I told you so.

I've been saying it for a year and a half now... if we don't do something about Ricky, he's going to put a kid in the hospital. I said those exact words as recently as this Monday infact, but no one listens to the teacher because no one else has any answers, and since avoiding problems usually works, that seems to be the tactic that has until today been taken with Ricky. Today, Ricky attacked a kid so bad that he had to be sent to the hospital.

Unprovolked, Ricky attacked a messenger from another class in the eye, repeatedly until I was able to pry them apart. I want to make it known that this is not the type of moment when I feel like screaming "I told you so!", but then I know that I've been telling the Child Study Team, the schools part-time psychologist, Rickys case manager, the administration and his parents for months that Jay was a danger, and then he brought a knife to school... and today, Ricky hurt a kid so bad he was sent to the hospital to get the skin around his eye sewn back on.

I am not going to add any commentary or anything... but I am posting the incident report that accompanied the attack... as always, I changed names, but all the events are the same. I guess I could talk about the situation for a long time, I have a lot of theories as to whhy Ricky did all of this so unprovolked...

Incident Report

Students involved: B.J.

Date: March 30, 2007

Location: Room 4-- Time : 1:45pm

Reporting teacher: Ms. G----------


Soon after lunch time there was a knock on the classroom door. I answered the door and let B.J. in the room to deliver a note from his teacher, Ms. J. J------. B.J. stood and waited for me to reply to the letter and began talking to one of my students, Tyler . At that time S------ made a comment to B.J. that I did not hear, but noticed that it upset him. My tudents were asking him about a fight that he had gotten into a few days prior. They wanted to hear the "details", but B.J. didn't want to talk about it. S----- and B.J. started to play fight, but not physically because they were not close enough. I asked S---- to be seated, but at that time he made a move as if to attack B.J. , and then the situation became more loud.

At this time, Ricky became very upset and stood up from his seat at the back of the room. He quickly ran towards B.J. , knocking over desks on his way. Ricky approached B.J. from behind, grabbing both of his shoulders and turning B.J.s body towards him, but B.J. automatically grabbed at Ricky, grasping at his shirt. At this point Ricky yelled "Get the fuck off my shirt, man" and started to physically attack B.J. Ricardo repeatedly punched Brandon in the head and face as Ms. C---- and I tried talked to the boys and tried to separate them.

B.J. was trying to cover his head at the same time as he refused to let go of Ricky’s shirt. It was as if B.J. froze, he seemed to be unable to let go of the shirt. However, Ricky refused to stop punching until B.J. would let go of him. I was standing behind Ricky, holding his shoulders, trying to keep him as far away from B.J. as possible, and although he was unable to make full contact with his punches, each time he swung he was hitting B.J. in the face and head.

I counted to three and called “break,” (a tactic I always use in my classroom to break up fights), but B.J. did not let go, so even though Ricky stopped punching for a few seconds, he continued once he saw that B.J. was not following the rules of a "break." Ricky began punching again, yelling for B.J. to let go of his shirt, repeatedly hitting B.J. in the right eye, because the rest of B.J.s face was mostly blocked by the way he was crouched holding himself as far away from Ricky as possible without letting go of his shirt. I was then able to pry Ricky’s shirt out of B.J’s hand, and as soon as Brandon felt that he had been "released," and he ran out of the classroom. I could see that B.J. had been seriously injured, as blood was already running into his hands as he covered his eye and ran down the hallway.

I worked to calm my class as they set the chairs straight. Ricky told the class that he was glad that he had punched him and wished that he had hurt him worse for pulling on his shirt and makin it wrinkled. Ricky then went right back to his seat to do his work, very casually, as if nothing had happened. When I asked him whey he attacked B.J. , he said that it was because he had pulled on his shirt, but then realized that the fight started before that and did not answer any other questions. I did not call security because I felt that anything that might have set Ricky off more would have put B.J. and possibly other children in the classroom in more danger. I instead waited for security to come to my room realizing that B.J. would return to his classroom and get help from there.

About 5 minutes after the end of the incident the building principal came to my classroom and pulled Ricky out.

