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Posts Tagged ‘education

Now here’s what makes a teacher proud, a student who is passionate about her subject, in this case, Government. A highschooler is so confident about her knowledge of the constitution that she has taken exception to some comments by Senator Bachmann. Therefore she wants to challenge the senator to a debate; how about that!

Read the student’s articulate and respectful letter. Regardless of one’s political leanings, one has to admire a gutsy and refreshing girl.;_ylt=ArtgtmV898TgCMgI6WoHyuhH2ocA;_ylu=X3oDMTR2dmVmbzJjBGFzc2V0A3libG9nX3RoZWxvb2tvdXQvMjAxMTA1MTMvaGlnaC1zY2hvb2xlci1jaGFsbGVuZ2VzLW1pY2hlbGxlLWJhY2htYW5uLXRvLWNvbnN0aXR1dGlvbi1zaG93ZG93bgRjY29kZQNnbXBlBGNwb3MDNARwb3MDNARzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3JpZXMEc2xrA2hpZ2hzY2hvb2xlcg


Do not fear to sub in a special education class, and I don’t mean a high school Learning Disability class. Being learning disabled in high school is high fashion these days. Now, some teens are learning impaired, I’m sure, but since every teenager in my neighborhood is in an LD class, I have to wonder if it is not because they want to get out of doing too much work. 

In the elementary school though, I have enjoyed teaching special education.  By far, the most interesting was an autism class.  The teacher was there actually, but I accepted a job as an instructional assistant because the voice on the phone assured me that these were really sweet kids.

The classroom was painted orange, yellow and red, like Chuckee Cheese, with so many exciting things to do.  The teacher, a pretty young thing with bright eyes, promised me that we would have fun. Always take it as a bad sign when a teacher tells you that you are going to have fun. And I was not much consoled when she apologized for not telling me to wear pants instead of a dress.  “Emilio likes to look under ladies’ skirts”, she said.  This was troubling indeed.  I spent all day with one eye on Emilio and my legs pressed tightly together.  But the teacher was so good with them that I was inspired.  If I wanted to go back to school, I would specialize in autism.

Oh, before I forget, learn to keep a straight face when a kid has an accident. Emilio  wet his pants but couldn’t tell me, so he peeled off his underwear in front of everyone and proceeded to whip his ding-a-ling-ling, as though it had failed him. Naturally, I had to shield him from the eyes of the over-curious girls and get him a change of clothing. 

It is a little more delicate when a child has a bowel movement.  You are not supposed to change his underwear; you just walk him carefully to the school nurse. A note of caution: keep him from bouncing up and down, as kids tend to forget what load they are carrying. Believe me; if you don’t, you’ll regret it.  And if you should have to call a parent, beware, especially when talking to someone whose English is not fluent.  Explain what you mean by “accident”, or you will be confronted by a very angry parent who thinks his child is bleeding on the asphalt.

Most of all, enjoy the children.  Love them, and, if you are starving for affection, they will give it back to you ten-fold, and you can eat it up

Yes, most instructional assistants (IAs) are jewels; you can’t do without them. But I have a beef with some.

To IAs, classroom decoration is of primordial importance. They interrupt your precious circle time, pulling out kids to hang up some weird objects they have made, whereupon the rest of the class turns to watch and ignore your Oscar-caliber rendition of The Little Pokey Puppy. But the IA who nearly made me lose it, is the one who told me immediately upon the children’s arrival that Joanna was a disobedient child in front of Joanna who glared at me with defiance. I ignored the IA and gave Joanna my attention, but the IA wanted to vent. She followed me to Joanna’s desk, telling me that most of the kids in the school were poor and didn’t have fathers while I fought the urge to grab her throat. At snack time, she said of one kid, “this child never brings snacks,” within earshot of the child, and told me how she had to use her own money to buy snacks. Once again, I wanted to reach for her throat.

What I learned is that schoolchildren in richer neighborhoods are treated better than those in poorer neighborhoods. And the same goes for the curriculum; the better the neighborhood, the more challenging the curriculum.

Some time ago, I decided to become a substitute teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools. If you’re a parent and have the credentials, try it at least once. You’ll develop an appreciation for teachers. And you’ll probably remove your child from school. But before you do, here are a few things you need to know.

Rule number One: Always get the school right. The substitute system has an automatic calling machine that wakes you up pre-dawn to tell you about your assignment. Then a breathy voice, usually female, whispers the name of the school in a way that guarantees that you will get it wrong. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that nearly all the school names rhyme. On my first assignment, I distinctly heard the lady say Fairview Elementary, which is located on Ox Road, way past Fairfax. I got there only to be told I was supposed to be at Belleview Elementary in Alexandria, not Fairview Elementary. Another time, I ended up at Woodlawn Elementary near Fort Belvoir instead of Westlawn Elementary in Falls Church.

Rule number two: Once you get to the right school, you have to figure out what to do in a kindergarten class if you have taught high school all your life. In most schools, kindergarten is strictly for playing. A typical lesson plan goes like this: 8:35, Students arrive. 9:00, Morning routine. That involves singing the good-morning song, doing alphabet stretches, reciting the months of the year while doing the macarena, chanting the weather while doing a jig, etc., and this goes on until ten a.m.
What the teachers fail to tell you is that the children have important jobs: there is the kid who leads the morning routine, then line leaders, door holders, board erasers, paper distributors, lunch helpers, clean up inspectors, etc., and woe unto you if you call on someone else to cut in on their act. They let you know it and give you a look that says you are a meathead.

Circle time, usually at ten, is my favorite; it involves reading them a story. For all you frustrated actors out there, kindergarten is a great place to practice your art. You get to read with dramatic flair, doing flips if necessary, to the admiration of your happy audience. (Fifth graders don’t appreciate that. In one class, a boy piped up, “You’re crazy!” Seventh graders interrupt to ask where your accent comes from, and where you bought that uncool dress.)

Rule number three: Beware of instructional assistants, hereto forth known as IAs. Many of them are jewels; you can’t function without them. They steer you through the day and tell you things that the teacher left out in her lengthy instructions to you. At nap times, they make sure that the kids who never sleep are placed near your desk so that those kids can wiggle up to your feet and poke you with their legs. (These are the kids whose idea of “don’t touch anyone” is to extend their forefinger to the hair follicle on someone’s cheek while protesting that they are not touching.)

Stay tuned.

A few days after the graduation, I got to hang out with the “Shuwaa” boys. Don’t ask me what that word means, I couldn’t tell you. But that’s what Tolu and his three close friends in Ghana call themselves. Unfortunately, the fourth one is in the U.K., missing out on all the fun (Hi, Enoch) 🙂

Bright and Tolu, while waiting for our orders at a restaurant in Sarbah Hall

Dennis, Bright and Tolu, saying hello to Enoch

There's nothing like Fufu and light soup with goat and fish!

Digging into his rice and chicken stew

Finger-sucking good, no metal to interfere with the yummy taste 🙂


With the witty one, Akua Baning

The three graduates, Bright, Tolu and Dennis. So proud of them. giddy giddy SHUWAAAA!!