Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The wrong stuff

Samantha: "Mr. M was juggling, and all of the class was laughing!"
Alejandro: "Mr. M is so funny."
Miss Brave: "Is he funnier than Miss Brave?"
Alejandro: "Yeah! You're not funny!"

* * *

I have 18 classes to plan for, and the one that confounds me the most is my self-contained special ed kindergarten.

There are 12 students. Six of them are non-verbal, or at least not communicatively verbal (like, they'll recite the script of this morning's SpongeBob episode, but they can't tell you what they did this weekend). Three of them are still not progressing to representational drawing; give them a pencil and they'll just scribble on the paper.

Steven sprawls himself out on the carpet and rolls around; he frequently ends up crawling under the table and curling up in a ball. Antony roams around the classroom touching everything while the other students yell out, "Look at Antony! Look at Antony!" Emile and Jesus -- along with Steven and Antony -- are in their own worlds that come complete with their own sound effects: humming, tapping, scripting. And because a lot of the students mimic what they hear their teachers say, anyone who is acting out is met with a lot of stern voices from the other students -- because the ones who are verbal are very verbal and they all think they're in charge. "Antony! Zip it!" "Justine! Stop calling out!"

There are two paraprofessionals in the room, and today they both left to go change a boy's diaper, and that left me alone with the eleven kids. Remember the time I was alone in the auditorium with the 120 first graders? This was worse than that. Everyone was on their worst behavior -- including Miss Brave, who thought she was about to have a nervous breakdown.

I'm so frustrated by that class because every time I'm in there I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Number one, the para and I have very different styles. I can say, "Steven, sit up!" from across the room until I'm blue in the face, but the bottom line is, Steven's not going to hear me. Unfortunately, I can't be in twelve places at once, so that makes it kind of difficult to attend to everyone's needs.

Number two, does this class really need an extra period of writing on top of its regular writing period -- twice a week?! From a teacher who doesn't have a special education license? In her first year of teaching? I feel strongly that these aren't kids who are "behind," who need to have extra information poured into them so they can "catch up." These are kids who learn differently, and I freely admit that I am at a loss as how to teach them. Especially because I do only see them twice a week, and their needs are so differentiated -- Jamie can write a three-page story, complete with sentences, whereas Cody still won't even trace his name, let alone draw a picture. And even one-on-one attention isn't always what it's cracked up to be; I spent a long time sitting next to Jesus today, and I spent most of it trying to get him just to look at me. Steven stunned me by immediately getting to work drawing a full-fledged person (he used to just scribble; then all he would draw was SpongeBob and Patrick) and labeling it "me"...and then he spent the rest of the period writhing and squirming on the floor with his head in his hands, an issue I had trouble addressing because I was busy trying to make sure Antony didn't destroy the rest of the classroom.

I love those kids, I do. But I have no idea how to help them.

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