Donors Choose - Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.

30 September 2008

The Return

This is by far my favorite place in the city... Bryant Park. Sorry my hair's in the picture... I couldn't be so sly as to take a picture totally without me in it. I looked ridiculous enough trying to do it right now.

I'm in Bryant Park on this lovely Tuesday for a variety of reasons. First, for the free wireless. My internet at home has been super shoddy and I haven't been able to get on for more than 2 minutes at a time... hence my absence from blogging. Second, I don't have work today (or tomorrow) because of Rosh Hashanah. I've never gotten school or work of for Jewish holidays, but it's quite nice and I definitely needed it. So where better to get free wireless on your beautiful day off than Bryant Park? (I'm super dorky and think of Project Runway and Fashion Week everytime I'm here....)

Work is going ok. Last week it seemed like my whole job was to blow noses... pretty disgusting. Which leads me to my current state of being: sick. It was a lot worse over the weekend, so now I'm just congested and just otherwise not feeling 100%. Seriously... these kids have so much snot. I never realized how much they have. It's like never ending. We went through 3 boxes of tissues and a whole thing of soap within a week.

Now, 3 (as opposed to 2) students readily say my name. And when I say readily, I mean, at any chance that they get. My day is constantly "Miss A Miss A Miss A!!!!".... accompanied with poking me. We definitely need to work on appropriate social skills.

I feel like it's taking me a while to get into the swing of things. I still don't feel fully acclimated to everything and feel like I'm always trying to catch up. I'm suspecting I'll feel like this for the whole year. My students are improving but I still feel like I'm not teaching them anything. Or at least not teaching them anything that they remember.

So this week is short, then next week we have Thursday off due to Yom Kippur, then that weekend my best friend from high school is coming in from Ohio and we're going to the Madonna concert! Then we have the next Monday off for Columbus day, so things are looking up with all of these breaks and visitors.

On a side note, I went to a typical Columbia "college type" bar this past weekend... and wow do I feel old. Add to that fact that my across the hall neighbors just moved in and the first thing they ask is "ARE YOU A STUDENT TOO????". Nope... I work. Sigh.

14 September 2008

No Sunday Funday

Another Sunday... another week.  The weekends are definitely not long enough.  Had a fun weekend, but still... I need more time!!!

Friday, I went to happy hour with NYCTF people right after work.  Besides the fact that it was pouring and I was sans umbrella, it was a great time.  It's great to compare stories and just complain in general about all things teaching, NYCTF, or grad school related.  Got home pretty early and went to bed around 11pm.  It's nice to start drinking earlier, because then you go to bed earlier.

Saturday, I just relaxed for pretty much the whole day.  Then I went to Hoboken to watch one of the most disappointing Michigan games ever.  It's not like ND played exceptionally well, we were just exceptionally horrible.  Saturday night I stayed in Hoboken for a while... went out for dinner and then out for drinks for one of my friends birthdays.  We also made a stop at her boyfriends frat house and I was reminded what college feels like.  It was a nice reminder but I'm happy to be removed from that lifestyle... 4 years is enough.

Today, I went shopping (for teacher things of course.... did you know desk organizers were so expensive?!??!?!?) and did work at a coffee shop with some teacher friends.  I worked on those ridiculous assessments and lesson plans for quite a bit of time, yet still feel like I didn't get anything done.  Oh the neverending work.

Monday Monday, why are you here already????

12 September 2008

Donors Choose... again!

So my 1st Donors Choose project got funded within 24 hours.... SO I made another one already for people who didn't get the chance to donate to the first one and expressed interest.

I appreciate ANY and all donations!!!!  Have a great Friday everyone :)

11 September 2008

Only in my life....

do you see Obama and McCain in person, get an entire curriculum set for math (!!!!!!!!), and have a mentally retarded boy profess his love for you in the sweetest way.... all in the same day.

I mean, who wouldn't want that????

