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Divine Humor

22 Aug

There is a very real reason why this blog has the name that it does.  There is the life that we think we choose for ourselves and then there is the life that seems to choose us.  And there are things that happen that we could not possibly make up.  And this is one of those.

A week ago, I got a call from one of my paras….one of my former paras…saying that they could not find the switches and AAC devices.  This is a very big deal since ALL of those students are nonverbal and all acces to any curriculum relies on switches and devices and such.  I remembered packing them up but not exactly where I had put them. They said they would keep looking.  2 days ago, they called again, saying they still had no idea where they were. I made trek in and sure enough, the devices were in the storage closet where I left them.  The kids were all there and some sort of seemed to recognize me.  It was a bit weird being there everyone was okay, and I began the process of trying to help a rather shell shocked and overwhelmed teacher what there was there for the each student.  This was not a new teacher, she is a veteran, but very new to this particular population.  No one walks in knowing just what to do.  And then the new speech teacher, who did look young and new, walked in and I began talking to her a bit about the kids and how speech had worked in the past.  All in all, it was me simply slipping into the old familiar role.  But after an hour, I was able to walk out and go home to wrestle with ideas on how to market myself better.

The next afternoon, the call came.  I finally got an offer for a job.  Not just an offer, but it would be fair to say that I was cajoled and woo’ed.  I don’t know if “beg” would be too strong of a word or not.  But I was asked to come in.  Real soon.  And so, tomorrow is my first day of work in my new job!  Actually it is only a temporary longterm sub job.   But it is a job, right?  Got my foot in the door!

Thing is….this is the same exact door I walked out of just 3 months ago.  Yes, meet the new boss!  Same as the old boss!  I have my old job back.  It would not be an understatement for me to say I have VERY mixed feelings about this.  I left to find something else.  And I am still searching.  Suffice it to say that God obviously thinks I have something yet to discover in this particular spot, with these particular students.  It looks like we will be together again, for good or ill.  So let’s see what we can do.

The odds are the same as last year…in fact the job is even more daunting if that is even even possible, than when I left.  So, I’m rolling up the sleeves and working on getting psyched to go in show ’em how it’s done.


I may have waited too long…

1 May

Perhaps  10 years is too long in this particular setting.

It has been awhile since I updated this blog. I have been busy, and the business is reaching a feverish pitch as annual reviews blend in with end of year checklists and tasks and re-evaluations and on top of that, my own campaign to find another job.

All of this adds up to more stress on top of a job that has been stressful all year long with all sorts of issues. But I have always met all of the challenges and dealt with them. Every year, I somehow make it through and marvel at how I ever did it.

Not everyone can handle the stress that is involved with serving individuals with severe disabilities. But most teachers I know do not cite the students as the biggest stressors. Lack of administrative support and the huge burden of paperwork rank among the top reasons educators leave the field of special education.

I have not talked about a former colleague of mine lately, although he does occasionally keep in touch. The stress on him was so heavy that he had a nervous breakdown and was carried out on a stretcher…more than once. I remember thinking those few years ago that I did not want things to get that bad. And maybe then it was that I began to look around at other options.

My first 6 years of teaching here, I drove the bus for our community outings, and so each year I had to get a bus physical. It wasn’t much of a physical, but it was at least blood pressure, pulse and weight. And none of those numbers fluctuated very much. I was generally healthy. However I did smoke. Smoking, besides all the health and social costs is also expensive and addicting. It was the fact that I was tired of being an addict that I finally quit a couple years ago. And then my weight ballooned so badly it was impacting my knees. So I began a diet and exercise program and managed to get the weight under control. All of these measures helped buy me more time and hopefully extended my shelf life.

But the load and stress this year has finally taken its toll. I was feeling a bit dizzy the last couple of days and had the school nurse take my blood pressure. And sure enough it was high. Not ER high, but a source of major concern nonetheless.  The paras got a bit worried and called the nurse to check me again in the afternoon, and by then I was back in my normal range.  I half-joked that they were overly concerned because if something happened to me, they might actually have to do some work!  Ha ha!

