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Adventures in Special Education

 
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 05:50 pm
Please don't despair, littlek.

If the kids are coming around, the parents eventually will. It is really hard when your kid isn't "normal" and competetive parenting is busting your ass. It is really easy to look for someone to blame.

Mo's teacher this year has helped me win a whole new respect for people that work with kids. Today was a real eye-popping example of what they see and understand about the kids around them.

This was two teachers, actually.

And not even Mo but the brothers Hooligan....

<sigh>

Bad **** is happening at the brothers Hooligan house. It's clear that both of their teachers see it. I think they're glad that someone is somewhat and somehow involved in the Hooligan situation.

<sigh>
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 06:29 pm
@boomerang,
Bad **** does happen at home - a lot. One kid I know is basically ignored by his dad (parents are divprced), his mom is still in recovery and can't handle them in large quantities. The grandparents and one uncle (and possibly school itself) are keeping this kid together. No, wait. The kid is at the top of the list of people keeping him together. It's remarkable how able this kid is given his disabilities and home life.

I have to handle one mother like she herself is disabled. But, manashevits.

0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 07:24 pm
I know from Mo's therapy that when the kid is the one who feels responsible for keeping it together that the real trouble is brewing.

For so many kids, school is sanctuary. One person at school who cares makes all the difference.

YOU are sanctuary.

When you feel unappreciated, someone will draw in the snow.... or something.

I sent Mo's teacher a frikken love letter today.

And that was before the whole Hooligan brother's situation this afternoon.

Hang tough, littlek. You are making a difference.
littlek
 
  3  
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2008 10:00 pm
@boomerang,
I could hug you, Boomer. Thanks.

I know I have made a difference. It might only be a few kids each year, but I have. And will continue to. It's the ones I want to help and can't (for whatever reason) that kill me.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  3  
Reply Thu 15 Jan, 2009 07:22 pm
Today I am feeling really run-down. I have been fighting off a virus all week. By the end of today I was obnoxiously short with the kids. Probably not a bad thing to set firmer limits anyway. Two exchanges in particular stand out.

1. I have set up a set of 4 rules to follow in the room where I give students extra help. If they can meet certain goals based on the behaviors inherent in those rules, they get fun Friday - the last 15 minutes to play games. This could backfire with these kids - they may just end up not caring about Fun Friday enough to follow the rules. Today one student repeatedly broke one of the rules and I marked him down. The rule disallows talking in a way that distracts or disrupts other students' learning. He was talking. I have explained before, several times, that this is about off-topic chatter that has nothing to do with school that happens when school work should be happening. They know this. After I told him to get to work, and work quietly, I turned to another student to continue editing his written work. The chatty student said, "Hey, you're talking!" I snapped, "I am the teacher I am allowed to do what ever I want." Not the best response, but one born from frustration. He said, "I'm going to tell my mom you said that." Ok, tell her.

2. There is a school rule stating that students should keep their hands to themselves. We don't enforce it much, but we can when we feel the need to. I don't like the judgement call inherent in this variable application. When kids are hugging in such a way as to be hanging on each other, I ask them to stop. Today when I did so, one kid said something to the effect that I was dissing he 'gayness'. I told him I was the last person to disallow his gayness. Actually, I appreciate his gayness. The kid from the last event said - "She called you gay! I'm going to tell!" Sigh. So I had the talk about my brother being gay to try and diffuse the freak out.

Sigh.

I should just stay home whn I am sick.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2009 06:26 pm
@littlek,
Hi there! I think you mentioned somewhere that after your holiday break three weeks ago, you'd get reassigned to a new class, a new age group, and a new ... whatever the counterpart to a tutor is called. (Tutee?)

How's that going for you?
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Mar, 2009 08:00 pm
@littlek,
Boomer's right, LittleK. It's the long run that counts, not one bad day. Kid's know that too and will appreciate what you do when you go the distance. Keep on truckin'.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2009 03:50 pm
Yep, I was switched to 8th grade. I like it. It was abrupt for everyone (kids, collegues and me), but we all seem to be ok. The kids are more independent and mature even in the one year between 12/13 to 13/14. The teachers on the team are good. I do have to adjust to their expectations of me (I still am). I was worried about catching up on curriculum, but it really isn't that bad (so far). Grade 8 science is earth science which I know pretty well. The math is just a step up from 7th grade and the English unit I entered the grade on was about the Holocaust which is a high interest subject for me. The only tough subject is social studies which focuses on American history (yawn).

