Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's My Bloggy And I Can Cry If I Want To

Wow, everyone, it has been way, way, way, way, way too long since I've written in this blog! Its been almost three months!

Part of the reason I haven't blogged was because I haven't felt very inspired. When I first got my teaching job, I had big plans not only to keep all of you updated through this blog, but to start a separate blog specifically about teaching! I imagined posting funny and touching anecdotes and descriptions of my lessons and activities. There is an actual entire blog genre where teachers write about their classrooms and exchange ideas, and ever since I decided to become a teacher many years ago, I've been excited about joining that online community.


The truth is, my new teaching job hasn't been going that great. I haven't wanted to post about it because I didn't want to be seen as complaining. I didn't want everyone to be disappointed. But I finally decided that I need this blog for my own sake, not just for the amusement of others, and it may feel good to post the truth.

Here's the thing. When I took the job, I knew I was going to be a Resource teacher and I'd be teaching children with learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, and behavioral disorders. I imagined that this would involve a lot of teaching, as well as some daily "check-ins" with the behavioral kids and maybe consultations with their classroom teachers.

As it turns out, the main focus is on the behavioral kids, and not just checking in with them, but having to drop everything and go act as a 1:1 to any kid who starts to disrupt class. If I am in the middle of teaching one of my groups, and a teacher calls because little Timmy is refusing to do his math, I'm supposed to ditch my group and go spend several hours trying to get Timmy to be more compliant. Meanwhile, the kids in my academic group are supposed to somehow be "absorbed" into another group (which doesn't really work because most of my academic groups include kids with autism or ADHD and making that sudden switch doesn't sit well with them) or send them back to class (which means they lose their chance at learning.)

There are also lots of kids who are supposed to have 1:1 assistants with them in their classrooms, but the special ed director has it arranged so that 2 to 4 kids in a class are actually sharing 1 assistant. That is often too much for one assistant to handle, since all of these kids have unique needs and require someone with them in the regular ed class. That means I get called down a lot to help with those kids. There are also kids who are supposed to have 1:1s but actually have a long chain of assistants coming in to spend 20 - 30 minutes at a time with them... and if there is a gap in that coverage, I have to be the one to go do it.

Whenever I've brought these problems up, I'm told that I should just spend less time on my academic kids. Don't use creative lesson plans. Just do workbooks, so that an assistant can step in to work with the kids at any time while I run off to work with behavioral kids, or the kids can even do the workbooks on their own while I am busy with other things. Spend less time trying to engage and inspire them, and spend more time teaching them to sit with their butts in their chairs and pencils in their hands doing worksheets.

It has been a little bit heartbreaking and spirit breaking for me.

Plus, because my responsibilities also include case management, which includes doing testing and writing IEPs, I rarely can finish my work in the regularly contracted work day. I rarely even get a lunch break. Through union rules I'm entitled to 35 minutes of "duty free" time to eat lunch. That means, with no kids in my face. But that never happens. When I bring this up, people are just like, "Well, that's just how it is." Mostly because of the behavior kids.

Unfortunately, I am less able to deal with this than most typical people are. I am a hard worker, but there are a few things I need, need, need. These things include time to sleep, regular meals, and some down time in the day. I need these things so badly to function, they could probably be considered accommodations for my autism... except that they shouldn't have to be, because these are things everyone is entitled to!

So I get home each day feeling down, and I don't really want to talk about work, and I usually fall asleep on the couch at my aunt's house as soon as I get home and nap until dinner time. And each night I have that dreadful, "I don't want to go back" feeling... the feeling I've struggled at all my life but believed wouldn't bother me once I became a teacher and was doing what I loved.

Doing what I loved. That is the key word. Because I'm not getting to do what I love. I love teaching. I don't mind case management duties... case management is actually pretty interesting and I enjoy keeping data. Its like a puzzle. But while I do have a lot of patience for the kids with behaviors, and I enjoy having them in my academic groups and finding ways to TEACH them... I never wanted to be a behavior consultant. I'm not even good at it! The teachers complain that little Timmy is disruptive during reading time, and my only thought is, "You're reading time is 3 hours long! He's expected to stay on task for 3 hours! He is a 6 year old with ADHD! He's going to need some breaks!" But the expectation is, "Make him do what the others are doing. He must do it the way the rest of us are doing it." But it doesn't feel right. And that kills me. I do love the kids I work with. And they seem to love me... they love coming to my room. Which makes it even more disappointing, and hard for everyone, when I cannot be there to work with them because I am busy filling in for assistants and running interference for classroom teachers.