Besides what is written there the only other information I have (that is not my long winded rants about behavior mods and discipline and theraputic programs that are needed but not in place, and the ways that we are putting young minority boys into situations where they will doubtlessly fail because we are setting them up for prison instead of productive life, etc...) is that the nurse called BJs mom to pick him up to take him straight to the ER. She said that she couldn't get the bleeding in his right eye to stop, and that she wasn't sure what they could do as far as sewing him up because it was all so close to his eye. As for Ricky, he had 3 cuts on his nuckles from punching, and his knuckles were about twice the size they should be from swelling, his middle knuckle was turning black and blue from hitting so hard. He had band-aides and an ice pack, and was extremely calm when I picked him up from the nurse to take him to his bus. Most of the incident he couldn't recall. I think that he "blacked out"... he has always said that when he gets angry all he can see is blackness.

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Standardized Testing Take 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

Today was the last day of NJASK... Finally! I was testing Mon-Wed of last week for my 6th grade students, and then all week this week for 4th grade and I am just HAPPY that if is finally over!

My students have been so stressed out, and so thrown off balance from all of this that I think even they are hoping for things to go back to normal. My 6th graders haven't seen me in the morning all week, and although I give them work that is aligned with our daily routines, we all know that it just hasn't been the same. We will all be very happy to get back to our regular schedules.

I guess that is all that I have to say for now. Yesterday I was so angry that I couldn't get myself to write about testing, and today I am trying not to get angry, so I think I will just end my ramblings here. (well, one more thing I guess, to end on a positive note...) I must admit that I was slightly less frustrated by the questions and the set-up for the 4th grade tests than I felt about the 6th grade NJASK, but I still think that high stakes tests can never tell us all the miraculous things that they need to in order to ensure that "no child is left behind"...

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Manifestation Determination and more...

This is an update about Jay...

Last Wednesday Jay was taken in hand-cuffs by the police down to the police station. There they decided that all charges were pending depending on the parent's next steps. His group therapist for whom he attends therapy 5 days a week, reccommended that he go directly to the ER. Mom followed through and Jay was admitted to the hospital where he had been until today when he was discharged.

The behavior analysis that was done of Jay diagnosed him as emotionally disturbed, ADHD, having post-tramatic stress disorder (PTSD), and having behavior disability.

I learned all of this at a Manifestation Determination meeting. These meetings are held anytime there is a student who needs to be suspended more than 2 times in a school year for a period exceeding 10 days. Jay had already been suspended twice this year, before the knife incident. It is assumed that anytime there is a student in a situation where they need to be suspended that much, they may be in the wrong setting, or their individualized education is being comprimised. I have been saying for months now that this is the wrong setting for Jay. He needs a more theraputic componant, with a more restrictive environment, year-round schooling, and possibly a personal aide. No one listened until now, until there was a serious possibility that someone was going to get hurt. I guess the good thing is that something is finally being done, and luckily no one did get hurt.

Anyway, at the Manifestation Determination I was able to officially request a new placement for Jay, that had the signatures of the case manager and his school psychologist from last year-- so basically that means that I had some backing behind my reccomendations.

During ths meeting I was paged to the main office by the principal. I let them know I was busy, but they still requested that I come down to speak with the principal immediately after the meeting was over. When I got down there she told me that she would be providing coverage for me for the afternoon and that I should be prepared to attend the Superintendants Hearing that would be happening to discuss and determine next steps regarding Jay's incident. This was a little shocking, but I did what I needed to do to prepare things for my students to have work to do without me in the afternoon, and then rushed over to attend the meeting.

[I did really good. I know my kids, their classifications, their IEPs in and out, (afterall, I am the main author of these IEPs) and so any question they had about anything having to do with Jay in school I had covered. After the meeting the Vice-Superintendant pulled me to the side to tell me that she was impressed with my handling of the meeting. My principal took the opportunity to show me off, "and she's only a second-year teacher" and I was then invited to a upcoming principals meeting with a focus on Special Education.]

Anyway, back to the important thing... Jay. It was determined that he was going to be suspended for an additional 5 days, during which time he will be admitted into school to do the standardized testing. I interviened at this time, saying that for his safety, and that of my other students, it may not be a good idea to put him back into my classroom this soon. Jay's mother agreed, and we made alternate arrangements for him to test at another of the public schools nearby. (I don't want to go on too much about this testing situation, because I think testing is stupid.) Then Jay has a 45 day interim education program. He has the option of attending a day-program provided by a hospital in Union, a nearby suburb of Newark, or to have in-home one-on-one instruction. After the 45 days, Jay's new IEP will take effect, and he should be placed into a new program that will better suit his needs.