So I am wondering: Are there a number of other teachers out there stressing more than usual this year? Has it taken a toll health-wise? I know I have a number of areas where I can improve my life style, mainly getting more sleep and laying off the caffeine. Those two alone can probably get me back in the normal range if I can also reduce some stress. Hopefully I can survive the next couple of weeks when all my annual reviews are done and I have less overhead….hopefully. They always like to pile on more and more at the end and so much of it seems needless.

I do want to write more, and that is one way to vent off a bit. And I also want to do a little series about the past ten years “by the numbers.”

But I need to make it through the next couple of weeks without having to be carted off in a gurney!

Last Day Before Break Edition

18 Dec

Well guess what? My GAA is NOT totally finished! In fact, I haven’t started on #2 at all! So, there you go, I can be as much of a procrastinator as anyone else. And the holiday mindset has been long set around these parts.

Here at the high school, Wednesday and Thursday were days of final exams. And last week was end of course tests (EOCT). So the schedule has been altered for quite some time. For my students, only the last couple of days have been more difficult. They simply do not do well when the schedule is severely altered. They get cranky, they get irritable, loud and sometimes even aggressive. The schedule and routine functions as a source of security for them (and the rest of us, too!) and they rely on that consistency to keep them oriented to time, since they can not really read a clock. So when the exam schedule calls for running the periods backwards or altering lunch time, it throws them and they let their displeasure and anxiety be known.

I wasn’t going to blog this next bit, but I think I will at the risk of offending some of the local folks. The topic is rather soft, but my treatment of it is not. The last couple of days of school, it is common for people to like to throw little parties and such. In elementary school, the teachers do manage to turn it into a theme day and that seems to work most of the time, but still runs the risk of upsetting the schedule for the students. I have no objections to the holiday-themed days with and for students. We did a great one in here last year when we studied Mexico and had a fiesta. No, my beef has been when the teachers decide to throw a potluck luncheon as a small group or department. For most departments, this is probably perfectly fine. And for most teachers, it is probably worry and drama-free.

But for me and my brave little band of paras and students, it represents yet another source of stress. My students need someone to feed them or at least help them feed themselves. They need someone to wipe their mouths, change them and wipe their bottoms. It’s just what we do. But when free food appears, a lot of that gets thrown out the window. We rely on a lot of outside help to feed during lunch and during every single potluck this year, much of that help has evaporated. The reason for this is that it is a potluck and not everyone brings food or enough of it. So there is a rush at the beginning of the lunch period when people are knocking down the proverbial barnyard gate, trying to waddle up to the trough in order to get their fair share. Which means 2 things: 1.) my kids are short changed 2.) My staff is short-changed.

During the feeding frenzy there is much gobbling, grunting and chomping in some nice quiet room whilst the 3 or 4 of us try to feed the 9 kids who are all STARVING – or at least they act like it. And this gets my mood seething and dark, as ?I feel like we are abandoned. By the the time we are finished feeding all the kids, the lunch period is nearly over. And my paras can forget about getting much to eat as the bones tend to be picked clean across the building or wherever the potluck is. There is no way to even participate without leaving the kids with someone…and those people are already at the trough. This is why I am coming to despise the potluck parties in our department. We’ve tried to have them in our kitchen, but the same problems are still there and exacerbated by the traffic and disruption as people are tending their food, heating, stirring, mixing, and serving. Since we somehow end up eating with the kids during these things, it sort of sucks a lot of the fellowship out of it. I have students who have issues with adults talking among themselves and ignoring them which isn’t uncommon among any students/children. Mine just get more active and vocal about it. But we are a very small part of the department, so I would not deprive others of the joy they get out of it. I’m just pointing out that it isn’t the greatest deal for us. The department party this evening, though, should be a better occasion to relax.

So, I probably come off as a bit of a scrooge about a lot of the holiday hoopla but it’s because my kids left behind in so many of the cases. That’s not to say that people do not do extra ordinary things. Yesterday, some of my students were able to watch a show put on by the drama students as part of their final exam. Of course some of my kids wanted to take to the stage themselves! I kept a few of those students out so the actors would at least have a shot at hearing their own cues and passing their finals. But it was nice that we were thought of, and I hope the drama students enjoyed having us as an audience. And the teacher who volunteered to host us for Christmas activities kept the invitation open but I wasn’t able to make it work out. But it was a nice invitation, nonetheless.

