Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What is and what should be

Susie in Mrs. L's 2nd grade class. She reads at a level G. She can recognize numbers to 100 and can add and subtract single digit numbers. She has a behavior chart on her desk and gets a sticker if she stays on task for 15 minutes. She is in the RTI process.


Susie is a 7 year old little girl in Mrs. L's 2nd grade class. Her birthday is next week and she can't wait. She says she is getting a puppy because her Aunt Betty's dog had puppies and her mom said she can have one. Susie's mom and dad divorced when she was 3 and her dad and his girlfriend just had a baby boy.  Susie's mom works second shift at a factory so Susie goes to day care after school. Mom wakes her and her 9 year old sister up from the baby sitter and she goes back to sleep at home until it is time to get up for school in the morning. I could go on and on.

This Susie is made up to illustrate what school is and what it should be. Susie is more than the numbers on a Dibels, a score on a test, or a reading level. She is a living, breathing person with hopes and thoughts and feelings. Being 7 doesn't negate that fact. Being little doesn't negate that. Being in school doesn't negate that fact.

When I was in High School, I had my future professions narrowed down to teacher, librarian, or child psychologist. I knew for sure I wanted to work with kids, I just wasn't sure in what capacity. I chose teaching, but I realized after working with kids in a camp setting, that working with kids in a recreational environment is what I wanted.

In working with the y, I was able to listen to their hopes and fears. I was able to laugh hysterically, be goofy with them, and dry their tears. I was able to take the time to really listen to them and acknowledge their personhood.

When I first started working as an instructional assistant, I brought those skills with me and they were appreciated. I was able to take the time to calm a crying, angry, upset child and set them on the road to better choices while the teacher taught the rest of the class. Now ten years later, those teachers that respected me and treated me as an equal and a valuable member of the team, have been replaced by teachers new to the profession who earned their degrees in an era of data, extreme accountability, and endless reforms.

Today I am treated as someone who is there to serve the teacher -- an assembly line widget turner. Last year I was told I should do as I was told and shut up about it. Today I was told I needed to "refrain from side conversations because the kids need to get back to the group as quickly as possible."

I understand teachers have a lot of pressure to produce numbers for the higher ups to plug into spread sheets to submit to the politicians.  I also understand there needs to be some accountability. However, everyone can agree behavior incidents are rising. Schools are spending money to "pay" kids to behave. Our district has chosen PBIS. We have spent nearly a thousand dollars on incentives this year and today was only day 10.

I wonder if we remembered these are small people -- many with big issues -- and took the time to acknowledge they are more than the numbers entered into the computer, if the behaviors would decrease? In the end would they prefer we remembered they were getting that puppy for their birthday and asked how training it was going, or would they rather have the sticker for sitting criss, cross, apple sauce by the time we count to ten?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


There was spotting of blood before I knew I was pregnant and I worried.

I was "high normal" for amniotic fluid so I worried.

His heart rate dropped during labor and I worried.

When he was born the cord was wrapped around his neck, his arm, and his leg so I worried.

His bilirubin count at one week was 29 and the hospital tech person remarked, "Wow! I've never seen it that high before!" Boy, did I worry.

He wasn't tracking left to right when he was 3 months old and I worried.

We were told he had albinism and might be legally blind. I worried.

He skipped kindergarten because he would have been the 29th child and they wouldn't have an assistant until there were 30 kids. I worried it was the right choice.

We moved before the end of 1st grade and I worried.

Because of his vision, he was not good at sports in a town that plays sports. He was smart beyond his age. He loved to read. He did not love to talk. I worried because he didn't have many kids he could relate to.
I worried and my heart hurt.

Hubby had to find a new job the summer before 8th grade. He found one 2 hours away. We had to decide whether to move the whole family from our home of 6 years just as the boys were entering their critical teen years or have the boys and I stay and hubby commute on weekends. I still worry if we made the right choice.

There are so many decisions we make on behalf of our children. Most seem huge at the moment:

Breast or Bottle
Cloth or Disposable
when to feed solids
when to potty train
how to celebrate major and family holidays
stay at home mom or working outside the home mom

The list goes on. And at every crossroad we worry if it's the "right" thing.
There are copious amounts of books telling us how we made the "wrong" choice.

Then the day comes when your child leaves for college or the military or marriage or a job opportunity and you realize all your choices culminate in that moment. You've studied for this test with all those books and experts tutoring. And you worry.

At least I do.

We take oldest to campus in a few days -- not far away, but not here anymore.

I know we have a wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful, creative, kind son. People who see him say he is ready and he'll be fine.
He worked at residence camp this summer for 9 weeks. They say he'll be fine.
My husband tells me he'll be fine.

But I know when we drive away, leaving him there with 3 suite mate strangers, on a campus in the middle of a bigger city, to figure out classes and living and managing life his way, I will worry if we did enough to prepare him. I will worry that today's society is too dangerous to allow him to be out there without me to throw myself in front of danger.

And I worry that having done it right means he won't need me anymore.

It is said that to have a child, is to forever have your heart walk around outside your body.

Well, this week -- my heart leaves for college.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Listen to your heart

Two years ago was rough.

I watched as my good friend's health deteriorated due to the stress of work.

I experienced a group of children that rivaled all groups I had experienced to date. And not in a good way.

I noted a total lack of support and compassion from someone who judges others on their ability to offer support and compassion.

Last year was worse.

I watched as things unraveled.

I experienced crushing negativity.

I noted the wrong way to build a team or handle staff.

This year approached at a slow march.

The position I'd been interested in and denied each of the last 5 years due to my lack of a teaching degree was once again posted.

I did not find out my schedule until the weekend before the first staff day.

I did not meet my intervention partner until the staff work day.


She turned out to be great.

And I love my schedule and the people I'm working with.

And the kids this year are the way I remember kids being... very unlike  the kids of the past 3 years.

And I will be doing intervention with K, 1, & 2 -- the groups I have finally finessed and gotten instruction to a point I think works and can be successful.

After 4 days I am actually happy. Actually each of the 4 days I have left work happy.

And then the monkey in the wrench...

The person who was going to do intervention got a teaching job and only worked the first day of school.

And I was offered the job. The one I had wanted. But it would require RTI and ESL and record keeping and the possibility of math and writing as well.

But it was THE job.

I said I wanted to think about it.

I talked to my two best friends. I talked to my husband.


I declined the offer.

Because our oldest leaves for college a week from Friday.
Because it would be more work for the same amount of pay.

Because I am happy.

And because sometimes your heart changes it's mind.

And sometimes you have to listen to your heart.