Snow Day! A Reprise

02/10/2010
Tweed Courthouse, New York City - The headquar...
Image via Wikipedia

Why is it that when the New York City Department of Education seems to do the right thing for what seem to be noble reasons, the cynic in me rises to the surface and speaks.

Last year in early March there was a weather forecast very similar to today’s: snow beginning overnight and becoming heavier as the day progresses with near blizzard conditions due to 45mph winds.

NYCDOE memos say they’ll announce school closings, a very rare event, before 6AM and last year they waited until the very last moment, finally announcing the shutdown after many dedicated teachers had left early to get to work on time and far too late for parents to make alternate arrangements for childcare.

I wrote about that little bureaucratic snafu that morning.

I don’t know if Chancellor Klein or someone with his ear read that post, or the hundreds of other excoriations online, but things were done a little differently yesterday.

New York City is finally moving into the modern era when it comes to communicating with citizens and other people interested in changes in routine. The City offers a notification system similar to the ones introduced to college campuses after the Virginia Tech shooting.

This system allows people to sign-up for text message, email and telephone notification of things like changes in parking regulations, school closings and public health emergencies. I signed up early yesterday morning

Shortly after 11:30 yesterday morning the NYCDOE posted a message on their homepage in the Spotlight section below and to the left of the link teachers click to get to their curriculum information, teaching resources and DOE email.

The email link is significant. My principal and, I’m sure, many others in the system are trying – for budgetary if not environmental reasons – to reduce the volume of paper memos by distributing information via email.

We are told to check our email frequently.

We are never told to check the DOE homepage and most teachers I know don’t spend much time, if any, looking at it.

At about 1:30 in the afternoon I recieved a text message, an email and a phone call from Notify NYC telling me that Alternate Side of the Street Parking Regulations were suspended on the next day due to the impending snow.

Nothing about school closings.

On its homepage, the DOE said it was announcing the school closing so early to give parents time to make childcare arrangements for the snow day.

Still, it was not until more than three hours later, 3:03PM to be precise, that Notify NYC texted, called and emailed to announce the planned school closing.

snow covered cars
Image by dgphilli via Flickr

Apparently knowing that you would not have to move your car to the other side of the street in the morning was more important to NYC residents than knowing you would need to arrange alternative childcare.

Admittedly, its not always easy to find legal parking in NYC, but its got to be easier than finding emergency childcare.

Lots of teachers live in the suburbs and lots of teachers have young children.

Suburban schools close due to snow because it is difficult and dangerous to try driving school busses on slippery streets. Just after noon I received three notifications that my son’s school would be closed.

NYC schools rarely close because only special education students travel to school and home on what they call the “cheese bus.” All the others walk, are driven by parents or ride public transportation.

NYC teachers with school-age children also need to make childcare arrangements so they can go to work even when the suburban schools are closed.

But it was not until 4:30PM that the DOE finally got around to emailing its employees about the decision to close the schools.

The NYCDOE did make the right decision and they made it in a much, much more timely fashion this time. They get a well-deserved pat on the back for that.

But the NYCDOE needs to learn something from the difficulties they seemed to have communicating that decision.

They could realize that having high expectations, like mine for them, is not enough to produce desired learning; that learning requires teaching and time for repeated attempts to err, try again and, eventually, get things right.

Maybe they’ll understand that learning does not happen on a steady, smooth upward incline on a graph.

The NYCDOE went from an F to a C, or in the terms we use, from a low one to a high two, in a little less than a year. They are approaching the standard for school closing.

Eventually there will be another major snow storm, another opportunity to do better.

But chances are they’ll have a lot of time to reflect on their performance this time, to think about how they could do better when the next performance exam comes, and to practice the procedures involved.

I wish they’d give my students that kind of time.

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Goodbye 2009, Thanks For All The Lessons.

12/31/2009
Surely we must be learning
Image by tonyhall via Flickr

These past few days of relative idleness instead of work have given me time to think, consolidate, reflect on and synthesize from what I have learned in the past year.

I wanted to write a post thanking the people who taught me this year but there are far too many of them to name individually.

Of course my wife and son top the list, here is a brief rundown of some of the others I want to thank:

–my PLN on Twitter has been an incredible resource of knowledge, advice, support and amusement;

–my principal who asks his teachers open-ended questions about grading philosophies, for example, then actually listens to what we have to say;

— the other administrators and colleagues at my school are daily sources of inspiration, encouragement, kindness and challenge;

— my students, they think I’m teaching them but I’m learning more from them than I could possibly put into a decade of lesson plans.

