The Penny

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

[Monday, June 20, 2011]

Let's Go Already!


I seriously can't wait to move. I'm not looking forward to the actual move itself (especially since I'm a weakling these days), but I am looking forward to being in the condo. Two neighbors instead of... I don't even know how many. No one living above or beneath me! No screaming kids in the lobby--no lobby!

I am totally stressed out about the actual move. I am stressed about getting the truck (as in, it actually being there, as reserved). I am stressed about driving the truck into my apartment complex. I am stressed about inconveniencing the neighbors by blocking their garages, although I really shouldn't be. They inconvenience me every day with their screaming kids, smoking, and generally trashy loudness.

One thing that's nice is that we have overlap between the apartment and the condo, so if everything doesn't make it into boxes this week, we can always bring the rest of it down by car. Of course, we want as much of our stuff to go on the truck as possible--so that we don't have to carry it. People from church are helping us move.

Which brings me to another stress topic. I don't trust them to show up! Renting a truck is NOT cheap, so I'm hoping they will show up. My ward is not.. um.. what's the word... reliable. But I have hope.

I can't wait to be in the new place, because my 45-60 minute commute will become a 10-20 minute commute. Oh, yeah! I will save a lot on gas. It will be lovely for days when I take a freelance interpreting job in the evening. I can go home for a couple of hours instead of hanging around work until time for my other job. I'll be able to accept a lot more jobs!

Ooo, and I might be able to run home for lunch sometimes. That would be nice. Two of my schools are within 5 minutes of my new home, and so is my boss' office, which is one of my new workplaces. That's kind of a long story.

Another thing I can't wait for but is stressing me at the same time is my neurology appointment tomorrow. I'm glad it's late in the day instead of in the morning, not only because I don't have to take off work but because I tend to get worse as the day goes on. I'm not going to take painkillers tomorrow, so he can see how fun it gets.

I hope this doctor is smart. I don't care if I get a diagnosis or label; I just want the symptoms to go away! Give me a shot or something.

I have a feeling the process will continue, but I'm okay with that as long as we're narrowing in on a target. I got a blessing yesterday. What I really wanted was for the doctor to have a blessing.. but getting a blessing myself was the next best thing.

One thing I'm not stressed about is Laynie getting a job. Way to go, Laynie! Hopefully they recognize the magnitude of her awesomeness and decide to renew her contract in the spring.

[Tuesday, June 14, 2011]

The Right Thing


At new teacher orientation several years ago, as I began working in this county, one of the themes was Doing the Thing Right and Doing the Right Thing. Doing the Thing Right means following policies and procedures, which is important. Doing the Right Thing is exactly as it sounds.

This has stuck with me, maybe more this year than ever before. Maybe it's delaying re-evaluation to keep a kid on one more year so that she goes to kindergarten with an IEP. Maybe it's nudging an educator to qualify a borderline kid. Maybe it's taking the time to email a parent EVERY SINGLE WEEK despite never receiving a response and certainly never enjoying the same courtesy from her. And maybe it's teaching a student a few life skills that are not exactly on the IEP.

I have a little guy who walks between two worlds. He had no language exposure until well past age five. When he was nearly six, he finally began learning to sign. A year later, he received a cochlear implant. A year after that, a second cochlear implant. He is brilliant, but he is quite delayed in both ASL and English. And his parents do not sign and speak very little English.

This child wants to know everything. He loves to sign. He understands ASL better. However, he tends to speak (despite being understood less than half the time) and tries to gain meaning by listening, because he thinks that is the "right" way to be. He has unfortunately internalized that ASL is somehow a lesser language. No wonder: he gets that message from most of the adults in his life.

Sometimes this gets him into trouble, when he thinks he understands but doesn't. It also gets him into trouble, because he is an excellent little parrot, which makes people think he understands more than he does. And of course, he has perfected the "deaf nod."

