Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New School Year Anxiety

On the home front, we have a very nervous Movie Man entering middle school.  So nervous, in fact, we took another trip to his pediatric psych.  Hopefully we have the right solutions and we will avoid what we have gone through for many years.

Anxiety is a brutal condition and it effects so many of our students.  It can look like conduct disorder, opposition, ADHD, under achiever.  When we treat it as anything but anxiety we make things worse for our students.  As teachers, we can destroy them and make taking learning risks impossible for them.

Superman keeps telling me he is a "home kid" meaning he would rather be at home than anywhere else.  In his pajamas.  I see his point.  He is worried about 5th grade.  He is already convinced it will be very hard.  And it will be.  As the kids get older there is more sit and get, more listening, more verbiage.  Kids with Autism don't learn as effectively as they could in this sort of environment.  And what that looks like is a kiddo who is below average and oppositional and maybe ADHD.   Sensory issues are exacerbated when they have to attend to verbiage for too long. Superman is also on the throes of a worry perseveration about weather.  And of course, stormy rains are expected for the next few days.  

So, to all the teachers out there... I know you all have butterflies just like your students.  Be mindful of what feelings behaviors are masking and that most often they are simply a way of coping.  

School has become less therapeutic, less child centered.  And it is not because teachers are less caring.  It is because all the suits in the world are misguided and since they have all the power, THEY are the reason so many kids are experiencing more and more stress in school.

I love teachers.  May you all have a wonderful start to this new school year.  Use compassion, have fun, and enjoy the kids parents turn over to your care.  

The Magic Lives!

Wowy zowy!!!

I am so excited to report that despite principal's lack of support, Aunt Sally will be used it the EBD room this year!  Art teacher approached new EBD teacher and asked if she was interested in pursuing the use of Aunt Sally or if she really wanted her removed.  She said she wanted to learn how to use her with the EBD kiddos!

Take that pissy principal!

Turns out the EBD teacher wants me to come over and help her get it going again!  Pissy Principal really tied EBD teacher's hands in directing her to use all the crap my replacement had used.  Turns out EBD Teacher has a degree in recreational therapy!  She gets it.  Yippee!  Aunt Sally is very happy.

So, Art Teacher and I went to get yet another loom yesterday and it was an amazing experience.  A wonderful 80 something couple were done with their loom.  They were amazing.  Very inspirational.  They are living the golden years in a beautiful rural setting in a minimalist, but very techno-savvy home.

So, we collected a beautiful loom (we named her Grandma Rosie after the lovely woman who gave her to us) from their house and delivered it to the middle school EBD room where my old students attend.  They are so excited to have the loom there so they can continue using weaving as a way to self-regulate.

So, take that Pissy Principal!

I will be helping middle school EBD teacher write her mini grant to get the supplies she needs to get it up and running.  Meanwhile I have Miss Mae in my living room as Art Teacher got a larger, more appropriate loom to use in the art room.  We have named that one Stella.  She comes from a basement in Chicago and is very happy to be used in a loving and helpful way in an elementary art program.

And you better believe my student teachers and Methods students will know all about this sort of magic.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Aunt Sally Updates

So, I get a call yesterday from my Aunt Sally partner saying we needed to get Aunt Sally out of my old room.

Say what? Really?

Yes, principal barked this order to my partner in passing.  What happened to all the support we got for Aunt Sally from her?  This boils down to yet another administrator NOT walking the talk.  Yuck.  Ho Hum.  Nothing new.

Nevertheless, it still hurts.  It sucks.  It is just plain wrong.

It is wrong that my replacement was allowed to kill the gifts of Aunt Sally.  It is wrong that the building administrator was not strong enough to encourage the continued use of Aunt Sally.  It is wrong that the administrator did not encourage my replacement's replacement to use Aunt Sally and to develop her own program based on what had been working instead of telling her to continue on as my original replacement had.

Nothing good came from my room last year.

But, time marches on, I have a new job, new focus, new opportunity to expose future teachers to all the great experiences I have had, how to reach kids in crisis, how to be effective.

I went to sleep last night feeling very sad for Aunt Sally.  Feeling that the greatest thing I have done as a teacher was not strong enough to stay alive in my building once I was gone.

All hope is not lost!  We have looms up in other EBD rooms and they are enjoying great success.  And then I get the email that lifts the grief, that renews my hope, that is a great smack down to principal with now spine, no sense of how to lead.

One of the middle school teachers wants a loom!  She is excited and when she told a student I had two years ago and who greatly benefitted from the loom, he lit up and got all excited!  He celebrated!  He is now looking forward to this school year!  His foster parents are ecstatic!

So my partner and I are going to rescue another loom this week,  get Aunt Sally set up in the art room, and keep the dream alive.

Because kids in crisis, kids in worlds of hurt, kids in need of tools to help them self-regulate need this.

Amazing Grace.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trying To Adjust

Hey All,
  I stepped away from much of my routine to celebrate Foodie getting married.  What a great week away.  What a great wedding.  What a great Union.  What a great daughter-in-law I got.

Anyway, when I returned home with Superman (Movie Man and Hub stayed for a few more days), I was hurled into my new job.  My new career.  My new adventure.  It's a mixed bag and I sure as hell hope I get things sorted out and feel some peace about it all.

I am going to teach an advanced research-based methods course and supervise special education student teachers.  I had hoped for full time employment that would include an office, a home away from home.  A place to replace my classroom.  A place to practice the back-to-school-set-up-my-classroom rituals I so loved for 18 years.  Well, there is no longer such a place for me.  Except in my heart.  

So much of preparing for a new school year is about making the learning space for my students what it needs to be for them.  For 18 years, whole summers of thought and planning went into the start of a new year, but I had a tangible place in which to visualize, decorate, plan, shove belongings, furniture, resources around.  A room of my own.  I cannot tell you how many hours I spent just sitting in the middle of my classrooms amidst entire contents shoved either to one side or piled in the middle after cleaning services were done with polishing the floors and wiping down the surfaces.  I was never one to leave bulletin boards up.  I always took everything down and put it away.  I never wanted to be in a rut.  My kiddos returned to me and they deserved to see new things from different perspectives.  What worked and was comforting went back up, but usually in a different place.

It was the rearranging and shoving around of the heavy classroom furniture that helped me prepare, ground myself, rethink the whys, wheres and intentions of the last year's choices.  Even when I moved and changed districts and students, pondering past choices while looking ahead is what centered me.  

So what am I to do this year?  How will I adjust to a fresh start with no classroom that is mine and only mine?  How will I keep my wits about me without the benefit of seeing my dear colleagues throughout the day?  How will I feel a sense of belonging?  All the things I relied on for 18 years are no more.  And how will I ever adjust to the whole concept of academic freedom?  Wow.  What I have always craved, but now facing it, I am a bit perplexed.  

But maybe that's OK.  Maybe that's good.

Moving on.  Passing the baton.  Sharing my story as special education teacher.  Helping new teachers stretch and question to become independent thinkers.  Exposing them to my unconventional methods.  Hoping against all hope that I can encourage them, keep them passionate, teach them advocacy, warn them without scaring the shit out of them.

But they better be good or I won't pass them on.  After all, my own special needs kiddos may well be their future students.