I’ve grown and learned an amazing amount this year, just like every other one. It is what I’ve learned that’s different.

Humans are sponges, we learn all the time. Sometimes students even learn what we want them to and what we think we are teaching them.

All of us teach all the time. The only difference between someone called a teacher and everyone else is that we get paid for our efforts.

The difference between teaching in school and teaching through our lives is that professional teachers, like me, are under the delusion we know what we’re teaching when we plan a lesson.

Academics are a very small part of the lessons we deliver each moment through our behaviors, tone of voice, manner of dress, choice of vocabulary and sets of expectations.

——

I’ve learned that if you want a student to learn a new skill you name the skill, show what it looks like, model using it, and give students time to practice using the skill in a low-threat environment before asking the student to perform the skill in a summative assessment.

Why do we forget this when we teach teachers?

One of my Twitter friends, Eric Sheninger (@NHMS_Principal), posted this today:

Prof. New Years resolution: provide even more PD so my staff realizes the true potential of edtech and web2.0

Tech PD is great, but if you really want teachers to use the tech you have to give them time to practice, to learn from mistakes made privately, to develop enough skill so that they have confidence they won’t look like complete fools once they are in front of students.

Asking a teacher to use or teach using the technology without adequate time to practice is equivalent to giving a student a summative assessment the day after a lesson.
——-
I’ve discovered that change is easier for me than I thought it was, but it is still not easy. The problem isn’t change per se, but how it can challenge one sense of control and one’s place in the general organization of things.

The same things that make change difficult for me also makes learning difficult for my students.

The place a student knows, his home, community or school situation  — as bad as it may seem to us — is often less threatening to a student than any new one.

I seer this when I try to move students in self-contained special education classes into inclusion classes. The students have mastered survival in a class of 12; the skills and behaviors required in a class of 32 are very different.

While the student may be able to do the academic work, the social adaptations required are often overwhelming because they threaten the student’s self-definition.

——

My professional resolution for the new year is to be more aware of, more tuned-in to my student’s need and the factors that interfere with their learning. I resolve to make my classes even safer environments for growth and development.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope it is a safe, healthy, enjoyable year filled with opportunity, growth and love.

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No Education, Just Plate

11/27/2009
Assorted wine corks
Image via Wikipedia

I call this blog Education On The Plate, but so far it has been almost all education and very little plate.

Today will be different.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. As I make every attempt to be thankful for all the good things in my life every day, yesterday was mostly about food.

And wine.

If anyone ever tells you to try a sparkling Shiraz, take his or her advice. If they really know their stuff they’ll tell you to drink it VERY cold (yes, cold red wine) from red wine glasses, not champagne flutes. Listen to them.

I go to a great wine store in Orangeburg, NY and they introduced me to Bleasdale Vineyards The Red Brute Sparkling Shiraz, a deep purple liquid with an abundant share of all the typical Shiraz berry and chocolate flavors, plus bubbles. Festive and perfect with turkey.

My brother-in-law’s table groaned with turkey, cornbread stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes, carrot-parsnip puree, red cabbage, and two cranberry-based dressings. My wife’s concoction involving cranberries, tequila, jalapenos and some other stuff was a big hit.

My contribution to the meal, aside from my appetite, was cranberry chutney made from a recipe belonging to a food writer whose pen name was Vladimir Estragon. I clipped it from the Village Voice in 1982.

Here’s the recipe:

Two cups cider vinegar

1-cup water

1 & ½-pounds light brown sugar

1 & ½-pounds fresh whole cranberries

½-pound currants (substitute white raisins if you can’t find currants)

½-pound seedless raisins

2 ounces fresh ginger, sliced very thin

1 medium head of garlic, peeled and chopped fine

2 large lemons, chopped fine (remove seeds, but include peel)

½-teaspoon cayenne pepper

Bring vinegar and water to boil and then add the sugar. When all the sugar is dissolved, add all other ingredients.  Bring to boil again, and then simmer two hours or so.  Stir gently from time to time, adding more water if necessary. (You may want to use a heat diffuser under the pot to help prevent scorching.) It’s okay if it seems a little thin; it will gel when cooled. Put in jars and seal.

I usually make a double batch so I have lots to spread on leftover turkey sandwiches. It is also good with pork, chicken, and cheddar cheese. It lasts for months in the refrigerator.

