Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November 4 and I already missed a day.....

I missed blogging yesterday because we got home minutes before midnight after going to see a showing of "If/Then" at the Paramount. I was going to squeeze in a post, but my son took over my computer looking at other shows we could potentially see. That's what happens after you see a live just want more! Not only did we score an amazing deal on tickets, but we were able to share two of them with a mom and daughter I know from a Facebook group, and we took some of Harrison's friends - one of whom is obsessed with Idina Menzel, the show's star, and was sobbing when she got to meet her after the show! We loitered around the stage door until the actors came out and they were all so nice, taking time to sign programs, talk to fans, and pose for selfies. It was so much fun - especially watching the kids interact with the actors. So, I missed blogging but I was busy creating memories and taking grainy photos with my cell phone.

Today at work we had a meeting with a "coach" (a teacher who teaches teachers - yes, it's a thing) and it turned into a conundrum of how to best serve our kids with our limited resources and time. I guess that's the age-old story of teaching. But we're paraeducators....we make pennies compared to teachers and we're expected to do so much. We all take work home with us, and there's never enough time. My group that meets just before the meeting is scheduled until 11:25. The meeting is at 11:30. In between that time I had to clean up (huge vocabulary/picture card project spread all over my table), put my things away, gather my things for the next class, grab my lunch, and try to find a second to pee. Of course, there wasn't a second, and I was the last person to arrive at the meeting - again. But a girl's gotta pee. It's crazy how fast we have to move all day between groups and we're often frazzled. This morning, my husband mentioned he was reading a book - at WORK! I said "You have time to read books for personal enrichment while you're on the job??" to which he replied "It's for work." Wow. I can't even pee at work and he gets to READ? Sometimes, he complains that I haven't checked my email or replied to a text - LOL! All of my electronic correspondence happens AFTER I get off work, which often isn't when I'm really supposed to be off work.

Case in point: I've stayed late every day this week, did a special project for two hours yesterday, and today was one of my twice-weekly appointments for home tutoring. I go to a student's apartment and teach him at home. This child is in a wheelchair, on a tracheotomy tube, cannot speak, has vision issues, has cancer, and suffered a catastrophic brain bleed. I was asked to be his home tutor because I can speak Spanish, therefore, I can communicate with his parents. That's my only qualification and I received no training. But I've worked in special ed a bit, so I felt comfortable giving it a try. I pretty much make up things for him to do that might be enriching or give us information on what kind of learning goals he might have. Chances are, when he returns to school, which might be very soon, he won't attend our school because we don't have the necessary ways to accommodate him, physically. Right now, I'm his only "teacher" and I'm doing my best. It's not easy and the whole situation is sad. Working with him is slow and tedious and today both his father and his nurse sat and watched me the whole time. I felt like I was performing. But I ignored them and kept going, focusing on my goals - to try to keep his brain engaged and challenge him. He's a smart kid! But I have very few materials that are helpful for success. As in my regular job, I make up a lot of it as I go and I get creative.

But........I'm grateful to have a job that allows me to work with kids and to teach. I love that. And I'm lucky to work with some pretty amazing, smart and creative people. But it's really frustrating sometimes, working in public education. It often feels futile. All the data collecting, the "measurable progress", the strict guidelines we must follow to qualify a child for extra help, even when it's been apparent for YEARS that they really need it. It's crazy, really. But then there are those "small moments" when everything clicks and you see a light go on and you KNOW the kids are learning. Today, I had two of my "newcomer" students working on their sight words. Neither speaks English much at all. One speaks Japanese and one speaks Spanish. But I tried something different today. I had some letter cards I was given recently, so I spread them out all over the table and asked the girls to build their sight words letter by letter. Amazingly, by doing this, they were able to read MORE of the words than ever before. They got more and more excited as they worked. It was pretty awesome to see them realizing that they knew the words. Sure, they also need to know the meaning and how to use them properly in a sentence, but for a few minutes today, they felt successful. So, I felt successful. Win-win!

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