Just when I thought I had everything under control, I got an unexpected Christmas present . . . a new student. This messes everything up: all my scheduling, all the lessons and groupings. It even screws up our recess and lunch, but I could not possibly be any happier. I’ve learned to love it when this happens; it’s like a fresh start.
Maybe it was about time to scrap the old schedule anyway, and maybe this is a chance to see necessary improvements that we would not have considered otherwise. Honestly, this student is going to need our help BIG time if we are going to meet her goals. She not only has academic goals, but also major behavior goals that are really cutting into our lessons right now. But my class is being fantastic about it and I’ve never seen a group work together and encourage each other the way they have these past two weeks. It’s an amazing thing to see.
So that’s what I’m working on right now. It’s like I’m slipping back into last year when we were given a new student halfway through the year and he screamed up a storm for five out of six hours a day. I thought I was going to lose my mind until I realized “if I could just channel Della Reese from ‘Touched by an Angel’. . . ” maybe my reactions would be firm-but-loving rather than firm-but-you’re-on-my-last-nerve.
You see, I think these infrequent challenges are opportunities in disguise. I know I need a jolt every once in a while, which I used to hate. But I decided that if I look at it in the right light, it turns out to be a positive experience.
I’m going to try to channel Della Reese again now. This new student of mine likes to yell frequently and for long . . . long . . . periods of time. We can’t yell back, because honestly that would do no good. She needs firm structure, but if we were to yell she’d just have to yell over us to get her “point” across.
Instead of yelling, I’ve begun singing back at her, which has completely caught her off-guard and worked to break up her tantrums a few times, especially when I encourage her to sing along. It actually made her kind of smile a few times . . . I think. We sit patiently with her until she calms down, and then we work on getting her what she wants. Trying to weave in communication is essential, but very difficult. She’s a tough cookie, but I can’t shake the belief that we can get to her. Through all the screaming, there’s a kid in there.
My other students are angels. When our new student first had a screaming outbreak, they all looked incredibly alarmed (I may have looked a little alarmed as well—shocked would probably be more like it). We removed the student and someone sat with her while I spoke with the rest of the class about how we are really going to have to work together.
I told them I am going to need their help to demonstrate proper behavior and encourage her, as well as their patience and understanding when she’s having a difficult time. My one student, who by the way is proudly sitting up more consistently now, stated that he would try very hard. My other students either smiled or agreed with him. I felt like I would imagine parents do when they suddenly realize how much their kids have grown, almost overnight.
This recent “shake-up” to our schedule has made me realize how lucky I am to work where I do and with the people I do. Between my ridiculously understanding boss, the secretary who I’m pretty sure is the heartbeat of the school, the teachers (and I include the paraeducators here because I learn new things from them every day), and my students, I feel like I have a new family.
Starting this new job has been the roughest transition I’ve ever made, because I missed my friends and the security I felt at my old school. Because of the pace of work we do, I think the change took a few months to really sink in. When we got our “new addition,” I realized just how tough a job this is going to be. At the same time, I felt so grateful; if anyone is going to make a positive change for this student, my team members are the ones to do it.
It’s pretty amazing how when everything falls apart, it makes you realize just how much you have.