The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Monday, May 31, 2010]



I gave a talk in church yesterday, and not only were there a million people there for a baby blessing, the stake president was in attendance. That's pretty much my luck.

And I got a "paraeducator" for my Primary class. Yahoo!!!!!!!

[Friday, May 28, 2010]

Bad, Bad Blogger - But Good, Good Speech Pathologist!


It's not that I have nothing to say, I'm just so busy writing IEPs and attending meetings that cause me to question my sanity. I still have 5 or 6 more IEPs and a re-eval report to write in the next three weeks.

But I had the last of my deaf kiddos' IEPs on Wednesday, hallelujah! Those are the most time-consuming ones. The teacher of the deaf (TOD) and I sit down together with the curriculum and mark the skills our kids have, write the present levels from that, chose goals from the curriculum items they don't have, write the goals, then write the rest of the IEP pages. It takes forever to do present levels, supplementary aids (we have like 30 things in that section for each kid), and goals. It also takes forever to figure out the services page, because we have to look at the regular ed schedule and extrapolate the times we can pull them, etc. Of course, the district wants them in gen ed at least 80% of the time, so they are in LRE-A. The TOD and I think LRE should be the amount of time they are with people who can sign directly to them, not through an interpreter. IDEA does say to consider communication needs for deaf kids' LRE. ;)

Speaking of the TOD, um, she and I rock. And I have proof.

Just a quick note to comment on what a great lesson or really lessons that we had the pleasure of observing in your classroom and in the Kindergarden classrooms that you collaborate with so well. The reading, writing, listening, speaking, signing, behaving skills were all addressed by the two of you so seamlessly and effectively!!

Please convey our commendations and appreciation to your support staff and co-teachers.

Thanks again for what you do so well.

Woohoo! That was from the Director of Special Education for our county. I'll call him Bill.

Yesterday, Bill and the Coordinator of Special Education for our county (I guess if Bill is the biggest special ed wig, she's the second biggest, and I'll call her Debbie) and another fairly big wig, (I'll call her Kay) came by to observe our program. The TOD told me that they come see her every year. Kay has been out to see us many times this year, because she was handling a situation where we were in mediation with the family. But Bill and Debbie have not been out to see us, and although I've seen them at various trainings, they didn't know me.

They saw the TOD interpreting/co-teaching phonics in gen ed and then working with two of the kids in their classroom. They came to glance in at me working with the other two kids, doing journals. It was AWESOME, because My Favorite Student has recently realized that writing conveys meaning, is able to come up with ideas to write about, and will not accept words that do not fit his writing vision. All of a sudden he has jumped from writing three words to writing 8-12 words. This was what he wrote yesterday (keep in mind that this is from a deaf child who began learning to sign two years ago, at age 5, and has had a CI for less than one year): "I like Pe. red ball two fras run tag. me sat." (I like P.E. Red ball two friends run tag. Me sit.) I did help him spell two and tag; he spelled friends himself; and he sounded out "sit" but wrote sat because he's not good at distinguishing vowels yet. Anyway, he's awesome. And his deaf classmate wrote, "Me Zachary can slide." Four words? I'll take it! She usually wants to write one or two words and just illustrate.

My Favorite clammed up when Kay came into the room, because she's the one who was there throughout the time he was under a lot of pressure to be very auditory. He doesn't like her. But I immediately said, "Bill, come on over and let (My Favorite) read his journal entry to you!" Big smiles. I didn't want the kids to get weird with Bill and Debbie like they are with Kay. I introduced Bill as my friend, fingerspelled his name, and My Favorite orally read his journal entry. Bill was quite impressed. Then we went to the TOD's room for our pull-out.

We had planned for me to read a story and then have the kids write about it, which we normally do on Wednesdays, but we moved it to Thursday, because we didn't think they'd want to see our usual Thursday activity of playing a game. Games are wonderful for working on communication and other skills (especially math--how many do you have, more, less, equal, etc.), but big wigs don't necessarily recognize that.

So the TOD pretaught some vocabulary and I read Knuffle Bunny. I read the book and asked questions throughout it, like usual. Now, I am a crazy person and do not mind looking like a total fool, so I did my usual facial expressions, gasps of surprise at what happened to Knuffle Bunny, exclamations of shock at what happened next, etc. The TOD "took notes" on a huge piece of paper, writing down things the children said and drawing little pictures. We used that to review the book. Then we had the kids explain their favorite part, write a sentence (or 3, in My Favorite's case: "The bunny is in laundry. Baby. Dad is mad.") using the note TOD made and the sight words they know, and illustrate their writing. Usually we have them illustrate first, because it helps them stay on topic, but I was afraid they would take too long with that and not have time to write. Didn't want that to happen with Bill and Debbie there. Then we had them read their sentences to anyone who would listen (Debbie was very into this).

