Friday, August 16, 2013

My Day as a Containment SPED Teacher; My Day as a PE / Health Teacher

First and foremost:

After I explained to one of the janitors that the classroom where I had subbed (today) was unlocked, he thanked me and said "que tenga un buen fin de semana." He then laughed when I realized that it was indeed Friday and grinned mightily, wishing him the same. Yes, yes, it's offish: it takes TWO days of teaching to be grateful for a weekend.

Thursday was my first day of SFPS subbing. As I alluded in my title, I was one of four SPED teachers / aides in a classroom of four autistic students. Oh! Great, you say. That's 1:1. Piece of cake, no?
This was the text I sent to Lyly at the end of my day: 'Phew. I've been drooled on, sneezed on, had my hair yanked, dripped on by a rogue boy in the shower, and had my toes rolled over by a boy on a tricycle. Haha!'

This was all true. By the end of the day, however, I readily gave my contact info to the main teacher when she tentatively asked if I would ever sub in her classroom again. I suppose part of it is SIS*, because there were definite low points. I remember thinking - "Did we miss lunch?" and then realizing it was barely 11am. My cute outfit (not pictured) underwent some modifications: I removed my earrings so they wouldn't be torn out, I put up my hair several ways, and I had slavered jeans and Cheeze Ball crumbles all over my purple shirt. It is also disconcerting to have to facilitate learning with a student who doesn't always recognize his name.

But it did have a meditative quiet to it, too. We were slow-moving and patient. We sang songs. I redirected and redirected and redirected, and then lavished praise when my student matched the velcro that we were / weren't going outside at that moment and didn't respond with screaming and hair yanking. Since it was 80% orienting to social cues and routines, all we had to do is repeat and repeat. Match numbers, letters. Pick up the backpack. Close the door. Jump on the trampoline. Pick up the backpack. Match numbers. Place placemat. Pick up backpack. 
And so on.

A huge takeaway, of course, is that the theme of this post is an enormous paean to containment SPED teachers. I'm not going to say anything stupid like, "Those poor children!" or "Those poor teachers!" Pity is a tiring emotion in the special needs world. But admiration I will give. I am unfazed by physical disability; my older brother had severe cerebral palsy, and I well know that brilliant intellects can find themselves housed in less than obliging bodies. I stand in awe of those, however, who dedicate their days to working with the severely intellectually disabled. And I mean DAYS. Whole days. My five-minute lunch was spent scarfing a sandwich and a few strawberries; there wasn't pressure placed on me from my colleagues, but I knew that with my meal they were short-staffed. No breaks for specials, for meals, for recess. 

I mean DAYS: when the main teacher was pulled into a meeting, I was swinging the student (on the therapy swing) I was working with. There were two other aides, and still somehow a student managed to run into the bathroom, strip completely naked, and jump into the shower. He had messed his undies and was taking great strides to try to clean them. They were forgotten, however, when I was toweling him - and he spotted an earwig. "BAHH! BAHHGI!" And then we had to snuggle the earwig for a while. 
All of this transpired in the last ten minutes of the day, of course.

And that was day one.

While the cat did this, I breathed deeply and then signed on for another day of subbing.

Day Two? 
Today, I went to Capital High School and was a PE / fitness / health teacher. Though I got ready all in good time, I was still late. It's the traffic! As surely as I'm not used to city driving, traffic is such a novel concept. For instance, it's 3.7 miles from our trailer to ZHS. It's not quite 5 miles from my house to Capital High School. The trip to ZHS took about 7 or 8 minutes. The trip to Capital took close to half an hour (once I got parked). 

All the same, the day generally went well. I walked around the track with the PE and fitness students, though the 6th hour abjectly refused. What does one do? Especially when the other PE teacher is also a sub and the permanent sub who came to 'help out' shrugged and said, "They're bigger than we are." Well. I hadn't ever really thought of it that way. 

The highlight (and low point) of the day was simultaneously 7th hour health class. Oh, Lordy. Let me set the scene a little: all of my classes were near or far above 30 students (26 - 38). Health is largely a 9th grade class. So, 30-some freshmen. 90% or so Hispanic, but some stray melikas and one kid named Abdallah. Small classroom. Not enough books. 85 degrees or so. No windows. 

At the most chaotic: Abdallah had a brown bag dino puppet, two students were calling out to me ("Mrs. Jacona," wtf?), Habram was whispering "maestra!", half of the students were dutifully finishing the assignment, another hunk sat chattering (having finished), and Priscila belted a bolero. No joke.
It's definitely not what I would want for classroom management for my own students, but it was a start. For instance, they all got at least most of the assignment done. AND, each table presented one aspect of how surroundings can influence your health (there was a media table, an environment table, etc). It meant keeping them after three minutes, but hey! It got done. And I got to speak Spanish!

OH! Other highlight. The permanent sub asked if I was "Spanish." I suppose if my surname was Jacona, that would make more sense. Hudson, not so much.

Last, I had TWO preps today: though I definitely projected my voice more and sweated like a mad wildebeest, I also had two and a half hours to work on my anatomy & physiology, read NPR, eat, and relax. Pretty chill.

Well, I must be away: it IS a Friday, after all. Time to seize the night!**
Take care, and stay posted.

Over and out ~

* Subbing Invincibility Syndrome: like seriously. All you have to do is give your darndest to a bunch of kids for ONE day. Staff expectations of subs are generally preposterously low, so it's easy to feel like a superstar for doing the most rudimentary things. 

** By 'seize the night' I mean have supper, maybe dessert, and go to bed early.

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