Thursday, September 24, 2009

My job: punishment for doing something terrible in a previous life?

Extremely discouraging couple of days.

Apparently on Tuesday as the kids were being released to go home for the day, there was an incident with a middle school student allegedly pushing one of the elementary school teachers as they (the students) came barreling down the stairs. There are two sides to the story, though, from two different teachers (not to mention the student), so who knows what really happened. On Wednesday, Mitchell (the vice principal) was out sick. That afternoon he sent an e-mail to all of us saying he was sorry he couldn't be with us but he'd woken up feeling "absolutely awful" (note that he didn't specify whether he meant physically or mentally!). In the rest of the e-mail he reamed us out for the staircase incident and for not walking our kids all the way down five flights of stairs and seeing them out of the building when we release them for the day -- even though we were NEVER told we had to do that. I'm lucky because my class meets in the cafeteria on the first floor, so when that final bell rings, I'm like "peace out" and they walk right out of the building. Have you ever heard of a junior high where the kids are lined up to go to every class, and are even walked out of the building? But some of them act so immature, I can see why Mitchell feels we have to do it.

Anyway, he ended the e-mail by saying teachers who shirk their cafeteria duties, recess duties, walking their kids out of the building duties, etc., will have a letter put in their file. I am so sick of this "letter in your file" crap. They did that to Cori for the exploding pen vandalism incident, and one of the teachers from last year said it became almost a running joke that they were putting a letter in her file every month for one negative thing or another. It reminds me of the old "this will go in your permanent record!" threat. It's so demeaning.

Honestly, if teachers are sometimes tempted to shirk their duties once in a while, maybe it's because they're endless! Besides actually teaching for five to six periods per day, we have to supervise Tai Chi (20 minutes), do homeroom/morning meeting (25 minutes), breakfast duty (25 minutes), pick kids up from breakfast to line them up and bring them to class (5 minutes), recess or lunch duty (30 minutes), and escort the kids out of the building at the end of the day (5 minutes). That's almost TWO HOURS EVERY DAY just on non-instructional duties. That can't be normal, can it??

I wonder if the administration is even getting discouraged, because it seems like every e-mail we get from Mitchell or any of them anymore is scolding us for something. Earlier this week I'd sent Mitchell an e-mail saying the planned schedule of team meetings that he'd sent out was a great idea, does it start this week or next? No response. The next day I found these cool activities I thought would be good for the advisory classes, so I e-mailed them to him. No response. I know they're as overwhelmed as we are, if not more so, but it's not helping morale.

Then yesterday the English teacher e-mailed Mitchell and me saying she had to leave today at 3:00 PM for a doctor's appointment, so she would need coverage for her seventh grade English class and her advisory class. I hit "reply all" and told them both that since I was planning to be in there anyway to do some vocabulary review games and a vocabulary crossword puzzle, I was fine with covering the class solo. But then the teacher told me this morning that Mitchell wrote back only to her and said that was good, but he still wanted another teacher in the class with me. I was like, ??? First of all, why? I'm a certified teacher. It made me feel like he thought I wouldn't be able to handle the class by myself, even though I said I would be comfortable with it. I mean, I *should* be, according to the co-teaching model we special ed teachers are supposed to abide by. Second of all, why didn't he include me on the e-mail, too?

So one of the sixth grade teachers offered to help supervise during that period, since she had a prep period, but then the reading specialist said she had been planning to push in that period anyway, so we decided it would be her and me. I'd thought it would go great because I'd been in both of Andrea's seventh grade math classes that morning, and they were SO well-behaved, I thought she must have slipped tranquilizers in their breakfast. Juan wasn't even sitting in the back of the room, and they were still really good. Even the usual suspects were pretty quiet. So I thought, Wow, English class will be a breeze.

