Category Archives: first grade here I come
Today was a fun day with both the ‘live show’ of Shumann and celebrations in the form of “Crazy Shoe Day” (a kind of mufti for your feet day). A ‘grand’ shoe parade started the day off and was lots of fun.
Mac and I were torn as to what he should do… crazy shoes potentially interfere with his communication (being a foot switcher) and short of buying something – he really didn’t own anything super ‘crazy’ that happened to be the right size.
So we decided to go with “Crazy Shoe Wheels”
Mac was happy, the kids were impressed. His wheels were reminiscent of a caterpillar wearing shoes (with eight pairs on there he wasn’t too far off the mark).
I still haven’t managed to read Shumann the Shoeman so can’t offer you a review.
Who knows, Mac might decide to borrow it from the library one week so we can both share in the story.
On Friday I spent the day in Mac’s classroom.
The teacher’s aide was away and the school was unable to find a replacement.
Mac could have gone to another class where there was a full time aide but the proposal was he go to the Kindergarten class.
To my mind this was the least desirable option for these reasons:
- Kindergarten is a crappy place to be for a child who can’t physically do any of their tactile/hands on style work.
- It is a boring place to be having to “watch or listen” to other kids doing their tactile/hands on style of work.
- No consideration would have been given to how this “presents” Mac to the other children. Mac would not go into the class as a ‘helper’ as other older children would… he would have gone in as ‘helpless’. This is a very long way from our vision for Mac where he is presented in a positive manner and in a valued role.
- Mac has told us he doesn’t particularly like younger children helping him – and honestly, who could blame him – I am sure he isn’t the first kid to find “younger kids” somewhat annoying.
- Mac would have been extracted out of his own learning environment and likely not exposed to any real learning had he gone to the Kindergarten class that day. On Friday Mac’s class has sport in the morning so they already miss out on their optimal learning time – it would have meant Mac’s day was a total write-off.
So what could the alternative have been…
- It would have made much more sense if Mac to move him to one of the senior classes. At least the senior students have competencies and abilities to assist Mac without him feeling patronised.
- He could simply have been exposed to the same information as them and gleaned some learning from their lessons – even if he wasn’t actively doing any work.
- It would have presented Mac in a positive role of “valued learner” not “child in need of baby-sitting”.
- It would have sent a message to Mac that “you are bright, you’ll understand this”. After all ‘expectation is one of the greatest predictors of success’… (funny, our school told me that, what a shame they don’t listen to their own theories).
As it turned out I didn’t have the busiest Friday planned and decided to stay an assist in Mac’s class (I help with sport on Friday until 11 anyway) and his teacher was happy for me to stay.
It was worthwhile as it gave me some extra insight into the work they are doing in class, the language being used and what options Mac can use for taking a more active role in the class.
I still marvel at how much difficulty our school has at employing Learning Support Officers, providing continuity in the classroom and having back-up plans for when staff are away/unwell.
Term 1 worked really well for Mac with primarily one aide in the classroom who knew how to assist him, assist the teacher and assist the rest of the class.
Term 2 has seen a major shift in this approach with at least six aides having worked in the classroom at one stage or another (it is only WEEK FIVE).
While the concept of getting all the aides to understand how to communicate with, and assist, Mac might work well in theory – there is no overlap provided for training, so it is impossible to accept it is really a considered approach by the school. Basically I have to provide training every time someone new appears in the class.
Fortunately Mac’s teacher is fantastic and remains totally committed to him meeting his educational goals. Mac remains happy at school and is coping OK (just) with all the changes so for now we will just watch and see how things pan out.
It does highlight that you have to remain vigilant to what is going on at school. I will keep a close eye on Mac and keep our communication open so that he knows he can tell me when/if it all gets too hard or if I need to take action.
I happened to be in class during their journal writing/creative writing session the other day.
Most students were writing about their recent cross country carnival.
Mac had indicated ‘YES’ he did want to write about Cross Country.
He was asked to spell out the key word for his story as a starting point.
He used the Zygo Macaw with the full alphabet and started… A – N – K some frustrated kicking… U – Y more frustrated kicks…
“Do you want to try again?” he was asked
“Are you happy with A – N?”
He continued choosing letters… G – R – Y
A – N – G – R – Y was the end result.
