March 23, 2014

How Can I Stay Mad?

You guys, I have to fill you in on this story that happened at the end of the day Friday because it's just too priceless not to share.

J, the girl I work with for the majority of my day, has a really hard time sharing and taking turns. It's a serious struggle for her. This can be a problem in science class (or... if I'm being honest, in pretty much any class) during labs when she's expected to work with a partner or group.

On Friday, students were learning how to make wet mounts and practicing looking at them with the microscope. J was adamant that she be the one to make the wet mount while her partner watched. Then, she placed the slide on the microscope stage and struggled for a really long time to be able to see the specimen. I let her struggle for a bit because I think it's good for problem solving, and then I suggested she let her partner try... but J would not budge.

Not only was she not taking turns, but she was not properly adjusting the microscope. Instead, she was moving the slide back and forth with her fingers, causing the cover slip to slide off and basically ruin the slide. I tried to intervene, reminding her that she needed to move her hand down to the fine and course adjustment knobs. But again... she wouldn't move.

This resulted in a brief time out and minimal (thankfully) tears. Of course, my "best bud" was now mad at me and giving me the stink eye for the rest of science. When the classroom teacher gave her zeros on her success chart (behavior tracker) for the period, I got the silent treatment.

The thing is... I'm completely unfazed by this. In fact, I expect it. Usually, she forgets she's mad at me relatively quickly and goes back to being my best bud as soon as she wants something.

On Friday, though, her anger carried through our break time in the sensory room (probably because part of her punishment meant she couldn't use the coveted swing that hangs from the ceiling) and into our design and modeling class. During this period, there are 5-6 teaching assistants who work with as many students with special needs on an alternative curriculum, including and me.

For days, two of the students worked together to put together this puzzle as an assessment. It was sitting on a work table waiting for the classroom teacher's final approval and grade. J was sitting next to this completed puzzle (which she completed on her own the week prior, BTW) and started picking at the edges. I quickly reminded her that the puzzle needed to be graded and that she shouldn't touch it.

J looked right at me and slid her hands under both ends.

After another warning, she glared at me and promptly folded the puzzle in half, breaking the pieces apart.

So, here's the thing... J does things like this from time to time, and there has NEVER been a consequence. This is one of the hardest parts of my job. I am the one who deals with the bad behavior, yet my hands are tied when it comes to rewards and consequences. Those have to come from the support teacher.

That word is "puzzle"... get your minds out of the gutters!
Luckily for me, my support teacher has recently returned from her maternity leave. I immediately left the classroom to inform her of J's antics, and she promptly called home (mom was livid) and wrote her a detention! Basically, this is unheard of... and I feel vindicated. When a behavior is intentional, it deserves some sort of consequence.

When I came back to class, J had fixed the puzzle. I thanked her for making a good choice (even if it was to avoid a consequence), and asked her if she should say something to the students who worked hard on the puzzle. She agreed to write them a letter instead.

I don't know about you, but I can't read an apology letter like that without smiling. It doesn't take much for her to win over my heart again. :)


  1. I'm trying not to giggle, but you make it hard when you say..."get your minds out of the gutter". You have the patience of a Saint. XO
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. You have the patience of a saint. I could NEVER in a million years do what you do and not lose it on the child. I can be pretty understanding, but eventually I will lose my patience. Bless you for working with children like this.

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