Friday, December 17, 2010

The spoken word

I'm beside myself, simple elated. I had no idea when this incredible transformation would occur, but it did......a year later.

We had a shy little Hispanic boy come to us last year who was clearly, lost in translation. He knew no English and spoke very little Spanish. With his gentle disposition he attracted the other children and didn't have any problem playing and interacting.  His problem and what qualified him for our program was his speech and language delays. The entire first year I hardly ever heard his voice. If he spoke it was in a quite whisper with his head hung down. When I say spoke I'm talking about a word here and a word there, never a complete sentence.

A year later and older our quite little boy has emerged into a happy, confident, energetic preschooler.

I sat next to him during circle. Part of our circle time activities include singing and dancing and on this particular day, I could hear him singing the words of a song. Never had I ever heard his voice so clear, I was simply astonished. It didn't stop with one song, he kept it up with each song we sang.  The adults in the room all exchanged glances as we heard his little voice sing out, each with a baffled look on our face.

After the song and dance, well a few songs and some dancing later, we gathered around the snack table. Our Hispanic friend sang the snack poem and participated with the hand gestures. Granted we've been singing these songs for a year but I'm overjoyed that they have finally sunk in and he's understanding the words.

Oranges were part of the menu and this little guy loved the oranges. I took the opportunity to teach him the word 'orange' since he kept pointing at them and wanting more. Then I tried, once again, to speak his native language. Orange in Spanish is la naranja. Yeah, I felt like I had a ball of cotton in my mouth, la na raun ha. Something of that nature.

Me asking the boy: You want more orange?

Child nods his head yes.

 Handing him the fruit I said: Orange, la na rah ah.

Speech Therapist correcting my mutilation of the word: It's la naranja

I turn and look at the little guy and repeat: Orange, la naun rah.

Child smiling shaking his head no at my lame attempt.

Speech Therapist exaggerating the inflection of the word: la na raun ha.

After many tries I finally get it right and proudly say to our Spanish student: la naranja!

Again he smiles flashing his cute dimples, and shakes his head no.

 Insulted: "What? You're a hard one to please," I tell my young friend.

Not wanting to disappoint. Again I try: La naranja.

Child shakes his head no.

Baffled I said it in English: Orange?

Child smiles even bigger and shakes his head yes and repeats: Orange!

I finally got it, he wanted me to say it in English.

After picking my jaw up off the table, I handed him another orange.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Snakes, snails and puppy dog tails......

We have this boy. I love this boy. I want this boy. This boy is all boy.  He's tough, he's sweet, he's stubborn, and he's too dang cute. I asked his mom once if I could  keep him. She declined.

Every day this little guy comes to school with shirts that match his personality. They'll have sayings like, "My favorite color is dirt.""Country Kid" "I did it"

Today was no different, as I was unbuckling his seat belt and helping him off the bus,I noticed another darling shirt.

I had to ask, although I'm not sure what I was expecting to hear but I asked anyway, "Where does your mom get all your cute shirts?"

He simply replied, "At home."

Of course.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The eye of the storm?

I keep waiting for the bomb to drop, the honeymoon to be over, the tornado to roll in, some kind of indication that the kids we have this year aren't the perfect little angles they are appearing to be. Seriously, we have never had such a quiet, mellow, calm class before. Oh it may start out that way in the beginning, but usually after a week or two they start to show their true colors.

There's no rainbow here, only the pot of gold. Both our morning class and afternoon class have the sweetest children. I'm not sure what to make of it. I mean really, we have never had a class without having some kind of kid that packs his own dynamite. The one that explodes at a drop of a hat. Personally speaking, I actually like and gravitate towards the t n t. I like the ones that have a bit of sparkle, a touch of stubbornness, ok I'll be honest, a lot of stubbornness and explosive behavior. I really do.

Those types of behaviors are my favorite to deal with and with the classes this year, I'm not seeing it.

I should count my blessings and enjoy the calm. It's still early in the game and since we screen kids all year there's still a chance we could pick one up. For now, there's nothing on the schedule but in this type of profession, anything can happen...... anything.

I've made the mistake before thinking I've seen it all, so I'll just hold on, indulge in the sweetness and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Potty Trained!

Yay! Good job, you did it!! His baby blue eyes lit up and his smile reached both ears. No treats necessary, he's happy knowing he accomplished something I never thought possible. A year ago his parents tried, without success, to potty train him. He wasn't ready. They had a plan that frustrated him as well as the staff and eventually realized it wasn't going to happen.

Over the summer the parents tried again and apparently had success, so they said. When he came to school he seemed the same as he did last year, not ready.  None of us truly believed he was capable nor trained, until his mom brought her little autistic boy in for a demonstration.

