Thursday, September 27, 2007


This past week the three adults who work in this program - I'm including myself here - went to a training on working with students with difficult behavior. It's a good training led by a guy who knows what's up. However, it occurred to me that our students have become far too dependent on us. Generally, with my returning students, there are few behavior issues of note. But while we were gone, some of them regressed to pre-us behavior. This not good but not because they're supposed to behave dammit! but because, obviously, we're not always going to be around. In fact, the most dependent students are the ones that are going to high school next year where they won't be able to access nearly the same level of support as they do here because the high school program - and specifically the guy who runs it - sucks.

So the other day we made a T chart of all the things that went well yesterday and all the things that didn't go well. Then the students took turns coming to the board and circling in green what would have happened if we had been here and circling in red what wouldn't happened. And we talked about that for a bit. Then we listed a bunch of ways they're currently counting on us in order for them to be successful. The list had items like, "remind me to stay on-task," "tell me to get to class on time," "get me started on my homework," etc. Each student then chose one item that he thought he could begin trying to do alone. So, among others, I'm expecting Headache to turn in his own work and RB to attempt his homework without prompting. We'll see.

Monday I'm out again to learn about changes in the IEP and how to write IEPs that are compliant with the district's interpretation of the state's interpretation of the federal department of education's updated interpretation of IDEIA 2004. I expect that Tuesday we'll do the T chart. Today I will remind them of what happened and what they can do to avoid it happening again.

The worst thing I can think of is making these students overly dependent on help because not only will they most likely fail in its sudden absence but they'll also feel abandoned. Moving toward greater independence is going to be a major theme this year.

Monday, September 24, 2007

That sound you hear, that's my heart breaking

Twice today. First, at a training on how to make sure we don't get sued I ran into the dude who does my job at the high school. He was telling me about my students who are now his students. He tells me that Z might already be "lost". He was absent all last week. Z has extreme anxiety and zero people skills but is so fun and interesting. I knew high school was going to be tough for him especially given that the first thing the aforementioned "teacher" does is inform his class that half of them won't graduate. Z is going to be a mechanic as an adult and make way more money than me if he can survive high school with some hope intact. Now I have to contact the social worker up there, give Z a call, get some teachers here to call him and try to brainstorm some other ideas for how to keep him in school. If that kid drops out, the fault rests with me in part.

Second, I get back to my school from the training and am informed by my sub that Fake Gangsta's family is being evicted and they have to move this weekend. This kid, whom his teachers said didn't belong in this school, who totally baffled me for 3 months last year, who required a gigantic investment of time on the part of the staff in my program and who we used to hope would be absent every once in a while to give us a break went on to win the most improved student award for his team. He started this year having avoided regressing behaviorally and with an attitude towards school success that I never would have guessed would come from him. This is the poster child for inclusive behavior programs. If that kid moves, I seriously might cry.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Starting Stats: 8-1+1+1

Before starting the school year there were 8 students on my caseload. One student moved out of district which brought the caseload down to 7. (And the circumstances for her move are tragic: she was placed in temporary foster care that had been ongoing for some time. That placement was the only stable living situation she had known. Her foster mother had been ill for quite some time though and passed away over the summer. She's now living in a group home. This is not a girl who should not have been subjected to one more iota of trauma for the rest of her life.)
One student refuses to attend school (School Much?) and is placed on out-of-school tutoring. So there were 6 students attending the school in my program as of week 1. I have a new student who started today who is originally "from Africa" his therapist tells me- Africa being the most diverse place on the planet and larger than it appears on our US-centric maps, it was disappointing to hear all Africans get lumped in together...but I suppose that's a blog for another time.
Another new student starts next week. Short on details at this point. So, here are the players in our great drama (some of whom you may recognize from last year):

Math Major
Head Ache
Let's Ride Bikes!
Miss Popularity
Fake Gangsta (formerly C)
Trains! (formerly RB)
School Much?
New student- as yet without a blog name

w/ Interrupt & Wrestler as assistants and me as myself.

Stay tuned for the further adventures of me and "the bad kids".

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The R Word

Some of my otherwise brilliant friends use the word retarded as a pejorative. Many of my students do the same. A couple of years ago I tried to figure out a way to get folks to stop saying it. I first decided to reply to, "That's retarded" with, "Like my brother?" The problem being that I don't have a brother who identifies as retarded - in fact, I don't have a brother at all - and using, "Like my sister?" would have felt weird since I do, in fact, have sisters. I also thought being disingenuous was probably not the best approach. So I've started using, "Like my students?" That worked for a little while because I did teach a weekly literacy class with students identified as mentally retarded when I was teaching in NYC. Now that I'm a special education teacher out in Oregon, I don't actually work with students labeled mentally retarded. I've still been saying, "Like my students?" though because it's easier than saying, "I really wish you wouldn't use that word because it's offensive." Of course, the latter doesn't ruin anyone's day whereas a few times I've dropped "Like my students?" on someone I didn't know well and it really bummed them out and made me seem like a jerk. I don't mind coming across as a jerk for a good cause but I think it was mostly counterproductive. So I may be forced to be all mature about it rather than snarky.

Of course, none of this works with my students who say the R word all the time. They also say, "That's gay" constantly. However, given that my students have a host of problems I generally don't make an issue out of their use of either of these words as epithets. There are bigger (tofu) fish to fry, as it were.

I think I should point out that being literally retarded - slower or delayed when compared to the average - is mostly irrelevant much like being black or gay. But when we say, "That's retarded" or "That's gay" when we mean "That's really dumb" or "That's really uncool" there is no difference from saying "That's black" to mean someone about being really athletic but prone to crime and poor in academics or saying you're going to Jew someone down in order to get a better purchase price for something. So using those words as insults is insulting the millions of people who use those same words to describe themselves. You dig?