I’m probably not going to be posting a lot of recipes here, but I hope to do more writing about food and drink now that my food writer/restaurant critic newspaper gig has come to an end.

School lunch, anyone?

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The Bulletin Board Paradox

11/11/2009
Simple cork
Image via Wikipedia

Some teachers look at a blank bulletin board and imagine a dazzling educational display. They revel in cutting, pasting, crimping and primping; glory in getting everything placed-just-so, and otherwise happily go about making eye-catching, colorful, creative and highly attractive displays.

I am not one of them.

I, the oldest of four children of a writer and an artist, seem to have gotten just the former’s set of talent genes, and not many of them at that.

I’m so non-artistic that when I was a student teacher in a second grade classroom, my host teacher forbade me using scissors lest some child copy my technique.

I can’t draw a straight line even with a ruler.

I have done exactly one good bulletin board in my five-plus years of teaching. It occurred in my third year for what was then and remains my best extended bit of teaching: The Pizza Project. Even then my students actually hung most of the display.

When it comes to creating bulletin boards I am a conscientious objector.

But no matter how conscientious I am about objecting I am still expected to produce them, a situation that leads to one of the most ridiculous teaching practices I know of: creating assignments solely for the purpose of having something to hang on a bulletin board.

I am teaching my students to use a Ning; to create Wordles, to podcast and to develop stunning multi-media presentations by exercising those vaunted 21st Century skills using 21st Century tools.

Its good for them and it is far easier for me to demonstrate those sorts of things than it is for me to hang papers neatly.

But hang I must.

The school hallways are lined with bulletin boards and they cannot be left empty. After all, they provide the evidence that students are doing something besides enduring rolling waves of diagnostic, predictive, practice and other versions of standardized exams.

It is a frustrating paradox.

Everyone wants students to learn new skills but, because my and many other schools are not set-up for demonstrating and displaying learning using those skills, we continue to have students practice the same kinds of skills used to produce billboards in the 18th Century

I know I teach history, but…

Meanwhile, the billionaire Mayor who runs our schools seems to have given up on my students and others like them.

There’s no money to buy bookcases so I can display the books in my sole-purpose reading classroom, but there is money to lobby for and open new charter schools.

For the past three months there’s been a brand new exterior display sign leaning upside-down against the wall outside our main entrance. There was money to buy that, but none to put it up.

Some schools get document cameras, GPS units, video editing programs and the cameras to feed them material, but I have to buy my own backing paper for those damned bulletin boards.

My students are capable of creating documentaries but I might as well assign dioramas.

A couple of decades ago the United Negro College Fund ran ads with the message that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

It still is.

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Of Apples, Trees and Teabags

10/05/2009
Seeger's album Clearwater Classics. The title ...
Image via Wikipedia

There was a health care rally in my town today. Lots of people gathered in the park by the river to hear speeches, rally with their neighbors, and to hear Pete Seeger sing.

Seeger, now 90, was doing his fourth concert of the day.

Things like that almost make me ashamed to be hobbling around with my bum knee.

Almost.

But this post isn’t about Pete Seeger, or about health care and only marginally about a nice day by the river.

This post is about my son.

I’m not one of those dads who goes around bragging about my son at every opportunity, so forgive me if I do it for a few moments here.

My son is 15, towers over me (and I’m 6’1”) and is articulate beyond his years. When I was his age I was working on political campaigns, marching in war protests, and helping to organize women who were being shafted by the city government.

Along with all the people at the park supporting healthcare legislation there was a small cadre of people who themselves tea-baggers and oppose government intervention in healthcare precisely up to the point where that lack of government intervention might affect their Medicare.

But this post is not about hypocrisy. Or socialism. Or healthcare. Or me.

It is about my son who spent his day engaging those teabag people in debate.

He talked and talked, not at the counter-protestors, but with them. He was polite, he was informed, he was forthright and he was relentless.

When one teabag man said that the current health care bill was aimed at having the government provide free health care to illegal immigrants, he told the man he was wrong and told him to read the page of the bill that specifically prohibits that.

The man’s friend read the page, admitted my son was right, and told his friend that too.

So many of today’s teens are disinterested, uninvolved, apathetic or too involved with their PSPs or Wiis to bother learning about their government, much less doing anything about it.

I just want you to know that I’m very proud of my activist son.

I’m sure he appreciates this.

