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30 July 2008

Random Subway Fact

The number 3 reason why subways run late is....

because people hold the doors open for friends.

Ta da.  A very perturbed subway conductor let all of us passengers know this useful bit of info while I was on one of the SIX subway lines that I rode today.

Only 2 more days until the madness stops.  To a certain extent.  And only for August.

Come September.... game on.

29 July 2008

Blogging Loser

I know I've been a bit of a blogging loser lately, but things have been nuts and I've been just trying to keep up.  

As some of you may have heard, I did indeed get bit and pinched by a student.  It wasn't as bad as it sounds though... didn't break the skin.  I had a small bruise from the pinch but nothing that really even warranted an accident report.  The student knew it was wrong and immediately had an adverse reaction to what he did (he cried within like 1 second of biting me).  He also wrote me a very sweet apology note.  Sometimes the kids we work with with such severe disabilities can't help what they do in terms of physical aggression, so you just gotta roll with the punches (literally and figuratively).

This video is really interesting regarding autism.  It was made by a 20-something girl with autism who I'm assuming is non-verbal (like many of my students).  It's like 9 minutes long but you might be able to skip through some of it, but you get the general message.

At the recommendation of one of my teaching friends, I've started reading Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.  Here's a short summary and review.  This book is so real and so honest about the problems that "normal" people face in the Bronx... it makes me look at things in an entirely different light.  Especially since a lot of the places in the book I've been to, or even am near every single day.  These are the places I work and the types of situations my students are seeing everyday.  It's completely mind-blowing.  So, if you get the chance and are at all interested in hearing an objective first-hand account about what life's REALLY like in the ghetto, check it out.

I'll post a more substantial update soon.... only 3 more days left of training!!!  Thank God... I don't think I could have handled any more.  Seriously.

17 July 2008


Today, I got offered a position for the fall!  I'll be teaching in the school that I'm currently student teaching in, and couldn't be happier.  Everyone at the school is so friendly and supportive of one another... I already feel like I fit in.  Tentatively, I'll be teaching 6:1:1 first grade, kids with autism.  So basically, little babies with autism.  I'm praying that I don't get switched to a different situation last minute, because I know that happens all the time.  But for now, I'm glad that that's what I will most likely have.

The principal just came into the room I'm in and asked to see me.  It basically went something like this:

Principal: Miss A, can I see you out in the hall for a sec?
Me: Umm sure! 
P: Alright, this might be semi-unprofessional of me to do this this way, but I want to offer you a posi-
Me: YES!
P: -tion for the fall, 6:1:1, first grade.
Me: Of course, I'd love to!  That's exactly what I want to do!  I love this school!  I love the teachers!  I love everyone!  (Ok this might be exaggerated but this is what I feel like I said)
P: Well we're really happy to have you, I think you'll do excellent here.
Me: Oh my gosh, thank you, can I give you a hug??
((hugging happens))
P: Alright well that's it, congratulations and welcome!

So basically, yeah, I was awkward and giddy but I was soooo excited.  My cooperating teacher gave me the recommendation and knew I was getting the offer today and said she tried so hard not to tell me this morning.  

I'm just so amazed that it happened so easily!  No interview, no demo lesson.... I mean I've talked to the Principal before and she's seen me interact w/ the kids, but nothing really super structured.  Those sort of things always make me really nervous, so I just feel so so lucky and blessed!

Anyways, I will write more later... time to go celebrate!

14 July 2008

A newfound appreciation

And this newfound appreciation is, of course, for coffee.  I suppose I've never really NEEDED it before, but now I know and can really experience it's magic powers.  Almost drug-like, I'd say.  I don't even care where it's from, as long as it's black and cheap-ish.

This past week was most definitely my week of hell... everyday I got home at around 7:30 pm and then had at least one paper due everyday.  On Friday, we had a workshop about crisis intervention, which was interesting, but I was not happy to wake up at 6 am on a Friday.

Then on Saturday I had to take two important teaching tests.  I HAVE to pass them in order to become a teacher, and this was basically the last opportunity to do so.  But I think they went ok... I don't want to be too overconfident but I feel very good about how I did. 

