As I’ve written, I’ve started to substitute teach. I am really enjoying it and enjoying the kids that I am getting to meet. I ordered business cards and they arrived (and are SO cute) and I’m trying to get my name out there because honestly, I’d love to Substitute at a few schools, rather than all over the place. But, to get exposure, I need to take the jobs that I can and hope that teachers will want me to come back (and share my name with others!).
In an effort to protect the confidentiality of the kids that I’ve worked with, I won’t be using any school names, or kids names in my posts about my substitute teaching.
This was a Magnet School (K-6) and I had never been to a Magnet School before. When I did my student teaching, it was at an IB School (International Baccalaureate) and the Magnet School had much of the same feel. Anyway, I was substituting for the Mild/Moderate SPED Teacher. One of the things about SPED in Douglas County School District is that the Educational Assistants are the ones who tend to direct the substitute when the teacher isn’t there. They are the ones that know the kids and usually they will take the difficult ones because change is one of the things that SPED kiddos have great difficulties with. Generally, this means that, as a substitute, I get to work with sweet, compliant kiddos. And I’m not complaining.
The teacher didn’t leave any sub plans for me, as it was a day that was going to be spent introducing their new unit (theme, whatever they called it): Making a Difference in their Community. This meant that the kids would not be having a regular day and schedules would be all mixed up. The Educational Assistants (both were teachers who decided after years of teaching they wanted to work with the kids but didn’t want to be “in charge”) decided that I would work with a little guy with autism. They were having a meeting to figure out how they were going to manage this kiddo and he was the only kid who really needed constant support.
Magnet and Charter Schools are not equipped to deal with kiddos with significant learning/behavioral needs. They don’t have the facilities and the staff. These schools are able to manage kiddos who need additional support and have Learning Disabilities, but they really weren’t designed for kids who need 1:1 support to make it through the day. This is why they were meeting with the district specialists to figure out how they were going to try to help this kid.
The problem was that the staff wasn’t sure how to manage this kid and they had worked with him since August. So, even though I am a SPED teacher and I have extensive experience with kiddos with Severe and Profound Needs, as a sub, there is only so much that I can do. Kids with autism, generally, rely on routines. They need predictability. Change is difficult. So, having a day that didn’t follow the routine and having an unfamiliar staff member working with him was a recipe for disaster. All in all, things went fairly well. But he did have one major meltdown and I did the best I could. Which is pretty good. However, there was no safe place to remove this kid to and there were no strategies in place to manage him when he melted down. So, I was flying blind.
The meltdown came towards the end of the morning, after the assembly. Soon after, he went to lunch. And then he went home. So it wasn’t horrible. In the afternoon I did AIMS-WEB testing (Maze and Fluency) with about 6 kids. That was all they had for me. I guess it made up for the crazy morning.
The best part of the day was that the Magnet School had David Bacon as a Speaker for their assembly. He is associated with the O’Brien School for the Maasai (http://www.obrienschool.com/Home.html). I’m a little unclear on how David Bacon is associated with Playing for Change, but he played the music video at the end of his presentation. He was a great speaker, although much of what he spoke about went over the heads of the primary kids, and I really enjoyed his energy and his presentation.
The worst part of the day was having nothing to do. One of the things that I love about working with kids is that they keep you busy, when there is nothing to do, well, the day takes forever. Now I know why substitute teachers bring a book with them. I’ve added one to my bag-of-stuff that I will bring to each job from now on.