There's a devise which has a little clip that attaches to the front of the underpants and plugs into a battery pack by a small cord. The battery pack is small enough to fit into his pocket. When he starts to tinkle it makes the battery pack vibrate, similar to a phone vibrating, at the same time triggers an alarm. This seems to stop him from urinating in his pants. When he is taken to the bathroom, he will potty in the toilet.

It's the most amazing devise I have ever seen. It's called a Malem toileting alarm.

He successfully demonstrated his new skill with pride. Can you blame him, he had his mom, and about three teachers crammed in a small bathroom for an audience. As everybody dropped their jaw in amazement he hopped off the toilet as if saying, "What's the big deal anyway?"

Our little guy doesn't talk and his signing is limited which makes this alarm thing all the more brilliant. It went off only once as he was exiting the bus. The rest of the day he independently showed us, on three different occasions, when he needed to use the toilet by, signing, pulling down his pants, and grabbing my hand while dragging me towards the door.

I tell ya, I was flabbergasted and amazed. This little five year old who is delayed developmentally as well as physically blew my socks off.

I guess we're never beyond learning even when the task seems impossible. Don't go thinking it's the preschooler I'm talking about, it's this seasoned teacher who THOUGHT she knew it all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Starting new

After two weeks of setting up a new classroom, meeting new parents, getting to know new staff and new IEP's we will officially start kids tomorrow. Working with the children is where it's at for me. I love the shy ones and helping them feel loved and welcomed, I love the stubborn ones who challenge me and my tactics. I love finding ways to help the ones that struggle with their health, to be more comfortable. I love teaching the ones that can't talk find a way to communicate. I love the busy, chaotic,whirlwind days we have, but most of all, I love the kids.

Last year we said our goodbye's and tomorrow we'll be saying hello.  I'm ready and excited for a new year so, "Bring it on!"

Friday, June 4, 2010

Going out with a BANG!

Wow, what can I say. We have one more day of preschool and after today, I know we're not headed into summer quietly. The last two days have been really nice. There was no noise level, every thing was so calm and quiet. I'd like to take the credit that we finally taught the children to use their words, talk nicely, don't scream, boss your friends or tattle, but in all honesty the calm of the classroom was because half the children were missing in both sessions.

As we prepared for class today, my prediction was, we were going to have everybody back in full motion. I felt it like an animal senses danger. The little prickles of hair at the nap of my neck were telling me a storm was brewing and sure enough, my instincts were right.

I was counting heads while the children were exiting the bus. One, two, three, four.....I continued counting until every last preschooler stepped off. Yep, they're all a counted for. One of our autistic boys, who was absent the previous two days due to feeling sick, getting his four year shots and sporting a new hair cut, was back and not happy about it.
A few children were out of sorts because our room is in chaos with boxes and packing going on.
(We have to move our class, the whole school is playing musical rooms) The poor little things don't handle change very well.
A couple of the other students were just full of Vin and vigor.

Then the afternoon class rolled around and again, as they were coming off the bus I counted heads and again, they were all there. This group of preschoolers has a different set of dynamics going on. The loud were much louder, the bossy one was at the top of her game bossing everyone like they were her servants, the tattle tails couldn't stop tattling, and the whiners were even whiner.

I know most of it was because our room is turned upside down and things just aren't the same.

Since there was a break in the weather, we decided the best place for their active little bodies would be better spent outside.

With all the whining, crying, screaming, and tattling going on, we pulled out the ol' positive reinforcement plan, in layman's terms it's called bribery. Oh what they won't do for a special treat.

"If you don't cry or scream at your friends, you can have a treat." This is very effective for our little lion because although he is very explosive, he's also very smart. I seriously don't know how a four year old can pack so much dynamite in such a little body, but he can hold it together if he thinks about it. Then we had a little guy who I believe was really not feeling well or was just tired and in need of a nap. He took his seat on the whiners cart.

The little lion blew his chance at gaining a treat. I let his screaming slide when he was yelling at himself, but when he started in screaming at the other children, I informed him he was "Done" and he would not be getting a special treat.

For our second recess I decided to give those who didn't receive a treat the first time a second chance at earning one. This meant the little lion had another opportunity. He really is a very smart boy and this usually works for him but for some reason, he just couldn't hold it together. He kept losing it, mostly at himself. He is by far his own worst enemy, and the whiner started screaming at his friends when things weren't going his way. Sad to say, their last chance came and went and there was no 'positive reinforcement' given for either of them.The little lion handled it well, because he's smart like that, but the whiner had a complete melt down and wanted his treat. He kept crying and crying, "I want my treat, I want my treat."

Sympathetically little lion consoled him and said, "Next time if you don't cry you can have a special treat."

I did mention he was smart didn't I?  My prediction, next week they'll both be well rewarded.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Lost Boy

"You've got to be kidding me?" The principal says with a hint of disgust in his voice. No, I'm not kidding, as I stood in his office holding the hand of a small barefooted child, with dirt and grime covering his face. "I found him running around and playing with our preschoolers as we were out in the courtyard riding bikes." I replied to the man in charge.

