Friday, February 29, 2008

No Trespass

Yesterday afternoon Fake Gangsta put someone's backpack in the bathroom at the end of the day in retaliation for the owner of the backpack stomping on his bag. The backpack wound up in the toilet, not by FG's hand - at least according to him. When this incident came to light, FG was already on his bus to go home so the principal pulled him off the bus to deal with the situation. The assistant principal let his mom know that he was pulled off the bus and that he would need a ride home. FG's mom, someone who is not in the running for parent of the year, said he could walk home. Here's where it gets bad.
Apparently, FG's mom came to the school yesterday evening and blocked the principal's car in his space as he was leaving and screamed at him. She told him that next time the principal pulls FG from the bus, the principal needs to drive him home. The principal didn't like that very much. The principal here is really good with parents and kids alike but he's totally done working with this parent who is out of control. In order to prevent her abusing other staff, he's calling home today to let her know she can't come onto school grounds without an invitation. Good times!
The question at this point is whether FG's 2 year old sister was in the car when mom went nuts in the parking lot and if so, whether this warrants a call to child services. I have to say, I have a lot of anger toward this woman because FG he is such a great kid but his mom just doesn't do any real parenting. If she did, FG would be much, much happier. He suffers from her choice to not parent her child. It's not fair to him and he'll carry it with him for his whole life.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big picture, little picture

Most of my work is little picture work: how do we use a locker? Why are you yelling right now? Let's get that math assignment done. Can we get through 1 day without being kicked out of a class?

Some of my work ha a wider focus such as when I try to help a particular student's longterm situation by teaching problem solving skills, trying to get some mental health support for him or her, building up academic success so the standard failures that everyone experiences aren't traumatizing... But most of my work barely goes beyond this. It's one student at at time and, for the most part, one day at a time.

I like this work and I know it's important. These students need this kind of help right now. At the same time, it's really frustrating to think that every year I'll just have my 8-12 students who need immediate relief and nothing I'm doing will stem the flow. So while I recognize the importance of this work, it's frustrating to feel like a band-aid.

That said, I've joined a committee that is working on making my district more inclusive. This is partly to comply with IDEA 2004 which calls for more inclusion (which in this case means students with disabilities in general ed classes, with non-disabled peers, with access to the same curriculum, in the neighborhood schools as much as possible) and partially to address the problem of having too many students in a self-contained class (which here means in a separate, special education class more than 60% of the day). The committee needs to submit a plan by April 1st and we've begun collecting input from staff at our schools.

While the idea of this has been exciting, it's largely been met by the staff with responses from cynical to hysterical (with a few exceptions). There is one really rabid teacher in particular who claims that the district is lying about how many kids are in self-contained classes and that it's the fault of special ed that her standards haven't been as high for the last 20 years. In my mind, that says more about her than about her students but, what do I know?

So I'm hoping that doing some work that focuses on the longterm and continuing my narrow focused-work with my students will make me feel balanced. I'm not sure what to do if it doesn't work.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The Magician is my most challenging student right now. He has no idea how to make friends, refuses to work at times, lies, is disruptive, has gotten into fights...the list goes on. (On the flip side, he's super fun and loves attention. He loves magic tricks and will talk your ear off about his favorite magicians. And his laugh is a terrific giggle. ) Due to a serious fight at the bus stop, he's been involved with the juvenile justice system. His first court date was today and because he didn't understand what was happening to him, the court date had to be rescheduled. This made his lawyer, counselor and mother angry. His mother spent the rest of the morning yelling at him and then dropped him off at school.
Upon entering his math class he started pushing desks around. I got involved when I had just sat back down at my desk after getting a student started in another class when I heard someone screeching in the hallway. The shriek was other-worldly and primitive - like a non-human animal in it's death throes. It was the Magician. His face was teary as he stomped out of his classroom and tipped over a chair in the hallway. I gave him a beckoning signal so he followed me down to the office and sat in a conference room where he could be by himself. I reminded him to use his self-calming techniques like deep breathing and counting but not before he let out another anguished shriek to leave him alone.
At that moment, one of the APs asked, "Is that the Magician? His mom is here looking for you." His mom hadn't even left the building yet having stuck around after dropping the Magician off in order to let me know it was probably going to be a really hard day for him. She told me that she had yelled at him from the minute they got out of court until she dropped him off.
This is a really, really difficult kid whose behaviors are aggravating and off-putting. But if you heard the anguish in his voice your heart would have gone out to him. Even his math teacher, who is not the most understanding teacher (to say the least), was really concerned and forgiving of him.
Hi mom ended up taking him home for the day to make sure he didn't get himself into anymore trouble.