Other things in life are going really well... after those tests on Saturday I had a great night out with friends (new and old... like two worlds colliding) and then on Sunday I went out to a great German restaurant in the East Village for a friends birthday.  So overall, despite the whole "hell week" and "super-important-must-pass test" parts, it was a pretty social weekend.

The class I'm working with is still very enjoyable.  Although I'm not getting as much traditional experience as NYCTF is saying we should be getting (i.e. teaching an actual lesson), I'm getting a ton of one on one instruction time and really learning more about autism and how to best communicate with these kids.  Which, in my opinion, is what I need the most experience in anyways.  

It's kind of funny... I have a lot of friends who went into field training saying "oh yeah, I wanna work with kids with autism... without a doubt, I could never do ED (code for emotionally disturbed), etc etc."  And now, after working with ED kids in their summer placement, it seems like so many are switching over to wanting to work with ED.  Which I find VERY interesting.  Probably just because ED scares the hell out of me, especially at the middle school level.  I'd be very happy with my sweet, loving, autistic students.  

Anyways, while I was shopping this past weekend I got two great cards from Quotable Cards (which I am obsessed with).  And they pretty much sum up why I'm teaching and why I'm putting myself through all of this.  So I leave you with a little inspiration (which are hanging on my door to see every time I open it):

"Risk more than others think is safe, care more than others think is wise, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible." -Cadet Maxim

"Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground.  Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it." -Wilferd Peterson

09 July 2008

It's the little things...

It's finding an inexpensive healthy/organic food store right around the corner (inexpensive AND healthy... quite the oxymoron, I know).

It's when a kid finally understands the concept of subtraction and gets so excited about it.  And you can see his excitement by the light in his eyes and his flailing arm movements, because he can't talk.

It's 4 different people commenting on how much they like your Jesus/Pochahontas sandals and how "in style" they are right now, even though you've had them for over a year.

It's seeing the same people on the commute everyday.  In a city as big as New York, there are about 10 strangers I see on a daily basis.  I'd be worried if one of them were missing.

It's one of those strangers striking up a conversation with you about where you go and what you do, and saying "see you tomorrow", because in reality, you will.  At 7 am nonetheless.

It's an amazing para who asks for your instruction and advice when dealing with the students, even though it's really only your 4th day.  It's all about validation... in the end it's what we're all looking for.

It's a teacher (co-worker teacher, not my teacher) being disappointed when you say you aren't going to lunch with her today because you have to get to school.

It's bringing delicious eggplant parmesan leftovers for lunch.

These things make life really pretty great.

(PS: I may have been incorrect about the "autistic child"/"child with autism" thing... I've read so many official (or whatever) things that say use autistic as an adjective.  So whereas I may not personally agree with it, I suppose it is acceptable.  But we always use adjectives to modify the noun, and I don't believe that autism modifies a person, but that the person is still a person, just with different abilities.  Ok, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  Just my two cents!)

08 July 2008

A peek into my mind

Again, sorry for the randomness of this post, but life is really too crazy for me to write anything more than dis-jointed statements about life right now.  But you get the jist of it.  DISCLAIMER: A lot of what I have to say specifically has to deal with children on the autistic spectrum and might not be applicable to all populations of students.