We asked Mac if that was what he wanted to spell. ‘YES’ was the response.
“Were you angry?” I asked “NO”
“Was Mrs R angry?” I asked “NO” (to which Mrs R joked it was probably a miracle)
And then it dawned on me… Some children had got into trouble at X-Country for throwing stones and breaking a light.
We knew this had happened because my Uncle owns the X-Country course and he and Mac’s Pa had been discussing the ‘issue’. It turned out some of the younger students from some of Mac’s classes were responsible for the damage.
And so we continued our discussion…
G: Were some of the kids angry?
G: Did they break something?
G: Did they get into trouble?
G: Do you know who it was?
G: Are they naughty boys?
G: Were they being silly?
G: Did they have a bit of a brain snap?
The thing was this didn’t strike me as the type of story Mac would tell – I still wasn’t sure I was getting at the crux of what he wanted to talk about.
His aide ‘R’ cottoned on quicker than I did.
R: Are you worried about the boys?
a-ha, now I have an inkling of what is going on.
G: Have you heard about them getting into trouble?
G: And are you worried about what that means?
And so the conversation continued. Mac and I discussed what getting into trouble was all about and what kind of consequences these type of actions could incur. I explained how there were no ‘beatings or batterings, no one would be locked in a room, a cupboard, a box or any other place. They wouldn’t be sent away from the school, they might have to show (or at least act like they were feeling) remorse. We discussed what this might look and feel like.
I actually went through it as in-depth as I could realising that Mac really had no understanding of what ‘getting into trouble’ truly looked like. Mac is a child who at this stage of his life is unable to get himself into a position where he would need to be disciplined. He doesn’t yet have independent communication and, while I don’t plan on limiting his vocabulary at all, it still will remain quite difficult for him to get into strife.
Sure, I can see a time in the future when he may use a switch adapted sling shot with butane gas & fireball attachment inappropriately, but for now, he is a pretty trouble free child.
It still fascinates me what Mac does and doesn’t understand and I love the interesting journey these conversations take us on.
Fear of the unknown, as with all of us, remains significant.
However, I am pleased to say that once we had our big discussion about all things “Cross Country and beyond” Mac decided he wasn’t worried about the boys anymore – he thought they would be ‘OK’.
Mrs R was out of the classroom for the entire day and Mac’s response was to “NOT WORK”.
He wouldn’t spell ‘hat’, ‘at’, ‘go but was happy to spell ‘Easter’ and ‘supper’ (not his spelling words). He refused to do any of the ‘add two to the total’ sums in Maths.
He was hopeless and, yes, a little bit naughty.
His Aide asked him whether he thought he should be doing good work for the substitute teacher Ms M…. “NO” was Mac’s reply.
“Do you think you should only have to work for Mrs R?” she queried further….. “YES” was Mac’s reply.
OK, I love that he loves Mrs R, but I have suggested to him he probably needs to ‘get over himself’ just a little bit.
I am not sure he is totally convinced.
He is impossible to manipulate – one of those traits you love and hate simultaneously.
Mac has been telling us things he wants over the last few days.
On Saturday I asked him if he had an idea for a design on his wheels. He said YES.
I asked him to spell it for me on the Macaw.
A – B – E - N – T – E – N
It took me a few seconds to work it out. A Ben 10 design is what he is after.
I checked whether he knows it is just “Ben 10″ not “A-Ben 10″ he said YES. I asked was the ‘A’ just the first word of what he was wanting to tell me… YES.
I picked up some paraphernalia today so will try and sort something out tomorrow for him.
Today he brought home a note from school about bringing in some materials to make a container to carry an egg. I asked him if he had any ideas what he wanted to take in… the answer (of course) YES.
A – B – I – T – O – F – C – A – D – B – O
I asked if I could try and guess the rest. Mac does this using auditory scanning and the entire alphabet – it isn’t the fastest method, and quite tiring for him.
I gave it a stab… “A bit of cardboard?”
YES … (phew)
I had to laugh – all that energy for the “A BIT OF” just to start the sentence. I guess it gives me an indication he should be able to progress to sentence building with the right software options.
I explained how ‘cardboard’ was spelt – he thought that the ‘R’ in card was a bit sneaky.