Shy Town

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 30 2013


Where have I been?

Nowhere new.  I have so many mini stories, heartbreaking stories, funny stories about the things kids say and the way they think and I honestly wish I had been keeping up with this blog so I could share them with all of you, instead of just my parents..though sometimes I’m pretty sure it’s just my parents reading this.
The kids are good, most of the time. And not in a behavior sense, but more in a social-emotional way. I’ve stopped thinking of kids as bad and good. All of my kids are good, sometimes they make poor decisions (the same way a drunk person might, because children are really just small drunk people), but they aren’t bad kids. I can’t say that the good morning hugs are getting old, because every single morning I’ve come in to school, there has been someone who wants to hug me. My dog doesn’t even love me that much.

Despite the love and the funny stories, I’ve been a wreck of a person recently. My administration and I are once again not functioning at a cooperative level and it’s causing me a lot of anxiety and stress. We’re back to that “don’t talk to her unless she does something wrong, and then criticize her to hell and back” phase. LOVE IT.

So I have a student with an IEP, he’s autistic, and when he first showed up in my class I was dumbfounded. What do I do with him? How do I teach him? He couldn’t write, he couldn’t form words, just babble, he had no social skills, he was so far behind all my other kids and I had no training in special ed, not to mention working specifically with kids with autism. I was clueless.

After I started realizing he was probably more scared of me than I was of him, I started realizing that this kid was actually way more advanced than all my other students. He knew all his letters, his numbers, he could sound and spell out words, he could read. Ok, so how do I teach him? I reached out to TFA, Easter Seals, Head Start, my supervisor, my university mentor, my professors…No one really had a lot to say. I was amazed that this kid had an IEP but wasn’t receiving services of any kind and it didn’t really seem to matter that no one was being trained on how to differentiate lessons to meet his needs.

If no one else was going to do it, it was going to be me. This wasn’t his first year in a Head Start classroom and they clearly hadn’t addressed his needs the previous year, so I didn’t see it happening this year. I know I’m definitely not the most effective teacher for his needs but I’m all he had. I researched autism, and I talked to a paraprofessional and I relearned a lot of sign language and I did everything with this kid. I figured out what he liked (letters and numbers), what he didn’t (broccoli and green beans), and what motivated him (hugs) and that’s basically what my curriculum has been based on all year. Now he’s verbal, he knows all his letters and numbers in ASL, he can write letters and numbers and words (though I’m unsure if they hold meaning to him) and he’s my baby.

I don’t mean that in a demeaning way. He’s in no way infantile, or dependent on me, but by God does that kid love me, and the feeling is super mutual. I love all my kids, and I hug them all, and play with them all, and pick them up, and carry them around and tickle them. But for whatever reason, maybe it’s the autism, or his family dynamic, or whatever, this kid has become particularly attached to me. Like, has started crying when I leave for the day, for 30 minutes-1 hour, attached.

My supervisor has had enough of this attachment. She made it clear that I need to stop whatever I’m doing that makes him so attached to me because “we can’t have him crying when you leave, he doesn’t even do that for his mom”.

BAM. Just like that. Break it off.

They finally had someone come in and evaluate the inclusion services being offered to him in the classroom. Let me reiterate that he is receiving no services. So how surprised were these people to come into my classroom and find out I’m “doing nothing” for him? And how surprised was I to find out that, despite all the efforts I’d been making since the beginning of the year, this was still my fault? And on top of that, someone questioned my ability to control my class.


But I didn’t quit, because they’re my kids, and they need me and I need them. And so I went into that meeting and finally stopped letting people trample me. I’m under no illusion that my students are quiet, obedient, angels but when you come into my classroom and have me bending over backwards to find you paperwork that the administrative assistant could have done, that means I’m not teaching. If I’m not teaching, then my kids are off schedule and acting up. They’re 4 year olds this is not rocket science. So keep me out of your red tape and let my kids be.

Someone in the meeting asked me why I didn’t just tell Head Start “No, I can’t fetch paperwork right now because my students are more important”. Is that a trick question? With gritted teeth I replied, ” I didn’t think I needed to tell people whose job it is to advocate for underprivileged kids, that my students were more important than their precious paperwork”. Everyone in that room outranked me, I didn’t feel like I was really in a position to say no.

I sat there for a few minutes, fuming, staring at all these people that were supposed to be doing so much good for my kids and their families and I’ve never been so disappointed.

Maybe it’s not my kids who are too attached, maybe it’s me. But is that the worst thing?







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    Little kids, big city, one me.

    Early Childhood

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