My job is much more low-key than it had been in 7th grade. I don't go to student meetings as a SpEd rep. I don't think I have to do progress reports. I just spend a lot of time working with the kids. And I sort of supplement my direct supervisor who is there part time.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2009 11:22 pm
@littlek,
Thanks for the update! I'm glad you like it. I'm also glad, not to mention unsurprised, that your colleagues have high expectations of you. In the short run it adds pressure, but in the long run you learn a lot from competent, demanding colleagues. So, good for you!
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2009 11:25 pm
@littlek,
Nuke 'em.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Mar, 2009 09:57 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
the English unit I entered the grade on was about the Holocaust which is a high interest subject for me.

I know this is a very expansive subject. But if you have time, I'd be interested in how you teach the Holocaust to a class of American teenagers. When I thought about it today, I realized that I wouldn't know how to do it. There just doesn't seem to be enough time.

In Germany it's different. For us, the Holocaust is that one humongous event overshadowing everything else in our history and culture. So our schools take lots and lots of time to teach it. My elementary school started talking to us about it in third grade, when we read a story about a family fleeing from the Holocaust. The story mentioned the Holocaust itself, but just very summarily. From this beginning, grade by grade, my schools veeeeery gradually added the depressing specifics about what happened in the ghettos and concentration camps. I think we went through about five iterations before we were ready to approach the full story. I doubt that American schools can take that much time to discuss an event in German, not American, history.

So how do you do it? Given the time you have, how do you show your students a reasonably realistic picture of how it happened and why, without shocking them so much they shut down? Conversely, how do you avoid the opposite problem? How do you get American teenagers interested in an event that happened in some other country's history? (Few Americans seem to care about Darfur, which at least is in some other country's present.)

Don't feel too constrained by my questions. I'm sure there are other ways in which teaching this subject is tough. I'm interested in how you master them as well.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Mar, 2009 02:24 pm
I can only speak to the district I teach in. The topic is brought up over multiple years here, too. Sometimes it comes up in families before it ever comes up in schools. Anne Frank is available reading for 4th graders. We talk about the Great Depression in 7th grade - teachers can get into WWII and a little about the Holocaust then. I'm not sure if it's part of the curriculum in grades lower than 8th. They have spent weeks on it - from at least mid-Feb to now, so maybe a month. And they learn it in English class so that history/social studies can focus on American History. They have watched "Life is Beautiful" and some survivor video. They read Fiedrick and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in class. And the kids independently read either Devil's Arithmatic or Night. As you probably know, Night is one of the most graphic.

They will visit Holocaust Memorials (some will go to DC, some will go to Boston).

Themes we work in revolve around remembering: survivors need to remember, those not invovle need to remember - so that it doesn't happen again (well, that's the hopefull theory. I don't know if anyone has brought up other more recent genocides that have been happening in this context).
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Mar, 2009 07:45 pm
@littlek,
Interesting -- that does sound a lot like the way they taught it to us in Germany, though I can't see Life is Beautiful as an official part of our curriculum. The Central Committee of Jews in Germany would probably raise hell about its comedic ingredients. (Walter, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

It's heartening to see some lessons of history shared between countries in this way. I guess the counterpart to American Holocaust lessons would be German lessons about Martin Luther King and the American civil rights movement. They were a staple of our social sciences, history, and religion classes. (As an aside, the tour guide who showed me around in Montgomery's Ebenezer Baptist Church was surprised and moved when I told her that. She didn't know any more about it than I knew about your Holocaust lessons.) Needless to say, this sharing of historical lessons would be even nicer if the German contribution wasn't so damn depressing. But it is what it is.

I think I said this before, but your threads have made me appreciate teachers much more than I used to. Thanks, again, for fighting the good fight.
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Mar, 2009 09:41 pm
Thomas, did you learn about our own interment camps for Japanese-descent Americans?

I have moved up to the 8th grade. Most of the class will be headed to Washington DC for the week on Monday, some will atay behind. Those remaining will take field trips to various interest points in the state (museums, sports venues, etc). I unfortunately will be returning to 7th grade. I checked in with my old peeps last week and everyone there is all tense. I got an immediate knot in my chest. What a difference from how I'm feeling about 8th grade.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Mar, 2009 11:02 pm
@littlek,
Sorry about the change, LilK.

