Thursday, December 20, 2012

Will Work for...Carrots?

Remember back in the day when your parents would want you to do something, and they'd offer you some small reward?  In our house, my dad would request a 30 minute back rub for a penny a minute.  Gee, thanks, Dad...a whole thirty cents.  As we got older, the price per minute got higher.  First, to a nickel, then a dime...until today.  I think if he asked for a back rub, I'd probably look up the going rate for a half hour massage, knowing he wouldn't pay that, and get out of it.

So, I said all of that to ask you this.  What motivates you?  There are very few people who are willing to do something for nothing.  I'm not really talking about doing good deeds.  I'm talking about doing work, of any kind.  Like just about everybody else, my students do NOT like to work.  Those creative little guys come up with a lot of ways to get out of work.   From picking the absolute longest song at circle time (Apples and Bananas...Jacob picks it every time.  It has a two and a half minute introduction that involves a grown man singing "banana" with a mouth full of banana.  Classy.), to crawling into a "safe place" and falling into such a deep sleep that a train could race through and he'd still sleep through it, (Kody does this often.  He snores, too.  Like an old man.  He sleeps like the dead.), to running away (see "Kason" in A Day in the Life).

They find so many ways to get OUT of work, that we have to really work hard at getting them to work.  Out general go-to is treats.  Candy, juice, cookies--that sort of thing.  Some of them will only work for those things for a minute or two.  They get distracted easily and move-on quickly.  One of my boys will do anything to be able to use the iPad for a minute or two.

We were working on an experiment with Pedro the other day.  It was the experiment where you put celery and carrots in colored water and compare how water travels through the two different plants.  We could barely get the veggies in the jars without Pedro trying to take a bite out of them.  He successfully chomped a carrot before we could get it in the jar.  1 out of 6.  Not too bad.

We had some other work to do, so since he seemed to want them so bad, we cut up a carrot and a celery stalk to use as a reward for working.  He worked fantastically well for me.  I was so impressed with how hard he worked for veggies.  Would you work for a carrot.  When you were in high school, would you have done something for a carrot?  How about when you were ten?  Let's say that you were a hypothetical multi-kazillion-aire, and didn't have to work if you didn't want to.  Would you for a carrot?  I know I probably wouldn't.

If there is one thing I have learned from being in this classroom for the last 18 weeks, it is this:  BE THANKFUL FOR THE SIMPLE THINGS.  I get so busy that I forget to see the seasons change, Jacob notices each tiny change to each tiny leaf or blade of grass.  I talk all the time, and quite honestly, many times, I talk about nothing.  Wasted words.  In my classroom, we celebrate words--spoken words, signed words, written words.  I walk down the halls everyday with complete faith that the floor--carpet, tile, wood--are going to provide the stability to take the next step.  One of my boys is terrified to cross thresholds.  Switching from carpet to tile really throws him.  He has to be coaxed onto the tile, and he holds onto the wall like a life-preserver as he goes.  He is also scared to get off the school bus.  The gap between the last step and the concrete curb is traumatizing to him.  I never even think about it.  I never go to bed wondering if my arms will still work in the morning.  Eric does.  When we're on the playground, he will sometimes look at the kids in the other classes and say things like "I used to play soccer, huh?"  or "Kristen, remember when we walked to the park?  I used to walk, huh?"  It's heartbreaking.  As his muscles continue degenerating, he will eventually lose use of other limbs beside his legs.  I wonder sometimes if he goes to bed at night thinking about it.  Will tomorrow be the day?  We take so many things for granted every single day.

I am so very thankful for the opportunity to work with these boys.  They have taught me to appreciate every single thing in the day.  Even the bad days have many things to be thankful for.

The more I think about it, the more I think that were I the hypothetical multi-kazillion-aire, I would like to think that I would still go to work every day.  I love {almost} every second of it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Three Day Weekend

I was soooo ready for the three day weekend.  I had grand plans for what I was going to do...I didn't do any of them.  There's still a few hours, though.  We'll see what happens!  (Probably nothing!)_

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Monday is a Monday is a Monday

Today was my first official Monday as a teacher.  I feel like saying it was Monday should be description enough.  I mean, seriously, who really does Mondays.  I sure wish I didn't have to.  Apparently, some of my students don't either.  We had some serious meltdowns, today.  Wowza!  "Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" is a actually a most accurate description of our Monday.

During some of our most intense moments of meltdown, our new speech pathologist came for a visit.  Poor woman.  We really did not make a very welcoming group.  I also had a visit from the local VoTech because some of her LPN students complete practicums in our room.  Nothing like finding out that you're getting "observed" in your second week of school!  I did manage to talk her into coming in after our students were dismissed.  YAY!