One of his teachers is a grumpy person. It must be said: she is just grumpy. She is grumpy with her colleagues, and she is grumpy with students. If a child gives the wrong answer, they are often embarrassed by her harsh response. If they look away during a group lesson, they will be called out on it... again, embarrassed. And heaven forbid someone should not follow directions. My little guy has been mildly embarrassed in class more than once, as have most of the students. This teacher is well-liked by the principal, so there is not much that can be done from my end; the TOD is similarly powerless. Mostly she ignores our kids, which we like. Two of them are so low that she doesn't deign to work with them. Parrot is at the top of the class, so he is on her radar.

Something must have happened in that class last Tuesday, when I was not there. On Wednesday, a member of Parrot's family said that he does not want to go to school, that his teacher is mean to him and doesn't like him. The teacher of the deaf assumed that the child was referring to her, because she had scolded him that day for pushing in the lunch line and deliberately stepping on other children's feet. She explained this to the family member and didn't think much more about it, besides being a little bothered that the child thought she didn't like him.

On Friday, the child's family member came to the school to report that the child was really protesting going to school that day, saying that a teacher was mean, and he didn't want to see her. This time he said which teacher. You guessed it: Grumpy Pants. Not the teacher of the deaf.

I was not at this school Friday or yesterday. During lunch today, the TOD told me what the child had said, and I remembered something that had happened on Thursday. The TOD was in another classroom that day, and I was in with Parrot.

I was working one-on-one with another student when I heard the hubbub. Grumpy was upset with Parrot, much worse than ever before. Parrot is definitely one of her favorite students, but that didn't save him today. Grumpy seemed genuinely angry with him. Apparently he was supposed to do the first four items on the page and then stop. A line and the word "stop" were on the paper below the fourth item, and Parrot certainly knows what that means. I don't know if he was trying to impress her by completing the page--whatever he was trying, it backfired. She let him have it. Then she told him to erase his work on item five.

He must have been in shock. He appeared not to comprehend the direction to erase. He was told more forcefully, and the interpreter tried to help. I tried to sign to him that it was okay, just erase, and Grumpy gave me a Look. The interpreter told him again to erase. Grumpy moved on to another student. I asked the interpreter if Parrot had received the initial directions, and she said that he had. In fact, when he began working on number five, the interpreter reminded him that he was supposed to stop, and he waved her off. I didn't have a great deal of sympathy for him at that point, and I told him to erase number five.

When Grumpy came back around to him two minutes later, I guess he still hadn't erased. She became more angry and yelled at him again. To his credit, he didn't cry. I think I would have! Now I definitely had a great deal of sympathy for him. However, I didn't get a chance to speak with him about it.

When I told the TOD about this incident, she was disappointed that Parrot had willfully disobeyed a teacher but shocked that the teacher had behaved that way. Grumpy's responses were clearly inappropriate. I think she knew she was inappropriate by the look she gave me afterward.

The TOD and I brainstormed, knowing that we needed to give Parrot tools to handle situations like this. One issue we often have with this teacher is that she will say, "Look at me!" This prevents Parrot from looking at the interpreter--Grumpy will turn his face toward her. We have to be careful, because the child's parents would probably like this: they barely tolerate his having an interpreter as it is. I've certainly seen them jerk him around when he "doesn't listen."

We came up with a plan.

When Parrot came back from lunch, I pulled him in to the TOD room to speak with him. I let him know that Grumpy's behavior was wrong. Then the TOD and I had him role play similar scenarios: directions given without sign support, being yelled at for no apparent reason, etc. We taught him to raise his hand and get the TOD's attention. The TOD taught him the phrase, "Must interpreter please." We taught him to sign it and speak it. "Must" is one of his favorite words, which is why she used that. It's something he can understand.

As we ran through the scenarios, Parrot became more confident.

Then we explained that we love him and want him to come to school. If he didn't come to school, we would miss him and feel sad. As we told him this, he began to cry! He understood. Sweet little thing. After taking some deep breaths and drinking some apple juice, he went into that teacher's class, newly empowered.

So it wasn't on his IEP. So it didn't involve speech (much). So there's only a week of school left. Doing the Right Thing felt so good.