On a happier note, I volunteered at the farm last weekend and this weekend. I think being on the farm is as important to my emotional wellbeing as taking my medicine. Sometimes it is hard for me to actually go because when I am feeling sad and anxious about work, I just want to bury myself under the covers all day long and hide from the world. It is hard to even make myself go see the animals,whom I love! But once I get there, I am in my element! Today I got to help wash and oil pigs, brush goats, and give lots of hugs and belly rubs to various animals. It is amazing how much better I feel, after having spent a few hours there. It clears the cobwebs out of my head and calms me down. It gives me hope. It reminds me of who I am. It is sort of like doing a hard reset on a computer... it gives me a fresh start. It is good that Sunday is the day they have volunteer opportunities, because it gives me a chance to "reset" before work starts again on Monday.

I should try to go every week. I've been trying to go at least once a month. I don't know how to explain how hard it is for me to leave the house, even to do something I know I want to do. Even to go see the goats at my other friend's house, or to take my dog for a walk by the river. I want to. But then anxiety sets in and I want to stay home, and often I do. My aunt's house and my apartment are like safe cocoons that protect me from the unpredictability of the outside world. I often just want to stay home and do nothing, but then I get bored and say, "I'm going to do something next weekend," but then next weekend comes and I say, "I want to stay in my safety zone." The farm is also like a safety zone but it is hard to transition out of my house.  It would help if I could somehow teleport there directly from my house, without having to actually open the front door and walk out.

But when I get there I am so happy, when Gomez the goose is honking and honking and honking as he follows me around, and Junebug the sheep runs up to greet me just like a dog, and the goats are leaning against me while I brush them, and the pigs are asking for their heads scratched and their bellies rubbed, and the dogs want to play, and the chickens are clucking, and the llamas are making llama noises, and my hands are dirty, and everyone is so nice. Then I am sad to leave. But when another weekend comes, it will somehow still be hard to leave the stupid house!

Now I've just completely switched topics. Lets summarize. Work = crappy. Farm = awesome. Leaving my house = scary and stressful. Animals = <3. The end.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Forever An Alien

Proud to be an alien!
It is finally here, everyone! Remember not long ago I mentioned that I finally got an actual teaching job? Well, school starts in a little over a week. My summer job ended last Friday, and I've spent this whole week going to in-services for my new teaching job. It is actually starting to feel real!

Going to inservices as an actual teacher is a whole new ballgame, though. Somehow I always imagined that, if I became a teacher, I would suddenly become really mature and smooth-talking and... taller maybe? But throughout all of those long, sometimes boring meetings, I was still my same alien self. I still caught myself rocking in my seat when I was tired or bored, I still drew circles and triangles and silly doodles all over my booklets with colorful gel pens because it is hard for me to just sit still and listen for hours and hours and hours, I still got that sinking feeling in my stomach when the workshop leader told us to pair up for an activity. I still went to the wrong room on the first day, because that meeting had been switched to a different room but nobody told me yet somehow every single other person knew (even though even the people in the office didn't know... I seriously don't know how this happened.) I still worked myself into a whirlwind trying to find the correct room and was nearly in tears, as I left and drove first to the school building and then to the district office to try to figure out where I was supposed to be.

I still get weird looks from people. But here is something strange! I got a lot of smiles from people too! Several of the people seemed to actually like me and enjoy my quirky sense of humor. When I insisted on adding tons of stickers to a poster we made for one of our small group projects (because apparently you still have to do those even when you're not in high school) my partners thought it was fun and everyone else thought our poster was the best. They listened to what I had to say, even if I was just rambling about the 11 goats I'm babysitting for the weekend. They even seemed happy to see me!

Well, not quite everyone. Unfortunately, the two ladies I will be sharing a classroom with regarded me somewhat cooly. (I mean cool like, not exactly warm, not cool like, Wow I think you're cool and I'm glad I'm sharing a classroom with you.) I will be teaching resource, and I was supposed to have half of a classroom to myself, while another teacher would have the other half. She's also a resource teacher, but she'll have the older kids with only academic needs, and I will have the younger kids with both academic and behavioral needs. It was decided by the principal that instead of each having our own half  (actually a full-sized classroom but just linked to another classroom) we should share one half and use the other half as a sensory room. Which sounds good to me, because, sensory stuff, yay!
On the other hand, I have a lot of what I consider good ideas and fun ideas, but I can easily be intimidated by more straight-laced, "traditional" older teachers, which the two ladies are. (The second one is actually a school social worker who is supposed to be there to help me sort out the kids with behavioral needs.)