But he appreciates getting Pete Seeger’s autograph even more.

I’m cool with that.

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Stand Up For America and Intelligence!

09/05/2009
Ida May Fuller, the first recipient
Image via Wikipedia

People expect a lot from teachers.

We are expected to teach children to read, write, do math, understand science, appreciate history and think clearly.

We try hard.  We do our best and we try to be open to the best practices available for use. We buy supplies, we take work home, we come to school early and stay late

It has taken a while, but schools seem to be getting on the right track for reading, math and science.

Reading scores seem to be going up. Math scores seem to be rising. Science is getting more attention lately. Much more needs to be done, but what we’ve done so far is starting to work.

History and thinking seem to be areas where teachers struggle.

Some say it’s a matter of not enough time devoted and others say it’s a lack of resources.

Others say poor teaching is why students don’t appreciate history and can’t think clearly.

All the above is true, at least to some extent.

History and logic get short shrift in schools obsessed with raising reading and math test scores. Time and resources that might be devoted to history and reasoning are deployed elsewhere. For the most part, teachers are not encouraged to learn more about history and how to teach it.

That’s why we need your help.

We need newspaper editors, reporters and columnists, television commentators, political pundits, radio phone-in hosts and their readers, viewers or listeners to do something.

STOP!

Stop exaggerating.

Stop misleading.

Stop blaming.

Stop making doomsday projections.

Stop name-calling.

Stop seeing a socialist around every corner while still planning to benefit from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Stop seeing a McCarthyite reactionary or Marxist revolutionary every time someone opposes something you support.

Stop treating Americans like morons, especially when they seem to want to be treated that way.

Stop treating Americans like morons, especially when they, in your humble opinion, act like morons.

Stop dumbing down your nation.

Every teacher knows that modeling is a powerful teaching tool.

Think about what you model as you go through your day.

Think about how what you say, and how you say it, teaches the next generation about what this country believes in and how it should conduct itself.

So stand up for what you believe, but also …

Be true to your values.

Understand that a dumb nation is a dangerous nation.

Understand that a dumb nation is a nation in danger.

Accept that the world is changing and the US is not exempt from that process.

Disagree all you want, but do it with intelligence, reason, style and respect.

Disagree, but do it with information, not obfuscation.

Remember history, not deny it.

Enlighten, not mislead.

Reveal, not revile.

Rejoice that we live in a nation that allows dissent.

Show the world how we make that freedom work for everyone’s benefit.

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Incidental Learning

08/11/2009
Pair of forks made of sterling silver.
Image via Wikipedia

Nothing that follows should be interpreted as demeaning or diminishing the importance of education professionals. No teachers were harmed in the creation of this blog post or in any of the events described in it.

Teachers and education administrators sometimes fall victim to the conceit that learning only or mostly occurs in schools. The fact is, every one of us learns most of what we know and can do outside of schools

Some of that out-of-school learning is every bit as deliberate and curricular as any teaching unit, a mother teaching her son to do the laundry or a father teaching his daughter how to hit a curveball for example.

But much of the learning in and out of school is unplanned and unintentional. This is constructivism writ large because an individual assembles meaning from disparate and not necessarily related circumstances or events.

I call that incidental learning.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver died this morning. That news helped me recall some incidental learning I assembled from the first time I met her and her sister-in-law Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s widow.

Thirty-five years ago I was a radio news reporter and wire service stringer working on Cape Cod. The Kennedy’s, particularly the Kennedy children, were often good for a story. That’s how a nice, nominally Jewish lad like me ended up attending Mass more often than most of my Roman Catholic friends. I always knew where I’d be December 24th at midnight.

One hot August day I got a phone call from a colleague at a radio station in Connecticut. A busload of men, women and children were on their way to one of the Hyannis beaches, from which they were going to march along the shore to the Kennedy compound to protest the lack of public beaches accessible to people who were not residents of the town the beach was in.

What any of that had to do with the Kennedys was puzzling, but I knew a story when I saw one. I was there when the bus arrived and watched as the men in jackets and ties, women in dresses and fully dressed children got off the bus and started walking south toward the Kennedy family’s property.

It was brutally hot and humid, but they marched without pause. As we walked I interviewed the leaders of the group and got the gist of their complaint against Connecticut. They were marching on the Kennedys because they figured it would get them publicity. They were correct.

