physically touch, prompt and otherwise hold attention. My limit is 3 in a group. I have seriously tried and tried working with groups of 4 or more, but with the sort of intense instruction we do, it just does not work well. 3 + me = 4 and that seems to be the perfect setup. Anyone extra becomes a 5th and 6th (and 7th and 8th) wheel. Last year, with 7 students, I had 2 groups of 3 and tried to work the 7th wherever he/she fit. Often someone was absent, so it was workable much of the time. The 3 paras would do 1:1 work with whoever I wasn’t working with or they could combine up so everyone in the room was engaged on some level. This is the way it should be, but when numbers swell so far past the available adults it breaks everything down and no one gets any productive time!
I would say that the behaviors today were probably more challenging on some levels than yesterday. However was able to spend more time probing around and trying to determine the function of these behaviors today. The way to determine function is to try different things in order to elicit the behavior. Mostly eliciting it under various conditions, such as demand, attention or alone conditions. So in the case of someone who is kicking (not an issue in my room at the moment), it means getting kicked a lot more by trying to cause it. Once the cause is found, a program is determined to to replace the behavior or reinforce something else, like attention or compliance. I’m keeping it all simple for the sake of saying that I do have numerous and fresh battle wounds today to show for my behavioral combat. Applied Behavior Analysis isn’t truly applied unless the investigator has sacrificed some of his/her own hide for the cause. If there isn’t blood and bruises, you’re probably not doing it right.
Things will also get easier as I get my legs under me and leave the laziness of summer behind me. I was sore and exhausted yesterday. Today isn’t the same sort of soreness or the sensation of being so bone weary. Yes, I’m tired, but I can still think and move without wincing.
So those of you who haven’t started your school year yet, I hope this will serve as a bit of encouragement. Yes, the first day can be a crusher but it does get better.