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"The colors of life shift

within a fixed parameter,

movable blocks of shadow

and light, interchangeable

or not."

"Chaos is a friend of mine." ~Bob Dylan

"Chaos is a friend of mine." ~Bob Dylan
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

School Daze

Life has been crazy and moving in fast forward since the new school year started. Right off the bat my usual special education teachers started calling and booking me for certain dates.

One of the schools I work with on a regular basis opened me to a new and challenging subbing opportunity: that of a crisis aide in a new CSC classroom. This is a classroom that's set up for children with severe autism who can't be mainstreamed into either a general education classroom or within the resource rooms of the special education departments.

There are 4 students in this classroom. All of them are, for the most part, non-verbal, or have limited verbal skills. One is not fully potty trained. They are unpredictable, runners (there are alarms on the doors), and often very aggressive. Body armor for the teachers would come in handy! I've already had my share of bruises.

This is not a classroom for the faint of heart. It is challenging, often dangerous, frustrating and chaotic. It can also be immensely rewarding. There are 2, young ( you'd have to be young to withstand this pace, physically, for any length of time) teachers for these 4 students. At the moment they are allowed a crisis aide for a week at a time. That's where I've come into the mix.

It isn't easy to find someone willing to sub in this rather high-risk environment. I've been there almost every day for the past month between other, already scheduled sub jobs. I've also subbed for one of the young teachers while she took a much- needed break. One day next week I'll go from aide to teacher sub for the other teacher as she takes a few days off.

To be honest I'm in awe of these 2 teachers. They are amazing with these kids! Patience and perseverance are the name of the game. They have the temperament, love and teaching skills to tap into the magic that lies beneath the behaviors and limitations. And, yes, I've seen, already, much of the magic these kids have inside, untapped, and just waiting for someone to find a way to reach into and mine.

And, yes, these kids get under your skin. Each of them is different and lovable and engaging in spite of the behaviors and limitations. They might be exhausting and challenging but they are easy to fall in love with. I've fallen in love.

I already know that once the district either ceases to allow them a crisis aide or permits the hiring of a permanent aide, I will come back to volunteer on days I'm not on other sub jobs or need to be doing something else. Even if only for a few hours on the days I can come. I know I'm the first choice if the district gives the OK for a permanent aide in the CSC classroom. I also know my limitations. I couldn't do this every day and then come home and take care of my own boys. When the kids in the classroom spin out of control or become unmanageable, 4 kids turn into 14! And, as is often the case, when one melts down the others feed off the ensuing chaos.

Being on my feet in this physically demanding environment all day, getting up at 5 am to get myself and the boys ready for school, coming home from school and then dealing with the demands of my boys and dogs until 8 pm is taking its toll on my body. My age and arthritis remind me that one person can only do so much. My mind says yes; the old body says "ARE YOU CRAZY???"

October and November are already full of sub jobs. December even has a couple already on the calendar. With the economy as iffy as it is at the moment it's good to know I've got extra money coming in.

Connor and Sam have started off the school year on an up note. Connor's had his rocky moments, but, compared to years past, this is progress. His contained classroom environment in his school has been a plus for him. The additional diagnosis (this past summer) of high-functioning or atypical Autism hasn't really presented any changes in his school environment. He's already in, what has turned out to be, the optimum environment for his learning.

Life has been so crazy and exhausting that I've not had much time to spend posting. I haven't really had that much down time, to be honest. I think I got more done a week or so ago on a day I had to stay home with Sam who had a nasty but brief stomach bug. Gave me a chance to get caught up a bit.

I've got a new appreciation for working mothers, for single moms and for the teachers who devote their lives to teaching the children who present so many overwhelming challenges. I have to, once again, hand it to my particular school district. There are many failing districts all over the state and country. This is not one of them. My ISD cares about educating ALL kids and puts this caring into visible action. I see my tax dollars at work, in this instance, every day!


quid said...

Pam -

I'm glad the school season is off to a decent start for Sam and Connor.

I am fascinated by what you are doing and I love you for it. I'm sure those two young teachers love you, too. And as exhausting as it is, I'm sure it brings perspective to how much of a difference you and Trish have been able to make at home, how much your rocky road could have been even harder.

I so admire the work you are doing, Pam. Just be cautious, don't let it be your undoing.

Love, Q

Pam said...

I'm trying not to let it be my undoing. That's why I will say 'no' if I"m asked to take this job permanantly. As much as my heart and mind would love it, I can't.

2 of these boys are as tall as I am. We're talking 2-4th grade kids, physically.

Playing defense all day is grueling at times. One minute you're glad a kick put a hole in the wall and not your leg, the next you're being treated to the magic that lurks beneath the disorder behaviors.

I understand why it's said these teachers burn out quickly, why they are usually very young.

The stamina factor is HUGE!

Hal Johnson said...

Pam, I admire you for the role you've taken on. I admire teachers in general, and those who take on the task of teaching kids with special needs deserve a special place in heaven.

Kelly said...

I really don't know how you do it, Sis.... and yes, at times I'm concerned for you.

Glad things seem to be going well for Connor & Sam.

Sorry that I won't be able to come see you in October afterall. Yeah, well.... maybe there'll be another time.

Bob said...

Kudos to you, Pam, for your devotion to these special children. They are blessed to have you and the teachers are blessed to have you as a back-up.