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Well, that was a day

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

To start: we did a lot of good things at school today.  Reading, math, social studies, music, writing – they all went well for most of the class.  Lots of learning happened, kids were happy.

But.

One of my boys is working to “stay in his bubble” (keep his hands on his own body and off of others) during the day.  For each part of the day he does this successfully (or mostly successfully), he gets a sticker.  7 stickers and he gets a reward from the counselor at the end of the day.  Usually he gets 5-7 stickers a day, but today he got 0.

Zero.

That means he was touching (or rolling on, climbing on, jumping on, or holding on to) other people all day long.  And it wasn’t just that.  He was so upset about not getting his first choice of reading buddy that he kicked over his book box and pegged the books at the floor – but was startled, scared, shaking like a leaf and sobbingly apologetic when I said he had to go the office.  It’s not an act or manipulation (though I understand if you think that’s wishful thinking); I believe he truly does not realize what he’s done until I say he has to leave the room because of it.

At recess something set him off and he stalked away across the field, bringing his best friend with him.  I had to call on all of my dog training skills to get them back.  I stood my ground instead of moving towards them, and used my voice and body to project absolutely confidence and authority.  “Come here NOW.”  It was touch and go for awhile – I almost signaled a coworker with the walkie-talkie to call for an administrator  – but once I got his friend to turn around he eventually came sulking back.

When I picked him up from music he was sitting in the corner (he’d gone there on his own), throwing his shoes at the floor and crossing his arms saying “Music stupid.”  I do not know what happened (he wouldn’t say and the (patient, awesome) music teacher seemed surprised and baffled, and another of my boys was sobbing facedown on the carpet (that’s another story), so it wasn’t a time for deep conversation), but when he finally, reluctantly, left the music trailer he refused to go further than the bottom of the ramp, and stood kicking the side of the trailer repeatedly while the class stood waiting to reenter the building.  It probably lasted almost two minutes – an eternity with a class waiting in line.  I had to send two of my students to the teachers on the playground for help (but they were too busy talking to each other and my kids were too polite to interrupt so no help was forthcoming); but suddenly, he was at my side, holding my hand, avoiding eye contact, sullenly silent and relatively calm.

We came back into our classroom for quiet time, which is how we transition from specials to math.  The kids are supposed to stay at their table spots and read or rest for 2-4 minutes in quiet.  He, of course, was neither staying at his table nor being quiet.  After pinballing around the room and being told to sit down he finally headed back to his spot, but first swiped another child’s plastic hair clip as he went by.  Shouts, of course, ensued, since he’d taken it right out of her hair.  I went over, told him to give it back, he refused.  I repeated the direction.  He refused.  Repeated the direction. He put it in my hand, I closed my hand over it, he shrieked, grabbed at it again, pinched hard, and shattered it.

And that, of all things, was what made me cry.

I didn’t say anything, just walked back to my table and put my head down on my arms.  I cried because I had worked all day to protect him and protect the kids in my classroom, but I couldn’t even keep a hair clip safe.  I don’t want him to leave, I don’t want him to be hurt, but he can’t hurt other kids and still stay, and hearing that cracking plastic made me feel like I just can’t do it.

I didn’t cry for long – you can’t with a classroom full of kids – and the rest of the day was okay.  But we can’t have more days like this, and I’m not sure what else I can do to ensure that.  Yes, the recitation of this day seems to scream out for a counselor’s intervention, but he already spends more time with the counselor than any child in the school, and she actually does have responsibilities other than him.  I can’t call every time he’s upset or she’ll never be able to do her job and he’ll never be in the classroom.  So we’ll all keep trying our best each day, and I’ll keep telling the counselor, the administration, and anyone else who will listen what’s going on, and I’ll hope against hope that the next committee I bring him to gets how much he – and I, and our class – need help.

A new normal (kind of)

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

After spending a few weeks in absolute crisis, my classroom is feeling calm and stable again.  It isn’t until I discuss my day with someone else, though, that I realize our room is not normal, and probably never will be.

For instance, describing this morning, I told a colleague “it’s been a good day.”  By this, I meant that we had a good morning meeting, the class calmly made their independent reading choices, got started right away, and didn’t interrupt me while I was teaching a good lesson to a guided reading group.  They had a great time “putting a poem in our heads” (memorizing a poem) during our first reading lesson, and did a great job on their second reading choices.

BUT.

This doesn’t take into account that when we came to morning meeting, one of the boys didn’t get his preferred spot and stood, sobbing, outside the circle.  Another boy shrieked randomly throughout every whole group meeting and lesson of the morning, sometimes throwing himself backwards and hitting the carpet repeatedly with his arms.  A third refused to do any reading choice, instead kicking a foam block around the room, saying “I don’t do NOTHING! It so BORING!”

All three boys are on behavior plans, have daily updates sent home, meet regularly with the counselor, have well-established relationships with me, both assistant principals, and other first-grade teachers, have been observed by the county behavior specialist, and are being jumped to high-level intervention committees.  And as crazy as their mornings sound, it is so much better than before.

And as crazy as their mornings sound, I would still prefer to have this class, hands down, than last year’s class.  This group is so bright, has such a (relatively) strong grasp of English, and they’re so curious and willing to explore with me.  Almost every one of our days is good, even when our days are awful.  And these three boys are tough, to be sure, but they’re genuinely good kids, and I have to believe we will eventually find a way to help them be happier.

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