Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Helping Kids Transition Into Next Year

It's spring! That means it's the last few weeks of the school year...7 to be exact. It is soooo easy to fall into spring fever and want to slack off! I don't know about you but I find myself getting to work later and later as the year comes closer to an end. In August I was here by 7:00 every morning, in December it was 7:15 and now it's closer to 7:30. Although I do blame part of it on recent Bay Area freeway construction!

While I may be slacking on getting out of bed in the morning, I don't let my kids slack off! In fact, I step it up BIG TIME this time of year! I teach kids with autism (among other things) and transitions are really really hard for them. I like to start prepping them now for the next grade level. Be warned, this may sound like complaining, but it's not. It's me pushing kids to their limits to see how much higher I can get them before we're done for the year, and it's not an easy process. I feel like in SPED my kids are already at a disadvantage and I want to get in as much as I can before they move up each year. I honestly expect every single one of my kids to be on grade level by the end of the year, and it's totally attainable for all of them in most subject areas.

One little kinder boy just might be the whiniest little kid I've ever met! He has the emotional maturity of about 3-4 year old instead of the end of kindergarten like he should. Don't take it the wrong way, I LOVE this kid. In fact, he's my favorite most days because he has so much darn personality. But his whining when he doesn't get his way or gets corrected for doing something wrong KILLS me. I can't stand it and it makes me want to scream! Mom and I worked out a plan that he was going to turn into a "big kid" on his birthday 2 weeks ago. For weeks ahead of time we talked about what "big kids do" and he totally bought into it!

A couple months ago you may have read about my Focused Fred and Independent Iggy reward charts on their desks. Well, this kid had Iggy because he was always asking for help he didn't need. The chart totally worked and he really doesn't need it anymore. The other day I was about to scream with all that whining so I took a sharpie and scratched off Iggy's Name and turned it into "Billy Bobby Big Kid" (actually my little guy came up with the name when we couldn't decide between Billy and Bobby). Now every time he has a big kid reaction (a sigh/small grumble/no reaction instead of whining/crying/tantrum) he gets a star. Then he gets a prize after 10 stars. It's slowly working a bit I think, but it's only been a couple of days. Iggy worked so I don't see why Billy Bobby wouldn't. I'm also stepping up all of his work to 1st grade level for the rest of the year so the beginning of 1st grade isn't so hard for him.

I had a parent tour my class today to see about entering his child into my class next year. You should have seen me explaining the crossed out Independent Iggy and the newly Sharpie written "Billy Bobby Big Kid" chart that was on the table! He loved it, but definitely laughed!

Another boy has the textbook definition of autism and everything that comes with it. He is soo smart but it's really hard to get in his head sometimes and even harder to get him to stay focused when he doesn't feel like it. My goal for him from now until the end of the year his to have him "keep his brain in the group" during instruction and stay on task without dozens of reminders for every assignment. While this all sounds great, IT'S HARD!!

Today I wanted to rip my hair out! He works best when I'm right next to him, which is great in my tiny classroom where we all sit at one large horseshoe table all day. He's moving on to the next class next year where they sit in real desks and the teacher teaches from the front and moves around to help kids as needed. I'm a nervous wreck for him to go there!

So this week I've been stepping it up (literally) and walking away from the table and teaching him from farther away. This was actually perfect timing because we are learning measurement and I can't measure meters and yards from my chair. This was the HARDEST THING EVER!! He just would not listen to a word I said and kept stimming!! I had to drop him levels on the level chart it was so bad. He never drops on the chart because he lives by that thing and always tries to "be a good boy" (his words, not mine). So he knows he messed up when he gets dropped even one level which has zero actual consequences.

He actually has been taught what stimming is and so I scolded him for doing it when he was supposed to be learning. I had to make him listen carefully and I explained why I care so much if he is stimming during instruction time. We had a chat about how when he's stimming he's not hearing what I'm saying, so he can't learn and get smarter. He seemed to understand. I had to set a goal for how long he had to "listen and keep his brain in the group." He held it together thankfully! Hopefully tomorrow is easier. His parent are positively fabulous and will totally work with him at home to talk him through how to do better next time. They know my plans to get him ready for next year and they're totally on board.

Okay, so I know this sounds like a ranting complaining post, I really don't mean it that way. This is one of those times where I intentionally make myself have a difficult set of days because I know it makes my kids better. It will make them happier students when they start classes in new grade levels in the fall and the changes won't feel so big to them. I expect nothing but their best from now until the end of the year (or close to it) so they are the best they can be before moving on to new grades/classes next year.
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