Throughout all of this, Child A was great, Child B was his usual inattentive and slightly defiant self (although he just turned 6, he's going through that 3-year-old stage where everything is "no" or "why?"), Child C was inattentive and obsessed with Child B was doing, but she didn't hit him, so we were pleased, and Child D (My Favorite) was excellent. Child A and Child D were making comments throughout the story. Child A had an advantage, because she has the book at home.

It was interesting how people behaved different watching us. Debbie tried to interact with the kids using facial expressions, and she gave me a lot of positive nonverbal feedback during the story--almost like a deaf person would. Kay and Bill sat whispering throughout. I wasn't sure how much they heard, since they seemed to be talking most of the time. Later I found out it went something like this, "She's a speech pathologist, you know." "Really?? That's extraordinary. I've never seen a speech pathologist able to lead the lesson." "Yes, we're very fortunate to have her." "She stops so often to get Child C to look at her. What a challenging youngster." "That child has made great improvement with her behavior, but she is quite a challenge." "I love the way they work together. It's quite ideal." "Oh yes, I've been very pleased with them this year."

Of course, in the moment, I was wondering if the whispering was a good or bad sign. But I just looked at the kids, and I wasn't nervous. Child C kept me too busy for that! Plus, I spent two years of grad school being observed nearly all the time when I worked, and once a month during my first year after graduating. You get used to people taking notes about you.

Afterward, Debbie gushed about how that was the BEST storybook reading she had ever seen. Bill wants to videotape me and the TOD as a model of co-teaching, to be used throughout the district. We said sure! What a relief that it went well. After the 45-minute pull-out session, the kids went to math, and the big wigs stayed for most of it. Apparently math went well, too. I wasn't in there, because I had my little preschool speech only students.

I'm happy that they were happy. I wonder if the videotaping thing will really happen.

Now if only they would explain our awesomeness to the parents of our students.

[Sunday, May 9, 2010]



One of my students warmed my little heart today in class.

Oh, I'll just talk about the day--I'm kind of bored. :) First, I had a rather large class today. All seven of my "regulars" were there, plus somebody's cousin (who happened to be a well-behaved boy, whew). I separated my two behavior problems, and although I did have to say their names and give them the look a few times, in general everyone was very good today! Pleading with the the Lord this morning must have helped.

When Laynie left the room at the beginning of class to get scriptures for some of the boys, I had the thought that I should share with them my struggles with teaching in ASL and English at the same time. I explained that I have to remember the content/flow of the lesson, how to say it in English, and how to say it in ASL. But I can't seem to do more than three things at once. If I add in thinking about dealing with disrespectful behavior, something ends up getting dropped, and that something is ASL. I used the ASL listing on the hand technique to illustrate this. :) They seemed to understand. Then I explained that for Sister Fife, sitting here when I'm just speaking English is like if they were sitting in a class where everyone was using Chinese. It would be pretty boring and frustrating. I asked if they would try to behave appropriately, so that I could speak and sign at the same time, and they agreed to do so. I think they might have felt a bit of empathy for Laynie. Don't get me wrong, they haven't been horrible lately, but two of the boys have been very irreverent in their attitude. Light-minded, you might say. There's a perfect ASL sign for it, which looks like "silly" but with two hands and a specific facial expression--no perfect English translation though. It's been hard to feel the spirit when they behave that way.

Today we were learning about Joseph in Egypt: his experiences in Potiphar's home, the dream interpretations in the prison, the dream interpretations for Pharaoh, and how he became the second most powerful man in Egypt. The lesson ended with the famine, which extended far and wide... even to Canaan. Four or five kids gasped, realizing that Joseph's brothers would have to come to Joseph for food. Bless their hearts, they remembered where the family lived and made the connection!

When we got the "be done now" knock, one of the boys who often causes problems said quite sincerely, "No!! I wish we could stay here forever!" That was the heart-warming part. But then he continued, "I don't wanna go in there." There meaning sharing time.

If I could just figure out how to get them engaged in sharing/singing time... Funny, they can attend to instruction well in class, but they "can't" in sharing time. They sing with me in class, but they don't in singing time. (When I say they, I don't mean all of them.)

Every week in class, we sing the songs with the names of all the books in the Old Testament and New Testament. In February, I started singing these two songs to them every week. I explained that this was how I find verses so quickly in the scriptures--I sing part of the song in my head and know where the book will be that I am looking for. Every week I invited them to sing with me if they would like (while reading the table of contents--they've always had the words in front of them), but they hung me out to dry for at least six or seven weeks.