Overall, I am just glad to have survived my first Monday.  We did actually get to work with some of the kids one-on-one and it was pretty productive.  We are still short one aide for another week, so we are stretched a little bit thin.

Looking forward to another great week.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day One

Day one is over.

The morning was a little crazy.  Our students all arrive at different times, and after picking kids up from the office, meeting parents, meeting the bus from Okarche, eating breakfast, and taking morning restroom break, we finally got class started around 9:30.  We started with music, which the kids LOVE.  Then we had a period of work, followed by a short "station/center" time--playdoh, math games, train sets, and books.

Then we went to lunch.  WARNING:  grossness to follow!!!  The lunch ladies must have decided to really initiate me on the very first day, because we had spaghetti.  MY GOODNESS!!!!  If you can survive spaghetti lunch day in the multi-handicap classroom, you can handle absolutely anything.

I learned several things during lunch today.  First of all, spaghetti is better eaten with your hands, even if your teachers cut it up to bite-sized pieces and load it up on your fork for you.  Also, green beans shouldn't be eaten at all (I kind of agree with this.  I don't like them, either).  So, if your teacher feeds you a forkful of them, the best course of action is to spit them  back into her hand, along with the particles of spaghetti that may still be there.  Something else I learned is that if you don't like grapes, if grapes in fact are a gag-inducing fruit to you, it is perfectly ok, acceptable even, to eat the stems instead, then laugh maniacally while your teachers try to pick them out of your mouth.

After lunch, we did some more work, while the the aides and I rotated eating our own lunch.  Then some more centers before our 35 minute recess.  After recess, we have snack time and clean-up.  Then it was time to go home.  Our students dismiss about a half hour before the rest of the school.

All in all it was a good day.  We're getting a new student tomorrow.  Another boy!  We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tomorrow's the Day

Well, folks, tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow, I will have my first official day as the multi-handicap instructor at Kingfisher Heritage School.  I am INCREDIBLY nervous, but I am also SUPER excited.

To tell you a little bit about my class (while maintaining confidentiality)...

I will have ten students ranging in age from Pre-k through 10th grade.  These ten kiddos represent a wide range of abilities and special education categories.  They are ALL boys.

It was a little overwhelming to sit down with the previous teacher to gain a little history on the students.  Thankfully, she is still in the building.  She moved to a different aspect of special ed.  She has been a great resource so far.

In addition, I was told early on that I will have four amazing aides.  I have had the opportunity to meet two of them and work pretty closely with one of them.  After that time with Sharon, I will concur that she is AMAZING!  This will be year twelve for her in the multi-handicap classroom.  She is familiar with the students and their learning styles, discipline needs, and personal/health needs.  However, even with her years of experience, she has been emphatic that I come in and take control of the classroom.  She told me she was a little worried the first day I met her that I would let the aides walk over me.  She's gotten to know me a little better, and I think she may just have more confidence in me than I do in myself.

I will definitely face some major challenges and it will without a doubt be a learning experience for all of us.  I'll be sure and let you know tomorrow how my first day went!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just Call Me Doubting Thomas...Part 2

On Thursday of that same week, I got a phone call from another school in that same district, an elementary school.  My mom knew the principal.  I didn't call him back.  I had a the middle school...that I didn't want.  On Friday, I got a phone call from another district around the Metro.  This one closer to Edmond (Oooohhh...upscale Edmond...almost Edmond.  Deer's upscale, too.).  I took that call, and told the lady I wasn't interested.  I had a job in Putnam City.  (That I didn't want.)  

Why were all these schools calling now?  I had applied weeks ago, and heard nothing from them.  I was pretty frustrated with them for calling and giving me options now, after I had decided that I was taking the middle school job that I didn't really want.  {Mumble, mumble, complain, grumble, gripe}

I tried to contact my new principal again on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I was getting ready to prepare lunch for the guy staff members that were out here working to get ready for camp to start.  As I was walking out the door, my phone rang.  I checked the number, ready to reject the call, and realized it was a local number.  There is not a single person out in this area that has my phone number.  It wasn't either of the numbers I had used to contact Mrs. Wolf before, so I knew it wasn't her or the high school.  Curiosity got the best of me and I answered it.  

I took the most interesting of phone calls then walked out to the then-not-completed-zip line to talk to my dad.  The conversation went something like this...

"Dad, I--"
"We are eating lunch at the house.  Sorry I couldn't answer the phone."
"Ok, but I need to tell you--"
"We're trying to get this all finished before lunch in case the wind picks up again."
"Ok, but Dad, will you listen.  I got a job interview."