Well. THANK GOD Mitchell said he wanted two of us in the room. It was hell. They -- were -- HORRIBLE. Absolutely awful. The science teacher had, for some insane reason, given them balloons in the class right before mine as part of some demonstration, so they were popping balloons in the hallway and screaming before they even got to class. Also, somehow they'd heard and gotten excited about their old sixth grade teacher being with them that period, so the reading specialist and I were NOT who they wanted to see. a game?? No way. They couldn't even quiet down enough to listen to my instructions about the crossword puzzle. They were getting up out of their seats, calling across the room, laughing at nothing, speaking totally disrespectfully to us. Even a few of the kids who aren't usually a problem were being completely rude. And I felt even worse when one of the handful of well-behaved kids raised his hand and quietly asked if the people who were following directions could at least play the game? I had to say no, because how would they have heard anything over the din??

I was thisclose to crying by the time the period finally, mercifully, ended. But I had to pull myself together because I still had a whole period of advisory to teach. Woo-hoo!

Needless to say, I felt completely and utterly miserable by the end of the day. If Mitchell thought I couldn't handle the class by myself, well, he was right. I couldn't even handle it with another teacher in the room. And I don't even feel comfortable asking for suggestions or support, because I'm petrified any potentially negative thing I admit to will get written up in a letter in my file.

But during advisory class, we went around and said our "rose" (good part of our day) and our "thorn" (bad part of our day), and one student, who'd gone to another advisory group the past week but then got switched back to mine today, said happily, "My rose is that I'm back in your advisory group now!" Even in the depths of my misery, he made me smile. I wanted to hug him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Less stress is best

Today was a lot less stressful than I expected. Both the English teacher and the history teacher were back today, for one thing. And for another, I walked into math class with dread in the pit of my stomach -- only to find the kids sitting straight in their seats, absolutely silent, like little angels. For a couple of seconds I couldn't figure it out. Had she just screamed at them a minute before and scared them? Her screaming usually just makes them louder. Then I got to the back of the room and saw Juan, one of our administrators, sitting there observing. The kids like, respect, and fear him all at once -- I think he's the only staff member who has worked at the school since the first day it started a few years ago -- so they were completely well-behaved in front of him. If only he could sit in on all of Andrea's classes. ;O

It was a lucky day in other ways, too. For example, I took one kid out of English class and made him stay in the hall for a couple minutes as a time-out, because he kept talking, laughing, and messing around -- and the vice principal happened to walk by. "Why are you out of class so much?" he demanded. "It looks like we have to call your mother and have her come babysit you in class so you learn how to behave. Let's go call her now." And he stalked off, taking the kid with him. Well-played!

Cori told me one of the administrators sent her an e-mail saying that a (negative) letter would be put in her file regarding the exploding-pen vandalism incident that supposedly happened under her watch during indoor recess. Shouldn't they put a POSITIVE letter in her file about how she took over Amy's math class one period last week with no notice?? Unreal.

And the only other bad news: today during advisory, I did an activity with the kids where they had to give a thumbs up if they agreed with a statement I read, or a thumbs down if they disagreed. The last statement was, "I like me," and only one kid, Jonathan, put his thumb down. "I hate myself," he said matter-of-factly. And he wasn't kidding around -- he was serious. He's a nice kid, well-behaved. He said he used to get into a lot of fights, so it seemed related to that. I said, "But you seem like a peaceful person. You don't fight anymore, do you?"

"I guess not," he shrugged. But he said he still hates himself. He's 12! Doesn't he realize he has YEARS ahead in which to hate himself?? Ha ha. But seriously, I'm going to talk to the social worker about him. Maybe he's depressed and no one has realized it? :(

Monday, September 21, 2009

Isn't it too early in the schoolyear to call in sick?