I mean, they don't seem to totally hate me or anything, but we just didn't "click." I didn't get that sense that they "got" me, or vice versa. At my summer job I worked with "Chelsea" and "Kevin," and I felt like we were an awesome group. Chelsea has a similar sense of humor to me so we could totally be goofy together and do things like get glow sticks and have a rave in the time-out room before the kids showed up. And Kevin was always so calm and friendly and patient, even though he sometimes just shook his head when Chelsea and I were bouncing off the walls, he was always supportive and never judgemental. I felt like we "clicked," from the beginning. I would consider them real friends at this point, and not just co-workers. Similarly, I felt like I "clicked" with the two other assistants I worked with at Tizzy's school during the school year. There are some people that you just feel are meant to be in your life.

And I just didn't feel that... not even a hint of it... with my new classroommates.

Although I did make one of them laugh during yet another partner activity, by pretending to pick my nose.

In my defense, the activity was that we were supposed to try to make our partner laugh, without using words, and they were supposed to be trying to ignore us.

Also in my defense, one of the people behind me made her partner laugh by making a loud farting noise.

To sum it up, yes, I am still an alien, and getting a teaching job did not, and will not, turn me into a poised young woman with perfect hair and perfect shoes. I still like to wear two different socks, I still  love hanging out with goats and other farm animals, I still sleep with a pile of stuffed animals in my bed, I still pet my goldfish, and I still sometimes leave the house with my underwear on inside-out because I just wasn't paying attention when I got dressed. But, maybe it isn't a bad thing. I am making friends here. No, not everyone I meet thinks I am wonderful. But the people who do seem to like me? They turn out to be really awesome people, the kind of people I would pick out of a catalog to be my friends if I could have a choice.

And that is pretty cool, isn't it?
I have a T-shirt that says this!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Farm Friends

Just dropping in to say hi! I am trying to get back into writing at least once a week, but my summer job absorbs most of my time and energy . Saturdays are a good day to write. Today I got to go visit my friends at an animal refuge near where I live. It is called Odd Man Inn, and it is different from most animal refuges because its pretty much free range. During the day nobody is in pens or cages unless they want to be. They can just roam around the property. They have to learn to get along together or else stay away from the animals they don't like much. Mostly they seem to live in harmony, like a peaceable kingdom. But once in a while there is a skirmish, usually involving Gomez the Goose. Gomez thinks it is funny to chase the dog or tease the turkey. Then he flaps his wings and sticks his neck out and honks with joy!

I try to go there every so often... I can't remember how long ago it was last time I was there, but it was probably around May some time. It is therapeutic for me, because I am always in a calmer and happier mood for the next few days after I go!

 I do stuff to help out when I am there. I really love all of the animals. It is sort of how I think Heaven will be when I die, except my family will be there and all of my dogs and cats and fish and everyone. Today I helped by raking out the chicken coop, staining a fence, helping transfer a new pig into her new home (sort of... I tried to help but the pig was too fast and I ended up tripping over my own feet) and helping feed the animals. Feeding the animals is the best part because they get really happy! When they know it is their snack time, you will suddenly turn around and find that all of the animals are following you!

I took some pictures of Gomez and the chickens. My phone ran out of storage so I couldn't take pictures of any more of the animals. But besides the fowl, I also got to spend time with the dogs (including a giant dog who likes to sit on my lap) and the goats and the pigs and a lamb and the llamas.