Eventually we got to the Kennedy homestead. You cannot see any of the buildings from the water’s edge. They are hidden by substantial sand dunes that some say were erected by the Secret Service when JFK was President.

For about ten or fifteen minutes we all stood around admiring the sand dunes or looking at the waves on the water. I sweated profusely, and most of the men and women were mopping their brows with handkerchiefs, but not one loosened a tie or took off any item of clothing. Neither did the children.

We just stood there.

I’m not proud of this, but I was waiting for the police to arrive, almost hoping for a noisy, perhaps violent confrontation that I could report on, sell to one of the networks and earn an extra $20 or so to supplement my $160 weekly salary.

Then I saw what I thought was a mirage.

Two tall, thin women carrying silver trays with large pitchers on them were coming down the dune followed by a half-dozen children, each carrying a silver tray.

As they neared I could see that the women were Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Ethel Kennedy

When they reached us, they  started pouring and serving cold lemonade to the protesters while their children circulated carrying sterling silver trays and offering sugar cookies.  Then the the various Kennedys and Shrivers stood around chatting with the protesters as if they were guests at a party.

It was almost surreal, but as I watched I realized I was seeing something special.

I was seeing class. and I was seeing a lot of it.

Class wasn’t something I had come to expect from the Kennedy family, but as the lemonade poured from their silver pitchers, class poured from Eunice Shriver and Ethel Kennedy

I didn’t figure out what it all meant until a few years later.

I was out of radio and working in a bar. One guy felt that another guy got in his space and comments led to shoving. I separated the jerks before they could fight, and threw one out. Later that night, as I reflected over a scotch and water, I recalled how those protesters got in the Kennedy’s space and how different their reaction was.

It occurred to me that people react to provocations many different ways. Everyone gets provoked, but we control how we respond.

And one more thing…

When you respond with class, things generally work out better.

Thank you Mrs. Shriver, for the Special Olympics and everything else you did for people with mental retardation.

And thank you for simple acts of kindness and class.

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Goodbye Is Just A Word

06/20/2009
Skittles.
Image via Wikipedia

Goodbye is such a weak word. I had to say it a few times this week and it does not begin to express the emotions I felt any of the times.

One of the goodbyes was final and I hope the others will not be.

The final goodbye was to my family’s beloved lab/setter mutt we adopted as an adult dog just days before he was going to be put down because he’d been in the shelter for six months and no one seemed to want him. He turned out to be the most loving, human-oriented, fun and happy dog I have ever met.

Oh, he had his issues, including what is now known as the night of the exploding dog. He somehow got into the special anti-hairball food we had for our two cats (different ones than we have now). Anti-hairball food works on animals much the way prunes and bran do on humans. He ate about four or five pounds of the food. About an hour later he started exploding. Use your imagination.

Magic loved to chase bunnies, deer and skunks. We live on a moderately busy state road On Wednesday night he chased a deer across the road and was hit by a car as he crossed back to come home. He died about 45 minutes later at the animal hospital. There were tears and hugs and more tears.

A couple of years after we adopted Magic I started graduate school in order to become a teacher. One of the professors at the school, herself the mother of three then-adult developmentally-delayed sons, told her special education methods class that “If you know how to train a dog you know how to teach special education.”

On occasion I get very literal and I wasn’t sure that she actually meant that I should offer bits of desiccated beef liver as rewards for good effort in class, but in a way that’s exactly what she meant.

The best way to train a dog is to consistently reward desired behavior with a favored treat and praise. Unwanted actions are met with sharply toned rebuke and patience. Dogs, being generally Pavlovian and sharp thinkers, quickly get the idea that they should continue to sit still and not get distracted by the pretty golden retriever on his right or the schnauzer getting into a tiff with the wire-haired terrier off to the left.

If only it were that easy in special education. The ideas are the same, but students are generally more complex than dogs, and when training a dog one rarely has to deal with the bitch that gave birth to him.

The goodbyes that I hope will not be final were to the students on whom I got my first full-time opportunity to try out my professor’s theory. The students, who in sixth grade were the victims of my first attempt at having my own class, graduated eighth grade yesterday and I was fortunate to be released from my classes to attend.

At some point in that sixth grade class I told those students that I did not intend to ever let go of them, that I would be their teacher in one way or another for as long as they were in our school, and I kept my word. When they moved onto 7th grade I frequently checked on them in person and through their teachers. I knew who was thriving and who was struggling and I would offer tutoring, praise, Skittles (desiccated liver for teenagers) and an ear. Their classroom was just across the hall from mine and I made a point of chatting with their parents when they showed up for conferences. This year I had those same students in my Read180 program. I kept my word about never letting go of them. Until yesterday.

