Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Day In The Life

Hi everyone! Still struggling to have time to update this blog as much as I used to, but I thought you might be interested in exactly WHAT keeps me so busy! And so, today I bring you... A Day In The Life Of A Learning And Behavior Resource Teacher!

5:45 am - All of the ordinary getting ready things. My new kitten (more about that later) kept me awake all night, so I am exhausted, oversleep, and don't have time to take a shower. I wash up quickly, feed breakfast to Lily and the yet-unnamed kitten, grab some leftovers for my lunch, shepherd Lily outside to go potty, drop her off at Auntie M's for doggie daycare, and head to work.

7:25 - Arrive at work, 10 minutes late, partly because I got stuck behind a school bus on the way there. It is technically okay, since I usually get to work early. I have a lot of things to print off and get ready for the day, but I forgot about the Friday morning meeting I am required to attend. Today they're talking about a computer program we're required to use. Since we've been required to use it since the beginning of the school year, I already had a co-worker teach me how to use it, but I sit through the meeting anyways. As soon as it is over, I rush to get my things ready for the day,

8:15 - I've almost got everything ready for my daily groups, when "Douglas" storms in. A third grader with autism and an Emotional/Behavior Disability, he is angry because something he saved on his iPad yesterday has disappeared. He stomps around describing how he got so angry that he said "the P word." I'm still not quite sure what that is. I try to coach him through calming himself down.

8:25 - "Linden" comes in with his 1:1 para to take his first morning break. He's a first grader with an EBD who takes breaks in my room throughout the day. So far he's having an awesome day today... but he's only been in school for 20 minutes!

8:30 - The office calls and asks me to come down. They have one of my kids, a 2nd grader, in the nurse's office vomiting,and want to send him home, but when they called home a man answered. The child's father has just gotten out of prison and is not supposed to have any contact with the child. The office is worried about who the man is who answered the phone. I ask Linden's para to keep an eye on Douglas, while I go down to the office, talk to the child (who I know lives with his mother and grandparents) and discover that the man who answered the phone is his grandfather. Then the receptionist tells me that she was wrong, the man is on the emergency contacts list, and can pick up the child. Meanwhile, the child tells me that he will be visiting his dad's house over the weekend. That is a little confusing, but I will ask the psychologist or social worker about it later. I tell the child I hope he feels better, and go back to my class.

8:40 - A teacher from the art room calls. "Ash," a 1st grader who homeschools but comes to our school for music, art and PE, is in his art class. He's supposed to have a para with him when he comes. He used to share a para with another first grader, but that student moved away and her para was reassigned, so for a month now Ash has been without a para. The special ed director has refused to hire anyone, and there are NO extra paras available. The art teacher now demands that I send someone down to work with Ash. I have my 1st grade reading group coming in 5 minutes, plus I still have Douglas needing my assistance, but I ask Linden's para to keep an eye on Douglas while I go down and check on Ash. As I walk, I shoot off a somewhat irritable text to the special ed director explaining that Ash is AGAIN without a para and nobody is available.

8:45 - I get to art and check in on Ash, who is doing okay so far.

8:50 - The school psychologist comes in. The special ed director has dispatched her to come work with Ash. It is a solution that is not going to work on a long term basis, and I doubt the special ed director will offer up anything else, but I am glad at least that I can go back and take care of the kids in my room for now.

8:51 - My first grade reading group has assembled. Linden's para is reading them a story, attempting to look after them, Linden, and Douglas, all at once. I take over so the para can bring Linden back to class. I coach Douglas to take a 5 minute calming break and then go back to class, while I start work with my first graders. Luckily, they are a happy and hard-working bunch!

9:00 - Douglas has opted to take out a game from the cabinet and play with it. I pause every few minutes to remind him that calming breaks are not "play" breaks... Play breaks are earned by doing work and earning points. Douglas seems calm now and should be going back to class, but he ignores my requests and keeps on setting up the game. I need to direct my attention to my reading group, and Douglas's ignoring me is just a minor behavior, so I let it go.