Wow, I took a lot of pictures of Gomez. I think there are eight. Gomez follows me around everywhere when I am there! He just walks along honking! His other goose friend, Lucy, follows also, but she doesn't like me so she hisses at me. I think it is because she thinks I am hogging Gomez! He also likes to get held and carried! When you pick him up and hug him, he actually stops honking for a while. Today while I was trying to paint the fence, Gomez was standing behind me honking, and he would just honk louder and more frantically, and when I turned around I found that his goose face was about one inch away from me! He was saying, "HEY PAY ATTENTION TO ME! STOP STARING AT THIS FENCE! THERE IS A GOOSE WHO NEEDS SOME LOVE!" So I would pause what I was doing and pet him a little bit, and then as soon as I'd start painting again, I'd hear, "HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK ..." He actually ended up at Odd Man Inn because he used to live in a house in the suburbs and he honked so much that his neighbor threatened to shoot him. So his owner was scared for Gomez's safety and wanted him to go live somewhere where he could honk all he wanted without getting death threats. I don't mind him honking. I think it is funny and cute! Also, if you are thinking of getting a goose for a pet, don't use Gomez as an example of how geese act. He's actually a very strange goose. Most geese are not as people-friendly as him!

Next time maybe I'll take a video of him so you can hear him in action!

I think you should also know that I had to break up a fight between Gomez and a turkey named Clarence. It was a fight that Gomez started. But the turkey probably would have won. Later that same turkey kept trying to bite my leg! I had to banish him to turkey jail so I could finish painting the fence without getting pecked the entire time. I learned that when turkeys are happy their faces are red, but when turkeys are mad their faces are blue. I have no idea how this is even possible. But when he was glaring at me from turkey jail he was blue. See, not ALL animals love me! Maybe I can win him over next time. 

The only other pictures I took were of the chickens! Even though I raked their coop for them, the chickens were mostly not that interested in me... until I was eating grapes. Then they all wanted to be my BFF. They would actually take a grape right out of my hand! They also liked stealing grapes from each other. Some of them didn't even eat the grapes. They just wanted to own grapes and make all of their friends jealous. But then their friends stole the grapes from them because I guess that is what jealous friends do. 

That is all of the pictures I took before my phone's storage ran out. Stupid Pokemon Go is hogging all my storage! 

Alright, now I need to go start getting some things ready for work on Monday. But I just wanted to share these pictures of my feathered friends. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Mystery of the Missing Chihuahua

Haven't blogged in a while (all of my most recent posts seem to start like that) but I was going to share this odd story on Facebook, and since it is sort of long, I realized my blog would be a better place for it. 
So I'm still working at the day camp for children with special needs. The kids get picked up at around 2:30. When the last kid had just been picked up, I noticed that there was a little brown and white dog running around in the parking lot. He was holding his back left leg up and running with his other three legs. He was starting to run towards the busy street. I was worried and started trying to call the dog, but realized I wouldn't know what to do with him if he came up to me. The mom of the last camper being picked up told me that she thought the dog belonged to a house around the corner, and that the people always let their dogs run loose, and that the dogs weren't very friendly. 
The dog ran off, so I went back in, and finished closing up the camp for the day. At about 3:15 I went to leave, and the dog was out in the parking lot hopping around again! 
This is sort of what the dog looked like. 

I had been on my way to run some errands for camp, but I decided I couldn't just drive away and leave the dog, so I went and sat down on a curb. The dog went and sat down on a curb around the corner from where I was. He sat there and looked at me. When I used to volunteer with a rescue organization I heard that scared dogs will respond better to you if you avoid eye contact, so I just sat down and didn't look at him, made no move to pet him or chase him or anything. Meanwhile, I got my phone out. 
My phone was dying, with about 10% of a battery left, and I didn't have a charger with me. I had to think fast. I had heard that the non-emergency number around here is 999, but since my cellphone is from a different area code than where I live, when I tried to call it it didn't work. I tried to log onto the Internet to see the non-emergency police number, but because my battery was so low it had gone into power-saving mode and wouldn't connect. I decided to try calling Information, which I have not done since I was about 14! I dialed it and found that it was answered by a Siri-like robot who asked me what I wanted. 
I said, "Non-emergency police department."
The robot repeated, "Police department, emergencies only. Is that correct?"
I said, "No!" I again repeated, "Non-emergency police department."
It told me "Non-emergency police department," but said the name of a town that is about 20 miles north of where I was. 
:NO!" I said. 
Finally it must have connected me with some sort of human, because I heard a woman's voice say, "One moment please," and then I was connected with the non-emergency police department. 
That one was a  robot that told me I could either dial the extension I wanted, or push 2 for more options. So I pushed 2. But nothing happened. I pushed 2 several more times, and then I pushed 0, but nothing was happening!
Growing frustrated because my phone battery was now down to 5%, I called Information again, this time asking for my county's animal control. I actually got connected to a human being. I told her where I was, and that a small dog wearing no collar and seeming to be injured was hopping around in the parking lot. I gave a description of the dog, and the lady said she'd notify my area's officer. 