Throughout the day we are continually counting heads, especially when we are outside. Fortunately the schools playground is completely surrounded by a chain link fence so if a child decides to go MIA on us, at least he'll be inside the school grounds.

This particular child was not one of ours, although he fit right in. As I was watching the children running around, playing in the wagon and riding bikes, I noticed a unfamiliar yellow shirt, but the boy's back was turned towards me so I' couldn't make out who he was. I said to one of the other teachers, "Who's the kid in the yellow shirt?" Then I walked up to the child who had just jumped in the wagon being pulled by one of our preschoolers. I looked at his dirt covered face, nope not one of ours. I asked him what his name was, and to my surprise, he actually knew it. He told me he was four years old and that his mommy is at home. "Where do you live." I continued to ask, and he points in some direction that indicated he crossed the street to get where he was. OK, let's go for a walk. I took his hand and informed the other teachers I'll be in the office.

 After explaining to the Principal how we came across this runaway, I left the child in his care and returned to the group. As we continued to play outside, I caught a glimpse of the principal and his secretary walking along the outside of the fence with the little boy. They eventually found the child's house and delivered the boy.

Later in the day I was able to talk with the Principal about the child. He said once he saw the mom, he recognized her as a parent of a 5th grader they had enrolled. She had no idea her son was missing. The door to the house was not locked and who knows what she was doing while her adventurous barefoot boy left home to play on the playground. He must have either crawled under or climbed over the fence to sneak his way in.

I don't want to place judgment on the mother because given a chance, you never know what a kid will do when you turn your back. I 've been working with children and families way too long to know these things can happen.

Scary, but true.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Line Leader

Circle time is where we sing, 'Who's come to school today' as each child looks at them self in a mirror before passing it on to the next child. We also sing the 'Hello' song then move on to the job chart. Ah the job chart, this is where they choose what job they get to do for the day such as, song leader, light helper, copy helper, wagon master, bell ringer, count the kids and line leader.

Ever year we have a different group of kids, and every year one of the jobs becomes the coveted job. The Job Chart This year in our afternoon class we have two preschoolers who always want to be the line leader. The minute they get off the bus, they race to be the first in line but because we are top notch teachers with excellent observation skills we see right through their greedy little ways. I'll usually take a child who really doesn't care and let them lead us into the classroom. The job doesn't become official until circle time and then it becomes the luck of the draw.

A little Missy, who is one that always wants to be the line leader, did not get the coveted job. I can't even remember what job she ended up with but as we lined up to go out side she was right behind our leader friend riding her heels. When we lined up to get on the bus, the little Missy picked up her pace and walked alongside our line leader. Using my great observation skills I saw what she was doing and reminded her she needed to stay in line and get behind the leader, then continued to remind her it was not her turn to be the leader in fact she was, what ever job it was that I can't remember. She simply replied, " I know that, I'm helping her."

Yeah, well I don't recall ever having an assistant line leader, but leave it to our little Missy to come up with one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sugar & Spice and everything........nice

We're going on a bear hunt, (repeat) take pictures with my camera (repeat). Remember this song, where you slap your legs as you pretend to walk? Then you climb a tree, go over a bridge, row a boat and eventually come to a cave where the bear is. We're coming to a cave (repeat) It's dark inside, (repeat) I see tttttwoooo eyes, (repeat) and a big furrrrrry bbbbbbbody, (repeat) Lets tttttake a ppppicture (repeat) RUN!!!!!

The screaming fills the room as our 6 little girls shrill at the top of their lungs, "Aaaaaah!" We continue to slap our legs faster as we run back to the house after rowing the boat, running over the bridge, climb a tree, go through the wheat field and open up the door and slam it shut! Whew!

Listening to the girls scream and shrill, takes me back to a time where I was a leader for a group of teenage girls. They too loved to hear their voices, whether it was from all talking at the same time, using the word, "Oh my Gosh" in every sentence at least 500 times, or laughing and giggling at the slightest gesture. Yes, they are definitely their own unique breed of species. Very different than the boys I raised or their friends who came over.

Teenage boys don't talk. In fact, they have their own special way of communicating through grunts, head nods and the occasional touching of the knuckles. I remember one time when one of my sons received a call from a girl who not only was talking to him, but carrying on a conversation with another girl. He held the phone so I could hear them giggling and talking with each other, finally he whispered to me to tell him to get off the phone.

I see now that the girls uniqueness is not just a teenage thing but actually starts at a very young age. I've noticed belonging to a social group is very important to them, even as early as three years of age. They compete for each others affections by trying to be the center of attention, they notice what each other is wearing or what kind of backpack they have and, will compliment it if it's to their liking, "I like your princess backpack." They'll praise each others artwork and I've also noticed that if one is being a little bossy, nobody wants to play with them. "Teacher, she won't follow me, teacher, she won't do what I'm doing, teacher she won't go down the slide with me." Teacher, teacher, teacher, drama, drama, drama.