9:05 - The first graders have earned their play break. Douglas announces that he wasn't actually playing with the game he took out, but just trying to help out by setting it up for the first graders to play.

9:10 - I dispatch some of my first graders back to their classes, but keep one to work on some writing to make up for minutes he will be missing later in the day, since he has a special activity with his gen ed class.  Douglas's reading group will be starting in 10 minutes and it would be a waste of time to make him walk back to class and then turn around and come back, so I let him do some learning games on the iPad.

9:20 - The other member of my 3rd grade reading group, Aspen, shows up. I settle him and Douglas down. We are working on reading Sideways Stories From Wayside School, a book that I loved as a kid. It cracks these boys up. We are working on comprehension skills, so before reading we use an online dictionary, projected on the overhead screen, to look up some vocabulary words from the book, Then we read the chapters and complete story maps on them. It is going very well.

9:50 - We are halfway through our hour long session. Cypress, a 4th grader who also has autism and an EBD, stomps in and hands me a note from his teacher. It says he was kicking a drain pipe and needs a safe place to cool off. I tell Cypress he can choose a 5 minute break to cool off, and remind him it is a calming break and not a play break. I will check in with him in a few minutes once my 3rd grade reading boys start their own break. However, Cypress responds by picking up a chair and throwing it. I send the 3rd graders into the next room... the rest of the lesson will have to be cancelled. The para in the next room gives them iPads to play with while I work on calming Cypress.

9:55 - It is a relatively short meltdown for Cypress, but pretty eventful. He throws all of the chairs, picks them up and throws them some more, and overturns our mini-trampoline... and then, in a never-before-seen act, he overturns a table! He then walks over to the reading area and sits down on a bean bag chair.
Sensing he may be ready to talk, I casually walk past him, pretending to be looking at something else. When a kid is still mad, sometimes it is better not to feel a lot of pressure on them. I ask him if he wants to talk or would rather be alone for a few minutes. When he doesn't answer, I sit down near him and say, "I think when I told you you couldn't take a play break, you started feeling even madder." He nods. We talk about finding a different way to let me know he is mad at me, without throwing things. We talk about making a compromise... we can have a box of choices he could play with to help him calm down when he is that upset, and he'd have 5 minutes to play with them while calming down... but it is important for the kids to realize that, for the most part, they can't just come in and play with their favorite toys every time they get mad and throw things. A calming break is supposed to be something to help them calm down, find a solution to their problem, and move on with their day. I tell Cypress he can have 5 minutes to play with the shape tiles while we work through a problem solving worksheet together. I say, "But first..."
Cypress interrupts me to say, "I know, I know." He gets up and calmly resets everything he threw around in the room. I have to help him pick up the table because it is heavy. I'm surprised he had the strength to knock it over!

10:10 - Cypress plays with the shape tiles while I coach him through the problem solving worksheet. He tells me about the cycle of things that made him mad already that morning, beginning with some kids accusing him of cheating at a game on the playground, and another kid imitating the way he was stomping his feet when he started to get angry. Like Douglas, he often perceives that everyone around him is against him, and he struggles to understand that his reactions to things make the situations worse instead of better. We work out what choices he could have made when he was angry... kicking the drainpipe was one choice, which resulted in him getting in trouble and being sent to my room. Another choice would have been to ask the teacher for help, which would either have resulted in her stopping the kid from imitating him (the thing that was currently agitating him when he kicked the drainpipe) or with the kid continuing to imitate him anyways. A third choice would have been to ask to come to my room for a calming break before he got to the point of needing to kick things and knock things over. We decide that next time, Cypress will start with asking the teacher for help, and if that doesn't work, he'll ask to come down to my room for a break. I write down our plan to help Cypress remember it. I am not sure he will.

10:25 - My writing group, which consists of Cypress and Douglas, begins. They both have similar special needs, and have some of the same strong interests. They are the best of friends and the worst of enemies. Sometimes they get along wonderfully, and other times they threaten to kill each other. Sometimes they are amazingly therapeutic for each other. Today they do well together. Cypress often refuses to do work in class, but I get him and Douglas to work together on writing a story about one of their shared interests, and they spend the session planning out what they will write. They both earn a play break at the end.