  • I've now been student teaching for 3 days and have learned more in those 3 days than I have in the 3 weeks I've had of masters classes so far.
  • I'm in a classroom of 7 children with autism (6 of whom are non-verbal, ages 9-11) and 2 paras****... I'm so pleased with my situation that it scares me.  Like should things really be this great???  I've heard horror stories about paras, but the ones in my classroom are like angels on Earth who truly care about the students and their success.
  • In the past three days I've witnessed a child having "an accident" (i.e. going #2 in his pants), another one tried to kiss me and thinks he is my boyfriend, another who is as fast as a lightening bolt and tried to run out of the class, a visit by CPS and serious problems at home, a parent who couldn't be more involved with her child's education, and another who has the most beautiful eyes and just stares at me for long periods of time.  Like gets up about 2 inches from my face and just stares and smiles.  You always hear of a lot of children with autism having issues with looking people in the eye, but you can never assume anything with kids about what they can or can't do.
  • Along with that, you can't assume what these children's home lives are like, what their intelligence level is, what they comprehend, etc.  The only safe assumption (in my opinion) is that even though a child may be non-verbal, they can still HEAR you and understand what you're saying.  A teacher should never talk about a student negatively or condescendingly in front of them.  You would never do it if they were verbal, so don't do it if they aren't.
  • I've also seen a lot of things that I'd do differently in the classroom, but have also gotten many good ideas about what works and things regarding classroom management of kids with special needs.
  • I've learned that I LOVE working with kids with autism... they're SO incredibly intelligent and so different.  Each one has different triggers, both positive and negative.  One of my students cannot speak and has some behavior management issues, but you get him on the computer and he will google anything and everything about Star Wars/Star Trek and knows how to find images, toys, information, etc.  It's amazing!!  He just knows how to do it without any instruction.  These kids have deep interests and obvious learning styles, the key is to tap into that and expand it.
  • "Autistic children" is not PC... it's "children with autism" or also commonly referred to as "children on the autistic spectrum".  It's a mouthful, but you'd never describe a person with cancer as a "cancerous person".  There are cancerous cells and masses, just as there are autistic behaviors or tendencies.  But people themselves are not cancerous or autistic. 
  • I feel so lucky to have found something that feels like more than just a JOB, but it's something that I actually don't mind getting up at 6am for.  Imagine that.  I'm already in love with these students after only 3 days, I can't imagine how I'll feel with my own class of students.
  • SCHOOL IS HARD.  Ugh... this week especially.  Every day I leave the house at 7 am, get home at 7 pm.  Then every day I have a paper to write.  And then other things to do.  And on Saturday I have to take two make-or-break tests and pass them both.  I'm not too too nervous about it, but still, just one more thing.
  • New York is an amazing city and I feel so blessed to be able to live here and experience different people, areas, and situations everyday.  The possibilities really are endless.
  • Happy happy birthday to my amazing Mom, I don't know what I'd do without you and you give me so much support and love, I can't even imagine going through all of this without having you as my soundboard!  
That's all I can think of for now... it's 11:20 and I still have another 2-3 page paper to write for tomorrow.  Oh life.

****Para = teacher's aid, paraprofessional, paraeducator, however you wish to call it.  There are 1:1 paras for students requiring more intense supervision and may need help toileting/feeding, behavioral paras, academic paras (for students with learning disabilities), and just general paras.  There have been many issues raised about the dedication and commitment of some paras, but I think that those few bad apples give a horrible reputation for all paras, who are on the whole committed to the students and are great people and coworkers.

02 July 2008

Teachers need to make more money....

.... so that they can afford to live in an apartment building with a doorman who can sign for their packages because when teachers aren't available from 6:45am until 7:30pm, it is impossible for them to ever be home to sign for it or go to the post office to pick it up with their suitcase that they dragged down 4 flights of stairs because the package is 60 lbs and that's the only way possible they could ever get all of those necessary work clothes into their bedroom.  

And then when the postman doesn't leave a receipt of the package and the aforementioned teacher who is juggling about 4 schedules and is on information overload can't remember the original date of delivery 2 or so odd weeks ago, and the people at the post office can't look up the package with her name and give her the package to put in her suitcase, she doesn't have an emotional breakdown in the post office in the middle of Harlem in front of about 30 people in line.

And because she is an over worked teacher (and only in training, not even real teacher yet), she had to go to the Bronx today for NOTHING basically because people couldn't give her a straight answer if she had to work or not.  All before 9am.  Yep, all of this could have been avoided if teachers were paid enough money to have that all-powerful doorman.

Phew.  I'm exhaused.  One trip to the Bronx, 2.5 hours of commuting, one pseudo trip to the post office with suitcase in hand, one 5:45 am wake up call, and it's only 10:29 am.  And I still have commute for another 3 hours total and travel up to the Bronx.  And sit in class for 5 hours.  And write a paper tonight.

