FaceBlog: 6/11

TeacherBeth sets reasonable limits. ‘That is not a choice you get to make, with that pigeon, right now.’

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A Few Words About Social

Eduardo is not a fan of Social Skills Instruction.

IMG_9549 I slipped him this little Whole Body Listening cue card during lunch group yesterday when I noticed, for the fifth time, that he was staring at the board games/ computer screen/ ceiling/etc. instead of at his conversational partners.  He simply ripped it in half.

I checked in with him after sending the other kids off to recess: “Eduardo, what happened?”

“I don’t like Social!”

“You don’t like to be reminded of things like Whole Body Listening, huh?”

“I don’t want there to be Social, at all.  So I ripped it. To make it go away.”

I am glad, for the record, that I am made of sturdier things than a printed piece of paper.

Eduardo’s response to me is similar at times.  I greet him in the morning and he drops to the floor: “Oh no, you’re the SOCIAL TEACHER! I don’t like Social!”  Standing behind him, his mother.  She informs me, “While we were eating breakfast today, Eduardo told me that he hates it when you teach Social Skills during Lunch Group.  I told him he could ask you to play a game instead.”  Unsure of what front on which to attack this, I simply remark, “thank you for letting me know,” and retrieve Eduardo from behind the secretary’s desk; he scampered off while his mom was editing my lesson plans because paper clips are more fun than waiting and he must suddenly have all of them.

From Eduardo’s perspective, “Social” is boring and he already knows it because he’s smarter than the other “dumb babies” in his classroom. Social skills are “simple” and “stupid” and he needs things to be “complicated”.  But the fact that Eduardo will yell all of these statements, to his social skills teacher in the presence of his kindergarten peers, implies that his mastery might be lower than he thinks.

At times, in Eduardo’s concrete understanding of things, the way to keep a thing from happening is to destroy all the paperwork connected to that thing.  I imagine myself playing that out as a teacher, hovering my cursor over the folder labeled “Math”.  I remember Finn, who was so much like Eduardo when he was this tender age, ripping up the Pathways when he realized where he’d gone wrong.  I had to be pretty explicit with the reality that the map is etched, not just on paper, but in the minds of everyone who was part of the social experience he and I were trying, with Pathways, to understand.

For Eduardo, I need to be even more concrete.  “My friend, I am showing you these papers, and I will continue to show you these papers, to help remind you about social things.  And because you are a person, who lives and goes to school with other people, social things will never go away.  You can’t make Social go away.  If you don’t like seeing the papers, there’s a way to solve that problem: I will not show you the papers if you are already doing what the papers remind us to do.”


“The way you’ve been trying to solve that problem is to rip up the papers.  And I need you to understand that that isn’t gonna work.”

I brought out my file folder labeled “Listening Scaffolds”, dumped them all out in their duplicate glory.  Noticed as I did that half of them were laminated, vowed only to use those plastic ones next time.

“And it’s not just about the paper slips.” Honestly, I’m with Eduardo that Whole Body Listening Larry is a bit insufferable and his eyes are too big.  Nevertheless, I am grateful that both my teaching toolkit and the universe as a whole is not lacking on didactic materials for social skills, and neither Eduardo nor budget cuts can make much of a dent.

IMG_9547“These are good books.  I like these books, for teaching Social.  But even if you ripped all of these books into pieces, every book with people in it is a book about Social. Every.  Single.  Book in the world.”

“We can’t get rid of Social.  We just need to understand it.  And that’s why I’m your teacher, and that’s what we’ll do.”

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Ya Run

Jonathan has had it with a child in his classroom.  Every day, he says, the boy tells him to ‘shut up’ and calls him ‘stupid’.  The adults supporting Jonathan don’t usually see this–the truth is, they usually see Elijah doing exactly that, to other kids.  The other kids complain louder than Jonathan does. Pushed past the point of reason (“I tried I-Messages, like twenty different times, but they didn’t work, and now I just want to get my revenge”), Jonathan does what he’s read about in graphic novels and seen on TV.  He writes a note. On the outside, the invitation: to Elijah, the jerk, from Jonathan, the fancy man.  Please open at home.  On the inside ‘ya run ya fat bich’.  Jonathan is being as bad as he can be. I remember one time when I was Jonathan’s age and my older brother pushed me past the point of reason.  He was taunting me for something that I honestly don’t remember, and he was so relentless in his actions that I finally struck back.  I called my brother, an adolescent male, the worst name I felt brave enough to say out loud.  “You bitch”, I told him.  He laughed. Bad doesn’t fit my Jonathan, any more than it fit me.  We both wear it like a clown suit, ridiculous and exposed.  I won’t teach Jonathan the words that might really get his point across, because I don’t want him to have to use those kind of words. At the same time, though, I work with him to think about the words that he might use instead.  His first idea is to write a new note.  “A nicer one.” He’ll put in writing his request that Elijah stop teasing, and then, he’ll ask that his hypothesis be confirmed or denied.  “I’ll ask him, Elijah, do you not care about anybody except yourself, or do you? I won’t be mean.  I’ll just ask. Because I want to know.”  He still signs everything, Love, Jonathan.  My angry fancy man who has learned from his brother how to flip people off when they make fun of his speech impediment, but says he would rather tell the principal than do that.  He still shines with naiveté.  I want to do right by him. It is naive, I think, to teach our kids that I-Messages work, all the time.  But it isn’t right to make bullies of the ones who are bullied.  I have to keep thinking, as I keep working, about the best way to handle this.

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FaceBlog: 3/26

TeacherBeth uses forced-choice scenario: “Would you prefer to do math in the classroom, or complain about math in the hallway? Those are your only two choices.”

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How I know I’m getting somewhere

Peter has finished his assignment, and is writing on a white piece of paper that he’s folded neatly in thirds.  I look around the classroom; other early finishers are drawing on the back of the worksheet, or reading.  I look at the paper–the folds aren’t typical of the cootie catchers the second graders are obsessed with of late.  His teacher gives me permission to take him on a walking break; he heads to the door and then hands me the paper.  “After the walking break, can we talk about this?”  In his small, precise handwriting, I read the words I’ve typed on the top of a three-column chart–the very chart he refused to even look at, two hours ago, when I interrupted a conflict that involved him yelling at two other kids.  He has, on his own time, recreated the chart, because he is, on his own time, trying to solve the problem.


how i see it                       the other viuw                    midle ground

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FaceBlog: 2/20/2015

Me, to parent: “Looks likes a successful morning.”

Parent, to me: “I ran over the family cat on our way to school.”

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FaceBlog: 2/03/2015

I am helping first graders process and respond to the story of Ruby Bridges, who at the age of six was the first black child to enter a previously segregated school. Everyone is very interested in the part where KKK thugs got involved. The most beautiful tiny child looks earnestly at me. “If the KKK came to my house, I would convince them that my skin is dark because I was out in the sun too long. They’d think I was white, and then they wouldn’t bother me.” I am getting ready to choke my tears back, to tell him, “They won’t come. But if they did, you could tell them, my skin is dark because I am black, and I love myself because of who I am.” Then he adds, “and also, if they came, my sister would bite them.” I say my piece anyway. But I think I’d bite them, too.

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