Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"You should start a blog..."

Because I need something else to do with my time, right? Here's the deal...
I've been teaching for 10 years.  Along with a host of other things that I'm sure will spill in over time, teaching defines who I am as a person.  I love what I do.

Two weeks ago, I started a new position in a Special Ed class.  6 kids, 3 TA's, and me.  Sounds like a pretty good kid-adult ratio, right? Wrong.  My class is officially labelled "ASD/DD", which stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmentally Delayed. It means all of my kids have been identified with both of those hefty coathanger labels. Now, I'm no stranger to Special Ed... I spent two amazing years in a class for students with various learning disabilities, and another three years doing support for kids in regular classrooms, everything from behaviour to learning disabilities to gifted. I've had students with autism in my class before, and I've been teaching long enough to know that a class like mine isn't usually where you land by choice. I did. In fact, I gave up being the school librarian - a post most coveted and rare, and one that I loved dearly. I wanted this class. I had big plans.

I spent the last two weeks of August frantically gutting two classrooms - one for work, and one for larger, active play.  I cut, copied, laminated and postered.  I sorted picture symbols and colour-coded visual schedules, put together learning activities, and made transition books for the kids.  I enlisted my husband, sister, parents and anyone else I could find to help, and when the first day finally arrived, I felt ready. The first 4 days were a dream... the kids were happy and compliant, the programs seemed to be working, and I was giddy with my apparent success. The kids entered gradually, a few each day, until I finally had all 6 in the room on Thursday. Plus a visit from the board office resource staff. Which went well. Yay me.

First week Friday, all hell broke loose. Tantrums, behaviours, you name it.  At the end of the day, waiting for the bus outside, one of my kids reached up and pinched a baby in a mother's arms as they passed by. In a second.  Screaming infant, angry and confused mother, who didn't speak any English.  Swarms of people crowding around trying to "help", but only adding to the mother's fright and confusion.  Four of my kids still milling around, waiting for their busses, and not being helped at all by the confusion around them.  The pincher, who has already forgotten what happened, is still trying to touch the baby.  She LIKES babies, wanted to play with it. Try explaining that to the poor mother with the screaming infant. In the crowd. With the kids still in close proximity, and being yelled at for the bad behaviour, which has already been forgotten.

I cried in my principals office, explaining what had happened.  I cried when I finally got into my car, at 5:45 and almost late to get my own daughter from daycare.  I cried on the phone to my sister, leaving an angry message about changed plans for the following day that I just didn't have the strength to deal with.  And when I finally made it home, I sobbed on the couch for 15 minutes, leaving a big wet spot on the blue microfibre and proclaiming to my husband that I thought I had made a very serious mistake.

Week two arrived, dragging me kicking and screaming out of a blissfully busy weekend during which I had almost forgotten the horror of Friday. In no particular order, week 2 brought heaps more tantrums, several loads of laundry as we tried frantically to keep up with changing the kids, three pairs of broken glasses, 5 destroyed books, 2 punctured (chewed!) balls, one frantic chase through the soccer field, 3 parent pickups, 6 bus mixups, 4 frantic and increasingly frustrated calls to the trasportation department, a day where I completely forgot to send any communication books home, and one very unpleasant incident involving feces, laundry, mopping, rubber gloves, and another parent call to please come and pick your child up because he needs a shower and there's no way we can give him one here.. You can't make this stuff up.  My ever-patient husband, when I finally made it home on Friday, conforted me warmly and then joked "You should start a blog."

And here we are.  For better or worse, I am The Teacher in Room 10. More on that next time. Also more on:

a) Why my kids are amazing!
b) Stuff that went RIGHT - because despite the above tirade, there were some great moments!
c) My sensory/Sneozelen room project, for those that are following the project and want to know.

As a final thought: today was awesome. Nothing major went wrong, and everyone left the school happy.  Even me.  That chalks up as a good day. :)


  1. ROUGH! I can't even imagine. Hang in there, the greatest rewards come from the hardest times. Thank God for great spouses :)

  2. Nice Blog... the trick is to keep it up. This year, I asked for Special Ed as well, along with a different assignment from a regular class. Diagnostic Kindergarten Gym and music are part of my afternoons.
    It's not a punishment, as some of my colleagues think, but more of an experience.
    Keep up the blog!

  3. As an ASD parent, I am thankful for teachers who "ask" to be placed with these little blessings. Thank you. Keep up the good work and you are appreciated!

  4. As an ASD mom, I am also thankful for people like you that take on the challenge of a child like mine. My child has a wonderful teacher and 2 aides in her ASD/DD class- they have the patience of a saint and work magic with my child and the 5 others in the room. I have been impressed with them even on the worst day my child had at school. It is nice to hear their perspective through your voice. Please keep posting.

  5. And yet all some parents can do is fine fault in the staff,not knowing how hard it is on staff.I have seen staff buy students Easter baskets,Xmas gifts and most parents don't even say thank-you really !!! some parents refuse to send supplise like diapers,wipes or tissues not even lysol wipes just expect the staff to provide these items. What really kill me is when parents get upset when school is out only because they don't want to deal w/their own child.I have heard 1st hand how rude parents can be as if the staff is the reason they can't control their child or expect the staff to change their school age child diaper even potty train them. And if they dare to be honest with parents they just threaten to file a law sued and cry about a iep when the fact is you can put whatever you want in a iep if the parents-caregiver don't do their part it will not work rather staff is train or not plus the iep is voided all weekends,school breaks,summer. Parents need to be held as respondable as they hold the school and staff.

  6. I've been reading Autism Daddy's blog on loving it but it's nice to hear it from a teacher's perspective too. Had to laugh at your description of week 2 - sounds like a typical week in my class. I'm a special ed teacher in Australia. Just started my second year teaching and have been in special ed from the start. Loving it.

  7. thank you both, i too clicked the link from Autism Daddy's site to here and so glad i did!! i am the granma of Isaac, who unfortunately has ended up in foster care and a group home no less!! i am trying to get him and CPS is so busy here,, i feel so frustrated not to even have my first visit yet!! and now a new school for him.. poor guy.. thanks for sharing and reminding me how special these children are!!

  8. Thanks to all of you! I can't believe this was almost a year ago already, and even after re-reading this, I'm excited for the new year to start! Thanks for the comments and support!

  9. It's teachers like you that help kids like mine. My son was recently put in an ASD/DD class. And has thrived!! Thank you for all you do and all you have done and continue to do!!