The English teacher and the history teacher were BOTH out today -- I hope they were just slightly under the weather, and that they're not about to quit or disappear. I was in one of the 7th grade English classes today with the substitute, and the behavior was discouraging, although they did finally settle down enough to read an article aloud, and some of them actually answered some of the questions at the end. I was in one of the 7th grade math classes today, too. The teacher introduced an incentive program where, when kids are on task and behaving well, they get tickets they can eventually redeem for prizes and other incentives. But by halfway through the period she was discouraged and yelling at kids again. I don't know. I'm still getting my bearings with this whole special ed "push-in" thing. I try to deal consistently with the misbehavior, but it's amazing how hard it is with so much else going on. Classroom management was always a challenge for me, which is part of why I went back for my special ed degree, since I like working with small groups better. And anyway, I'm only in each teacher's class a few times a week, so if they can't manage the class on their own, we're all screwed. Sigh. This morning the assistant principal sat in on the sixth grade English lesson and, at the end, asked if the lead teacher and I had discussed my role in the classroom -- I think because the lead teacher taught the whole lesson pretty much on his own. Tomorrow the math specialist and I are both in the sixth grade math class, and we're going to break the class into groups and each teach the lesson. Hopefully it will go well. I haven't used this much math in ages!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I CAN raise my voice

Thursday was something else. Dragged myself in for our staff meeting at 7:15 IN THE MORNING (!!!), and then it was kind of disappointing because we emerged after half an hour with only two definite decisions:

1) We should call the parents of the kids in our advisory class by the end of next week to touch base and introduce ourselves, which I think is a good idea.

2) We have to line the kids up in the classroom first and then walk them to their next class, rather than line them up in the hall, because that’s when they get into trouble – yelling, touching each other, general mayhem. Honestly, I think requiring them to line up is part of the problem. I can understand walking them to classes that are four flights of stairs away, like theater or dance (although it’s still ridiculous to have to walk junior high school kids anywhere). But all of their core classes are on the same floor – literally next door to each other. If the teachers dismissed them by row or by table, it would pace them so they’re not all out in the hallway all at once. Another problem, as one of my co-workers pointed out, is that some teachers don’t feel ready for the kids to come in – they’re still preparing – so they make them wait out in the hall even after the bell has rung, and the longer they’re hanging out in the hall with nothing to do, the more that chaos ensues. We specialists are supposed to walk through the halls ‘supervising’ during this time, but I feel invisible -- kids will literally reach around me to grab each other. For the first time yesterday, I didn’t feel safe, so I just got out of the way and gave up. The trouble-makers’ lack of intimidation around adults and authority figures is shocking.

Anyway, those two issues could have been handled in an e-mail instead of making me get up at 5:20 AM.

Then I went to one of my co-worker Andrea’s seventh grade math classes, only to find most of the class clustered in the front of the room and three kids off to the side, goofing around. Andrea said something to me like, “I’m teaching the lesson, but those turkeys don’t want to learn. If you want to try to work with them, go ahead.” I winced. Referring to the kids as “turkeys” is probably not going to make them behave any better. Just sayin’.

So I tried to get something done with one of the boys, and Cori, the math specialist, came in and worked with the other two. Then Cori realized another boy had been in the room a while as punishment for acting up in another class, so I took him to class, but it took a while because he had study skills with a teacher who floats, so it took us some time to find the room.

I returned to class after it ended, so Andrea had already lined the kids up and let them go. The other seventh grade class was in a line waiting to get into the room, so when the bell rang signaling the period was starting, I began to let them come in.

“Wait, I want to greet them each individually and hand them their worksheet,” she said, so I stopped them. But then she just wandered around the room, straightening out the desks and stuff as the minutes ticked away. By the time she went to the door with her worksheets, pandemonium had broken out, one kid shoved another kid, and that kid hit a girl who fell on the floor, hitting Andrea hard in the leg. The girl got up and complained her back hurt, but she said she was OK. Andrea wasn’t, though. I let the kids inside as she tried to take a minute and pull herself together, but then after the kids were in, she turned around and her eyes were wet.

“Go take a break,” I told her. “I’ll take care of them. Just go.”