Yesterday they looked sharp and proud in their caps and gowns. There were tears and hugs and more tears. And photographs. And smiles. And Skittles.

I will never see Magic again, but I really hope those challenging but lovable young ladies and men come to visit.

I’m keeping lots of bags of Skittles around just in case.

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Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

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My Motivation

04/02/2009

My earliest memory is of an evening in our apartment when I was about three years old. There was a cardboard box on the table in the dining area and my parents were taking canned goods out of the kitchen cabinet and putting them in the box.

They explained to me that while we did not have a lot of money, we had a lot more than some other people in the world and they could not afford to buy food. Because we were lucky enough to have enough to eat we had a responsibility to help others in need.

The power of that memory has ruled my life, and I am very happy about that.


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When Fathers Respond

03/20/2009

This is part of how my nearly 80-year-old father reacted to my last posting:

When I read your blog (When Students Attack) my first impulse was to go looking for my old baseball bat and go up to your school and crack a few skulls.

I quickly realized that violence was not the answer to the problem, but I find it frustrating to admit that I don’t know the answer.

It angers and alarms me that you should be attacked. And it stuns me that these students should have the temerity to assault you.

On a happier note, I sent my broken fishing reels to Penn Reels for repair, and they were delivered back to me this morning. So let’s look forward to a day or two of fishing when the weather gets warmer.

This is how I replied

Thank you for wanting to defend me, but I am glad you did not as it would have sent two damaging messages. First, violence is not the answer as it only promotes more violence. Second, having someone come to defend me after the fact delivers the message that I cannot handle my own problems, even though I can and do on a daily basis.

My work is challenging in so many ways. I work with some very angry children who usually have every reason to be angry. They usually act that anger out by yelling, fighting with peers or in more destructive ways, but almost never by hitting a teacher no matter how many threats they make to do so. The threats are bluster, a show for their friends or enemies to establish how tough they are. They aren’t tough and they know it, thus the show.

My work is incredibly rewarding when I see even the slightest incremental growth in maturity, problem-solving skills, or academics. That happens in some measure nearly every day, but it didn’t happen Monday. I have always been eager to come to work, but not Tuesday. I felt defeated and debased. Then I remembered Mamie Eisenhower’s words, that people are about as happy as they decide to be, and I decided to start the day fresh. I cannot afford to hold grudges.

It turns out that the girl who jumped on me had been told late last week that she would be moving into a more restrictive school on Wednesday of this week and she was not happy about it and figured she now had nothing to lose. This was a student I had hopes for. She was very difficult and occasionally violent, but I never had a problem with her. I set, and helped her understand, the high behavioral expectations I had for her. I gave her incremental goals and small rewards when she met them. When she didn’t, I made it clear that I still believed that she could and she would have as many opportunities as it took. With me she was cooperative and almost pleasant.

I have not had the chance to talk with her since the incident, but I suspect she thought that I, her champion and the only adult who treated her pleasantly and with respect, had betrayed her. She doesn’t have the vocabulary to express that thought so she acts out, not only because she feels betrayed but also because she does not know how to express that violation.

That’s the main thing I offer these troubled students: respect and understanding. Its usually enough, and it works better the longer I can work with the student. That’s what so perplexing about the boy who hit me. I started chatting with him when he was in a friend’s fifth grade class. He has a horrible home situation, but he has intelligence and a sense of humor. Last year he was in my class and, while there were occasional problems, he did good work and responded, eventually, to the the academic challenges I gave him.

His home situation has deteriorated this year and he is spending more and more time on the street. The quality of his work and ability to cope emotionally are both declining. He has been betrayed by adults so many times that he has given up on us. He recently was arrested for mugging a man and he has come to school high more than once. He no longer has a border between the street and school, he sees it all as one abusive continuum. He reacted to my challenge as he would have had to react on the street.

He has been put on in-school suspension (as opposed to being suspended and placed in a suspension school) and we’ve seen each other, but every time I try to talk to him he runs. He knows I won’t hit him (I explain my beliefs about non-violence to my students on the first day and several more times in the school year), so I think he’s embarrassed. If so, that’s good; it shows remorse and a continuing sense of wrong and right. There’s still something to work with.

Fishing sounds great.

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