Then one day, every kid sang along! Well, all except one--but he vocalized. He has a tough time learning. Anyway, they've been joining me, singing these songs enthusiastically for the past month or so. Last week, they began asking me to sing the Book of Mormon song, too. They're disappointed that there is no song for the Pearl of Great Price. And I showed them how to use the text features--the chapters are right at the top of the page, and they're in numerical order! You'd think that would be obvious, but kids do need to be shown these things. When they use the scriptures in sharing time and the teacher starts to give them a page number, my kids will say, "Wait, which chapter?" Yeah, they're awesome.

Except when they're completely disrespectful to all of the teachers in sharing time. Sigh. Those kids who sing the books of the scriptures songs? You would see them picking their cuticles (or other body parts) during singing time. Total ennui. One very bright boy will sometimes sing and other times will look me in the eye and swear that he does not know one word to any of the songs. When I encourage him to try, he grunts loudly to the rhythm of the song. Across the room, his older brother laughs, and so does his older brother's teacher. It's like something you'd see on those Mormon movies, like Singles Ward or The RM. I could write one called Senior Primary.

But let's get back to the point... They were so good during class today. I was able to teach with the spirit, and I felt wonderful about it. They are learning concepts and skills, which makes me very happy. Sure, they're a mess during sharing time, but less of a mess than before. They no longer yell out disrespectful comments or poke each other. I have downgraded their insanity level in sharing time from "nightmare" to "kind of scary dream." Let's hear it for progress.

[Wednesday, May 5, 2010]

Ick, the Phone


I hate the phone and avoid it whenever possible. I would much rather send a text or email, because they're so much quicker. However, Miss Laynie wants to practice her phone skills, so I usually talk to her twice a day: when I get to work and on my way home. It's kind of hard, because she obviously doesn't hear very well, and her speech is difficult to understand. It's not like I can just say anything. Plus, there's a rhythm that has to be learned, like the right amount of time to pause. But given those considerations and because she always has the context for what I'm going to say (like she knows I've just gotten to work), we can have a reasonably productive conversation, like:

I'm at Waverly.
Okay. Have fun.

Fun times. I think she got motivated to use the phone after we spent an evening creating ringtones for her. She wanted to hear the awesome tunes she had chosen! Her ringtones are clips from:
-Halo (Beyonce)
-Rhythm is Gonna Get You (Gloria Estefan, a longtime Laynie favorite)
-Come Home (Sara Bareilles verse of the OneRepublic song)
-Saltwater Room (Owl City)

Varied, no?

This week, Laynie has tried to ask me a question or say something different while we're on the phone. Like I said, she's pretty hard to understand, but it helps that she understands a few words pretty reliably (at least from me--maybe not if other people spoke). She always recognizes yes, no, ok, and what. And hello, hi, and bye. Seriously, "what" is the best word for her to understand. I think it was on Monday that we had this conversation (Sister Fife, get your hankie):

Laynie: Hello Annie! (caller ID, ha)
Me: Hi.
Laynie: Hi.
Me: I'm coming home.
Laynie: jreantuwpioptvycoqhwtpgoghspo
Me: What?
Laynie: rhesbiahotsgu
Me: What? (then realized right after I said "what" that she had asked how long--slow auditory processing for me!)
Laynie: How long?
Me: Ten minutes.
Laynie: Ten minutes?
Me: Ten minutes, yes.
Laynie: Okay! See you soon.
Me: Yes.
Laynie: Bye.
Me: Bye.

Oh, and the other rule about conversations with Laynie is that she's the one who hangs up. It just works best that way.

Now, don't get too excited that she understood me. For every time she understands (or guesses well), there are a dozen times that she doesn't.

Ha! Speak of the devil. She just called me to say she's coming home from work. Crazy, phone-loving girl!

Consider Judaism


Just for fun, I took the Belief-O-Matic quiz, which purports to identify a religion that matches your beliefs. That seems like kind of a backward way to find religion, but whatever. I had to laugh at my results:

If you didn't know, I am LDS, aka a Mormon, so I'd say the quiz is pretty accurate. And if you know anything about my faith, you would not be at all surprised to see Judaism scoring so similarly.

But I am wondering which question I answered that conflicted with Church teachings! Or with this site's perspective on Church teachings. ;) Actually, I think I know which one it was--the one about what happens after we die. One was close, but not quite right, so I had to say none of the above.

Yeah, I'm kind of bored. I do have about 10 things on my to do list, including writing four IEPs and one re-eval report, but I'm finding it hard to muster up the energy to do that on my own time.