She whimpered, “Thank you” and fled in tears. I got back inside, handed out the worksheets and managed to calm the kids down enough so I could hear myself think. Then I looked down at the lesson and waves of panic washed over me. It was on integers and rational and irrational numbers. Which is which, I thought frantically. I’d heard part of the lesson the period before, and I’d glanced at the material in the math book for a couple minutes that morning, but I hadn’t refreshed my knowledge nearly enough to be able to teach it with any sort of competence or confidence.

And then, like a miracle, Cori walked in. I whispered to her what had happened and said, “My math skills are just not up to teaching this lesson.”

“No problem,” she said, and for the next 40 minutes, she taught the lesson so expertly, it was like she’d designed it herself. The kids still talked too much, and we had to shush them every so often, but she got through the whole lesson, and those kids learned rational and irrational numbers (as did I). Watching her, I thought, What a pro. I already liked Cori a lot: she’s such a positive person, she brings up issues without whining, she takes her job seriously but never to the point of losing her sense of humor, she never complains. After she took over that class with such ease and professionalism, my admiration of her, already high, was magnified a thousand times.

In the middle of class Andrea wandered in, glassy-eyed, sat at her desk for a few minutes playing with her cell phone, then disappeared again. By the afternoon, though, she was back to teaching her classes.

At lunch, I told Cori how awesome she was. She laughed and said, “Well, I would’ve wanted someone to do the same for me. But I’m worried because Andrea used the ‘q’ word before class even started.” Andrea had told her that these kids made her want to quit teaching after fourteen years. “I wanted to say, ‘No! You can’t quit! Otherwise they’ll probably make me take over your classes, and that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing!’”

The next time I saw Cori, during my prep period a couple hours after lunch, she looked uncharacteristically befuddled. We’d held recess inside that day, which means the kids go back to homeroom and sit around for 25 minutes until lunch. Cori’s homeroom meets in the art room when there’s indoor recess. Apparently some vandalism occurred – a student purposely exploded a pen or something (?), and smeared the ink all over the room, staining the floor -- there were even ink footprints on one of the tables. So Joan, the principal, called Cori in and grilled her, asking how this could have happened during her recess without her knowing it. Cori said she didn’t think it had happened under her watch, because she would’ve noticed. “I mean, I was three or four minutes late to recess, so unless something happened then – “

“Why were you late?” Joan asked.

“Um, I was watching Amy’s class after she broke down in tears?” Cori said. But she still would’ve noticed the ink everywhere, so she thought it had to have happened the following period.

But, the next thing she knew, she was on her hands and knees in the art room trying to scrub the stains off the floor. Can you believe that? By the end of the school day they’d learned who did it and had suspended him, and Cori was running around collecting work for the kid to do while he’s out. She joked, “I think it’s more of a punishment for me than for him. I got to scrub the floor and run around collecting work for him, and he gets to have two days off!”

As soon as I heard that, I immediate wrote a formal e-mail to Joan and Mitchell, the vice principal, telling them how Cori took over Andrea’s class in such an amazing and professional way. I figured she would never brag about herself, so I should brag for her, especially in light of the hard time Joan gave her that afternoon. I’m sure the whole pen incident happened either when the kids got into the room unsupervised, or under the art teacher’s watch. I have homeroom with the art teacher, and I like her a lot as a person, but her classroom management technique seems to be to just shout over the kids. It’s so loud in there, a pen could literally explode – heck, a bolt of lightening could strike – and no one would even notice.

Speaking of loud, I got caught reaming Quigley out during my advisory class last period. He – never – shuts – up! He’s like that in all his classes, as far as I can tell, though he was in particularly rare form yesterday. I was just trying to give directions for an activity for five minutes, and he kept talking. When I tried to re-direct him, he just laughed and kept talking, making comments, fooling around. It’s so disrespectful. I want to ask him, do you talk to your parents that way? They’d probably be mortified if they saw his behavior.