By this time the dog had crossed the parking lot and was sitting about five feet away from me. He seemed to know I was going to keep him safe, but he still didn't want to get close to me or let me pet him or anything. We just sat there together, stealing glances at each other every so often. I talked to the dog and told him that he was a good boy and that I wanted to help him get back home. He seemed like he understood. After a while he laid down in the grass under the shade, and got that squinty-eyed look my little dog Lily gets when she's happy. 
With my battery down to 1% and no animal control cars in sight, I tried sending text messages to my aunt and my friend, saying my battery was dying and could they please call Animal Control and see if anyone was coming to help. I kept checking every few minutes to see if either of them responded. Finally, when I looked, my phone was dead.
I realized that the dog and I were now all alone in the world. I went through several possibilities in my mind. I could just drive off and hope for the best. (No way.) I could try to get the dog to get into my car so I could take him to a shelter myself... but I doubted he would agree to this plan, and he might run away and get into traffic. I could hope that someone from one of the few cars parked in the parking lot would come back for their car, and I could ask them to call the non-emergency police number. Or the dog and I could sit there like this forever. 
Suddenly the dog got up and started walking away. I called him back, worried he'd get even loster. He came back towards me, but then turned and hopped away again, and then turned back towards me, and then away again, as if trying to get me to follow. 
The parking lot of my work goes up against a row of bushes and a chain link fence, which separates it from a bunch of run down backyards of equally run down houses. In one yard, two dogs had come outside and were barking at my chihuahua friend. In the next yard, a dog who looked somewhat similar to my chihuahua friend was looking at us through the fence. 
My doggie friend went up to the chain link fence and tried to put his nose through to sniff the dog who looked sort of like him. They both made some whining noises. My dog started to whimper and cry. Then he started running back towards the busy street. 
I called to him, "Dog, stop!"
The dog stopped, turned around and walked a few steps towards me, and then disappeared into the bushes. 
I ran towards the street but I couldn't see the dog. I looked in the bushes, but I couldn't find the dog. He was nowhere!
Curiously, I walked back to where the similar-looking dog had been peering at us through the fence. Now my doggie friend was back there with the other dog, both of them on the opposite side of the fence from me! My dog friend was looking straight at me and wagging his tail, all proud of himself for having figured out his own way home. 
It had been an hour and a half since I had called Animal Control. Now the dog was safe, but I wasn't in the mood to run my errands, because it was traffic hour and my errands would have taken three times as long. So I decided to just go home instead. 
At least, if my buddy escapes again, I'll know how to get him back home! 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Its Not Always Easy At The Top!

So, like I told you in my last post, my school year job as a 1:1 assistant for Tizzy came to an end a few weeks ago. Only a few days later, my summer job, helping to run a summer daycamp for children with special needs, began! I had the same job last year but this year I have two co-leaders instead of just one. It makes it a little easier, especially since the two new co-leaders seem to be a lot more comfortable with kids with special needs than last year's co-leader was.

Even before the school year ended I was busy trying to plan activities for camp! Kevin (one of the co-leaders) has a busy social/activism life, and Chelsea (the other co-leaders) has her hands full with a husband and two children, and I tend to enjoy the planning aspects of camp so I sort of took over a lot of it. What has ended up happening to me is that I get up early enough to get to camp by 8:00 (the earliest we are allowed to be at the site, by contract) to start getting ready for the day as much as I can before everyone else gets there at 8:45 or so. And then after camp ends ar 3:00 or 3:30, I end up going to at least one or two stores to get supplies for the upcoming days. Then I go home, rest for about an hour, eat dinner with my aunt and uncle, take care of all my animal-related duties (clean litter box, feed fish, let Lily out, etc) and then go to my room to work on camp preparations until 10:00. Then I go to sleep. It ends up to be at least 12 hours of work a day!