Now, I should mention here that my dad was really not a fan of the job in the city.  He really wants us to move home.  So the conversation continued...

"Yeah, I know.  You got a job at Putnam City at that Middle School.  You're mother told me."
"Dad, I don't have to interview for that job.  It's mine.  I have a different interview."
Dad finally pauses...
"Oh.  Where at?"
"Kingfisher Heritage School."

Dad then acted a little crazy and may have danced a little jig.  He was obviously excited.

I went to an interview at Kingfisher Heritage with the new principal, Kathy Kadavy.  Turns out, special ed teachers weren't the only thing that was being shuffled around in the district.  Principals were too.  I had a great interview with Mrs. Kadavy.  She made me feel really at ease and we talked about a lot of things.  She gave me a tour of the school and told me that they still were not sure where the position was going to be, but now knew it was going to be in the High School or the Heritage.  She sent me to visit the superintendent.  That had to be good, right?  

Mr. Sternberger is the superintendent in Kingfisher.  He asked me some questions that had already been asked by the other three that I interviewed with.  He asked me if I had a preferred age group.  I decided to be honest and tell him that high school terrified me.  He laughed and said they would keep that in mind.  I decided to be even more honest and tell him that I had a job offer at another school.  You know, that middle school position that I didn't really want.  He promised I would get a call sometime the next week.  

We had a small gun training and safety/security camp out here that week.  I jumped to answer my phone every time it rang.  I didn't hear anything all week, and was getting worried again.  Obviously, my faith runs out quick.  Not something I'm particularly proud of.  

We were dropping off people at the church on Friday afternoon, my friend Mandy was telling one of the staff members about her impending deportation back to Canada and the resulting marriage to one of our guy staff members to avoid said event, and I was following Amy Vineyard down the hallway while I waited on my mom and Mandy.  My phone rang. It was another new number this time, still from around Kingfisher.  I answered it (while Amy watched).  

Mrs. Wolf was calling to tell me that I had a job.  IN KINGFISHER!!  The very place that I just knew wasn't going to ever have an opening because teachers stay until they die (sort of).  Not only that, but I got a job in a position that DEFINITELY was not going to be open.  A job that I really didn't interview for.  I am officially the new teacher for the Multiple Disabilities classroom at Kingfisher Heritage School!

Kingfisher Heritage School

I don't know why I got that position that was DEFINITELY not going to be available.  I don't know if that was just how the rearranging worked, or if it had something to do with my having student taught at The Children's Center.  I do know that once again God showed me that I had no reason to doubt.  I spent a week being miserable and discontent because I was blaming God for "making" me take a position I didn't want.  I do so need to learn to rest on His promises.  The biggest one being that He will work all things together for my good.  

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
~Romans 8:28~

Just Call Me Doubting Thomas...Part 1

What makes us as Christians doubt?  It really is the most illogical thing if you really think about it.  God proves Himself to us time and again, yet if given the opportunity we quickly revert to doubting his promises to us time and again.  It makes me ashamed of myself just thinking about it now.  He has given me no reason to doubt Him, but I always do.  Let me tell you all about how God proved Himself to me one more time...

Even though I graduated in December, I didn't start job hunting until around April.  Partly, because I was finishing the school year at KIPP, which of course led me to meet a bunch of amazing little 6th graders.  Also, because there were some major issues with my transcript and degree that had to be rectified first.  (Many thanks to Dean Robinson and Darla Demo for all of their help in getting that straightened out!)

When I started making applications in April, my first desire was to apply at one of the rural schools close to Loyal so that I (and more importantly, my mom) could move home full-time. Unfortunately, in these little country towns teachers tend to stick around until they retire, and even then, many of them still work part-time.  There seemed to be no openings anywhere around.  I was discouraged, but not completely surprised, so I started applying at some of the "better" districts in the Metro.

I filled out tons of applications online and didn't hear anything.  I attended a district's career fair, and even interviewed with the assistant director of special services.   I was sent to that interview with glowing recommendations from my current boss at KIPP.  She happens to be good friends with the HR director, and the Special Services director.  I got a phone call from the Special Services director a few days later where she promised me a job based solely on the recommendations she had received.  I had mixed emotions about that.  I got one other interview from a specific school in that district which turned out to be filled by someone in district.  Then I didn't hear anything for weeks.  

I kept checking websites for job openings, kept applying, but overall was really disappointed.  Honestly, my heart really wasn't in it.  I wanted to move home.  But not only were there not any openings around home, I wasn't getting any offers anywhere else, either.  I was beginning to think I had been lied to.  The whole time I was in school, everyone kept telling me what a commodity Special Ed teachers were and how in demand we were and how we would have lots and lots of job offers.  I had zero.  Sigh...