On Wednesday I sent him away to sit at a separate table and not participate in the activity, since he was being so talkative and disrespectful. On Thursday, I screamed in his face instead (!). No, I didn’t actually scream. But oh boy, did I raise my voice. I reamed him out for a good 30 seconds (“Even now you’re talking! When your lips are moving that means you’re talking, and instead you need to be listening!”), telling him in no uncertain terms he needed to respect me by listening and not interrupting when I speak, just like I respect him by listening when he has something to tell me.

Just as I finished reaming him out, I looked over and saw Mitchell, along with one of my students, Shawn, standing in the doorway staring at me. “I just wanted to let you know I’m borrowing Shawn for a little while,” Mitchell said. “And tomorrow I’ll speak to whoever was causing *that* disturbance.”

So he totally backed me up, but I still thought, Oh, no, what did he really think?? I wasn’t screaming or out of control or saying anything inappropriate like “shut up,” but my voice was raised, and I did let the anger come through. And I don’t like doing that. I would love to be one of those teachers who can control a class without showing anger or raising their voice.

But on Friday Mitchell caught me in the hall to ask my thoughts about how this morning assembly went, and then he grinned and said, “Well, after yesterday I do know that you *can* raise your voice.”

I sort of half-smiled sheepishly, and he added, “But you know what? It was good -- you were firm. You made it clear that at that moment, you were the authority figure and his job was to listen.”

Whew, I thought with relief. So he was sincere when he backed me up. I told him how Quigley drives me crazy, and he said, “You’re not the first person who’s told me that!”

“His behavior doesn’t even seem sincere half the time,” I said. “I think he’s actually a good kid, but he wants to show off to impress his friends. He’s always looking around to see their reactions.” Which is normal at this age.

That, however, does not make it any less annoying.

The good part of my afternoon was in the sixth grade English class, helping Joe, who’s a good kid, no behavior problems, but he learns so slowly – he’s basically at a second or third grade level in both reading and math – that he’s supposed to be in a special class with only 12 students per teacher. But we don’t offer that at our school, so I have to get in there as regularly as I can. The English teacher did a neat activity where he played about an hour’s worth of music – different songs from the ‘60’s to now – and the kids had to write about memories any of the songs triggered or anything that came to mind. He’d prepared a list of prompts for the kids in case they got really stuck, and Joe did wonderfully. I helped him read the list, and in the end he picked eight prompts that interested him and wrote a couple sentences for each. He really tries, and I really like working with him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Today after our usual morning Tai Chi (which I really like, by the way, at least when the kids are quiet enough that I don’t have to worry about shushing them), the vice principal sat them down and told them he’s already gotten calls from a few parents concerned about the behavior of some students at the school. “By being loud and causing a commotion when you walk from class to class, and by disrespecting your teachers by continually disrupting lessons, I hope you don’t think you'll make us all quit,” he said. “We love each and every one of you too much to allow that to happen. We want you to succeed.” Then when I was in the hall this afternoon, I saw him with one of the seventh grade classes lined up against the wall, scolding them, “Some of your parents have already called me with concerns about this behavior. It’s not acceptable.” And I thought, geez -- why on earth would anyone want to be a vice principal!? I don’t know how he has the energy or the stamina. Whatever they’re paying him, it’s not enough.

One of the few teachers who was at the school last year told me, “I’m surprised parents are complaining -- so far things are SO much better than last year. It’s like night and day.” Which makes me glad I missed last year. ;O The one seventh grade class I was in today actually went pretty well -- all but a couple of the students were on task and engaged. This one kid, Quigley, would not shut up, though. I have him for advisory last period of the day, and he was the same way there. I made him stay after school for a few minutes and write about why he kept getting into trouble and how his teachers could help him. He wrote, "By stop getting me in trouble for no reason. I got in trouble because of nothing." So I re-phrased the question as, why do you keep talking when your teachers are talking? How can they help you stop? He wrote, "Because teachers ignore me when I raise my hand. By not ignoring me and making my arm hurt." We talked about how his teachers appreciate it when he raises his hand, but we can't always call on him all the time -- other kids need a chance to speak. Who knows if that helped or not. We'll see how he is tomorrow.