I think those are pretty much all the updates I have about the Jay thing... I think most of my concerns were addressed in the Hearing. Jay's mom brought a legal advocate, which was a little intimidating. The advocate seemed to be attacking me left and right, but I felt reassured by the end of the meeting that I did do the right thing durint the incident, and also throughout the past year and a half when I have had Jay as a student. I was able to show that I have been following through wth all behavior modification plans, been in contact with his therapist, have reached out to his mother, and have put forth all efforts on my part to try to ensure the best environment for Jay.

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Standardized Testing Take 1

Today was the final day of NJASK6.

Monday went well, it was a 2 part literacy selection. The first segment was a persuasive writing piece, which I must say that my kids kicked ass on... then a reading selection- informational text followed by multiple choice and open-ended questions. My kids weren't rockin' that quite to the same extreme, but considering it was a 6th grade selection, and my students are performing at about a 3.5 grade level, they did pretty well, if I do say-so myself. Overall time testing was about 135 minutes, with one break in the middle. I was so proud I wanted to cry.

Tuesday began the excruciating painfulness of the testing experience... a 3 part literacy selection; first reading, then another persuasive writing piece, then reading again. Total testing time was 225 min with 2 breaks in between. HELL. The first reading piece went okay, again, their levels are much lower then the reading they are required to do, but overall they used the strategies they have been learning all year, and did their best. By the time they got to the writing prompt they had used up every last ounce of energy they had left on focusing to read something way over their heads and began to feel frustrated. Still, they did well, and wrote convincing essays to the hypothetical principal who is continually infringing on their rights. (Inevitably this is the topic of every persuasive writing piece any child in New Jersey is required to write for any and all state assessments.) Then, when we had to return to the reading selection, which was no doubt racist and slanted, they lost control. Jerry began peeling off tiny slivers of paper from his test book to ball up and throw at Ray. Of course Ray was so busy telling the new kid that his momma was a "crack-baby" that he couldn't figure out what kept hitting him in the back of the head. I ended up having to have the principal come up and help babysit for the last 50 minutes of that testing round.

[I have to put in just a quick blurb about the how unfair these test are... 1. my special ed students are asked to perform just as well as their regular ed peers on the same test, even though they are classified because they are unable to perform on grade-level. 2. These high-staked tests are long, and unbearable even for people with a lot of patience, like myself. 3. These tests are manufactured to put white suburban kids at an advantage, and I refuse to back down from that position. For example... in the reading piece about a mountain climber, when they described how the climber felt, there was a quote that read, "I'm psyched" and a footnote that described that "psyched" is a term used to describe a feeling of excitement. This was the only footnote used in the text. My students use the word "psyched" all the time. They are always "psyched" about something. However, my students have never seen a mountain. They have never been climbing, or even seen a climbing wall because they have never left Newark, NJ. My students have never seen a harness, or even heard of one, let alone a clamp or a caribeaner, or any other tool that is used for climbing, yet they are supposed to "infer from the text" what all those things are when the little white 6th grader sitting up in Suburban Elite White School gets a definition for the word "psyched"? The tests are unfair. 4. there are 10 billion better ways to test student growth and school achievement, but standardized testing is not one of them.]

Then there was today; the math section. 213 minutes worth of testing broken into 3 sections that get progressively harder. From the start my students were dragging. They were not happy about a third day of testing, and overwhelmingly aware that they had missed their specials classes (art, gym, etc) for 2 days now. Needless to say, they were very unhappy about the circumstances, couldn't focus on the test, and did not do their best. This was not because they didn't know how to do the math, or at least most of the math, but rather because they were stressed and frustrated, and tired of testing.

I hated today. I was so exhausted I wanted to cry. I am glad it is over. I am glad that I get to go back to teaching tomorrow rather than being a "chief examiner" for a test I don't believe in and happen to have moral qualms about. I am proud that my kids made it through these last few painful days, and even though I can honestly say they didn't do their best today, I think that I can also honestly say that considering what this testing is, they DID do their best for the unrealistic expectations put forth by the state.