On a more serious note, it's odd for me to be in New York on 9/11.  The city just has a weird air to it.  I can't pretend I know what it was like, but I can start to feel what the city was like that day.  And that's terrifying.  I didn't say one word about it to my students... all of whom were born in either '02 or '03.  They wouldn't be able to comprehend anything, and if they did, they would just echo what I said back.  And honestly, I didn't want a kid talking about 9/11 all day and not realizing what it actually was.  Instead, I just put a picture of the flag on our calendar where the 11 would have gone, and I think that was enough.  Adding to the bizarreness was the sighting of Obama and McCain running from their limos to the building less than 10 blocks from my house.

All I have to say is, thank God tomorrow's Friday.

10 September 2008

Pee pee time

Ah, those magic words.  I swear I've heard The New Girl say these words before, but alas, today was not one of those days.  I was doing one to one instruction with her this morning when all of the sudden, my foot was wet.  I look down and sure enough, a huge puddle was forming on the floor.  Yep, I got peed on.  Or, according to the other teachers, "christened into the big kids club".

The most frustrating thing about it is that I don't even know if she realized what she did.  She was in La-La Land.... literally.  Rocking back and forth and singing some incomprehensible song.  I told her to look and kept repeating "yucky, no, you need to tell us 'pee pee'", but I don't know if she heard one word.  (I know, this might not have been the "correct" thing to say, but whatever, I'm learning).

And that's the most frustrating thing about kids with autism and the reason that a lot of my teacher friends prefer to work with the emotionally disturbed set as oppose to the autism population.  Sometimes it's like, how do you know if you're getting through.... on ANY level?  As I led her to the bathroom to change into a different set of clothes, she was still singing the mystery song and it seemed like she had no reaction to her accident.  Meanwhile, my foot is covered in pee and I force my size 11 feet into a pair of size 7 flip-flops that my para had in her bag while my shoes are sanitized and dry out.

This job is definitely never boring.

On a separate note... I hate SPED paperwork!!!!!!!!!  My school is doing the ABLLS-R assessments (for all you teachers) for the 6:1:1 population (the kids w/ moderate-severe autism).... and it's about 75 pages of questions.  FOR EACH KID.  Each page has roughly 5 questions on it... all ranging in their reading/math abilities, social interaction, hygiene, toileting, etc etc.  So 75 pages x 5 questions x 6 kids = 2,250 questions I need to answer about their abilities.  After knowing them for about 20 days.

I retract my previous statement... this part of the job is RIDICULOUSLY boring.  And time-consuming.  Boo hiss.

07 September 2008

Pimpin' ain't easy.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm not a morning person.  It usually takes me about an hour to really wake up and get to a place in my head where I can actually talk to people.

Every morning, I get off the bus near my school at about 7:30.  By this time, I've already been awake for like 2 hours, so I'm definitely able to talk.  The first person I talk to everyday?

A pimp.  Or at least a man who dresses up exactly like one.  I'm talking top hat, crocodile shoes, cane, and suit, all matching in some ridiculous color.

No joke... he stands near the bus stop and every morning he says "Well good morning Miss Teacha."  And I respond with a cordial "good morning" back to him.  It's not like he's saying anything offensive, lewd, or inappropriate, so not responding would just be rude, honestly. 

That's what you get for working in the Bronx, I guess.... :)

06 September 2008

Please pray....

I just found out that a fellow Teaching Fellow has been missing for over a week. She started the program last year, and this summer, I almost subleased her apartment while searching for a more permanent place.

The fact that I've had personal contact with this girl makes the whole thing way too close to home. She offered to help me get settled in New York and seemed like an amazing person. All of her ID, credit cards, and cell phone were left at her apartment.

Here's a link to the story.

Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks.

05 September 2008

Getting my rhythm

Today I finally felt like a teacher.  It's all about rhythm and transition with my students.  Making sure each activity is long enough, but not too long.  Giving them enough breaks so that they don't get overwhelmed.  Getting into a routine and not deviating from it AT ALL.

We go to the bathroom at specific times.  We line up the same way and in the same order each time.  We always wash our hands before eating (and go in the same order that we walk in the halls in).  We always sit in the same seats.  We always listen to the same music.  We always do the same routine in the morning and at snacktime.

These routines are constantly being tweaked though, as I learn more about my kids and how to manage them more efficiently.  It's all just a learning process.  Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to get some work done for next week.  Next week, I wanna focus on schedules, symbols, and songs.  

