This Is Why

I got a new student a week ago. One with many behavioral and social and emotional issues. To be honest, reading his IEP gave me a headache. And a heartache.

He was placed in my classroom because there was a rumor that he had an IEP, and I am one of two inclusion classrooms at our grade level. A few phone calls later, the IEP was faxed over from the sending district along with FBAs, token boards, and lots of indications that a pretty standard classroom might not be the placement outlined on his IEP. So, now we wait. We wait for a placement that will better fit his emotional needs, will keep him safe, and will keep his classmates safe.

But while we wait, we are all trying to honor what his IEP says he needs. Each day is a new adventure for me in reaching into my professional bag of tricks and making this work. Some days have been better than others. His engaging grin sometimes appears to mask some other hurts in his life.

Today, he did something so unexpected, that I know when it’s time for that new placement to happen, it’ll be difficult. For both of us.

After making a holiday ornament as a surprise for someone at home, my new found friend brought his ornament to me. “To Mrs. Bisson, From J.”  I even got a hug!

Even when it’s only been a week, never underestimate the power of connections to even the most disconnected child. It is why I do what I do.

Building Student Independence

I often hear what I hope are compliments when visitors walk into my classroom, and I am able to attend to this new intermission in our day’s work.

DSC_0162It wasn’t always this way of course. Kids are kids.  Their natural inclination is that the moment teacher is distracted it will seem like a golden opportunity to do “something else”. So, when I started reading and researching the Daily Five some years ago, I was  drawn to the idea that the students can be taught to make their own choices, that the kids can work with greater independence and self-responsibility.

Before the Daily Five entered my teaching life, I felt that I needed to whip the kids into shape. I was in charge. All the kids had to do was sit back and comply – and mostly they did. But they didn’t own anything. I’m sure that for most kids, that was not all that motivating.

From the first day, everything – and I do mean every routine – is presented and practiced using the Daily Five 10 Steps to Independence.  For me, along with the brain-based research, this nugget of pedagogy has been the most exciting part of adopting the Daily Five model in Literacy and in Math workshops. When I say everything, I mean every single routine in our day has been practiced with independence in mind – line ups, transitions, emergency drills, finding a spot to read within the room. It sounds and often is tedious, but the end result has been that the kids know what is expected and rise to meet the expectations for increased responsibility.

Learning to trust 8, 9, and 10 year olds to make good decisions isn’t easy for teachers who are held accountable for everything in our current teaching environment. But building that trusting relationship is essential to the human back-and-forth that breathes life into our relationships with kids. And for me, that is worth every moment it has taken to build student independence.