Before the school year started, Ms. Halpert and I were warned (ominously, in some cases) about a group of our students, whose second grade teachers referred to them not-so-affectionately as the "magic five." Considering I used to teach in a classroom where a "problem behavior" was throwing chairs, I was prepared for anything. I was prepared for war.
But actually? They're not that bad. Are they irritating? Yes. Are they impulsive? Yes. Are they lacking in self-control and the ability to sit still during a lesson? Yes and yes. But are they throwing chairs? No.
I expressed this to a colleague of mine, and she rolled her eyes. "Some teachers here have never taught anywhere else," she said in a low voice. "You've definitely seen worse."
Is it the neighborhood? Maybe. Is it the attitude projected by the administration? Possibly. But the impression I get is that, whatever the cause, my new school's "worst kids" don't hold a candle to the worst kids as P.S. Throwing Chairs.
Speaking of which, I received an e-mail from a colleague of mine at my former school, who now has the infamous Julio in her self-contained special education class. She wrote:
We're working on relaxation techniques and developing him into a good leader. he is so kind to the other kids, he loves helping them and me. On the second day of school, Julio said to me, "Ms. J, I really like being in the small class. I was nervous at first but now I'm not. When I used to be in a big class, I used to get frustrated." He's doing REALLY well! Thanks for caring so much about him, he tells me that some of the things I do for him are what you used to do. He won't forget you.
Not to be all full of it, but: I credit myself for finally convincing Julio's mother, after years and years of guidance counselors and teachers all telling her the same thing, that a self-contained class was where Julio would thrive. And if I can help reform that kid, I can certainly reform the magic five.
Isn't it so crazy how "bad behavior" at one school isn't even close to what's going on at another. At my new school, I had several people including the AP tell me that I had some of the worst kids in the school in my class and to "watch them." I was picturing being cursed out, writing center knocked over, and peeing in the corner on purpose. This is actually not the case AT ALL. My "problem" students are just kids with low self-esteem and low academic motivation who get distracted. No cursing, no destruction of classroom furniture, and no pee. Nothing a little extended day attention can't help.
I'm so glad that Julio is in a better environment for him. Kudos to you for staying on it; Bronx cheer to your former admins for not making it higher priority.
I used to go over my classroom routines, called 'Reminders' EVERY time we went to the rug in my Pre-K room. The kids knew the 'reminders so well by Dec, they were trained and said them to me. Listen with your ears, and see with your eyes. Use your words, raise your hand, hands and feet to yourself. They knew and they behaved.
If they used their hands or feet, major thinking, sit and watch time, as I called it. I never use the word, 'time out'
I'm so glad Julio is doing well and you should take credit for his adhustment and placement in this class. I had a child in my general ed. kindergarten class two years ago who was so misplaced and disruptive, and displayed such bizarre and dangerous behavior, i literally counted the hours, not the days, until the end of the year, praying there would be no major safety issues. Needless to say this child learned nothing and the other twenty-four students suffered immensely (in eight years, I never saw less academic growth). It took half the year fighting the administration to even start a referral, a few more months to gather the needed paperwork, and a couple more months of waiting, only to have the child's caregiver scream at me when called for the CSE meeting in June. The child spent the beginning of the following year in a charter school (which she was counseled out of) and then was back with a 1-on-1 para who basically just chased her around the school building. Finally, in 2nd grade, she is in a self-contained class with 12 children and 4 adults and is actually learning, and nothing could make me happier. This only confirms to me that, yes, every child CAN learn...but too many are in the incorrect setting without the resources they need to succeed.
I'm so glad for Julio too, it's better this way!
Where are you?
Are you okay? Please blog soon! You are a wonderful descriptive writer who paints a picture with words better than I could ever dream. You make me laugh, too. Please, Pleeaassee, PLEASE write soon!
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