Kids with autism need VERY detailed schedules with pictures... but of course this takes time and a lot of thinking.  For symbols, I basically just need to label everything in my room.  Everything.  And for songs... I just need to get some basic and easy songs that we can sing in the morning, when we clean up, when it's snack time, time to line up, etc.

I must say though, my school is amazing.  It's not even the administrators.  It's the other teachers who make it so great.  Everyone is so helpful and there are so many teachers I can go to for advice or help with certain students.  This isn't the norm... I don't know how I got so lucky!  Everyone has an open door policy.  Today, one of my kids old teachers came to me with a burned CD that she thought he'd like.  She didn't have to do that... I didn't ask her to... she just thought it would be helpful and did it.  It's great to get help before you even need to ask.

Anyways, I'm out.  Time to go have a life (aka go out and partake in adult activities).  Most of my day is spent playing, coloring, reading, and washing hands... none of that tonight.  Except maybe washing hands... that's important.  Michigan game tomorrow..... please please please win?

Donors Choose!

Donors Choose is an amazing website for educators that lets them post proposals that need funding and allows people to donate to that project.  You can donate any amount, and the money goes straight to Donors Choose, who fund the project through vendors and ships whatever you requested straight to your school!

I recently created a proposal for my classroom requesting a bean bag chair and a physio-ball for my students in our library area.  My students with mild to severe autism are constantly stimulating themselves, often in the form of rocking or bouncing.  A bean bag chair would help to encourage independent reading and rest time, and the physio-ball will allow them to bounce and rock in an effective way.

We have a small (and I mean small) rocking chair in our room and the kids always fight over who gets to use it.  They love to sit in it and rock back and forth, back and forth.  So I'm hoping that the physio-ball will give them some other options.

Soooo my dear family, friends, and other blog readers, here's my proposal.  I hate asking for things (very stubborn), but when it comes to my students, I'll ask for anything.  Seriously, any amount of money is appreciated, even if it's just $5. 

PS: I survived my first week!  And got a compliment from an administrator!  And a student threw a toy out of the 4th floor window!  (Gotta take the good with the bad I guess....)

Have a great weekend everyone!

04 September 2008

I think I'm gonna vom...

Woo for bodily fluids inside schools.

I don't deal with the toileting of my children (some are still in pull-ups, ALL need assistance), but today I had to deal with another bodily fluid.  Vomit.

Ms. New Girl came into the cafeteria for breakfast with her mother (because she's still not assigned a bus...) and immediately started crying.  I was thinking "ok, a few tears, she does this often, no big".  She keeps whining a little then stops and we get to the hallway to go upstairs and all of the sudden she stops and just vomits.  On the floor.  On my SHOE.  Good thing I had plastic flip flops on.

I'm just thankful it didn't happen in my room... the smell was horrendous and even though it was cleaned up quickly, I would have been sick and probably imagining the smell in my head for the whole day.

Went to the nurse with her mom, which took out about 20 mins. of my instructional time.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.  Especially when it comes to reassuring the parent who a. has a child in Kindergarten, and b. doesn't speak English very well.  I'm really trying to make the parents feel comfortable with me and with the school environment, and these are the necessary steps, even though it's inconvenient.  I had to act as part translator (even though I don't speak her native language) and part caring teacher concerned with why my student was so upset about coming to my class.  

Another student had a major meltdown in the cafeteria right next to our table... screaming, needed to be restrained, lashing out violently, etc etc.  So the mother thought that set her off into getting upset and crying, which is totally possible.  Or she may have just woken up on the wrong side of the bed.  Never a dull day... I swear.

PS:  My kids are ROCKSTARS at lining up and being quiet in the hallway.  We started this routine today and already got complimented 3 times by other teachers in the halls.  One battle down... many more to fight.. :)

03 September 2008


I can't lie... day 2 was pretty great. You'll have to excuse me, but I'm so exhausted, I need to just do bullet points.

