Welcome to week 9 of my student teaching. After the adrenalin rush of last week’s job fair I waded into the online application bog. I applied for a position at the school I had been working at for the last year, but the position went to an experienced teacher who wanted to switch schools. The good part was that the person they hired is a great teacher who also has kids in the school. My focus remains on finding the school that is the best fit for me, so onward and upward!
The lessons went well this week, but there were a lot of distracting behaviors, which I’ll get to later. I continued to push the boundaries for my writing group. Since this month’s focus is on Africa I decided to begin the first week with African tribal masks as the subject. This was a pretty abstract concept for them, much like rice two weeks ago, but they retained a lot of knowledge about the specifics of the mask making process and how they are used, which they were then able to put into coherence sentences. My math group continued to work on counting backward and starting to introduce the concept of subtraction, so next week will tell if they grasp the process.
Some of the behaviors issues that dominated the week were one student with severe autism that lives with his father, but his father left the country for a month. This has prompted him to continuously shout out “DADDY!” and cry for much of the day. We’ve implemented several plans to help alleviate the behaviors. One pertained to visual supports reinforcing that dad had gone away, but he would be back. Another was to work on his voice control about his distress, so we will give him attention and sympathy if he speaks at a good volume level. Another student who is non-verbal with profound disabilities was not feeling well, and at several times this week he became very confrontational and was pushing, pinching, and scratching people. We document the different behaviors and coordinate with his doctor at Children’s hospital to keep them informed concerning medications and strategies. After several challenging days he stayed home sick, and after returning on Friday his behavior was much better. It reminds me to consider how non-verbal students communicate their feelings or discomfort. Many of our non-verbal students are able to communicate using augmentative methods, but for many children who have not learned alternate communication skills the only way they know how to express themselves is by lashing out. We continue to work on communication skills, and I realize that his behaviors are not a sign of malicious reasoning. They are usually a sign that he does not feel well, and wants to go home. I try to put myself in the child’s shoes, and ask myself how I would feel if I was sick and could not communicate that feeling.
I also attended my 3rd ILC PCT (early release training) on Friday. Its focus was on communication and social skills. I showed a short video clip of a lesson that centered on peer interaction and turn and talk. I’ve been observed several times in the past year by my principal and university coordinator, but having a room full of special education teachers watch and make comments on a video of myself made me nervous. They had good things to say, and I gleaned a few good suggestions for my future lessons. This was a great way to end the week, and I came out feeling a bit more confident.