Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hooray for the bathroom!

When I graduated from college I didn't expect that my degree would lead me to be sitting in the floor of a classroom bathroom coaxing a five year to use the toilet. I certainly didn't expect to be excited about it. But today after a few silly rounds of peek-a-boo with one of my friends I decided to suggest that we just go into the bathroom. You know, just to chill. Learn that it's not a scary place. Hang out. (because isn't that what we all want to do- hang out in a bathroom used by five year olds).
My friend was in such a good mood that he did it although he'd previously refused to go anywhere near the place.
Not only did he go into the bathroom but he came very, very close to actually using the bathroom. And he did this three times.
There was lots of clapping and hugging. And maybe some candy.
I never thought that I'd connect the bathroom with a Christmas miracle.


There are days I think I am earning an advanced degree in unsticking glue bottles. Today is one of those days.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elf on a shelf

Is anyone else a little bit horrified by Elf on a shelf? I'll admit- part of my horror is probably pure jealousy. My husband's aunt gave Little Lipstick a signed copy because the creator was a teacher at her school.
A teacher. I mean, it's exactly the type of thing one of us would create. Like my first year teaching when I convinced my first graders that the best April fool's day joke would be to whisper all day and if anyone asked why we'd say, "shhhh- don't wake the lion!" it made no sense but it gave me a very quiet, headache free day.

Elf on a shelf is brilliant from a marketing stand point. Once you've decided to try it as a parent you are stuck moving that elf every day in December until your little ones don't believe in Santa anymore. And if you're one of those creative parents whose elf gets involved in elaborate play scenes every night? You are stuck coming up with new elf shenanigans for years. But you can't not be an elf on a shelf family! What will your kids think? Santa loves the other kids more?
(we're going to tell baby lipstick that our family elf is a crotchety old elf who doesn't like to move a lot because of his hip replacement and just skypes with Santa instead of actually flying up there. The cold at the North Pole isn't good for his arthritis. I mean, in these modern times what elf actually needs to travel to the north pole?)

Baby L and I nestled in to read the book this morning as she grabbed at the red elf (which means our elf is already ruined. The book, in a very teacher like manner tells the kids that if they touch the elf he loses his magic. Brilliant.) and I was kind of horrified by the book. It's like the children's version of 1984. This large demanding boss makes his little worker drones fly around the world and spy on his subjects. He'll reward behavior he likes and punish those not acting appropriately. And that sneaky spy is hiding in your house. He's got friends in high places too, so don't mess up on the playground when you think the elf isn't around. Oh no. Big brother elf is all knowing. He's out there. Santa isn't limited by the constitution after all, and even if he was, the right to privacy is a sketchy one.
But don't think your elf is going to talk to you- Santa's laws don't allow for free speech. No, he's just going to talk about you behind your back like a middle school girl. Paranoid yet?

Of course, Mr Lipstick and I will do Elf on a Shelf and we'll probably even make the mistake of being those creative elf hiders the first year, sentencing ourselves to years of stressful December evenings. Because despite all the communist propaganda, as a kid I would have loved an elf and I bet little lipstick will too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Three ring circus

My classroom is very much a three ring circus in many ways. On good days it is a very smoothly run operation that would bore any circus goer to tears. In one corner children are quietly reading, in another a child might be transitioning from his wheel chair to his stander, on the rug a child might be quietly working on an assigned activity.
Today was not one of those days. Today I could have sold popcorn.
One girl was so wound up she kept running from the room, giggling manically and throwing books. Another child was in the hallway refusing to go anywhere. I caught another trying to feed the frog when no one was looking (and then he tried to tell me that Mrs Lipstick told him he could, looking shocked when I pointed out that I was Mrs Lipstick and knew very well that I'd told him no such thing)
And that was just in one five minute block. The rest of the day was like that. God bless the children who did their work as though flying books are normal. And Magical, who narrated the whole thing in case we didn't know what we were doing. (D just ran out of the room? Oh man. V won't come in? Oh boy. Mrs Lipstick is mad? Oh no!)