As the day wore on (and it wore on forever!) I pulled a page from Erin’s book and got out my Qchord and we played some Christmas songs. I had a few bells and tambourines and had a few of the kids joined in the playing of the music while one of them just danced to it. This got everyone in the mood for lunch, which was a bit of a mess since the cafeteria was in shut-down mode. even the custodians were coming through early, trying to get all the trash cans done. I mentioned to the one in our room that she might want to wait on us until the very last. We still had a mitt ful of students and they all had to have their diapers changed one last time before going home. And having a pile of poopy diapers sitting around for 2 weeks is not something I would like to contemplate.

But I think I got all the required tasks completed, and although tired I am feeling okay with where we’ll pick up next semester.

As for my two boys, they are both handling the holidays extremely well. Of course, Thomas is totally ready for school to be finished but is really doing well during these last few weeks. Not having to fight over the homework is the biggest and most welcome improvement. Percy has always done well, but the stress has gotten to him just a bit and he has had problems with strep and asthmatic conditions. But overall, we’re doing pretty well with the holiday stress and basically trying to avoid it as much as possible. As Thomas would say, We’re “looking forward to some luxurious R & R!”

Advancing Miracles

23 Nov

One of the reasons for my frustration, is that I am forever looking to advance my students along.  The current economic and political realities seem bent on thwarting those efforts, and I suspect every teacher feels this way.  We want to keep moving forward, but get bogged down by forces beyond our control.

But we still do it and we succeed in spite of public policies, like NCLB.  And so it is, I’m blogging the student teacher I said I wouldn’t blog about.  Well, this is noteworthy and deserves to be published and promoted!

I have several students who have profound intellectual disabilities, meaning they rely almost totally on caregivers to meet their needs.  It’s one of the reasons why the adult:student ratio is so critical.  If there isn’t an adult around to meet a need, it is not going to be met.  Period.  However, any move in the direction of independence is a monumental one, considering that these students are all in high school.  If they have not learned something by now, it isn’t likely they will, especially since the adult/student ratio is cut in half as soon as they exit middle school.

But having a capable and motivated adult can really help move things along.  In this case, the student teacher has been working with one of my students who has PID as well as being mostly physically disabled. She has to be fed, like most of my students.  She can move her hands and arms, but just doesn’t very much.  Until now.  We started off teaching communication skills, geting her to push a Big Mac switch in order to say “more” meaning she wanted more food.  She quickly caught on to this, as eating is highly reinforcing to her.

However, this student did not stop there.  At some point the food wasn’t coming fast enough so she grabbed the teacher’s hand and brought it up to her mouth.  This was HUGE!  We hadn’t seen this before, but then we never had time to look.  Feeding time is something we generally do as quick as we can to get it over with, like any other task we have to do.  However, we made a break through, past the communication exercise.  I showed the student teacher how to hold the spoon and help facilitate more engagement and learning in the feeding and within a couple fo days, the girl was beginning to feed herself.  It is still a very sloppy process, but we are off and running!

It’s been awhile since we had a breakthrough like that in our room.  It looks downright miraculous.  It’s mostly good teaching involving consistency and persistence.  And it is also a good shot in the arm for all of us, morale-wise.  It will be interesting to see if we can sustain it over the course of the year, even after this student teacher leaves.

Here’s the thing: This is a gigantic leap forward for this one student.  Feeding herself with the spoon.  It is monumental, significant and practical.  But it is not even a blip on the NCLB radar screen.  It carries NO weight to anyone outside of this girl’s life.  It does not improve a test score, does not improve the graduation rate or any other measure devised to measure “accountability.”  It is not something I could use to become one of Georgia’s Master Teachers.  The resounding message from the outside is that what we do doesn’t matter, when in reality, what we do totally matters!

But I have no idea how on earth to convey that to the people who make decisions about our staffing.  Those folks never darken my door and they miss these miraculous victories.  Having key people in the key spots matters, but I don’t get to choose who is in my room with my kids.  Sometimes I am very fortunate.  Sometimes, less so.

