Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trying to help

Today one of the teacher aides brought one of my elementary school counseling students to me, saying the student was upset. He certainly looked upset. He sat at the table in the school psych office, not talking, his head in his hands. I asked if he was angry or sad. “Both,” he said emphatically. He was quiet for a few minutes, but after I asked him a few more questions it finally came out: the problem was HOMEWORK (“I have so much to do, and I don’t know how to do any of it!”). I was relieved – homework is one problem I definitely have the skills to help with! He seemed very organized and took out each assignment (one for English, one for math, one for social studies). The social studies one was very short, and he was able to do it right away. When he reread the directions for math, he realized that because he’s a resource room student, he only had one page to do (with only three questions), not two, and he looked visibly relieved. Then it was dismissal time and his bus arrived, so he had to leave. He said after he comes in to homeroom in the mornings he goes to the resource room if he has any questions about his homework, so I reminded him he should do that tomorrow if he had trouble finishing the math and English at home tonight. I was glad I could help, and VERY glad I’m interning in a school district that offers so much support for special education students. Even knowing he has the terrific resource room teacher to help him, he still had an overwhelmed, panicky moment – imagine if he were a student at the bad charter school where I taught for a year. That was such a depressing job because there was just not nearly enough support for kids who needed extra help. We were supposed to do “team teaching” and were not supposed to pull kids out of the regular class – the “push-in” model. But I’m sorry, when you have an 11-year-old kid who’s reading at a third grade level, so amount of “pushing in” is going to be enough to help him access material written at the sixth grade level. A kid like that needs major curriculum and homework modifications and adaptations (along with direct instruction in reading, of course). At this school we have teacher aides, multiple remedial reading and remedial math teachers, multiple staff members in general that we just didn’t have at that charter school. It frustrates me that every kid in the country doesn’t have access to all these extremely helpful services. I really appreciate interning in a good school where every day I see an excellent model of how things are SUPPOSED to work.

Two days ago I was scrolling through my daily Indeed.com e-mail that alerts me to school psychologist job openings when I stopped cold: there was an ad for a school psychologist needed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (“start date negotiable”). Mary Sherlach was the school psychologist who died in the massacre there on Dec. 14, 2012. I remember on the day it happened, I went to B.’s after work and we quietly watched CNN together. As soon as the CNN reporter started talking about Mary Sherlach, I said, “Wait – the school psychologist died??” B. looked down and admitted, “I didn’t want to tell you.” I was actually going to apply, but that night I had bad dreams – nothing graphic, nothing I can even remember, but I woke up with a distinct sense of uneasiness and fear. They definitely need a school psychologist with far more experience than I have, anyway. My only recent traumatic experience was this morning when Izzie (www.DemonKittyDoesGood.org) jumped off the windowsill onto my face. Now I have a scratch on my nose.
Tonight I’m going to a reading in Albany by Ann Hood (http://www.annhood.us/ ), one of my favorite fiction writers! *Excited*

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