10:55 - My math group is beginning. Third graders "Cedar" and "Chestnut" arrive. Douglas is also in that group, so I prompt him to put away his toys and come to the table. Cypress is supposed to work independently on some reading assignments during this time, but he continues to play with the shape tiles. I tell him that if he goes to do his work, we can leave the tiles where they are so that he can go back to them when his work is done... but if he keeps playing with them, we will have to put them all away.
Chestnut, who only comes to my room for academic services and supposedly does not have any behavioral issues, has developed an interest in seeing if he can upset Cypress and Douglas. As he sits down at the table, he immediately starts to talk about how dumb he thinks one of their special interests... an online role-playing video game... is. Douglas takes the bait and starts to get aggravated, stomping away from the table and saying he will not do math work if Chestnut is there. We're joined by a  para for this group, and the two of us coach Douglas to talk to Chestnut about what is upsetting him. We get Chestnut to agree not to speak about the video game... it is okay not to like it, but he needs to stop talking about it when Douglas is there. Chestnut agrees, although he keeps saying he was just making "friendly conversation." It turns out he does not even know what the game is, and only knows the name of it because of hearing Douglas talk about it, which helps confirm to me that Chestnut is just saying it is dumb in order to get a reaction from Douglas.

11:05 - During all of this time, Cypress has still been playing with the shape tiles instead of doing his work. The school psychologist, who shares a room with me, walks over and starts to put the tiles away. Cypress overturns the table, wedging the psychologist between the table and the wall. He then starts to throw chairs. We order the 3rd graders to go into the next room. The para stays behind to help the psychologist with Cypress, while I try to keep teaching math. First we have to talk a little about why Cypress overturned the table. I try to explain that for some kids, controlling their bodies when they are angry is hard to do.

11:10 - I planned to start teaching them about subtraction with regrouping, using Base Ten blocks. I'm hoping to get at least a little done. But while Cedar is sitting attentively waiting, Chestnut is now whining loudly about the shape tiles, and Chestnut keeps picking the Base Ten blocks up off the table and tossing them. He is smiling, watching for a reaction from me. I'm having a little trouble keeping my patience, but I remind them that to earn their play break, they need to earn their points for getting down to work, following directions, being respectful, and being safe... and right now only Cedar is earning points!

11:15 - I start to demonstrate how to do a subtraction problem... 256 - 188. I write it on the white board, and then have them help me demonstrate it with Base Ten blocks. Douglas is upset because he insists that the smaller digit should always be subtracted from the larger digit... so the first step, in his mind, would be 8-6. I try to explain that the digits are only parts of the whole numbers, and that 256 cannot be subtracted from 188. Chestnut and Cedar show that they understand and continue helping me to solve the problem, but Douglas whines more and more loudly about how I am doing it wrong. "It's not right!" he yells. The teacher from the room we've moved into is trying to work with another group, and she's giving me exasperated looks.  I remind Douglas about his points, and that to be respectful he needs to be quiet so that the other kids in the room can learn.

11:20 - It is time for the kids who have earned their breaks to take one. Cedar has earned a break, and Chestnut... having gotten down to work for the second half of the group... has earned half of a break. Douglas has not earned one, and starts to cry and yell. I remind him about the points, tell him he can choose a calming break instead, and tell him that he'll have another chance to earn a break after lunch.

11:25 - Chestnut and Cedar go back to class, just as my 2nd grade reading group comes in. Douglas refuses to leave, still talking about his break. I settle my 2nd graders in and have them vote on a Mo Willems book to read. I read it aloud to them. Usually on Fridays we do cooking activities, which are a way to make reading more relevant, but it has been such a hectic week that we are just going to have a read-aloud day instead. I include Douglas in the group by showing him the pictures and including him on the conversation about the story, and he seems to calm down. Eventually he leaves to go back to class... I think.