Anyway, I simply had to blog it and make whatever political hay I can out of it.  Unfortunately, these things do not happen every day and few times do they happen in such short amounts of time.  It’s also good for a new teacher to get this boost very early in her career as  those are the memories that sustain us over the longer and leaner times.

Some Positives

16 Nov

One good piece of news is that I think I have GAA collection #1 finished! WooHoo! Or at least that’s what I think. Now I have to compile it and organize it and get it all onto a recognizable portfolio from the formless mass of files and pictures I currently have. That will take a lot of work, and I may have to go back and pick up a couple of things, but other than a few pick-ups, I feel like I got it. I actually had to totally redo the science from the planned experiment since the early freeze and heavy rains killed most of the plants I had going. Another advantage of pushing strong early is that I had (and still have) options for revision and improvement without crashing the deadline. This is good, because I have a few other deadlines that will get me.

A couple weeks ago, our dept. head sent out an email asking if anyone would want to host a student teacher. One would think I might jump all over that, and just a year or two earlier I would have. But many of the feelings that generated the earlier whine posts have dampened my enthusiasm for bringing someone new into the business. I’ve worked with a few paras and other people who are somewhere in the pipeline toward becoming a special educator, but my recent state of mind has put a dark cloud over whatever recruitment efforts I might engage in. In years past, the hope was to bring other competent and passionate people in, in order to raise the bar of professionalism and minimize the sort of shock many new SID/PID teachers encounter when they are hired off the street from another field or with NO teaching experience. They have no idea what to do with these students. Recruitment got more serious as I was wanting to move on and find a replacement so that I could. Then despair set in as I realized there was no replacement and that those who make such decisions have never had any intentions of letting me teach anything else, anywhere else, no matter what I did.

So the idea of infecting someone brand new with that sort of cynicism wouldn’t be my first choice. Plus, what are the odds that someone who was student teaching would even want to be in this setting with these students? Last job fair I attended, I informally polled the job applicants who were standing in my vicinity. Guess how many had any interest at all in SID/PID at the high school level? How about NONE – Zero. In fact, several were trying to escape self-contained settings. So imagine my shock and awe when I learned that the student teacher was very interested in this population! And so, she’ll be spending most of here time here with us.

I’m not going to blog her, but I immediately think of Ms. Ris, who often blogs about mentoring student teachers. I can not even remember the last time I encountered a special education student teacher as they are often hired first, before they even finish a master’s program. That’s essentially what happened to me almost 20 years ago.

What I will blog, tho, is that having someone new in the room can have collateral effects all around. For my part, it does give me more of a purpose in life beyond my own fuzzy, murky, smokey uncertain future. Here’s someone interesting in learning the craft, and I find I do have a thing or two to teach. And the act of passing it on also helps me reflect and learn myself. A body naturally processes and thinks more about the content when they are teaching it, and in this case the content is teaching! This blog provides a great deal of reflective space for me, but this is a different level. Even my video channel was an effort to pass my ideas and knowledge on. I think it is just part of every teacher’s DNA to want to pass on what they know.

But it isn’t just me. The paras also can feel that sense, because they also have a chance to share what they know. And it goes without saying that I could never do what I do without them. So there’s this building dynamic going on, which puts us less at a defensive posture and back on the initiative. And that is exactly where we needed to be after being swamped and feeling overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control while it seemed no one was hearing us or cared. In the final analysis, it’s the students who ultimately benefit from the newer and more positive energy. Part of the reason for the earlier posts was to just get some stuff off of me and out into the air as well as just process it and noodle it out. Plus I know several other folks who could relate.

In the interest of fairness, I also need to mention a couple of gains this year that some folks have kindly pointed out to me:

– The paras and I have a duty-free lunch for the first time in 10 years.  That is a big miracle.  Of course, stuff still happens with the kids I teach, but it is still a milestone, similar to the planning period that I acquired a few years ago.  Speaking of which….

– I do have a planning period.  It is only fair to mention it so it doesn’t sound like I’m totally trapped all day long.  Just most of the day;-)  Lunch time isn’t the most convenient time, and I do help get the kids through the line and help all those involved in the feeding.

– Other helpers are around.  Other teachers and paras have pitched in and supported us through some of the toughest and stickiest times.  Feeding time is HUGE and a lot of other teachers and paras outside of my own private little band are involved in this effort.