On the first day of May while I was scrolling through the job openings, I decided to go ahead and disappoint myself one more time by checking the openings in those little rural schools close to home.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  When I clicked on that little "Employment" link that for the last month had posted nothing but openings for a Spanish teacher, speech pathologist, and art teacher, I was quite surprised to see a posting for a special education teacher.  What?!?  Where did this come from?

I think it took me about thirty seconds to whip up an email to send to the address listed.  The email I got back listed three positions that were POSSIBLY open.  The district knew for certain someone was retiring, and planned on rearranging the current SPED teachers to accommodate that, but would still need to hire another teacher.  I played phone and email tag with the Special Services director for a few days before I finally got a call for an interview.

If you know anything about me, or have read this silly blog for any length of time, you know that I like LITTLE kids.  My degree is in Elementary Education and Special Education.  My interview was at the High School.  YIKES!!  I met with the Glenda Wolf, the director of Special Services, and Sammy Jackson, the Principal of the high school.  The interview went really well, much better than my first two (although that wasn't hard to do).   They told me about their predicament with the rearranging of the teachers and told me that I would receive a call from one of them soon, when they knew what they had open.  They also made it very clear that it seemed as if the SPED position was probably going to be at the high school. They even asked me if I was willing to take the secondary Math certification test.   

Mrs. Wolf also took me to the 3rd & 4th grade school, Kingfisher Heritage, to show me the multiple disabilities classroom.  This position was DEFINITELY not open, but she new I had an interest in that classroom because of my experience at The Children's Center.  (Small world, she taught at The Children's Center for 18 years.)

I didn't hear anything for a while.  So, my disappointment and doubting started all over again.  On Wednesday of the third week in May, I received a call from the SPED director at that other district--the one that promised me a job because of my glowing recommendation--to tell me that they were placing me at a middle school.  The job was mine for the taking.  

I wasn't excited.  At all.  Why not?  I wanted a job, right?  And to be perfectly honest, during the weeks that I didn't hear anything from Kingfisher, I had talked myself out of working there.  I certainly didn't want to work with high school students.  The thought of teaching high school scared me out of my wits.  I got so worked up over it that I sent my sister a text at 2 o'clock in the morning telling her that I had made up my mind to take the job in the city, even though it was going to really disappoint my parents.  Having a job in the city now that I didn't really want was better than waiting for a job in the country that I also may not want.  

I decided that's what I would do, take the job in the city.  I went so far as to add all of their calendar events into my personal calendar so that I was ready for the year.  I tried to contact my new principal to set up a meeting.  (Because I was "placed," I had never even met her.  No interview required.)  

It was settled, but I still wasn't completely happy.  To my doubting little mind, I had been failed.  God just didn't want me to move home.  He didn't want my mom to be able to move home.  He didn't want me to get out of the nasty, old city.  He wanted me to teach middle school in Putnam City.  Sigh...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Art of Being a Fan

Sometimes--very, very, very rarely--I have obsessive tendencies that when combined with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. could be considered stalker-ish.  Please know that to truly consider me a stalker would be a major misconception.  It's all quite innocent...really...I promise.  (Fingers maybe crossed.)

Anyways, one person on whom my stalking curiosity has been focused is Ree Drummond--The Pioneer Woman.  You may remember me talking about her back in March of last year.  Since that time, she has released a children's book...

...and a second cookbook.

She is currently doing a book tour for "Food From My Frontier."  I've been counting down the days until she hits OKC.  It happened this last weekend. 

She was scheduled to be at Full Circle Book Store.  First, let's talk about a little bit about Full Circle Book Store.  It's absolutely amazing.  It has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves...really tall bookshelves.  The bookshelves are so tall that the bookstore has ladders on tracks so you can reach the books on the highest shelves.  It is very much like a scene from one of my favorite Disney classics...Beauty and the Beast.

One cannot very well be in a place that is prime real estate for a Belle reenactment and not take advantage of the opportunity.  So we did.  ("We" being my stalker curious friend and fellow Disney-lover, Rachel and me.)

(Note to self:  Add Beauty and the Beast to my movie queue.)

Back to Ree...

The "event" did not start until 1:00.  However, Rachel and I knew that her events have a tendency to draw big crowds, so we arrived a little before 10:00am when the doors opened.  We were almost the first people there.  Almost.  We just missed having front row seats to the shindig, but we were gracious and didn't cause a riot to get those prized seats.  Later, we were glad we restrained ourselves.  The people who took the front row had driven all the way from Conway, Arkansas to see Ree.  They deserved the front row.  I guess.  (There were also people there from Childress, TX and other places miles and hours away.  It made our drive to Norman last year seem like nothing.)