With a simple reminder people don't like to be bossed around, they learn they will have lasting friendships.

As for the little boys, they don't notice clothes, or who is playing with whom, nor do they care. They don't talk much amongst themselves, they just run, tumble and try to wrestle with each other. They make car sounds, dinosaur sounds and crashing sounds. It isn't until later, those sounds turn into grunts.

This year was the first year our preschool has had the same ratio of girls and boys in the same class. Usually the boys out number the girls. Since I didn't get the 'pleasure' of having girls of my own, I'm learning first hand what they are made of.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Miracle Day

"It's a miracle day!" We use this phrase when it seems that the stars have aligned, the full moon is gone and, the calm before the anticipated storm stays calm.

These days are far and few between but when they do, it's a miracle. It's a miracle when our non verbal boy says, "Bye, bye" while waving or when one of our autistic boys successfully uses his Picture Exchange Communication System as a way to communicate his needs. It's even a miracle when a little girl actually answers a question instead of repeating it, or talks appropriately rather than her usual jibber jabber, which consists of, "Hi, are you OK? Oh, I'm OK, Oh thank you, Your welcome," She takes 'talking to yourself ' to a whole new level.

But the miracles of all miracles happened, which actually makes me contemplate hanging up my denim shirt and retiring. As a matter of fact, it's right up there with the parting of the Red Sea.
Our class lion (see The Lion and the Lamb) had the best week of his preschool career. I missed the first day back after spring break, giving myself one more day to recover from a horrible cold. Upon my return, everyone was filling me in on our little lion and how he had the best day ever. I thought to myself, hmmmm, maybe it's me that sets him off. I push him hard in an attempt to make him comply with the class activities, I don't allow him the satisfaction of folding his arms and keeping his distance from what it is we are doing and I continually try to keep him actively engaged with the class routine. So maybe with me out of the picture, he felt more relaxed.

The following day, I decided to keep my distance and observe our lion and to my surprise, the little stick of dynamo was very happy and compliant. He danced and sang, sat with us during snack without a fight, interacted with the other children and not once did he burst out in tears at the drop of a hat. I kept waiting for the bomb to drop but the explosion ever happened.

After preschool, we loaded the children on the bus and sang our 'Good bye children' song. Our little lion clapped along with his friends and even blew us a kiss as we exited the bus.

I was completely astonished and thought, this truly was a day of miracles. I can now hang up my shirt and retire.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hello Neighbor

Remember Mr. Rogers? Remember how he would walk into his pretend house singing a friendly song, take off his jacket and put on his cardigan sweater then change his dress shoes and slip his feet into something more comfortable? Yeah, good ol' Fred.

Well Mr. Rogers and I have something in common. It's not his pretend house or neighborhood, because the preschool room and the children are very real. You could guess its the comfy shoes we both wear, but I come with mine already on, where as he changes into his.

You see, every morning when I enter the classroom, the first thing I do is take off my coat, hang it up and put on a denim shirt. I can even hear Mr. Rogers whistling and singing his song, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood." Then I envision him zipping up his cardigan as I'm buttoning up my shirt. I never wear anything dressy or uncomfortable but more practical clothing for a busy day of constant movement and art projects. I refer to them as my preschool clothes and although the denim shirt protects them from spills, wet paint and glue, the main reason I wear it is for my role as the human Kleenex.

As an example, our new little guy who, was having a rough first week, just sobbed all during circle. I sat behind him to provide some comfort. Well he decided to snuggle in and took my arm, crossed it in front of him and buried his head. Then he swiped his runny nose along my sleeve, turned his head into my chest and dried his tears. He had moments where I thought he was done, but then he would burst into tears again and continued to use me as his personal Kleenex box.

Although the crying continued, we carried on and sung our Hello song. The third verse of the song requires the children to hold hands, while sitting in the circle, as we sing, "Turn to your neighbor and shake their hands" which we repeat three times.

So I ask you with an arm full of snot and wet tears, "Won't you be........ my neighbor?"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Loud and obnoxious

Imagine a sound extremely loud, incredibly obnoxious and so ear piercing it would either create a migraine on the spot or enhance a brewing headache in the back of your head to the point of explosion.

Now imagine this sound in a room of preschoolers with issues. We have a couple of autistic boys, two little ones needing the aid of a wheel chair and various other children with their own special problems. We did not need a fire drill in the mist of our morning session.

Although I do appreciate the principal letting us know in advance that the school would be having a drill, he just didn't tell us when the drill would be happening. We stayed on schedule, had our dancing, circle and snack but behind the scenes we were also preparing for what lies ahead, the long walk to the fence on the other side of the playground. We lined up the wheelchairs, loaded the wagon with their backpacks and coats, and had the rope ready to go. The rope is a colorful line with rings that the kids hang on to so we can attempt to keep them all together.

