Today was… challenging. And I think I actually do mean challenging, I’m not using that word as a euphemism for “awful” or anything like that. Today was challenging.
I have two students in my first and second hour class with rather profound disabilities. They’re both well into the autism spectrum but there are other issues with both of them as well; one has some serious physical handicaps and one has a deeply problematic home life as well. Of the two, one of them– I’ll call him Matt, since without a pseudonym this post is going to be impossible to write– poses a greater challenge. Raymond, the other, is a lovely kid and a hard worker; the main thing with him is being able to get past his disabilities to be able to give him the education he deserves. The other child, to put it kindly, must be managed. There are days where he’s all there and he’s a student. There are other days where it’s as if someone has unleashed an untrained, 115-pound puppy into my classroom. I know that sounds cruel, and I don’t want it to be, but it’s a pretty precisely accurate metaphor.
Matt was a disaster (again) today. We had several weeks where we had his behaviors under control but lately he’s been acting up, throwing things, running around the classroom, running out of the classroom, lots of loud outbursts, stuff like that, to the point where I’ve had to have him removed a couple of times. I don’t like to do this for a variety of probably perfectly obvious reasons but eventually he hits the point where I need to keep the educations of the other 28 kids in the room in mind. He fled the room twice during my first class period. The first time was just for a minute or two and he came right back; the second for a longer period. When he came back the second time, he shoved one of my girls. Now, my kids know Matt; they’ve been with him for at least three years now and some of them for much longer, so they know what he’s about and they’re not likely to react to him doing things they way they might react to other kids. There’s a lot of his behavior that I can redirect or ignore. I cannot ignore him putting his hands on people. I tell him I’m going to have to write him up for pushing the girl he’s pushed.
“I didn’t push anybody!” he screams. Screams.
“Yes, you did, Matt, I saw you,” I say. The girls by this point are back in their seats.
At this point, Matt starts chanting “MORON!” at the top of his lungs. At me. Okay, fine, that can go in the write-up too. Now, keep something in mind, and I hope this is obvious enough that I don’t need to say this: I’m not mad at the kid. Getting mad at him is pointless, because when he’s in his unreachable stages it’s just going to make him happy and under any other circumstances it’s just not useful. But again: if he’s so far gone today that he’s shoving people I need to have him out of my room. So I write him up. This takes a minute; while I’m doing this, Raymond, who normally is not a problem at all, gets angry with Matt. Says to him, in fact, “I’d like to strangle you for what you just said to Mr. Siler.”
This is also not appropriate. But, again, I’m not mad; it’s not worth it. I say something along the lines of “Raymond, threatening Matt isn’t appropriate and it’s not helping. I don’t want you to talk like that.”
Raymond tends to be a crier; have I mentioned that? He really doesn’t like it when he thinks someone is mad at him, so I have to be especially careful on the rare occasions when I have to redirect or chastise him to keep him from getting upset. He gets out of his seat and walks toward me.
Oh, hell, kid, I do not have time for you to have an episode right now.
Keep something in mind: there are twenty-eight other kids in the room– well, probably less than that, since it was so cold I had some absences; let’s say twenty-three. I’m supposed to be teaching them math right now.
Raymond walks up to me and grabs my hand. Starts shaking it up and down. Starts to say something.
And goes away. For, like, fifteen seconds. He’s still shaking my hand. A little train of drool comes out of the corner of his mouth.
Oh, fuck. He’s having a seizure. I call his para over. Nurse. Nurse now. His para thinks he’s still dealing with Matt’s shit; I no longer give a damn about Matt.
Long story short; they were both out of my class for the rest of the morning. Matt was moved to an alternate location until he calmed down; I think the nurse checked Raymond over and decided he was going to be okay after talking with his father but I’m not sure. Raymond has had issues with seizures in the past but this is the first one I’ve seen.
Go ahead; ask how much math teaching I got done during that period.
Later in the day; fourth hour. You may recall some posts about the twins. Originally the twins were both in my third and fourth hour block; it’s been decided since then that it’s best for them to be separated, so I have one first and second hour and one third and fourth. It was explained to me (and not unreasonably, mind you; I didn’t fight this plan) that the theory was that this would aid in both of them developing some independence from each other, which they badly need. What it has actually resulted in is that I get to have this conversation four times a day instead of only twice:
(Twin brings me a paper.)
TWIN: I’m done.
(I look at paper. It is covered in writing and arcane symbols that resemble no known form of human mathematics in any way; it has no obvious connection to any assignment I have given. I have had the “I’m done” conversation before giving assignments before.)
MR. SILER: Did you hear even a single word I said about how to do this?
TWIN: Oh. I messed up. (Turns to leave, without asking or staying to hear what he did wrong.)
MR. SILER: (Physically stops Twin.) You need to <insert lesson here.> Do you hear me this time? Repeat my instructions back to me.
TWIN: I need to do it.
MR. SILER: What do you need to do?
TWIN: My assignment.
MR. SILER: And how will you do your assignment?
TWIN: I don’t know.
Understand, please, that this is not exaggeration, that I have this precise conversation nearly word-for-word at least once daily with each of the boys. Today we were working on creating bar graphs; a simple, one-off assignment that I can toss in on a Friday where we had a math test yesterday and I thought we weren’t going to have school. (Yes, it’s connected to my current standards, boss.) Here was the assignment: 1) Pick a theme; I suggested “favorite X”. 2) Poll all of your classmates on their choice to collect data; 3) Turn data into a bar graph and either a histogram or a pie chart; extra credit given for accurate pie charts since they’re sorta complicated compared to the other two.
Both of the boys, entirely independently of each other, brought me a piece of paper on which they had recorded hundreds of votes. Both of them attempted to walk away immediately when I pointed out that there were not hundreds of students in the room with them. Later, one of them attempted to turn in only one of the two graphs, which he’d stapled to his data (which they were supposed to do.) I pointed out to him that he owed me the other chart as well, at which point he shoved the stapled corner of the pages into his mouth and bit the staple out.
What is this I don’t even.
This is the job, folks.