Saturday, November 2, 2013

Year 8: I thought this was supposed to be resource room!

Each fall, starting in 1980, the director of special education in Olympia would call me up and ask if I was ready to return to teaching. He always had some job open that he needed to fill. Each year I would turn him down. Then in the fall of 1984, my husband decided he'd had enough of working for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was thinking of working as an independent contractor. Computers were coming into their own at this time, and not everyone was as adept at using them as Jay was. Being an independent contractor meant that Jay could stay home with the boys, but that meant going back to work for me. I wasn't really ready, but could see this would be best for the family, so I gave the director a call.

Me in 1984
Indeed he had a job for me. A resource room program was getting too full at Roosevelt Elementary in Olympia. Another teacher needed to be hired to distribute the increasing caseload. I figured this would not be a problem. I had been a resource room teacher two times before, so how hard could it be? I would start right after Thanksgiving vacation.

Well, I went to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and much to my surprise, I wasn't just inheriting about half of the resource students, I was also getting three additional students who were labeled EBD (emotionally behavior disordered). These boys, ranging from second through fifth grade, had interesting histories. The second grade boy was busy and could not focus, but did not have too many other issues. He easily could fit into one of my resource groups for academic support. The third grader came from Yelm and had blown through three teachers by November. Two of them decided to retire immediately! The fifth grader had many emotional problems as well as brittle bone disease. He too had sent his teacher into early retirement! This was not the job I wanted to go back to after several years at home with my two little boys!
My end of the year "award".

However, I was committed by this point and had signed a contract. Many days I had to wear headphones and listen to calming music and ignore the verbal abuse and extreme behaviors these boys had. I also had to figure out what to do with them when I had the eighteen resource room students in my classroom for groups. I thought, "I just need to make it through the year. Next year something different will come up." So I kept going. There were glimmers of hope; and indeed, the third grader tracked me down several years later to tell me how he was doing and to thank me for working with him that year. I've never forgotten this; it meant a lot to me. This boy's name was Josh, and at the end of the year, I got an "award". Here's the picture of it.

Another story I've never forgotten concerns the fifth grader with the brittle bone disease. One day he came in with a cast on his arm and announced that he had fallen and would not be able to write until his cast was off. As you might imagine, with an excuse to do no work, he took extra delight in walking around and tormenting the other students. Well one day he was out at recess and I got a call to go to the office. When I got there, here was this boy crying and holding his other arm. Another boy, one of my second grade resource boys, had apparently hit him and knocked him down. This was a very small boy, but he was feisty and didn't tolerate a lot of nonsense from anyone! I asked him, "Tell me what happened." He said, "I was playing with the ball when he (the 5th grader) came up and called me a pussy! So I decked him!" The fifth grader looked at me all innocent and said, "I meant like the cat!" Ah huh. Karma! Sometimes you got to love it!

Needless to say, with two arms in a cast, there really was nothing this boy could do at school. So he was home for the next six weeks. And I can tell you, he watched his language after that!