Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sweet sixteen

Well, it's been an eventful few days. First Julio had a meltdown of unprecedented proportions, in which he hurled an art project constructed from wooden blocks halfway across the room, then picked up the broken pieces and began smashing them to the floor, screaming incomprehensibly. This was literally ten minutes before the end of the school day, and I had an obligation to leave right when school was over, so I stayed just long enough to notify my assistant principal and hear her standard "Write it up as an anecdotal, call his mother and tell the guidance counselor" line. God forbid he had thrown those blocks toward us instead of away from us, and we'd be all be looking at concussions.

Meanwhile, Julio has spent a lot of his time lately insisting that he is "dumb" and "stupid," which is probably the source of all the rage simmering underneath the surface, so...this is a child in crisis, and I cannot for the life of me get anybody to care. I love our guidance counselor, but she is extraordinarily overworked as it is and she seems to spend most of her day running around the building putting out fires and dealing with immediate emergencies. (Ironically, her office is directly across the hall from my classroom, but naturally she wasn't in it when Julio threw the blocks.) My assistant principal is an intelligent, competent administrator, but she seems more interested in how things look on paper. And all over the school there is a chain reaction of middlemen, from the IEP coordinator to the social worker to the guidance counselor, when what we really need is a direct line for emergency situations.

That night, Julio put on a pint-sized superstar performance at the school talent show, and the next day, he didn't show up for school. Obviously he had some recuperating to do. All this time I've been thinking he's an emotionally disturbed child with untreated ADD, but maybe he's just preparing for his future as a rock star!

Sixteen more days, sixteen more days...

And what are we going to be doing with our time in those sixteen days? Not doing any quality teaching, that's for sure! No, we're administering a final round of reading assessments. Back at the beginning of the school year, we started these new assessments that took us two months to complete, and that was with a push-in AIS teacher helping us. Now, we have sixteen days of school left and no push-in AIS teacher, so this is going to get done how...? It's not going to have any impact on report card grades, because those are due before we'll finish. We never looked at our original set of data from September or used it to drive our reading instruction in any way, so I have no idea what this round is supposed to measure or accomplish. All I know is that it means I have students reading at fantastically high levels that I never encountered when I was in AIS (my highest reader is a P, or end of third grade), but I won't get to meet with them for guided reading or small group instruction because I'll be busy assessing whether my students know how to read pairs of rhyming words.

In other news, today in read aloud we were up to the chapter of Charlotte's Web where Charlotte dies. I think I almost cried a little in front of my whole class. Even though we had been preparing for Charlotte's death for a while now (and most of the kids have already encountered the movie, so the cat was out of the bag), they still seemed faintly stunned that it had actually happened. I don't think they're enjoying this book as much as they did James and the Giant Peach, because it's not as outrageously funny, but I think it has such rich messages about friendship and loyalty and duty and growing up (they loved the parts where Fern is itching to go off and ride the Ferris wheel with Henry Fussy). Today, in another attempt to move past the vocabulary of "sad," I talked about the word "grief" and how grief is deeper than sadness, like what you feel when someone close to you dies. "You might be sad if you lose your favorite toy," I said, "but you wouldn't feel grief." So we talked about how Wilbur is grieving for Charlotte, and Ashima, who joined my class when she moved to the United States from Nepal in November, raised her hand and said, "That reminds me of James and the Giant Peach when James' parents died." Yay! There's nothing like a good literary connection to warm an embittered teacher's blackened, shriveled heart.


Capt. Schmoe said...

A blackened, shriveled heart? Nay Miss Brave, nay. If your heart were shriveled and blackened, your thoughts and words would not be seen here.

Sadly, Julio is likely destined to slip through the system, partly due to his mother's denial, partly due to the nature of the system.

It is also likely that Julio will eventually hurt someone and then become part of another system.

Is it fate? Is it his destiny? I don't know. I do know that you have given a great effort and if he does succeed, it will due to efforts such as yours.

Sixteen days, a cakewalk for you.

ASTRA REED said...

Yea true what you have written in your blog yes this is a duty of the teacher to guide the students and teacher plays every vital role in the life of students...

Ann T. said...

Dear Miss Brave,
I echo Captain Schmoe in every word. You are magnificent. I know your heart is not blackened and embittered, only singed by heart burnings. You need rest and renewal.

I will send good thoughts your way,
and for Julio too,
Ann T.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I've suggested to you before or not, but there's a book called "Sammy and His Behavior Problems" that would be an interesting read for you. You might curse me for not suggesting it earlier, but it's applicable for all levels of disruptive behavior, and, should you ever be rewarded with a Julio again, you will have some new ways to approach managing him and your room. I am halfway through the book, and although I've never had a student like Julio, I feel I will be able to institute some of the ideas next year regardless.

Anonymous said...

I have Julio right now, as a 7th grader, and I beg you not to give up on your efforts to get him the help that you know he needs. Because now, he still crawls around on the floor, and sings and dances in class and makes jokes and distracts the other kids. He hasn't made it through my entire class without getting kicked out in about a month. And I REALLY wish that a mental-health professional had begun treating his behavior 5 years ago. Wishing you all the best,