Usually after snack we have free play, a time where they can choose a activity or simply explore the room. With only an hour and a half of class our transitions are chop, chop and sometimes I feel we rush them just a tad. After free play we clean up and spend the last 15 minutes outside.
With the fire drill interrupting our free play, we went to Plan B and decided to keep the kids outside so they can enjoy a longer time on the playground. Let me start off by saying, when the bell sounded it's alarm, the kids handled it like nobodies business. They lined up and walked the long walk. Our one little fella in the wheelchair got a big kick out of his bumpy ride and giggled all the way to the fence and our two little autistic boys had no reaction to the noise what so ever, it was absolutely unbelievable. After the drill, while the rest of the school children headed back to class, we on the other hand headed for the playground.

Our preschoolers thoroughly enjoyed their extra long recess and after we loaded them on the bus, we just stood there for a minute in awe on how smoothly the day went.

What do you think, should be bag the IEP objectives and let them just dance, eat and play outside? "Uh sorry parents, your child has not completed any of his goals and objectives but boy did we have a great time, see ya next year!"
It was truly one of the best days we ever had.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break

Today officially starts Spring Break. I'm looking forward to sunny weather and sleeping in.

Although I have many unfinished projects to attend to, realistically I see myself riding my black beauty during the day and quilting at night.

I'm sure after this week I'll be groaning and complaining about returning to work,

But once I step in to the classroom, I'll be happy to be back and excited to see the kids.

Each year I think they are the cutest class ever, but then the next year comes along and I again find myself saying, "They are the cutest class ever."
Their little smiles not only warm my heart but cast a spell on me as well. I guess that's what keeps me coming back year after year. But hey, you don't have to find your smile in a preschool room, if you check out Linda's blog on See Mom Smile she will definitely put a smile on your face and keep you coming back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


In the 15 years of working with children, I have never gotten use to them leaving our program before the school year is over. We get mid year, then all of a sudden the families up and move for whatever reason and we never get to finish what we started. Actually don't quote me, they sometimes move back.

This year we seem to have an over abundance of children enrolled, more than any year in the past. It's as if they are coming out of the woodwork and saying, "Surprise, we're here!" We screen the little ones upon their third birthday and if they qualify, we absorb them into our already full classroom. It appears everyone child we screen this year has been qualifying, which is causing us to burst at the seams. I don't think the room can handle much more, let alone have enough hands to help out. So we strategized, revamped and decided to let the ones who have completed their goals and objectives, 'graduate' from our program before the year is over, thus making room for the newbies.

Our first 'graduate' came to us last year as a confused, lost little boy. Now that alone doesn't qualify him for special ed. But by doing a behavior check list with his mother, who at the time was recently released from prison, qualified him for behavior. He also was not potty trained and didn't demonstrate any self help skills, go figure considering the circumstances he was coming from. In the year and a half year he was with us, the little guy grew in so many ways. Potty training was a snap, as was teaching him to take care of his own needs by pulling up his pants etc... His language improved 100% and to tell the truth, we never saw any of the bad behavior his mother spoke of.

He was an absolute delight and one of the toughest for me to see leave.

Second to 'graduate' was a boy who qualified for speech. He too was enrolled for a year and a half and during that time his language showed remarkable improvement, to the point of no longer needing our services.

The other child that had left our program, just left. I was not done with this little fella, but his grandparents who have custody, were evicted from their home and had to move, thus taking him out of our district. This saddens me to no end! We had a major break through with our little friend, who does not talk but understands everything. At first he would expect and wait for someone to take care of his every need. Can't really blame him, who knows what he encountered during his first few years of life, which probably caused him to be the way he is. He cried with every transition, and would look at you with a blank stare. Slowly, he started to blossom. The crying stopped and he began following the routine, not to mention the last couple of weeks he started signing with some prompting. The blank stare disappeared and you could see the light in his eyes, he was getting the need to sign!

I truly am going to miss these little guys, but as always, we must continue to put our shoulder to the wheel and press on. In the last month or so, we started at least five new preschoolers with one in the wings, who will begin our program after Spring Break.

I better get my R&R while I can because, speaking from experience, there will be no rest for the weary.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gravel in my shoes blues

Isn't it the pits! Although, it does do wonders for their self help skills.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Question of the day

The kids were lined up and ready to go outside, on the door is a stop sign. One of our preschoolers asked, "What does the stop sign say?"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Day at the Oscars