  • Had all 6 of my students today. They are on SUCH different levels... it's ridiculous. Whoever thought to put them all together was crazy.
  • My one student who is supposedly the "worst" wasn't there yesterday. So his mom brought him in today and I talked to her and stuff (4/6 parents met). She told me, and I quote "Mr. Difficult didn't get ANY sleep last night so he's very agitated. God bless your soul for dealing with him today, Lord knows I couldn't do it. He's going to be a handful... I feel so bad for you." SO... awesome. Well, turns out, he wasn't that bad. No major melt downs and he was really just not that bad. I guess I was just preparing for the worse.
  • That being said, he can barely hold an object. Motor skills are a huge thing that we need to work on with him. If I give him anything in his hands it either goes in his mouth or he slams it on the desk. Add that to the list of goals.
  • I changed my name today. I'm no longer Ms. [Last name], but now I'm Ms. [First name]. Those of you who know me in real life... it flows much better, right? Plus everyone from the summer knows me as Ms. [First name] and calls me that, so what's the point in changing it. I was afraid that using my first name would make me look young and like I had zero authority, but for kids as young as mine, it's better. A lot of the young teachers at my school do it. I feel much more comfortable with the name thing already.
  • The alumni association at my wonderful alma mater is collecting school supplies for us graduates who are NYC teachers... woo for going to a school with a strong alumni base. ;)
  • Still haven't figured out how to eat or go to the bathroom during the day. Prep periods are too busy at this point, lunch is rushed. I revel in the few moments that I leave the room to run errands.... sometimes you just need a break.
  • Two of my students (Mr. Talkative and Mr. Genius) totally shocked me today with how great their literacy skills are. No surprise, Mr. Talkative is an AMAZING reader. I was reading him a story, and he literally just jumped in and took over with the reading. Of a Berenstein Bears book nonetheless... not even an easy leveled book. He like cut me off.... I was shocked.
  • Mr. Talkative has incredible social skills for a child with "autism". I'm doubting his diagnosis, but then again, it's only the second day. And I haven't seen IEPs. There could be a lot of issues that I am just blind to right now... only time will tell.
  • I did a read aloud with my kids today (one of the very few things I actually feel confident doing in terms of teaching), and some of them got SO into it.... I finally felt like a real teacher. "Ms. A., Ms. A., TURN THE PAGE!!! I wanna see what happens next!!!" Seriously, the most rewarding thing I've heard so far.
  • Ms. Apprehensive was.... apprehensive as we approached her busing table. I took her to it and she immediately backed away and tried to run out of the school. I got a hold of her and coaxed her into coming back, trying to play with her and tickle her. So then, to make sure she was comfortable, I stayed with her until she left, making animal noises, acting out jungle animals... basically looking like a crazy fool. But she loved it and someone even said "Wow, and you've only known her 2 days?????" Another rewarding moment. (This is why I teach.)
  • I also got to pretend I was a 6 year old boy for a good half hour... playing action heros and ninjas while also teaching valuable lessons in working as teams and sharing resources (powers). All in the day of an "early childhood" teacher.
  • Last thing... I had a parent call (5/6 parents communicated with), and she told me flat out, "Don't send homework home with Mr. Dimples. I personally will not do it with him. I really don't want to see it in his folder." Hmmm... had no idea how to react so I was just like... ok! Like seriously, what do I say to that?
  • Ok, real last thing... started grad school classes today. Wasn't too bad, don't think it's gonna be a lot of work. I'm just going to be dying of exhaustion. That's all, no big.

02 September 2008

One down....

Well, I survived. Actually, I shouldn't say it like that because it wasn't that bad. I think the first day of my teaching career went about as well as it could have. Let me recap.

Got up pretty early (5am.. I know.) because I wanted to make sure I had my stuff together and got in early. Check and check. I had 2 huge bags and a bunch of posters to carry... fun, believe me. People on the subway are pretty interested in what you teach, where you teach, etc etc. So that made for some good convos. Plus, there were many other young, white, brand new teachers traveling up to the Bronx, so I had an impromptu pump up session with some other new teachers on the 2 train today. Pretty cool.

Got to school, calmed my nerves with a fellow fellow (har har har), and headed down to the cafeteria, where the kids come after busing and eat breakfast. For the longest while, I had no kids. Just me, alone, at the lunch table. Finally, they started trickling in, one by one. Here's a quick cast of characters:

Mr. Dimples: Pretty self explanatory why he has that name. He's non-verbal but according to the speech therapist, he's at the beginning stages of coherent words. So that will be very exciting to try to develop that in him. Fascinated with the window and looking out of it... makes me terrified (we're on the 4th floor). Poor motor skills, can't hold pencil, recognize letters, short attention span. Another teacher said he might be slightly mentally retarded, and I think I can see that in him. Cutest boy ever though... such a cuddle bug and just always wants to sit on your lap. Not potty trained... haven't had to deal with it yet.