I don't think I was ever taught about the holocaust in school by more than a sentence or two.
I don't know if it was typical of the period (I was eight in 1950) or my particular grammar school and high school with mostly german heritage nuns.
I learned about it from my parents at, maybe, nine. Learned more by reading on my own, having a jewish atheist boyfriend, then a lit prof friend, and the movie, Shoah. More even recently, via Primo Levi. I did read Anne Frank rather early, that did get me. Not a school assignment, most of my reading on my own.

I follow Darfur, have nothing useful to say.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Mar, 2009 11:53 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
Thomas, did you learn about our own interment camps for Japanese-descent Americans?

You mean, in school? No, we didn't. That would have gone against some sort of -- understanding? speech code? -- that teachers in Germany followed when I went to high school in the eighties. (Chances are they're still following it, but I don't actually know.) The understanding was that the Holocaust was so singularly horrible that any comparison with other atrocities is frivolous and revisionist.

In my opinion, this speech code reflected two things: first, an exaggerated sense of political correctness among the teachers; second, a justified vigilance against certain shibboleths frequently used among German Nazis, old and new. This latter part takes some background for non-Germans to understand, so please indulge me for a long-wound explanation.

Just as America still has the Ku Klux Klan and its sympathizers, Germany still has an extreme-right idiot fringe of maybe 5%. Its members still think that Hitler was a great leader, and that the Holocaust either didn't happen or was a good thing. But scarcely any of them would openly say that to a stranger. Instead they use shibboleths. For example, they might say this to you: "well, the thing with the Jews was regrettable -- but man, did Hitler do a great job on the Autobahns or what?" Another shibboleth you would frequently hear from them is, "well, the thing with the Jews was regrettable -- but do you know what the Russians did? Pol Pot? The Americans with the Indians? Only if you give them a positive response to these shibboleths -- indicating you're probably one of them -- would they gradually move the conversation on toward "the Holocaust was a good thing and never happened anyway" territory.

Active anti-Nazis -- including practically all teachers at the time -- had gotten very vigilant about these Nazi shibboleths by the eighties. And they carried it to a point where (in my opinion) they poured out the baby with the bath water. So they told us very little about the Gulag, almost nothing about Pol Pot, almost nothing about the American Indians, and literally nothing about the Japanese-born Americans in World War II. (Bosnia, Ruanda, and Darfur hadn't yet happened at that time. So much for "let's teach the Holocaust so it never happens again." But I digress.)

One time, in eleventh grade, I demanded more information about some of these other atrocities. By doing so, I inadvertently triggered a huge escalation with my German teacher. To her, it was obvious that I was mindlessly repeating stuff I had heard from a Nazi in the family, or something of that kind. Why else would I want to divert the class's attention away from the Holocaust like that? Without knowing it, I had set off my teacher's Nazi shibboleth alarm, so she fought tooth and nails against what she saw as a foothold of Nazism in her classroom.

And so, I never really learned about the Japanese-Americans until I got into a fight with cicerone impostor here on A2K. He used the word "concentration camp" for the camps the Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in (including CI himself). I thought the term frivolously paved over the humongous differences between how the USA had treated the Japanese-Americans, and how Germany had treated its Jewish citizens. CI and I have long since been on friendly terms again, and I'm a lot better informed about the story than I was before the fight. But my school had nothing to do with it.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Mar, 2009 12:14 am
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
I unfortunately will be returning to 7th grade. I checked in with my old peeps last week and everyone there is all tense. I got an immediate knot in my chest. What a difference from how I'm feeling about 8th grade.

Would you mind expanding a little? I don't understand what they're feeling tense about. Do you think it's about you as a person? Or is it about the instability of the school taking you out and putting you back in again, both times on short notice? I also don't fully understand the reason for the knot in your chest. (There are too many candidates.) Do you have it because the 7th graders are tense? Because they're less mature and more dependent, and you work better with more grown-up students? Or because you liked the 8th grade teachers better?

Either way, I wish you good luck in taking your best hit on this professional curve ball.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Mar, 2009 12:46 am
@Thomas,
I'd had some discussions with my friend about what should be talked (and how): she thinks, it's either done to much or too less. (No idea what they what think about this book, though.)
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Mar, 2009 12:48 am
@Thomas,
Interesting.

Did you learn about Japanese atrocities?
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Mar, 2009 12:50 am
@littlek,
littlek wrote:

Thomas, did you learn about our own interment camps for Japanese-descent Americans?


I did - a couple of years earlier than Thomas went to school.

But this was just and only because I did a presentation for our class myself, about the history of ghettos and concentration camps over the various periods. (And that was -years later- the basis for a paper at univeristy when studying history myself Very Happy )
 

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