Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Some Rough Ones...

Well, to add on to our list of prayer requests, we've been having some rough times here...

Braeden began his ADHD meds about two weeks ago. And while he is still doing well during the days both at school and at home. We've had some explosive, not at all fun, never seen before, behaviors and attitudes from him the last few nights. Saturday night was horrible with a capital H. Tonight was pretty bad too, but not quite as much. And while he's had "issues" with attitude in the past, especially directed at others, he's never been like this. I can't help thinking it's med related, actually maybe I'm really hoping it's med related, because if it is then hopefully that means we can do something to change it relatively quickly and painlessly. Cuz I don't know how much of this I can "take." We go to see his doctor Monday and I'm counting the days. I'm praying he will listen to what I have to say and have something to offer up in the way of a starting point to help.

Because on top of things at home, work is tough right now. Very tough, which makes coming home and "dealing" with behaviors all the more difficult.

My class this year is hard. I teach special education. I love teaching. For my first seven years of teaching I taught "higher" functioning (for the most part) learning disabled kiddos between fifth and eighth grade. I absolutely loved seeing that "got it" moment, being a teacher who was able to challenge my students and have high expectations, helping them to see what they COULD do rather than what they couldn't. And I saw many of them push their way out of special education, my ultimate goal as a special ed teacher. To not "keep" them status quo and just shuffle along, but push them to give their all, encourage them to WANT to succeed, and to help them do just that. Whether that be getting back into a regular ed class or just being the best they could be in a special ed class, but doing THEIR BEST.

Three years ago I was put into a different position, and our district was in the transition process of incorporating RtI and "keeping" more and more students in the regular ed class setting as long as possible, trying as many instructional strategies as possible to teach them there rather than pull them out. I am all for it. I still think more is needed, but one day at a time, they are starting to see what I'm (and others) are saying and it's coming around... I think.

Anyway, my new class was not completely severe and profound, which I've taught in summer school previously, but was closer to that in many ways. "My" kids are very low. I teach 3rd-5th graders most of whom can't read, don't know their alphabet, can't tie their shoes, etc. They can't take our state tests but rather take an alternate assessment, which is still difficult for some of them. The past three years have been a challenge, but I've still seen much growth which is such a blessing. I've seen kids who came to me not understanding what it meant to add just 1 to a number, leave me being able to add multiple digits with carrying, and working on multiplication. Kids who came to me not being able to spell or read the word "of" leave me reading at a late first, early second, grade level and spelling words associated with that reading ability. I've had kids who didn't think they could do anything, come to realize they could do lots, and begin to believe in themselves. And I've had kids where my biggest obstacle has been the parents. Getting the parents to believe that I wasn't challenging their children beyond what they could do, but that I had high expectations because I believed that they could fulfill these, and they did all that and more.

But this year... wow... I'm struggling. My assistant and I have two students with us that we've had in the past. One in fifth grade (his third year with us) and one in fourth (her second year with us). We were originally to have a third again this year, but they moved over the summer, which proved to be a huge blessing as two others we were supposed to get as incoming third graders also moved. We were to be getting 7 new third graders, but instead got 5. And I'm very glad that we had three move over the summer, because it's hard. Pure and simple.

Transitioning five to our class in the first place is rough. In our district we have three schools: K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. We then share the high school with a couple other elementary districts and they are a separate district unto themselves. So the kids I get in third grade are making the jump from a K-2 building to a 3-5 building. That is hard enough for most "regular" ed third graders, but take kids out of a CLASS that is K-2, where they're in with barely 5 year olds, sitting together at tables instead of desks, having their breakfasts and lunches opened and being helped and enabled and doing all together, to a building where they are now in a 3-5 class and we are expecting much more independence, it's quite a transition for them.

Then to thrown in how very low these kiddos are and how out of my element I feel right now and I'm about drowning. I feel like we go go go and I'm not real sure what we've accomplished by the end of the day. Most of these kiddos, I'm not even sure HOW to teach them. We can go over and over something "simple" where I'm basically giving them the answer and having them repeat it and then I'll ask them again and they have NO CLUE. Simple things, like basic rhyming (a pre-reading skill) and then trying to think of a word that rhymes with "pen" and I finally tell them... either "ten" or "den" and I ask again what rhymes with pen and they tell me nest. or house. or... (I'm not kidding or exaggerating). I'm at a loss. We worked on clapping syllables of words and upon clapping once for "book" I asked, "Great, now how many claps was that?!" and got back "Um, three?"

And then they ask us to fill out our grades online and we're looking at sending home report cards in what will seem like tomorrow and I'm at a loss. How do you "Grade" this? Truly?! To me, my class needs to have either a report card that is basically their individual IEP goals and how they are doing working toward those, or a checklist of basic goals and behaviors and whether they can do them or not. But not grades. My supervisor suggested pass/fail. But how do you pass or fail a student who can't do it. Period. Or doesn't want to try. Or has a family who expects nothing of them so they're not used to meeting expectations. I feel like if I give them a grade, I'm giving a pass or fail to their disability, to their family, to their past teachers, but not to their learning. Maybe, hopefully, they could be graded on things later in the year, but NOT now. So they know five shapes. They came to me knowing those. I've told them that "this" is an octagon six hundred times. I've shown them stop signs outside and had them trace the eight sides and ... and yet when I say not two seconds later "What's this shape?" They can't tell me. How do you grade that?

So I'm struggling. Big time. And what I wrote probably doesn't even make much sense as I'm not very coherent to myself these days in some of my thought processes. And yet, I'm trying to find ways to encorporate God even more into our days. Knowing that my focus, my kids' focus, our day, needs to be more centered on Him, and not me, not us. So today we began a time of prayer that will hopefully carry over into every day. We have five-ten minutes time that was "empty" before. And now I know why. And God is showing me ways to "fill it up" that are meaningful and not wasteful. That will hopefully help my patience and maybe refocus some of our frustrations. And get our day started on the right foot.

And we pray, pray, pray... because that's what He taught us...

5 comments:

Ashley said...

Good luck Lisa. I've worked some with Special Ed in the past and know how hard it can be. I'll keep both the situation with Braeden and your work in my prayers.

~Stephanie said...

I "get it." One of my best friends teaches a severe and profound class for an elementary school. (((HUGS)))

praying and fasting with you today. God may you give Lisa a peace and strength that comes only from you. Please let her ride through this "rough" phase on eagle's wings with a spirit that is filled by You. Protect her children and hold them tight in your might arms. Eph 3:20

Karen said...

I came over from A Place Called Simplicity. I hope that things get better in your job soon. The thing that really caught my eye in your post was your comment about your son and his medication. I will say that it is very possible that the issues are a side effect of his medication. When my son was 6 we put him on Ritalin for his ADHD. It was a nightmare. He began kicking and hitting all the time (which was not his normal nature. He was always very strong-willed and hyper, but never violent. Except when he was on the medication). It was a very hard time, but as soon as we changed his medication he turned back into the happy boy he was before the medication. I will be praying for your adoption, job situation and that the doctors will find the correct medication to help your son.

Sara said...

I am praying for you tonight - adoption, Braeden, your job, moola...the works. :o)

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I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!


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