As far as the battle for trying to get more help in the form of another para or another teacher in the room, it is pretty much over.  No relief is coming in the foreseeable future, so it’s time to move off of that.  Generally, when I fight I try to make my first blow the strongest and most direct possible.  I am not a fan of long protracted struggles especially when I am on the losing end.  So I do what I can with whatever resources I have remaining instead of wasting time and effort battling a brick wall.  I’m going to need all the energy I have to do what needs to be done.

And I’m going to have to dig deeper than ever before.  So perhaps now is a good time to channel a couple of my favorite movie scenes:

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.

A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.

An hour of wolfes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crushing down! But it is not this day!


By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

The Great Horde

15 Nov

I also, on occasion, teach adult Sunday school. Last weekend I taught part 1 of 2 on 2 Chronicles 20. I had no idea at that time how appropriate this lesson would become in the week ahead. My brave band of paras and I bravely stand against a horde of responsibilities and insensitive bureaucrats and administrators who seem bent on crushing us.

Well….maybe not so brave. For the past week, I have not even wanted to go to sleep, because I knew that as soon as I closed my eyes, I would awake to a new day of being crushed. And so it was, as some of my paras were out for all sorts of reasons and I had substitutes who courageously tried to soldier on with me. But by Friday, my back was positively aching from all the extra lifting.

In 2 Chronicles 20, the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, is threatened by not 1, not 2 but 3 separate armies who have joined together against him. He gathered the people and cried out:

“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

That last verse totally resonated with me and where we are. I was told not to send any letters to parents until they are approved. Therefore I’m giving up on that, although those letters do chronicle past and current problems. No, I will call or talk to parents in person. It’s time for some parent involvement. Trouble is, the school doesn’t really like such involvement. But outside of that, I must not fret, worry and sweat it. I was told that nothing would change unless something bad happens. But it’s my job to ensure that nothing does happen. And we will hold the line. Fortunately, Jehoshaphat was not left dangling and neither are we, for a the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel:

15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

And so it turns out that not a shot was fired from Judah in anger. The invading armies turned on each other and wiped themselves out! It took 3 days for the people of Judah to carry the plunder from the enemy camps.

So tomorrow, I’m going to face the horde and trust that God is with us.

Bricks Without Straw

9 Nov

I always intended this blog to be mostly informative and supportive for parents and other teachers that do what I do.  In the earliest days, it was also a place to vent my spleen mostly about NCLB and the GAA.  Those things are still vent worthy and I’m overdue for a vent.  But today I’m throwing up yet another lament.

The “Whining”‘ post resonated with many readers, probably because there is an epidemic of this sort of pain running through the field.  To be honest, I hated that post, which is why I tried to bury it immediately behind a more informative (and longer) post.  But I needed to write it and needed to post it.  Just this one needs to be written and posted.

Perhaps I have a “fan” at the central office or in administration who read my post and decided that perhaps I needed to have something to really whine about.  Perhaps the Almighty, in His great wisdom is making sure I don’t miss the signs.  I’ve been known to be a bit slow on the uptake.  Before relating the present woes, indulge me in a story from my past…

I was teaching science at a private boarding school in the early ’90’s, teaching science.  I lived at the school, which was handy since I went over a year without a car.  The hours were long, as we had duties at night and on some weekends in addition to teaching.  And the pay was less than what paras make in public schools.  But it was a good place to start out.  But during my 3rd year, as I was working on my Master’s I was deciding whether or not I should leave and look for something else.  That summer, we had torrential rains which flooded the apartments where I was staying.  Natural disaster, right?  4 months later, in a totally different dorm, a pipe broke and the place flooded again. A few months later, lightening struck and destroyed a bunch of my electronics.  It, along with deteriorating politics there, was a neon sing to me that read “GET OUT!”

So now, I begin to tally the score for this year.  Three years ago, I aksed to move into co-teaching.  I was denied.  Two years ago, I asked again, even taking and passing the science test to be certified and HQ so I could coteach.  Again denied.  Last year, I asked to transfer within the district.  Denied AGAIN.  Apparently I’m meant to stay.  Right?  As we began the year, one of my best paras was moved off and replaced against both of our wishes.  That cost me as well as the students she bonded with.  Then I was hit by the numbers while being understaffed, hence the “whining” post.