I don't mean to complain. I really enjoy the camp, and I have fun planning cool things for the kids to do. If there is anything I don't like so much about the job, it is some of the aspects of "supervising" 20 or so adults. Most of the people there are really great, and I look forward to seeing them each day. A few of them, though, probably just one or two, have personalities that seem to involve trying to be as loud and as powerful as possible. These are the people who will argue or complain about little things, the people who insist on punishing the campers for being "disobedient" by keeping them in from activities or threatening to take away field trips (which, the other co-leaders and I have explained from the beginning, we cannot do, unless it is a matter of safety. The kids are there for camp, not behavioral therapy, and their parents have paid for them to be there so they can experience summer camp to the fullest extent that they are able, not to have their favorite activities taken away from them because they didn't put their bathing suit away the first time they were told. We urge the staff members to use natural consequences and "love and logic" strategies, instead. But some people seem hell-bent on getting into control battles!) On one hand I really don't like confrontation, and I consider myself a pretty patient person. But on the other hand, I can be almost overly-sensitive when I feel like the kids are being treasted unfairly. Of course, as usual, I digress...

Anyways. My brother (Bro) and I had been talking about getting together for a long weekend. He lives in California, and he and my nephew Squeak are two of the main reasons I moved out here from Chicago, but I didn't quite realize that being an eight hour drive away from them would not be much better than being a 6 hour plane ride away like I was in Chicago! I originally wanted to move to their town, but Bro was all, "I have my own thing going here, find your own town," only now he and Squeak's mom Sunny have broken up and Bro is a single dad for most of the week and as soon as that happened he changed his tune to, "Move down here and help take care of Squeak!" but by then I had already adjusted pretty well to living up here and had gotten a job and everything, so... Oops I digress, again.

We decided it would be fun to meet half way between our two towns, in a college town four hours south of me and four hours north of him. We got a room at a hotel with a pool so Squeak could swim every day. I got there at noon on Saturday and stayed until noon on Tuesday, missing a day of work. It was so much fun! When I look back on those few days, it feels like a dream, and in my memory everything is hazy and blue and sweet. We spent a lot of the time swimming with Squeak in the pool. He had his little arm swimmies on and was in seventh Heaven. We went to a huge park in the town where there was a little creek that you could splash around in, and a playground. We went out to eat a bunch of times, and we went to see the movie Finding Dory. On the night of Independence Day qwe went to this little festival where they had jumpy houses for the kids, and Squeak spent hours jumping around while we watched, and then we went and watched the fireworks together. Squeak just turned three, and he's a really awesome little kid. He's adorable, and really well-behaved. He's barely ever crabby or whiny, except when he's really tired. The three of us were just together constantly, just relaxing and hanging out. I loved every minute of it. One surprising thing for me was that, although I was getting the same amount of sleep as usual and also about the same amount of activity, I was not tired at all. Usually during the day I feel like I could pass out at any moment. But this whole weekend I felt like I was floating calmly on a cloud of happiness!

We had to part ways on Tuesday at noon. I cried my eyes out for much of the drive home. I didn't even want to get a snack, or listen to music in my car, because nothing would taste as good as the meals and snacks I ate with Bro and Squeak, and no music would be as good as hearing Squeak's little voice. That probably sounds corny and stupid. But that was the way I felt.

The other bad thing about my summer job is that it started right after school ended, and it ends right before my training for my new teaching job starts. So I won't get to go back to Chicago this summer. I really was looking forward to it. I was counting the days. I miss my grandparents and my parents and my aunt and little cousins and my mom's dog so much! I might get to see my mom for a few days if she comes out here, but there will only be a really narrow window of time for me to get to see her. That breaks my heart into a million pieces. I hate being away from her. And I probably won't even get to see my dad or the rest of them at all until Thanksgiving.

I don't know why I am in a sad mood today! I had a good weekend. I will tell you about it later. Right now I need to get ready for bed. But my main point oif this post is that I need to find a way to do more of my planning stuff while I am actually AT work, instead of doing it at home and using up my "free" time. Part of the problem is that when I am using the computer at work to do planning stuff or when I am working on making things for activities, the same few people will make random comments indicating that I am slacking off because I am not knee-deep in little kids. But its like, "Okay, dudes, but if I don't do this, then at activity time tomorrow we're just going to be coloring with crayons or something for the whole time because I won't have anything ready, but that's okay, right?"

Okay I need to get some sleep obviously. Here is a lovely picture of me and Squeak in the little creek at the park we visited. He was showing me a rock he found.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Goodbyes and Good News

 Don't worry, I am not saying goodbye to you... although I haven't been very good at keeping this blog updated, have I? I need to get back on a blogging schedule. But I've been pretty busy, both ending my school year job, and beginning my summer job. For a while I was doing both at the same time, which meant working about 14 hours a day! But since the school year has ended, things have calmed down a little bit.