The sixth grade already went on a field trip yesterday – some sort of Outward Bound type of thing with rope-climbing, trust falls, etc. Sounds like exactly the kind of trip I would’ve hated in sixth grade! But it went extremely well. One of the teachers who has been teaching for 37 years said it was the best field trip he had ever been on. “You talk too much, we know that,” he told the kids. “But the way most of you treated each other and helped each other out, it really inspired me and warmed my heart.”

Today when the sixth grade science teacher was explaining scientific laws and scientific theories, one of the kids raised his hand and asked out of nowhere, “What’s Einstein’s theory of relativity?”

I’m trying to get a read on that sixth grader Tre (the one who, when asked to write about who he really is, wrote, “I am an alien in a human body"). Half the time he’s just sitting around, unprepared, not writing anything down, and chatting with the kids around him. But today, when he was doing that and the teacher called on him, he knew exactly what was going on in the lesson and could explain it. The other day when I saw him in the hall, he asked, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

“Invisibility,” I said immediately. (I’ve probably thought about that question too much.) “Because then you could go anywhere and do anything, and no one would be able to tell. What about you?”

“The ability to have ALL the superpowers,” he said. Tricky!

Monday, September 14, 2009

All this drama (and that's just the teachers!)

As the special education inclusion teacher, I'm supposed to push in to classes and only pull kids out rarely, so I share an office (really a small classroom) with a few other specialists. One of them told me last Thursday about how a few of the teachers were using our office as a teacher's lounge, and "one of them was putting make-up on at your desk!"

I looked at my desk. It was clean -- so, honestly, someone putting on make-up at my desk is really the least of my concerns. Some teachers float and don't have their own rooms, and because the building was under construction over the summer we don't even really have a conference room set up, so if they want to use our room, I don't begrudge them that. Really, don't the kids bring us enough drama without us adding to it??

This woman definitely has a thing for "everyone and everything in its place." She carefully taped labels with our room number on every item in the room, for example -- even the garbage can. I'm afraid to borrow so much as a pen from her for five minutes out of fear she'll accuse me of stealing. Then yesterday I e-mailed notes from the special ed kids' IEPs to the general ed teachers -- things like if they need extra time on tests, preferential seating, etc. I almost didn't include this teacher on it, since she's a specialist who does pull-out instruction, not a core teacher, but I CCd her and the other specialist on it anyway.

Well, that was a mistake. When I came in this morning, she didn't even say hello, just gave me the stinkeye and said, "Who told you to e-mail all that information out? Did that come from the special ed director?"

"No, I just did it because I thought it was good information for the teachers to know," I said. "I wasn't even sure if you needed it, but figured I'd CC you just in case."

"It's just with confidentiality, I wasn't sure if you were supposed to, so I was wondering where it came from."

"Oh," I said. "I don't know. I didn't ask. I just did it." I had thought of confidentiality, too, but we share each kid's annual goals and short-term objectives on Google docs, so I assumed if that was all right to share electronically, why wouldn't information about whether they need extra time on tests be all right to share? And you know if I *HADN'T* CC'd her on it, she would've found out about it and said, "Why didn't you give me the same information you gave the classroom teachers!?" You can't win with some people.

The kids do bring us plently of drama. Last Friday, one class of eighth graders was so bad with the foreign language teacher -- yelling, throwing things, etc. -- that the vice principal marched them into their homeroom and made them sit there silently with their heads on their desks during their entire recess period. At one point he whispered to me, "I'm amazed they're able to be this quiet!" But they are afraid of him, which is a great quality for a vice principal to evoke.