Magical is working on being independent with his self help skills. Every time he leaves the bathroom he asks for someone to button him back up without attempting to do it first. Today I told him that I would only help him if he tried it himself first.
"Myself?" he asked, as though I was teaching him a new word.
"Yes, yourself."
He began waving his hands around his button while still staring wide-eyed at me.
"Magical, look down," I coached, modeling looking down for him.
He immediately dropped his eyes and his mouth fell open in disbelief as he watched his fingers almost close the button. Every time he came close to snapping it he'd look up at me in excitement, causing his hands to fall away from the button.
"I'm doing it myself!" he cheered every time right before he lost it. He was giddy with the power of closing his own snaps, yet too giddy to actually close the deal. Baby steps. Today was the idea of looking at what we do. Maybe tomorrow we'll tackle looking the whole time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reason #327 I love my class

I was chatting with our librarian the other day and she mentioned that one of the reasons she loves my class is because it gives them a peer group. It's so true. Although we want them to be with their typical peers, no one can deny the power of being around people that truly 'get' you.
Yesterday while they were suppose to be decorating paper gingerbread men so we could count and graph the circles, triangles, and squares they each used, Magical and another friend were busy giggling with one another. From an outsider's perspective (outsider being anyone but the two of them) they were not making any sense at all. But they were having an intense back and forth conversation- something they are both working on. Without any adult prompts they were listening and responding to each other without changing the silly topic, and were having a ball doing it. Not all children "get" Magical. They may be nice, share and talk to him, but what I witnessed yesterday was true friendship. The kind of friendship where you get in trouble with the teacher because you both are so invested in the conversation that you forget to do your work.
At the end of the day I was walking one of my almost non-verbal students out to kiss and ride when we ran into another of my almost non-verbal students. Their eyes lit up when they spotted each other. There were hugs, cheers, hellos and more hugs even though they'd just seen each other forty minutes before.
I love my class.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brown Bear

One of the things I am loving about my new position is how much I get to learn. I am working with children with some significant needs and hopefully by the end of this year I will have a whole new skill set.
One of my students, Brown Bear (named after his favorite book) is a little boy with an intellectual disability. He is the younger brother of the Story Teller (if we had favorites the Story Teller would be one of mine, but of course we don't have favorites). Although I have worked with students with intellectual disabilities before I have never worked with anyone quite like him. His behavior is nothing like PJ's violent tantrums last year, but with PJ I felt like I knew what to do. I could see patterns in PJ's behavior and also knew how bright PJ was. His intelligence made his behavior somewhat predictable because we could anticipate what how he perceived the world. My new friend is different than that. We are not sure exactly what he understands and what he is confused about. When he breaks down in tears it is hard to figure out why. Is he over stimulated? Frustrated by a change in routine? Tired? Angry that he can't express his needs?
Sometimes we can put a finger on what motivates him and sometimes we are at a loss. It can be totally different motivators each time. What worked five minutes ago no longer works.

When he is happy his smile melts your heart. He has an uncanny ability to remember names and truly cares about the people in his environment. He loves physical touch and will cuddle up with you when given the chance. He can tell you all of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, exclaiming with glee on each page when a new animal appears.
I wish I knew more now to make a difference with him but I'm looking forward to learning more about how to reach him.
If anyone knows of any good books to read to learn about working with students with intellectual disabilities please let me know the titles!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

No baby love

During writing workshop Magical mentioned that he had a new couch and told me I would see it when (note not if, but when) I come to his house. I responded by telling him that I'd promised his mom that I would bring the baby over.
"Or maybe you don't bring her" he replied. "Don't bring the baby to my house. It will touch my things. You can come visit but you just leave the baby outside. By the door. But you can come in. Just show the baby to my mom and then leave it outside."
Nothing we said could change his mind- no baby is coming into his house.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's the little things

In the midst of trying to figure out what time which students were suppose to go where (it is going to take me awhile to get my head on straight) one of my little ones loudly announced,
"I am going to do it all by myself!"

I looked up, confused to what he was talking about, before I understood he meant the bathroom. He was going to go to the bathroom all by himself. This, I learned from my sub, was something they'd been working on.
We cheered to encourage him and watched as he strutted into the bathroom and shut the door- a sure sign that he fully intended to do this all by himself.
Moments later we heard the toilet flush and he proudly strutted out of the bathroom and announced to the class, "I did it!"

We cheered.

I love my job.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I survived my first day back from maternity leave, lack of sleep and all. It helps that my class is awesome and that they've made huge strides since I was last with them in August. Magical in particular is absolutely blossoming. There is a lot I've missed and a lot for me to catch up on, but I'm trying not to let it overwhelm me. A little bit each day...
It was odd, though, being in my classroom trying to figure out someone else's routines. What normally happens after snack? How do they transition to recess- sit on the carpet or just line up? It sounds like such small things but for children who are extremely sensitive to change these little routines are very important. I'll slowly start changing them to make them go the way I want them to, but I worry that too much too early on will cause a lot of unneeded distress and acting out.

The best part is having my own classroom again. I missed it so much the last 4 years- its so nice to be forming the community and routines again.

No matter how great a day it was.', however, I am utterly exhausted. I'll be lucky if I make it to 8:30 tonight.