Today, I learned that there was a reduction in force, a RIF.  Our school lost two para positions.  Two paras were transferred to a middle school.  And they took one of mine to replace one of those that were transferred.  They picked one of my best, and put her in with less disabled kids and informed me I would be doing what I was struggling to do before with substantially less help.  We are now an accident or an incident waiting to happen.

Now I have to finish letters drafted a few months ago and at least document the peril we now face so whenever whatever happens, does, no one can say they were not warned.  Meanwhile, me and my ever-decreasing brave band of paras will hunker down and attempt to hold an ever-expanding line.

Hang on to your Butts…

4 Sep

Here we go again with the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA).

I have no problems admitting that I am sometimes a condescending prima donna when it comes to all the requirements that we are subjected to. I expect everyone else to toe the line while I sometimes play loose with the rules and have tested limits more than once. Most of the time I’m looking out for the students and sometimes my creative insubordination is in defense of other teachers who may not be able to stand the heat. And I’ve drawn a considerable amount of it during my tenure here. I’m going to try to grit my teeth and accept this bitter pill this year with the understanding that it is only temporary. I’ll be free of this burden soon enough.

We had our GAA meeting at the county office this morning, with another group attending this afternoon. Most of the folks attending this morning were people who had done it last year, which made things go fairly smoothly. Very little has changed from last year. We still have not seen any results from last year’s test and I’ll have to make an appointment with Harry to do so. I think it would be instructive to look at the scores just to get an idea where my activities are as far as meeting or exceeding the standards. I mean if something works, why change it all the way up? There are lots of resources on the Georgia DOE website with more supposed to be added all the time.

I figured out the reason why I’m so rapidly going stale this year here, is because we are too short staffed to go into the community. In the past 7 years, that really was what made the days go by so quickly and kept most of us from going stir crazy. We used to be able to spend 2 hours or so doing jobs or shopping away from the school every morning. Now, I am in the one room with all of these students pretty much all day long. I’m having flash backs of my days teaching children who had behavior disorders in a self-contained setting. The worst behaved kids stuck in one place all day long away from everyone else held no appeal for me, which is precisely why I took this position instead of the EBD position across town. But here I am! And since self-contained EBD no longer truly exists, guess which position is now the hardest of the special ed. jobs to fill and keep filled? Being isolated is a fairly substantial negative in this case. When we were out and about, having our own schedule was a positive. But now, thanks to NCLB, we are having to abide by the regular curriculum and schedule more and more which has actually made the isolation even more acute.


Testing. Testing, testing….

5 Aug

Holy crap.  Four freaking hours of testing!


In the state of Georgia, a whole butt-load of teachers joined me in jumping through the certification hoop of GACE testing.  A lot, lot, lot of very young teachers were at my site, which happened to be waaay out in the boondocks, at least by the route Mapquest took me.  I expected those guys from Deliverance to come out of the woods at any second!  I was there around 7:45 a.m. and we were eventually let in to find our hall, room and seat. Our test proctor was a bit of a test Nazi, and clamped down on our pre-test chatter.  But before the gag order, I was able to learn that some of my fellow teachers from Magnolia County were there, mostly Special education and Early Childhood teachers. 


I was taking Science I and Science II tests.  Science I is life and earth science content areas, while science II is the chemistry/physics stuff.  I have a decent background in all areas except the earth science where I’ve just managed to pick up things from my other science courses.  All in all it wasn’t too bad, except the two written response questions at the end of each test.  That was an effort for me, not because I can’t write (I have a blog, hello?!) but because my penmanship is so sorry that it alone would probably qualify me for any medical school.  So I had to try to take my time to be neat.  I still wonder about that.  At least the GRE was computerized and I could type it so it felt more like blogging than a test!


The early childhood folks were the first ones to escape our overheated classroom.  Those of us taking tests requiring calculators were the last ones sweating it out.  By the end of the thing, I was pretty much spent.