We come walking out of the building, the three of us like Charlie's Angels, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymmore. The hot sexy detectives with long flowing hair and and a body to die for. Outside awaits our adoring fans screaming and shouting our names. They run towards us embracing their little arms around our legs, all the while shouting, "Teeeeeacher, hi teacher!" It's at that moment, reality hits and I realize I'm not the incredibly beautiful skinny Private Investigator, but a middle aged preschool teacher who is by no means glamorous. But to the preschoolers it doesn't matter. They don't care what we are wearing, or if our hair is tousled and out of place, or even notice that our make up is worn away and dripping from our faces. No, they don't care about such things, instead they make us feel like we are walking the red carpet ready to accept the Oscar of a lifetime, all without the Paparazzi. Tell me, do you know of any other employment where you don't have to worry about what you're wearing, or whether you're having a bad hair day, or how many pounds you've put on, a place where you can go where you aren't judged but instead, received and embraced with honest love and enthusiasm?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Lion and the Lamb

"Whaaaaaaah, whaaaaaah, NO I don't want to do that!" "It's time to dance and everyone is dancing, it's not a crying thing." Whaaaaaah, scream, more yelling and crying. This carries on for most of the day, but the little guy is with us for behavior and his melt downs are not uncommon. We encourage him to use his words instead of roaring every time something doesn't go his way. "Roar, get away from my toys! Roar, you're touching me! Roar, I'm not budging! If he were a lion, he would bite, rip and tear anyone or thing that crossed him, which is why he is in our program. Hopefully, with a few more years of intervention, he will get his anger under control, have some friends and make it through life as a happy well adjusted young man. Meanwhile, back in class, we were walking the preschoolers from the playground to the bus, as it was time for them to go home. It gets congested coming through the doors trying to keep everyone in line, but it's a skill we're working on and for the most part they're getting the hang of it. In the front of the line was our lion, who was accidentally bumped by one of the teachers. "Whaaaaaaaah, whaaaaaah, scream," but before she had a chance to react, our little autistic boy, who is smaller than the lion and, doesn't have a mean bone in his body, grabbed the coat of the roaring beast with both hands and shook him ferociously. Back and forth the little lamb shook. It truly was the only way he could express his feelings. By the way he was shaking him you could see in his eyes he was saying, "Shut the @&*% up!!" I'm sure after listening to him scream all day, our little lamb was at the end of his rope. The situation resolved itself, the lion stopped wailing, the lamb let go, and they continued to walk towards the bus in complete silence.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lost in Translation

Quieres ayudarme? Cuanto huevos quieres? No quiero banarme! Yeah, don't let me fool you, I don't understand a lick of Spanish, let alone able to read it. I once attended a Spanish church service when I was in Mexico and the only thing I was able to recognize was the tune to the hymns we sang. Other than that, it was pure foreign. Now imagine being a three year old who only understands Spanish and gets put into an English speaking preschool, where everything and everyone is nothing but foreign. I felt so bad for our new little student once his parents said their goodbyes and left him wondering what the heck is he doing in this strange classroom, with strange people, talking a strange language. The minute the door closed behind them, he cried, and cried, and cried. I tried to console him, but without success. He sat by the door and continued to cry. Meanwhile the rest of the class danced and sang and carried on, trying to ignore the sobbing child. After circle and snack everyone started to play, they even took pity on our new little fella and moved some toys close to where he was crying, but he was too upset to acknowledge their gesture. We finally called in the schools translator who was able to calm him and he actually started to play. She stayed with him the rest of the afternoon, and even helped put him on the bus and reassured him the bus driver was going to take him home. It was a rough first day for him and I'm sure he was exhausted when he finally arrived at his house.

His second day of school was much better and he didn't cry as much. I carried around a Spanish to English book with me so I could try my hand at speaking his native language, but that just complicated matters because he would answer me in Spanish and I had no idea what he was saying. I think he appreciated my efforts because he stayed close to me the entire day, or maybe he just felt sorry for this poor gringo of a teacher who can't speak and appears to be the one with the language problem. I'm sure he thought I was the one that needed a friend.

His third day of class was even better and he started to mingle with the other students. The next thing I know he is fitting in and playing right along side them.

This is what's so amazing about little children, no matter where they are from, what kind of background they have, or disability, they seem to have this special way of communicating that only a child can understand, which in turn, leaves us adults the ones, lost in translation.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Get Fit, Preschool Style....

There are so many ways one can get in shape. You can join a gym for a small fee, they offer a wide variety of exercise equipment, although it does take determination and dedication. Going for a walk with a friend gives exercising a fun way to socialize. There's jogging, but who like to jog. You can even purchase the Wii Fit games, what will they think of next. I've personally never tried it but I hear it can be a lot of fun. Getting to the point, I don't like fitness gyms, for some reason I get overwhelmed when I see a room filled with equipment and I don't know where to start. I suppose I could use a personal trainer...maybe. I do like to walk, but I consider myself a fair weather walker and with way our weather has been behaving lately, walking has been out of the question. Let me tell you the number one way in my book, is the best method for getting into shape.

My job. Yep, let me tell you how it's done:

Cardiovascular: Dance and move with a room full of preschoolers to fun, fast, upbeat music or chase after a runner who escaped.