The end of the school year was kind of sad for me. I had to say goodbye to Tizzy. That in itself didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Last Wednesday was Field Day, and Tizzy actually had a really good day. The behavior specialist was going to come spend time with Tizzy for Field Day, plus we'd been having an extra staff member with Tizzy and I for the past week because of his continous running out into the street, so there was going to be three staff members with Tizzy for Field Day. Because of this, the teacher and social worker asked me to help out with Sandy, who doesn't have a 1:1 but should. Anyways, the behavior specialist didn't show up (which I thought Tizzy would flip out about, but he actually took it very well) but Sandy was having a hard time at Field Day so I did end up helping with him. Tizzy was behaving wonderfully with just the substitute who was there as the second staff member for him... the sub was a calm, good-natured, grandfatherly man whom Tizzy insisted on calling "the Old Man," and Tizzy responded well to him in a way that he never seems able to do with females (which the social worker thinks is due to the fact that he sees women in his family being treated disrespectfully and even abusively by the men in his family, and so that is the way he acts with women, especially when he actually does love you!) Plus Tizzy is a very kinesthetic guy, and Field Day was all about trying different physical activities and participating in races and things, so it was a perfect afternoon for him.

Sandy, on the other hand, just kept wandering off. The teacher, who doesn't always have a lot of patience for Sandy, told me and another assistant to bring Sandy back inside for a time out. The only way we could get him in was a full therapeutic hold transport, which I didn't really think was the greatest idea, because we're only supposed to do that when someone is being a danger to themselves and others, and Sandy was just being mildly disobedient. There have been a few times when I've acted against my better judgement with Sandy because I was following directions from the teacher, and this was sort of one of these times... the other assistant and I had to more or less frog march Sandy into the school while he cried and yelled helpful things like, "Someone call the police!"

Instead of bringing him to Time Out I thought I would at least bring him to the social worker's office for a sensory break. As soon as we got in there and turned him loose, he stopped crying and stood facing the wall. I asked him if he wanted to play with a sensory bin or just take a rest. He said, "Sensory bin." so I gave him the bin of colorful rice, and he cheerfully played with it until it was time to go home. I took him straight out to the bus instead of going to the classroom first. I put him on the bus and only briefly got to say goodbye to Tizzy as he got onto his own bus.

The next day was a half day, and the last day of school. I was prepared for a difficult goodbye with Tizzy. I got a backpack from the social worker (Tizzy never brings one) and filled it with all of his work from the school year, plus some of the learning activities we had done together, like the sight word game I had made for him and the flashcards we'd made with glitter stickers. I put in the stuffed animals and other things he had won from his behavior modification program. I thought maybe these things would give him some comfort over the summer.

But Tizzy didn't come to school.

I kept looking and looking for him, thinking he might show up late, like he sometimes did. But he never came.

I guess in a way, it is a good thing, because we avoided a difficult goodbye and left it at sort of a "see ya later." But it was hard for me, because I'm not going to see Tizzy again, at least not in a school setting. We live in the same town so we might see each other at the mall or something,,, but when he returns in the fall for school, I won't be there.

And that brings me to the good news... I got a teaching job!

A real, actual, serious teaching job!

It is in a small school district just north of where I live. I'm going to be a Learning and Behavior Support Teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade.

I am still having trouble believing it... I keep expecting the rug to get pulled out from under me. It has happened before with a job I thought I had. Everyone keeps telling me to think positively... but a part of me still needs to protect myself from being hurt.

For all intents and purposes, though, I am now a real teacher!

And now I have to close out and get ready for bed, because I am also the leader of a very busy day camp for kids with special needs, and I have to get my rest so I can be ready for tomorrow!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Don't Tell This To Your Children

This blog post has been writing itself in my head for weeks now, spurred on by something Tizzy said to me.

Your brothers drink a little too much at the family gathering and get in a brawl on the front lawn. You are late paying the electricity bill and your lights get shut off. You have a noisy argument with your spouse. You are too exhausted to make dinner for your kids and they go to bed hungry. You tell them, "Don't tell anyone about this."