Mr. Talkative: VERY difficult to understand this boy. He talks, and if you listen carefully, you understand. But I found myself saying "WHAT???" so many times today. I definitely need to learn "his language". He talks a lot though, and I'm sure it's great stuff, but I just need to become a better listener. Very smart boy, has great and imaginative ideas. Can write his name, identify letters, knows his numbers, etc etc. Don't have much more to say about him right now.

Mr. Genius: Came in with his mom who is very involved. A para mentioned that it could get annoying, and I can see that (maybe someday), but I think it's great and am really looking forward to parental involvement. He has an outside ABA therapist, which is great, and you can see it in his social skills. He's very polite and always answers small talk questions. Knows alphabet, can spell full name, also very imaginative. He told me all about the TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... they're now acronym-ized and the turtles are referred to as Mike, Raf, Donny, and Leo... hmm, strange...). Math seems to be his strong point and from my very very brief assessment, he's either right at grade level or even a little above, which is AMAZING.

Ms. Apprehensive*: She came in late and was brought in by her mother, so there's another parent met and hopefully impressed. She came to me willingly but was shy as we made our way up to my room. When we got to the room she just stood there and slowly backed out. She eventually came around but didn't want anyone to touch her... she needed to absorb her new atmosphere. Totally cool... I can completely relate. So we gave her her space, and about 5 minutes later, she came up to me ready to work. She quickly got into the routine but was really quiet. Then, in the afternoon, when I did her one on one assessment, I couldn't get her to STOP talking! We did a "picture walk" though a book, and she made up the entire story. Great imagination, amazing comprehension skills, and what impressed me most was how in tune she was to the characters feelings and emotions. This is often a source of trouble for people with autism, so I was amazed that she could tell me that this character is happy and I can tell because he's smiling.

The New Girl*: The new girl was brought to me, I was given a piece of paper, and was told, here's her mother (parent number 3 of the day). That's it. Tried to talk to the mother, but had a bit of a language issue. So I got the information I could but at the same time tried to make her feel as comfortable in the school as possible, because I'm sure it's intimidating. Come to find out at the end of the day, she's actually a Kindergarten student, not first grade like my others. But she still belongs in my class because it's an "early childhood" class. So I'm glad that I tried to reassure her mother and spend a little time talking to her.... I had no idea it was her first day of school. But with the limited info on the new girl it was hard to know what she was like. Was she verbal? Violent? Any self-stimming behavior? Allergies? I mean there are a ton of things you need to know, and I just wasn't given this information. She's an explorer and wouldn't leave the things on my desk alone. We're definitely going to have to remedy that. At first we were all a little wary of her, but by the end of the day she was playing with the others and seemed to fit right in. It was also difficult because for the entire day we didn't know how to correctly pronounce her name, but I discussed it with the mom after school, thank God. I'd hate to call a kid the wrong name for the whole year.

So that's my list so far. There's one more who didn't come today, I'm expecting him tomorrow. My day went relatively well. Here's an excerpt from a colleague about her first day (she has high school emotionally disturbed):

here is an example of what the kids did today: i was reading aloud a
survey of questions i wanted them to answer and this is what i got:
what is one strength of yours? fucking. that is what one kid wrote.

I'm glad my kids are cuddly and like to color. God bless those who have the strength and patience to deal with the emotionally disturbed group though. Another funny first day thing... another colleague of mine had a student eat (yes, eat) things in her class. Lesson plans, class decorations, supplies, etc. In his stomach.

So relatively, my day was GREAT.

*These names will be changed... Ms. Apprehensive will not be apprehensive forever and The New Girl will not be new forever.

01 September 2008

ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod....

Entering minor freak out mode. I've been calm up until now. 10pm the night before school starts. Typical me.

Meeting the kids in 10 hours. Ah what am I doing?????