New Students

They keep sending me new kids. It's 2 weeks away from standardized testing, and they just keep plopping them in my room. I officially have 9 students now, and by law I top off at 10 as a teacher of BD students. Two weeks ago I got a new student, last Friday I got another one, and I was told yesterday by a BD teacher at another Newark school that he just signed all the paperwork to send another kid to me.

My new ones are:

Sean, a 4th grader who is much smaller than all of my other students, but has the best social skills of any of my kids.

Then there's Nadia, another 4th grader, and a GIRL! My students don't have a lot of interactions with female students, and don't generally know how to handle those interactions when they do happen... so she's already caused a huge stir in the room, besides that puts her in competition with the only other girl in my classroom, Tyler.

And tomorrow, it is rumored that I will be getting a 6th grade boy who has been home-schooled by his Aunt for the past 6 months because he had too many conflicts to keep him in a classroom. I try my best not to be swayed by what I hear before a student arrives, but I hear what I hear.

I do not have any IEPs for my new students, nor any other pertinent information.

My room is starting to fall apart already with the two new students. Tuesday was my first REALLY bad day in a long time, and today was a staff development day, but I just hope that I can get my classroom management together enough to allow these changes to move my students forward, rather than shove them behind.

New students lead to new challenges, and I have a lot of them ahead of me.

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a girl

Bad Wolves have another new student. She is girl #2 in the classroom, and that is causing some major disruption. My students are so used to being a class of "all boys", but now Nadia has infiltrated.

(I just found this draft in my queue of posts... and it already reminds me of some of the trends I've seen in my classroom this year, so i thought that i would post it so that later I can give an update and remind myself of this trend.)


De Colores

Jerry said "you teachers are always trying to make things colorful and make us draw pictures because you think that us special ed kids are stupid or something." in September of this school year. I had Jerry all last year for 5th grade, and he returned to me this year as a 6th grader. This is a direct quote too, because I was so intrigued that I wrote it down immediately.

I tried to explain to Jerry, and the rest of the class that I do use bright colors intentionally, but that it is actually because I think that they are VERY smart, and I think that the bright colors help them to recall information, and they can use the colors as parts of strategies for remembering and learning new things. I also explained that pictures are a really good tool to use, especially in math.

Jerry, at the time, didn't buy into it. He insisted that I thought he and his classmates were stupid.

Today I heard Jerry, (who has taken it upon himself to show our new student, a 4th grader, how things work in Bad Wolf Territory) explained that the colors around the room are coordinated to subject area, and that can help to remember what folder to look in if you get stuck on a problem on the exit ticket. Jerry explained that every day I put up 2 math problems (we have notes on that in the Red folders), then 2 literacy questions (in the blue section of the room), and then one question that will be either social studies (yellow) or science (green). Jerry described it so matter-of-factly. I could tell that he was using some of the strategies that I have been trying to teach all year.

I realize that this seems like a very simple thing to understand, but really the idea that we use color-coded binders and folders is something that has taken a long time to embed in my students. Occasionally I will still find a blue literacy notebook thrown in the red bin with the math work. The color-systems create structures for my students that they can begin to understand, and then hopefully use for categorizing their lives and their thinking.

Sometimes I hear them referring to things by the colors I use, for example, Rick was trying to remember the definition of "physics" and when Jay suggested the wrong answer, Rick said, "no, that's not right, it's the one that she wrote up in green." Brilliant, I thought.

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Snow Day!

This means that I finally have enough time to sit and post some of the updates I have been wanting to share....

Nothing spectacular has been happening in my classroom, except that my kids love learning. It is almost like I have been afraid to post anything about this drastic change in classroom demeanor because I know that this could be a fleeting moment, and I don't want to jinx things.... but my kids have collectively decided that they are at school to learn.

I caught Jerry explaining to our new student the other day that "man, the day is so much better if you do what you have to do when you get here. I mean, it sucks to stay in your seat or whatever, but when you get all your points up and get good grades it's like it's worth it." This is when Jerry noticed I was listening in, and he looked up, a little embarrassed, and then said, "I'm right, right Ms. G."

"Of course you're right, Jerry."

There have been a lot of changes, and for once I happen to think that they are all adding to the success in my classroom.... Changes are hard to make happen in a BD classroom, but as I'm sure many of you know, they are often necessary. I think that the key is that even if it's not working at first, stick with it, but whatever you do, don't get rid of old routines.

I implemented a brand new Behavior Modification plan weeks ago, but last week was the first full week that it worked the way I intended for it to work. Behavior Mods can be so tiresome and time consuming. I have changed mine so many times, but I think that thing I need to keep in mind is that it WON'T work for my students if it doesn't work for ME. By this I mean that sometimes I let the plan slide a little, or ignore the chart for a few days, because it's too much work to keep up with. In that scenario, even if my kids liked the plan, it couldn't possibly work. Right now I have something simple, inexpensive, and something that I DON'T have to rely on my aides to help with.

(I am not sure how much I have mentioned the inability of my aides to be of significant and meaningful help, but I think that I shall try to post an entire entry on that sometime...)

Behaviors in my class are guided by 4 very strong factors right now, all working together to make for a positive changes, and I have a 5th back-up plan mod, that my kids are familiar with that I use only on days when I see that my students NEED extra supports in place. The 4 big factors are:

1) work chart: This is where the learning part comes in. Students get the opportunity to fill in up to 9 boxes on their chart for the work they are expected to accomplish in a day.

2) desk stickers: Students get stickers on their desk for doing the right thing. When I catch kids seated, calm, with positive behaviors geared towards learning, I simply place a sticker on their desk. My students are in competition to see who can get their desk filled up the fastest.

3) awards: On top of awards for behaviors that are tallied at the end of the week, awards for good attendance, good test scores, and doing classwork in all subject areas, etc, I give the kids daily opportunities to get recognized in the classroom. This includes getting your name on a leaf on the "Tree of Kindness", earning a handshaped cut-out on the "Helping Hands make the world go 'Round" wall, or students can work towards a "Bad Wolves Teamwork Award" if they are working cooperatively and positively with one another.

4) daily parent logs: I have these down to an art form. I made a check-sheet with the most common behaviors seen in my classroom, (both positive and negative) and fill one out for each child for both the morning and afternoon. They are sent home nightly and expected to be returned the next day. Of course, many of my students have little to no parental supervision, but the looming threat of nightly phone calls keeps most of the parent logs coming back in.

Just to be fair, all of this love of learning doesn't come without a price... my prize bin has been something that I find very difficult to keep stocked with fun yet inexpensive prizes. Then, being me, I always try to make the prizes at least in some way educational. The way I see it thoigh, is that if the least of my concerns is that I have to spend a few extra bucks each week to fill my prize bin, then I guess I'm doing okay.

Things have been looking up again, and I hope that this stays for at least a little while. In the meantime, I am trying to take this time to determine what I am going to do with the next year of my life. I am at a crossroads, and I have learned that I probably can still apply and take classes to become permanently certified as a special education teacher. This would mean that I need to be committed to teaching again next year, and I'm not sure if that's what I want for myself.

More to come....

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