Aside from the youngerness of the other test takers, there was one another feature that made me stick out.  I was the only guy in the room.  The male-female ratio in education has always been lopsided, but 25:1?  Too bad I’m no longer single, because these tests would be a great place to meet women!  Oh well, if Jane kicks me out, I’ll know what to do.


For all of my fellow teachers who took the GACE this last time out, relax.  I know you’ll pass because the tests are only designed to determine a minimum level of competency.  The fact that you’ve been able to suffer through my blog indicates that you’re already exceptional!


In other news, I did spend Sonny’s Funny Money.  I was in the local Big-Store and I had more than one person ask me which school I taught at or if I was a teacher.  No, I was not wearing a name tag or badge or anything, and I was just buying office supplies.  One was a girl who couldn’t have been more that 11 or 12 and I’d never seen before.  Another was the checkout lady in electronics.  She said I just looked like a teacher.  “If you said you weren’t a teacher, I was going to say you should be one because you just look like a teacher.”


So if you’re curious as to what I look like, just picture in your mind a male teacher in his 40’s.  Apparently I match the archtype.  Perhaps when a body is in a profession long enough they begin looking the part.  I don’t mind looking like a teacher as there are many worse things a person could look like.  “Hey, you look like arsonist!” or “Hey, you like you should be a politician!”  Or perhaps “You look like you should be an educational lobbyist/consultant in Washington!”  Now that would just be plain rude.



Pre-Meeting Observation

2 May

This is it; IEP day for Thomas. I have a parent input statement along the lines of the one done by Charles Fox, along with specific recommendations for goals and services. And because I do have access to the online file, I went ahead and updated the behavior intervention plan (BIP). This plan was in place when he was in kindergarten, but for some reason last year it was dropped. So his teachers hadn’t anything to look at as far as interventions which I’ll make sure that he does this next year.

Things aligned just right yesterday where I had a chance to observe Thomas in his class for about 30 minutes and talk to his teacher for just a bit. I picked a good time, because they were doing some “buddy reading” which basically involved Thomas reading to a para. Then they had some teacher-led discussion which he actually participated in. He raised his hand, waited for the teacher to call his name and then contributed to the discussion without talking about trains! She asked him some follow-up questions and he answered them all appropriately. Then it was time to right about the story in his journal, and of course this is where the trouble really started. Thomas hates written seat work because his fine motor skills are so low. He basically inherited this disability from his dad who had the same sort of problems when he was little. But getting Thomas to just get started by writing the date was a major chore. I was set to take interval data on on-task vs off-task but there wasn’t much comparison to do because he was off-task almost the entire time.

I have 2 10×10 grids on a sheet of paper, and mark O’s for on-task and X’s for off-task behaviors. I also write definitions of each on the paper, based on the activity. One grid is for Thomas and the other is for some other random student in the room as a basis of comparison. While I didn’t have a timer or stopwatch, I was able to very roughly look at Thomas, record the data, look at the other student, record the data and go back and forth. I was roughly looking for 6 second intervals, which translates into marking one row per minute.

As I said, Thomas was off task on 90% of the intervals while the student I picked for comparison was on-task almost 100% of the time. Not a good comparison, as there were other students who were off-task a lot more. I watched the para keep trying to get him to do his work by cajoling him, talking and generally trying to persuade him, “Your daddy wants to see how you can do good work!” While persuasion is good, there wasn’t much firmness in her voice at all. So after 2 minutes, I quit the data collection and went over and worked on him myself. He was trying everything he could to escape the task, including saying that he was sick and didn’t feel good. Evidently this tactic works sometimes, because it does elicit sympathy from the para. In fact, the reason I observed was because Jane called me saying they had called her. They seemed to want her to come and get Thomas, which was just par for the course as far as his behavior. The school nurse said he didn’t need to go home but the teacher or para kept pestering Jane. It just so happened I was between IEPs at the middle school, so I was able to go over for a quick visit.

Jane and I are a bit frustrated with the apparent helplessness of the teachers, but now that I see they had no behavior intervention plan to work from their difficulties make more sense. This is why we’re having more written input this year because we want to make sure future teachers and paras have some accurate information from which to work.

I’ll post more after the meeting and hopefully there won’t be much to write about. Even though y’all might find the drama entertaining, I’d rather keep that to a minimum if it’s all the same to you!