Leg and thigh: Sit on the floor with a child on your lap then get up, or just getting up and down out of small chairs does the trick.

Arms: Holding and lifting a child that has no way to support themselves, or helping a child walk because their legs all of a sudden turned into noodles. This will definitely put muscle on your arms, if your back doesn't give out first.

Stomach: Sitting on floor playing with someone, then reaching for a child, without getting up, who is doing something he or she shouldn't be doing, and pulling them in towards you. Works those abs every time.

It is the consent movement, the darting and sprinting, as well as the up and down that keeps me fit. I come home tired and exhausted, much like one would feel after spending time in the gym. The best part is, I'm getting paid.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preschool Demons

We have a new boy in our class, and as always with new students, they aren't familiar with our songs and activities. We usually give them a good couple of weeks before they are one with the class, so until then, it's all about getting used to new things. One of our songs require a scarf in which we'll put it on our head and walk around the room, put it on our elbow, stomach, back etc...

Well the new guy did not like the scarf on his head, actually by his expression, I believe he was repulsed just by touching it. After our songs, dance and a brief circle time, we break for snack. On the menu was, bananas, goldfish crackers and cereal. As our certified teacher was helping a few of the children with the banana, by cutting it up into bite size pieces, she told the new boy that she felt the same way about banana's, the way he felt about the scarf. Not that he understood any of the conversation but teacher K has always despised banana's, the texture, taste and smell. This led me to relate my feelings on shaving cream. We use shaving cream as one of our sensory activities. We'll squirt the cream on the table in big piles and let the children play with it. Some love to smear it around and work it through their fingers, others use toy cars to make tracks but regardless of how fun it is, I avoid that table. I hate the smell of shaving cream, even if it says unscented the aroma fills the air with it's stench, if it's on your hands the smell won't go away and will linger the entire day. Yeah, I am not a shaving cream fan. Anyway, as we were all sitting around the snack table sharing our preschool demons, I asked the other para pro what her demons are, but then I got to thinking, I know what hers are. The nurse in her is always on the lookout for things that could pose a choking hazard or anything else that could be unsafe or a health risk for our little people.
She is our Safety Sam. The thing is, before she came along we never had any issues with choking, or a unknown deadly epidemic surface because a kid came to school with bad hygiene, or anyone dying because they ate some food that dropped on the floor. But one never knows with preschoolers, anything can happen, so we consider ourselves lucky to have her expertise in our classroom. The best thing about having more than one teacher, is where one falls short the others will pick up the slack, which keeps things running as smoothly as......well, as smoothly as possible.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Twins

My heart is breaking, our twins are moving back to Canada and I'm not ready for them to leave.
A year ago these two little boys came into our program, knowing absolutely nothing. Not that our program has high standards or expectations but the twins were like Ferrell children. I don't lay blame on the parents for their wild behavior, I'm sure they tried their best just to manage on a daily basis and felt over whelmed not knowing what to do with their boys. The twins had no language, would hit themselves, especially when upset, have self induced purging, and other bazaar behavior. In the classroom they had no social skills, would randomly hit other children, self stem on the toys instead of playing appropriately and during snack, they would stare at the food while crumbling it with their fingers. Outside, they had no idea how to play, slides and swings meant nothing to them, they were oblivious to the other children running around, and really, all they wanted to do, was feel the pebbles slide through their hands.

After a years time, our little Ferrell children started signing and talking, not only eating snack but requesting what they want, they now play with the other children, they know how to take off and hang up their own coats, dance to the music, smile and give hugs. I love those boys and feel they are leaving us too soon, but that's the name of the game with us. These little children come into our lives, touch us in a way no other can, then leave. It happens year after year, but just being able to be a small part in their life and know I've played a role in helping them, warms my heart and keeps me coming back.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another Day, Another Dollar

The few, the proud, the potty trained. It's our afternoon class that has a small handful of potty trained preschoolers. One little girl is very independent and has great self help skills, the only catch is, since she is just three, she needs someone to take her to the bathroom. No problem, as she was playing with another little girl, Miss independent came to me and said she had to go potty. The playmate said she wanted to go to. It's kinda of a girl thing to go in pairs, girls do it all the time. I grabbed a diaper for the playmate just in case. Once inside the bathroom, Miss independent went in a stall, locked the door and did her thing. The playmate wanted to sit on the toilet, so I humored her, helped her take off her wet diaper and put her on the pot. As she sat there, she squeezed, and squeezed then a tiny little drop came out. I congratulated her for going potty on the toilet then gave her some toilet paper to wipe. She took the paper from my hand, wiped from the backside, then flung the paper around showering me with toilet water and shouted, "Wook at this!" Lovely... We cleaned up, went back to class and I shared my experience with the teacher. She just laughed, patted me on the shoulder and said, "Another day, another dollar."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So, who's the screamer?