Today the math teacher lost her cool with one class of seventh graders while I was in there. "Shut your fat mouths!" she said. "Shut up!" she said. And, "if you're not paying attention, that's your choice, I get paid the same either way." And she's been teaching for 14 years! :O I've done some things I regretted when I was a classroom teacher, but I never told a kid to shut up, or to shut his fat mouth. My rule of thumb is, don't say anything to a student that you wouldn't want to hear them say back to you.

On the other hand, they did finally settle down after that and get some work done.

There's this sixth grader, Tre, who really intrigues me. When the history teacher asked them last week to respond to the question, "If someone asked you to define who you really are, what would you say?" Tre immediately raised his hand and asked me, "Can we write ANYthing?"

"Sure, if you think it's who you really are," I said.

He promptly wrote, "I am an alien trapped in a human body." Ah, kids....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

1 day down. 179 to go.

Today was the first day of school for the students! 48 sixth graders, 48 seventh graders, and 48 eighth graders graced us with their presence today. The vice principal said it was the smoothest first day of school he's experienced. My take? These kids are LOUD. Advisory period turned into a "make labels for your locker and socialize" period this afternoon, since we still don't have the advisory curriculum, and the din that 24 seventh graders can make is amazing, really. It just surprises me how unafraid of adult authority some of them are (completely unlike me when I was their age). I mean, it's only THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL and I already had to give a seventh grader a warning for throwing a little piece of paper while the lead teacher was talking! The seventh and eighth grade math teacher has taught for 14 years, and even she had a hard time getting them all to simply stay quiet and pay attention. She's going to assign seats tomorrow, separating a couple of the especially talky groups, so that should help. One of the teachers from last year said that this year's seventh and eighth graders are used to getting away with talking whenever they want, because for a couple of their subjects last year they ended up with substitute after substitute due to teacher turnover, and their other teachers had given up, I guess, and just talked over them.

The sixth graders aren't like that, though. They're all brand new to the school -- we didn't have a fifth grade last year -- so they were much more nervous than the older kids. Plus none of them know each other enough yet to chat too much. ;) The sixth grade teachers are wonderful with them, too. Although one little girl I met this morning was funny. Her first question to me was, "Do we ever have dress down days?" She was disappointed when I told her no ("It's so boring to look like everyone else!").

As the special ed teacher for half the sixth grade and all of seventh, I'm supposed to "push in" to classes as much as possible, since we have a math specialist and a reading specialist to pull them out for extra small group instruction in those subjects. It's kind of weird, though, because I was told to just make my own schedule, but I couldn't even see the kids IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) until last Thursday when they finally arrived out of storage, and none of the other teachers even got finalized schedules themselves until yesterday. And in the three weeks of professional development we just had, we were given surprisingly little time for planning together.

So today I basically just observed and helped out in the seventh grade math and language arts classes, and the sixth grade math class. Even though I wasn't lecturing the whole class, like the lead teachers were, I went around and answered kids' questions, tried to make sure they stayed on task, etc. I barely saw our principal all day, but our vice principal was awesome, out and about in seemingly all the classrooms, an active presence. But then I felt weird because when I caught him to ask him a question (this was after he happened to come in to two different classrooms and saw me helping out), he asked how things were going, I said things seemed to be going pretty smoothly, and then he told me, "Don't be afraid to jump in."

I was kind of like, "Oh." Because to me, I *had* been jumping in. And today was fairly similar in all the classes -- going over the rules, the supplies needed, the syllabus, etc. So on the way home, I brooded. I like him as a vice principal, and I want him to think I'm going a good job. By Friday I hope to figure out when each teacher's planning periods are so I can schedule times to sit down with them and see what we can do together for our "special students."

Tomorrow is our first morning of whole-school tai chi in the wellness room (don't call it a gym; it's a "wellness room." ;) According to the wellness teachers, some of the too-cool-for-school seventh and eighth graders have been copping an attitude about it, but I'm looking forward to it, myself.