11:45 - We're in the middle of our second read aloud when the school psychologist comes into the room with Douglas. Somehow he wound up in the office... either he was sent there by his classroom teacher or he went on his own... and was being disruptive. He is still upset about missing his break. I
remind him again that he can earn a break by doing work in his class, but that right now being disruptive is not helping him with that. The psychologist ushers him back into my room for a calming break.

11:55 - I send most of my second graders back, but I still have to do reading with one of them... Hickory... for a half hour. Except now the psychologist tells me that Ash is in the office waiting to come to his Social Skills group, and she needs me to go retrieve him. I bring Hickory with me to get Ash.

12:00 - We return to the classroom with Ash in tow, in time to see the psychologist run out the door. I go inside and find a para trying to manage the social skills group, which consists of some wiley first graders. The para tells me that Douglas ran out the door, which is why the psychologist also ran out the door. Meanwhile, Cypress seems to be doing some reading work at the next table. I leave Ash with the para and bring Hickory back into the other room, hoping to get a little work done with him.

12:25 - I send Hickory back to his class, escort Ash back to his mother who is waiting for him in the office, go back to my classroom, and hurriedly heat up my lunch. It looks like today I might be able to take a lunch break!

12:40 - Having finished lunch (I rarely manage to get a whole break... and my union has even started to try to help me with this, because by union rules we are entitled to 35 minutes) I start getting the Woodcock-Johnson test ready. The (really poorly named) test is something we use to assess kids who are being evaluated for special ed. I have an evaluation due on a kindergartner next Wednesday, and it has been taking forever to assess him, partly because I rarely have any time in the day, and partly because his attention span is very tiny.

12:50 - I go to Hazel's classroom to collect him, but find that the speech pathologist is already working with him. Everyone is scrambling to get their parts of the evaluation finished by next week. She says she will be done in ten minutes and will bring him to my room.

1:00 - A para comes in with a screaming Linden in tow. He has punched someone on the playground, apparently unprovoked, and the para has to go check on the other child. I sigh... my next group starts in 40 minutes. Maybe I can get a para to take that group, and still have time to assess Hazel.

1:40 - Linden is still up in arms, and we are getting no where. His parents will have to be called because it won't be safe to put him on the bus. He is full of anger, and does not understand why it is not okay that he punched someone in the face, because he doesn't like the kid he punched. The kid he punched is dumb and babyish. The kid he punched deserved to be punched. We are trying to get him, if not to understand the other kid's perspective, at least to understand that it isn't okay to hurt others. But his brothers hit him all the time, he says, and he doesn't care because he is tough. The kid he punched must be fragile, a dumb, fragile baby. This goes on and on and on. I will not be managing to do Hazel's assessment today!

2:00 - I call Linden's parents to come get him. It is almost the end of the school day. Linden begins to get more somber as he realizes his parents were called. His father will be angry, he says, and his mother will cry in her bed. I explain to him that we don't keep secrets from parents... they need to know what is going on with their kids. It is not to "get him in trouble," but because they need to know. The psychologist and I are trying to find different ways of telling him, It isn't okay to punch people. If someone punched him, we would also be talking to them and calling their parents. But Linden says he wouldn't care if someone punched him, because he is tough. And on and on.

2:10 -  The psychologist goes to meet the parents in the office. I think I find a way to get through to Linden... he has a baby brother he loves. I ask him if he's going to teach his baby brother lots of things. I ask him how he might feel if he found out someone punched his brother. He explains how he would be sad and how he would protect his brother. I ask what will happen if someday his baby brother is in preschool or kindergarten, and the teacher says, "Landen, your brother punched someone on the playground today." I ask him if he'd be happy or sad about his brother punching someone on the playground and getting in trouble for it. He says he'd be sad and that he'd want to teach his brother to make better choices. "That is what the grown ups here are trying to help teach you," I say.

2:30 - The psychologist comes back with Linden's mother. We talk about Linden's behavior, and what he is learning with his private counseling sessions after school.

2:45 - Our contracted day is over... it should be time to go home. But I still have several hour's worth of work to do. I work for an hour on IEPs and progress reports, make phone calls home to several students' parents, and then decide to pack up my stuff and head home. I will be doing a lot of work over the weekend... again!


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