I am a teacher that refuses to lower my expectations for my students, but when I set those expectations, I always set them making sure that I am not setting up my students to fail. I think that No Child Left Behind, and the States seriously need to think about what they are doing when they set forth unrealistic goals for students who could succeed if we would just give them the chance.

I have 2 days of being a teacher again and then I have to go back to "Chief examiner" for next week, when we will be testing Monday - Friday for NJASk4&5, so I will undoubtedly be back on this thing ranting about the horrible tests they force me to administer.

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Jay's got a Knife

Today started just like every other day this week- hell. I was late because the lady I drive to work in the mornings was late, so when she’s late to meet me, I’m late to get to work. Lucky for me, the snow caused everything to be running late, so the buses were, of course, late. As my students started trickling in, I could tell that the walk through Little Bricks last night to talk to Nadia’s grandma had been worth my time. She was going to have a good day. Tyler was going to do her best, Jack was going to need a little refocusing, Sean was a hellian and Ricky was not feeling well, and in his own words “just not in the mood.” Jerry didn’t show when his bus got here, and Tally wasn’t in yet either. Jay was, like usual, trying his hardest to have a conflict with anyone that would drop their guard just for a second.

I noticed immediately that Jay was up to something. He was acting sneaky. He was pulling our newest student Jack over to the side to make an ally. My aide noticed something was up to when Jack said to her “I’m not getting involved with all that,” but then refused to say what “all that” was. I saw Jay slide something into his desk, and huddled other students around him to show what was going on. At this point, I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss about anything, I needed to find out what was going on.

Without actually knowing what was happening, I started to write up the incident report. I didn’t know what was going on, but it didn’t feel right, Jay was disrupting the learning in the classroom, wouldn’t do his work, couldn’t stay seated, and wasn’t his usual talk-back self. He was a whisperer. Quiet and sly. As I sat at my desk, filling out the form when Ray quickly came to my desk, almost looking away from me and said in a low, timid voice, “Ms. G, Jay’s got a knife. I think he’s gonna’ use it,” and then walked away as if he hadn’t said a word. I knew immediately that Ray was right. I wrote it into the incident report, and tried my best to keep the rest of the class calm. By this point most of them had seen the weapon, and now that Jay knew he was busted, all he was focused on was finding out who the “snitch” was. He walked around the room cursing at all the new students, he yelled at Nadia, “I’m gonna’ put you in stitches, just like them bitches!” I told my aide what was going on and had her walk Jay to the main office.

When they were gone my students started talking. Jay also had a fake gun (very realistic) in his desk. He told the others that he brought it to threaten Jerry. I was just thankful that Jerry wasn’t here today. I had the fake gun sent to the office. The police came and searched Jay to find that he not only had the fake gun, but he also had a 5 inch switch blade open in his pants pocket, and an empty clip from a real pistol. The police arrested him, took him out to their car in handcuffs. The most the school can do apparently is a 4 day suspension. (This can't actually be possible, right? Four days is just enough time to stew over the events that happened and want to really hurt someone...)

They will probably have a hearing to see what else they can do, because through the whole thing Jay was threatening people, and continued to say that he was just trying to protect himself. Jay’s mom said that the blade came from her fiancé, and that last night it was on the bed, and then they couldn’t find it this morning. Since Jay claimed that Jerry had been the one he was after, and then continued to insist that he Jerry had threatened him first, he will be searched each morning before he is admitted to class.

That's all I have to say right now...

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I hate my job...

Incase any of you were wondering... I hate my job. I hate that I have a practically new set of kids and almost nothing to work with. I hate that my students don't want to learn anymore, and I hate all the bueracratic BS that makes it so that all the BD kids in the district are being shuffled into my classroom at the same time. I hate that I had an observation today, and that I didn't get to teach any of my academic lessons because behavior was so bad. I hate that I have to send home nightly behavior reports, and I hate myself for not having the energy to call parents tonight.

I hate that I don't feel stable enough to get my life back in control, and that I am getting myself so upset about school that I haven't really been dealing with my personal issues for the past few months. Mostly though, today I just hate my job.

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