Ha, I just had to laugh. I was in the staff work room when the school psych approached me and asked, "So, who's the screamer?" Apparently he had heard some crying and screaming going on down on our end of the building, but the question at hand was, who's the screamer? Hmmm, I gave it some thought and replied, "It could have been the little guy last week that would have preferred to stay home rather than come to school, so he cried all day, or was it the the class next door who had one scream and carry on pretty much since the time he arrived, or better yet, was it the little girl that wanted to stay on the playground instead of going home, so she screamed at the top of her lungs all the way to the bus, but then, there was another who was so disappointed he couldn't play in the gym that pitching a fit was the only way he could share his feelings." I guess it's a legitimate question, but I really couldn't answer it. Instead, I just looked at him and had to laugh. Once he realized the silliness of what he had asked, he laughed as well then proceeded to joke about how we can get a grip on the screamers. He suggested we simply tell the one crying it's not his turn today to cry, it's so and so's turn, or perhaps the teachers turn. Can you see their little face, as it's turning red in a fit of hysteria, that it's not their day to cry? Hey, he's the psychologist it just might work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Peeler

Mr. G, no peeling! Mr. G is one of our little autistic fellas that likes to peel anything and everything from labels, name tags, tape, if it has a sticky back to it, Mr. G will find it and peel away. This behavior of his is was really an obsession for him when he first entered our classroom last year. He could find even the smallest of labels on things the rest of us would never even notice. Like a heat seeking missile homing in on the target, Mr. G would head directly to a sticky back label, scrape his fingers under the tape and start peeling. Nothing else would matter to him, trying to engage him in an activity would last but a minute and off he goes searching for something to peel. It took us about a half of a year to stop the behavior and for him to be able to focus on something other than sticky labels. Great progress! He has since moved up to the older preschool class that meets on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, but to give him more days, we have him with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He really has made tremendous progress and is starting to say a few words as well as use the P.E.C. system to communicate. But like any addict, it's hard to completely give up what you love the most, in Mr. G's case, it's peeling.

Let me give you an example of what I'm trying to explain here. Today we took the preschoolers outside to ride bikes and run around. We keep the bikes in a shed by the basketball court, where they ride. While all the children were playing, riding and running around, the little missile tuned in his homing devise, went inside the shed found the hand sanitiser bottle and proceeded to peel the label. I caught a glimpse of him from the corner of my eye and called his name. He actually looked in my direction, then I asked him to "Come here" which he amazingly did, but not without the sticky label in his hot little hand. I took the label from him and threw it in the trash can, and that little stinker saw where I threw it and looked in the the garbage. I said, "No Mr. G, that's icky." He looked at me with his sparkling eyes and smiled, let go of the trash can and skipped off. A year ago, he would have pitched a fit, cried and lashed out at us, but this time, he knew, he knew he was being sneaky and gave me that little smile as if to say, "I was this close!"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Without Missing a Beat

I recently returned to work after 2 12 months of medical leave. I've been away from the preschool room for so long, yet at the same time, I can't believe how fast it's felt now that I'm back. The crazy thing is, had I any other job where I wasn't sitting on floors, chasing three year old children, dodging flailing arms and legs as well as, other unpredictable movement, I would have been back to work much sooner. The draw back for me was, we were just getting underway and the school year was off to a good start. The preschoolers were learning the routine with good progress, and we had plenty of screenings to do as well as, children waiting to enroll, as soon as their IEP's were completed. Next thing I know, I'm out, recovering from an accident. Two surgeries, wound care appointments and physical therapy was my new job, it's what I had to focus on to get better. Mean while, back in class, new students are arriving and the others are growing and learning new things. I was actually a bit apprehensive upon returning. I figured the little ones had forgotten me and I would have no idea where to start, as I would know nothing of their progress and what they are currently doing. When I stepped into the preschool room for the first time in 27 days, not including Thanksgiving break and Christmas vacation, it felt as if I had never left. I was so excited to see the kids as we received them from the bus. A few looked at me as if they were wondering who I was and others gave me a big hug. Once we entered the classroom, the dynamics begun. One little guy cried the entire time, flinging his body on the ground, kicking and screaming. I later learned, his attendance for the month of December had only been three days. So to say the least, he was having a hard time being back. His crying set the tone, and everyone else seemed to play louder. I took a few of the girls to the bathroom. Two of which are not potty trained and wear diapers. One of the untrained girls locked herself in a stall, took off her diaper and flung it at me while I stood on the other side of the door. Since she could not unlock it, she crawled under with her bare bottom sticking up in the air. Then the other diaper girl squealed and danced about while I'm trying to dress her when she noticed "Teacher K" bring in another student that needed to use the restroom. Finally, with fresh clean diapers and washed hands, we returned to the classroom where the crying did not cease and the noise level continued to rise. I can't believe I was worried about not knowing where to begin. Everyone was pretty much the same, there was just more of them, I managed to pick up where I had left off and the kids never missed a beat....