Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This Should Not Be A Problem

Readers, please take time to read the following post written by an exceptionally caring and talented teacher. Daisy's blog is Compost Happens and is listed as one of my favorites.  She is definitely not the only teacher faced with this problem.  It's complicated on so many levels.  If you have suggestions, please make them!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

These boys need books. Lots of books.

I love teaching reading. Reading is the heart of learning. A child who can read has access to so many worlds, so much fascinating information, so many opportunities, so much fun.

Every year my students span a wide range of reading levels. This year the range is wider than ever, and there are more struggling readers than ever, too. Seven children, all boys, who read at a first grade level.

Fourth graders. Nine- and ten-year-olds who read like the little kids -- when they read at all.

I can teach them, work with them every day. Sight words. Phonics. Structure. Basic punctuation and what it means. But in the meantime, they need to read on their own. And therein lies my challenge. I need to help them read, read a lot, and read often. To do that, I need to provide these boys books they can read and books they want to read. Something easy, outrageously easy, and yet something exciting and fun.

I have the structure planned: each of these kiddos will have his own box of books at all times. The box will contain books they can read, books at their level, books that they'll read when it's time for them to read on their own. A literacy coach once told me that after students independently read 25 books at their level, they move themselves to the next level. These boys need to read. I know, I've already said that. 25 books will sound impossible to them, so I won't say it out loud. But I will provide books, and they will read, and read, and read.

The only barrier is money. Oh, yeah, money. School budgets are already pared to the bone. To buy more books, first grade reading level but high-interest enough for a fourth grader, will take money. Stimulus funds? Spent well, but spent. Title I Reading funds? Put to good use, believe me. I'll be at a Title sponsored training tonight.

Grants? Help me out. There's a local grant group, but they don't buy books. Bless their heart, they think there are enough books on the shelves, and no one needs more. Shudder. Are there really people who think this way?

Now what? Readers, can you send me to a source for grant money for these kids? A source that will send the money, and soon, so I can buy books and get these guys reading now? Leave it in the comments or email me. Okaybyme at gmail dot com. Please. Let's give these boys a future. A reading future.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie Man Hits Middle School (Yes, another parent smack down)

I am afraid for Movie Man.
I am heartbroken for him.
I just don't know what to do.  I have most often advocated for him and intuitively believe much of what he is displaying behaviorally is systematic of other issues.  Hubs and I don't always agree on Movie Man's motivation or reasons for certain behaviors.  That causes some tension.
Well, Movie Man started middle school a few weeks ago and I wish I could report that all is calm in our house, that he is adjusted, happy, and learning.

But I can't.

He was sent to the principal for not stopping whatever he was doing after several warnings and cues from the teacher.  A very seasoned and tolerant teacher who gets it.

When Movie Man came through the front door after school, the very disjointed story of being sent to the principal spewed out of him before he made it to the living room.  

However it was unbearably frustrating because Movie Man is not very articulate when retelling a story.  It is hard for him.  Really, really hard.  So, his anxiety mounts as his father and I ask questions for clarity and our anxiety mounts as the questions go unanswered.  It's pretty ugly.

Thank goodness his LD teacher called within 30 minutes of the school day being over.  Hubs takes the call and LD teacher shares the story, shares some observations, shares he might be overmedicated, shares she did not know what else to do when Movie Man could not get unstuck and shut up.  Really.  What else could she do?  Changing the environment, the pace, any variable is best for getting someone unstuck.  She did the right thing by getting him out of the room.

So Hubs decides the best consequence is to write a letter of apology and try to get Movie Man to really figure out why he gets so stuck.  Great in theory and I supported this, but I knew Movie Man could not possibly articulate the why of it all. He truly was sorry.  But I don't think he really understands how disruptive his perseverations are.  He is not making the connection, the cause and effect of it all.

Anyway, Hubs sat with Movie Man and as patiently as possible tried to help Movie Man probe into the why of it, how to organize the letter of apology.  They got through it with Hubs scribing.  Movie Man was frustrated. He truly was clueless about the why.  He was even having trouble remembering the teacher warning him. Then Hubs gives the directive for Movie Man to rewrite the letter in his own handwriting and tweak it to make it even more Movie Man's voice.  

And that is when yet another battle of defiance broke out.  No TV until the letter is done.  Stalemate.  Hubs ups the ante by harping and nagging.  Movie Man digs in even more.  Hubs won't leave the room.  Movie Man won't move off the couch, pick up a pencil... nada.

I suggest Hubs just leave it. Walk away.  I say, "I trust Movie Man will do the honorable thing and get the letter rewritten."  I then say I am going upstairs to fold laundry and remind Movie Man not to turn on the TV.

As soon as Hubs and I both get our of Movie Man's space, the letter gets done.  Beautifully done.  
And even though that was a proud feel good moment that provided some parenting emotional relief, I still feel sick about what is ahead for my sweet Movie Man.

Is he only OCD and not AHD?  Is he also on the spectrum? Does he have a borderline personality?  

How the hell are we going to get him to adulthood?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Year, A New Role

I now have one 2 hour class session and one 2 hour student teacher meeting under my belt.

And I believe I am in love.

I believe I made the right choice.
I know I made the right choice.

I wasn't so sure while I was in syllabus writing hell.  And it was hell.  

The last few weeks have allowed me to make some great and noteworthy observations.  Although not new to these sorts of observations, I still found them worth pondering.

1.  When you are new to an organization, members of that organization make a lot of incorrect assumptions about what you know and who you know.

2.  When you are new to an organization and have questions, and feel some urgency about getting answers,  the peeps already familiar don't feel your same urgency and because they are really busy getting the school year under way they don't respond in a timely manner... if they respond at all.

3.  It's scary starting anew, but man, is it exhilarating!

4.  We are not doing a good job in teacher training programs.  The students are starved for relevant information, practical strategies.  Theory only takes you so far.

5.  After gathering information about student needs, I realize the original timeline and topics to be explored need adjusting.  I feel very strongly about giving my students what they need.  They know where they feel unprepared.  They know what they need to become effective teachers working with their preferred population.  Well, they sort of know.  How can they really know?

6. Training students to become independent thinkers and inquisitive learners when they are used to simply getting assignments done so they can  check them off the to-do list is going to be no easy task.

7.  I love having a captive audience!  My goodness, isn't it great to be able to finally tell it like it really is and hope to effect some change in practice, philosophy and beliefs?

I am looking so forward to a weekend full of planning.  

I have a renewed hope about what I can do on behalf of kids.  I was so afraid I would not feel this way once I left my direct service role.