I'm just full of joy and such a fun person to be around right now, don't you think???

**Sorry if this post makes little to no sense.

01 July 2008

It's been awhile...

So in order to quiet any thoughts that I'm falling too far behind on blogging my life to ever return, here is my update.  Where do I start?  We'll do this thematically.

It's been going as good as can be expected.  Classes aren't conceptually difficult but the workload is definitely challenging.  I'm taking 2 classes right now, one for my college and one for the program.  Both have different schedules, books, and workloads, so it's really difficult to coordinate things and stay on top of everything.

Tomorrow I'm going to the school that I'll be student teaching at.  I'm not officially supposed to go until Thursday, but other people (including advisors and other people of authority) have said that we needed to be there today (which I didn't do).  There are so many conflicting directions... everyone tells us to do something different.  So I'm going to go just in case, to be safe.  However... this means I have to leave my house at 6:45 am.  Haven't seen that time of day in a million years (or so it feels).  Then I won't get home until a little after 7pm.  Then I have to write a paper due on Thursday.  And do it all again on Thursday.  And this is EASY compared to what next week looks like in my planner.  Welcome to my life.

Social life:
I feel so lucky that my group for school is so amazing... the people are truly great.  So this past weekend I went out with a few of them and we had so much fun.  I know I'm going to be with these people for the next two years so I'm really relieved that they're cool and fun to be around.  Other than going out maaaaybe once per weekend, I can't see myself having much of a social life this year.  Which makes me not so sad, but you gotta do what you gotta do I guess.  When I get home I just want to make dinner and relax and *attempt* to do my work that's due tomorrow.

  • Don't confuse "hip-hop culture" with being poor.  So many people I encounter every day are people that you'd consider "ghetto"... but they're ghetto with their Gucci bag and iPhone.  Never assume anything about people in New York... they'll trick you every time.
  • NYC public transportation is a necessary evil.  I'm so thankful that you can get basically anywhere via bus and subway, but they're SOOO annoying.  The busses are crowded, there's traffic on the streets, but the subways don't always run late nights/weekends, and sometimes they run express past stops or just randomly stop in the middle of the line.  Necessary, but evil.
  • IKEA is also annoying.  Enough on that.
  • I feel like I need about 7 bookshelves for my room, but I have no idea where to put them.  I definitely need to get more organized somehow though.  Especially teaching special ed, the paper work is ENDLESS and you need to keep record of everything.  So I need to get organized fast.
  • The only thing I shop for (in terms of clothes) are work appropriate clothes.  Any new clothes I buy will be business casual.  How depressing.
  • I am terrified of teaching.  There, I said it.  I most likely will get my wish of working in a classroom with children with autism, which sounds all well and good, but I have NO idea what to expect.  I really hope to get this experience in my field training, because I have no idea even what kids with autism are like.  I feel so unprepared, but I still know that my love for these kids and genuine want to help them will prepare me enough.  Very weird feeling.  
  • There was a sociopath in my class but luckily she got kicked out of the program.  It scares me that she could have ever been around children.  I'm sad that she slipped through the cracks in terms of the interview process but glad that action was taken against her before she got in the classroom.  
  • I hope I didn't just bore everyone with this long laundry list of randomness.
  • Ugh laundry... that's a whole different story.
I hope everyone who's reading today is having a great day and that all of my family and friends reading know how much I miss them!  

Lack of Updates

Life has been just so chaotic lately that this blog has been the last thing on my mind.  School is crazy and there is a ton of work.  Everything is really condensed so it's like 3-4 papers per week.  Starting on Thursday, I'll be student teaching in the morning, then having two classes, and then finally getting home.  I'll be leaving the house at about 6:45 am and not returning until around 7:30 pm.  And then still having to do school work and lesson planning.... it's not going to be pretty.

But I'm going to Boston this weekend for a 4th of July getaway with friends, so that should be a lot of fun, I'm really looking forward to some relaxation and beach time.  I'll do my best to get in a real post before then.  Hopefully people haven't given up on my blog, because I haven't!  Just been busy... :)