You have a good reason for saying it. You don't want everyone knowing your family's business. After all, if your daughter tells her little friend Heather about the time you left her waiting in the car for just a few minutes while you ran into the grocery store, and Heather tells her mommy, the next thing you know, all the other moms at the school's Ice Cream Social are giving you the hairy eyeball. It isn't right to air your dirty laundry. You want privacy.

But... Here's the thing. When kids are little we talk to them about fun secrets and bad secrets. Fun secrets are things like, "Don't tell Daddy about the special present we got him for his birthday," or "We;re taking the kids on a surprise trip to Disney World." Bad secrets are secrets that someone asks you to keep when they are doing something wrong, something unsafe.

Your little family secrets... they're sort of a gray area. But when you tell your kids to keep that sort of secret, you teach them that they... and you... have something to be ashamed of. They learn that it is their responsibility to protect adults by keeping their secrets. They learn that nobody outside of the family is to be trusted. And think about this... if someone does hurt them, and tells them to keep it a secret, they will have already learned about keeping their mouths shut.

I've worked in schools for a long time. Yes, kids do tell us everything. We've heard it all. We generally don't judge... we take it all with a grain of salt, and with some amusement. We hear about how you were still in your pajamas when you dropped them off at school today, We hear about how you let them stay up until midnight on the Fourth of July. We understand.

Even if your kid tells us something about his uncles' fistfight on the lawn after Thanksgiving dinner...  we're pretty understanding. It is important that kids feel safe to talk to their teachers about something that might have scared or upset them. We can even let you know that something has worried your child more than you thought it would, so you can keep a close eye on them yourself. Sometimes, for whatever reason, kids will keep a secret from their parents. They may be afraid of getting in trouble, or of making you mad. If something is bothering your child, or someone is hurting or threatening them... if your child is in some sort of danger that you don't know about... then you want them to have responsible adults at school that they feel safe to talk to.

That said, if a child tells us something that points to his being in real danger, then we are legally, and morally, obligated to call child protective services. One example I experienced is when, years ago, I worked in a child care center. A three-year-old boy came to school one morning and told us, repeatedly, in details, that while he'd been lying in bed the night before his dad had punched him in the face and given him a bloody nose. We called social services right away. It turned out, sadly, that the story was true... the father had Bipolar Disorder and had gotten angry when the little boy had been crying at bed time, so he'd gone in and punched him. The child's shocked mother had kicked the father out of the house, so she was trying to take care of things, and child protective services was actually able to help her and the little boy leave an abusive situation.

Now, what if there is something going on at home that you really don't want other people knowing about? Lets say you have a teenager who has been having some serious problems... you found drugs in her room, or she got arrested for shoplifting. There has been a lot of yelling going on in your house... you and your spouse yelling at your daughter, and yelling at each other about how to handle her. You don't think this is the sort of thing you want your younger child, 7-year-old Timmy, to be sharing with all of his classmates. So you tell him, "Timmy, this is our family business. Do not share it with anyone." Timmy doesn't really understand what is going on, but all the yelling has been scaring him. Refer to Paragraph 5 of this blog entry: When you tell your kids to keep that sort of secret, you teach them that they... and you... have something to be ashamed of. They learn that it is their responsibility to protect adults by keeping their secrets. They learn that nobody outside of the family is to be trusted. And think about this... if someone does hurt them, and tells them to keep it a secret, they will have already learned about keeping their mouths shut.

 Instead, you could even call your child's teacher and actually let them know what is going on... you don't have to talk about all of the details, but let the teacher know that your older daughter has been in some trouble and there has been a lot of tension and anger in the house. Then we... the people who spend 7 hours a day with Timmy at school... can keep an eye on him. If  he seems a little withdrawn, or has trouble focusing, we'll know that he may need a little extra patience and TLC. If he doesn't turn in his homework because you just didn't get a chance to help him with it, we'll understand why. And if he does need to talk, we'll be there to listen and comfort him.

If there is something going on in your house that is putting your children in danger... for example you are dealing with a substance addiction that is leaving you unable to take care of your kids, or someone in your home has been hurting others in the home... then as a parent, it is your job to put a stop to it. Instead of telling your child, "Don't tell anyone about this," you need to do something to keep your child safe. I am probably preaching to the choir here, because I know my readers well and most of them wouldn't be in this particular situation, so this is mostly a vent. But still... it is not fair to ask children to keep a secret that will allow them to continue to be in danger.

Okay. Rant over. Goodnight.