Friday, February 5, 2010

Julio's first day

I jumped up and down when Julio left us in early November, and when he came back yesterday, I spent the afternoon in my classroom sobbing into my conference notes. The guidance counselor gave me a pitying look. "I'm so sorry," she said.

That ought to give you an idea of what I was in for.

After I dried my tears, though (I cry in fear of seven-year-olds and I am not ashamed to admit it!), I had to develop a plan. I didn't even have a chair for him, for Pete's sake. (FYI, my assistant principal phoned my classroom three times this morning looking for my class reading levels -- which, by the way, I personally handed to her last Wednesday -- but mysteriously did not find the time to say one word to me about Julio's reappearance. Nice, right?)

My students sit at tables, not individual desks, and I had already decided that being the fifth student stuck on the end of a table already crowded with four other students would be too overstimulating for him, so I set up an extra desk, facing the meeting area, so he would have a built-in spot. (That desk used to be William's old seat, but rather than becoming the throne of shame that I feared it might, it was so coveted among the rest of the class after William left that I finally repossessed it for myself. They're so on top of each other that everyone wanted that desk as an island of solitude to themselves, and everyone was jealous of Julio when they saw where he would be sitting.) I went digging through the closet in search of Julio's old books (some of which I had given away to other students but all of which I had at least had the foresight to keep rather than throw away like I wanted to). I rustled up a sticker chart and taped that sucker right to his desk. I took one of the rectangular prisms we use in math and taped index cards to three of its sides. One side says, "I am working. Everything is OK!" One side says, "I am upset. Please leave me alone." And one side says, "I have a problem. I would like to talk about it."

Just before lunch, Julio rotated the prism so the "problem" side was facing out. I went over to his seat.

"I want to eat lunch up here with you," he said. I considered it. I eyed his sticker chart, on which he had already earned one sticker for playing nicely during math game day.

"How about when you earn five stickers on your chart, instead of computer time, you get to have lunch with me?" I suggested. He nodded happily.

Was he a complete angel? No. He still can't sit still, or keep himself from making noise at inappropriate times, or keep to his own personal space on line. He's already gravitated towards friendships with some of my more unsavory students. At the very, very end of the day, when we were just about to put our coats on and escape into the weekend unscathed, he chose to jump up from his desk and do the macarena, to the amusement and delight of the rest of the class. He's obviously in his honeymoon period, testing the waters to see how much he can get away with before he snaps.

But it could have been worse. And at least, going forward, I have a plan.

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