The signing started with a short, hilarious presentation by Ree, so we began our morning in the mall outside of the book store.  Hundreds of chairs were set up in front of the stage.  After sitting there for around an hour, we heard rumors of these things called line tickets.  Panic set in very quickly.  I had agreed to watch a sweet lady's things behind us so she could visit the ladies' room, so Rachel took off for the store to see what these tickets were all about.  She came back with two bright orange strips of paper with 8 printed on them.  "What does 8 mean?" you ask.  Well, 8 meant we were in group 8.  Guests were split into groups of 50.  That's right, even though we were the "second" people there (There were 10 people in the group in front of us.  So really we were people 11 & 12.), we would have to wait for 350 other people to see Ree first.

Hmmmmm...what do two girls do when they are waiting for 350 people to get their books signed?  Well, let me tell you.

First, we just sat around debating what to do.  Then, we explored 50 Penn Place.  There isn't much to explore...especially on a Saturday.

Then, we decided we were thirsty.  The cafe inside Full Circle had the LONGEST LINE you had to walk through the hundreds of people in the signing line.  Our next best solution???  Penn Square Mall is right across the street.  Penn Square Mall has a food court.  So, we went outside to go to Penn Square Mall.   As most of you know, parking at Penn Square Mall is ridiculous.  So, we decided to walk...across this six lane street.  Yes, that's right.  We risked our lives for a milkshake from Chick-fil-A.  It was sooooo worth it.

We also risked our lives getting back to Full Circle.  I think it may have been more dangerous.  We were trying to preserve our shakes and our lives.

On our return trip, we discovered the most wonderful thing.  It was Ree's car.  Parked right by the entrance with a little orange cone that said "Ree Drummond Reserved."

 This got two obsessive stalkers fans pretty excited.  PHOTO OP!!!!

We noticed someone had written notes on the back of her car.  Please note:  we are NOT vandals.  The following was already written on the vehicle!!!   (OK, so maybe I wrote the "I" the rest of it was already there.  I also look a little deranged...but I swear I'm not.)

We went back inside and found these chairs that had a perfect vantage point to people watch.  We had a good time watching people meet Ree.  She is so kind to everyone.  Even after hours of signing books and smiling for pictures, she still took the time to have a little conversation with every person who came to her table. Took this one during that time...They had just started group 5. 

Group 8 finally started to line up around 5:30.  We had been at 50 Penn Place since 10:00am.  So were clocking 7.5 hours at this point.  We got in line behind the nicest two ladies who we chatted with for the next little bit.  One of the ladies had recently been on Martha Stewart!  WHOA!!!  Two famous ladies in one day!! We started measuring our progress by our distance from the front door of the store. We were getting pretty close here...this was I think about 6:00. 

The people in line around us also decided at this point that Rachel and I must be pros at Ree's book signings.  At Ree's signings, she passes out sticky notes so you can write a name on it for her to personalize the book.  We had predicted this event before they ever handed out the stickies.  We also knew where she would sign and that they were going to request that we "flap" the books so that they would open directly to the correct page.  "Flapping" is moving the dust sleeve inner "flap" to mark the page where the book should be opened to.  We learned all this from the one other signing we had been to last year.  We didn't mind impressing everyone around us with out expertise, though.  Plus, we knew if the people in front of us were prepared it would be that much quicker that we got our turn with Ree. 

As we neared the front of the line and could see her pretty red head, one of the nice ladies in front of us said, "I bet she takes a restroom break right when we get to the front of the line."  She was right.  Right when it was their turn, Ree sweetly asked if we would allow her to take a quick trip to the ladies room.

This was one of the nice ladies in front of us.  Ree really liked her hair.  She said she is scouting a new hair-do.  However, she needs one that can be thrown into a pony tail.

Then it was our turn.  She really is one of the nicest people ever.  I would be really cranky after 4.5 hours of signing books.  She still smiled her pretty smile and signed her pretty signature.  She also did me a little favor!  Yay me!

A couple of weeks ago, she informed us all through Facebook that their was a typo in the book and would we please cross out the mistake and draw a little heart from her.  After she signed my book...

I asked her if she would mind fixing the recipe herself, and she did!!

So, I now have my very own HAND-EDITED copy of Ree Drummond's new cookbook.

I feel very privileged.  My book is probably a one-of-a-kind. 

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading!