It’s no secret that this is one of the happiest times of my life.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the saddest.  Today, while I am stuck at home, amazing teachers all over my district are losing their jobs.  Many of them are being pink-slipped, and many others are being displaced and will have to take a new position.  People that are amazing teachers and dear friends of mine no longer have jobs.

The early childhood program I work in is being slashed to pieces.  If our grant comes through this summer, we may be able to pull ourselves back together, but that’s a big if.

As of right now, I will not be teaching my kids next year.  As of right now, I will not be part of the early childhood program that I’ve been working in for more than 5 years.  Someone with more seniority than me will get to take my class.  Someone who likely hates special education.  Meanwhile, someone else has gotten pink-slipped, and I will have to take their job.  Yes, I am grateful to have a job, but it makes me heartsick to think about someone else teaching my kids.  It makes me feel horrible to know that someone else had to lose their job so I can keep mine.  Seriously, I feel like an ass.

It’s just so awful being stuck at home today.  I really want to be with my friends right now.  I want to be a support to them.  I want to be supported too.  Even though I still have A job, I’ve lost MY job.

If you live in the State of Illinois, I really want to encourage you to contact your state representatives and Governor Quinn.  Encourage them to fund programs for young children.  Encourage Governor Quinn to repeal his proposed 17% cut to education funding.  The cuts that my district and others have had to make are unbelievable.  If we lost more funding, there will be very little left for the children of Illinois.  Please consider sending an e-mail or making a phone call.

The Preschooler, the Can of Pop, the Sink, and the iPhone

I have a story for you…

You know how sometimes life gives you lemons, so you can make lemonade?  Well, this is not that kind of story.

This is the kind of story in which life keeps giving you lemons, you are sick of lemonade, and just when you think you can take anymore, life kicks you in the ass.

My story starts out with a girl.  This hardworking girl spends her time working with preschoolers with special needs.  Yes, I know, she is a saint.  So, yesterday this girl had to leave her classroom to go to a meeting.  She left her kids in the hands of two, allegedly capable, substitute teachers.

She comes back from her meeting at the end of the day, and notices her iPhone out on her desk.  Funny, she thought, I distinctly remember putting that in my purse before I left. She picks up her iPhone, and it’s wet.  No, not wet.  Soaked.

“Why is my phone all wet?” she asks, trying not to panic.

Substitute teacher #1 tells her that one of the kids put in his mouth.

“Ummm, I think there’s more to the story than that,” she says, as water pours out of her beloved phone.

Substitute #2 decides to pipe in, “Well, that boy, he was drinking your pop.  I told him to stop, so he poured it out on your phone.  Then I told him he had to wash it off.  I found him playing with it in the sink a few minutes later.

Let me give you a moment to let that sink in…

An ADULT told a CHILD to WASH THE PHONE in the sink.

Naturally, as any girl who loves an iPhone would do, the girl started to panic.  She used the office phone to call her husband to have him fix the problem.

Now, the good news is, the girl was able to get a new phone thanks to her hero of a husband, and some great customer service at AT&T and Apple.  There is, in fact, a happy ending.

The moral of this story?

Never tell a child to wash a phone in the sink.

Or…people are idiots.

Wanted: Some Good Advice

I’m overwhelmed.  Utterly and completely overwhelmed.

To say I have a lot on my plate right now would be the understatement of the century.  I literally feel like I’m drowning most of the time.  Even trying to type this post out is overwhelming to me.  I know a lot of these feelings are coming from the hormones I’m on, but that doesn’t make my experience of them any less real.

Something has got to go.  Something has got to change.

Let’s talk briefly about my very full life plate:

  1. I work a wonderful, but physically and emotionally demanding full time job.
  2. I am currently undergoing fertility treatments in order to conceive our first child.
  3. My dad is very sick.
  4. I am in training to become an RDI consultant for families who are living with autism.
  5. I’m trying to be a good wife, a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend, and a good mom to my pups.

Those are the major players right now.  The more minor players include anything that I want to do for myself — blogging, napping, knitting, reading, etc.  The minor players, though, are not the problem.

Like I said, something has to go.  So, let’s look at that list again.

  1. I can’t quit my job.  I need to pay the bills, and I don’t want to stop teaching right now.
  2. I can’t quit fertility treatments.  It’s just not an option.
  3. I can’t stop my dad from being sick, nor can I stop caring about him.
  4. Training to be an RDI consultant is important to me, but the whole situation completely overwhelms me right now.
  5. I can’t quit my husband, my family, my friends, or my pups.

Really, off of that list, the only thing that I can feasibly give up is my RDI training.  The question now is whether or not that’s a wise decision.  Here’s the list of things that is currently running rampant through my head in regards to giving up on RDI:

  • I spent a LOT of money on this training.
  • I’m not even halfway through the supervision process, and I have a long way to go.
  • RDI is a great intervention, and I do want to be a part of it.
  • The time it takes me to do my work each week is more than I can handle right now.
  • My supervisor is not interested in my “excuses.”
  • I am doing less than my best work, which disappoints and frustrates me.
  • I could lose my job in the fall, and this would be something to fall back on.
  • If I had known that I was going to be doing fertility treatments, I never would have chosen to start this process.
  • If I quit and wanted to try again, I would have to start all over at the beginning again.
  • I have a lot of talents.  Maybe this isn’t the right path for me.
  • RDI might allow me to work from home when we have kids.

So, that’s where I’m at.  I don’t know what to do.  I really could use some advice.

Edited to add: The part of RDI that I’m struggling with right now is the supervision process.  I have to work with families and submit video tapes every 2ish weeks to my supervisor.  I started in August, and I’ve completed 5 lessons since then.  I have to complete 14 lessons to finish.  So, that means there is no specific end date, it’s just done when I’m done.  The hard part is that my video submissions require me to rely on the families I’m working with, rather than to just rely on myself to get things done.  In addition to supervision, I have to take another trip to Houston to finish my training either in April or August of 2010.

Waiting to Exhale

Without getting into the gory details, I’ll tell you that my school district is in debt in a major way.  Tens of millions of dollars have to be cut from next year’s budget.  With over 75% of the district’s spending going to payroll, major monetary cuts will mean major personnel cuts.  Anyone who works with me would be naive to think they won’t be affected.

The thing that scares me the most about all of this is not the being unemployed.  That would suck, but we would find a way to deal.  It’s not the fact that there are no teaching jobs out there and the market will soon be flooded with hundreds of newly unemployed teachers.  That sucks too.

What scares me the most is losing a job that I love.  I’ve been working for my district for 5 years.  Sure, there have been some ugly times, but those times are greatly out-shadowed by the times I’ve heard a child speak their first words, seen a child take their first steps, or helped a family through a difficult diagnosis.  I am so lucky to have a job that allows me to take part in so many of life’s miracles.  I’m terrified to lose that.

For now, I’m just holding my breath…

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

I’m back from Houston!  Did you miss me?  I missed all of you, and I’m excited to be back home with my pups, my husband, and my lovely bloggy world!

Now, just what was I doing in Houston for 10 days?  Well, predominately, I was sitting in a seminar feeling like my brain was going to explode.  To make a long story short, I was in Houston working on becoming a consultant for families of children with autism.  You don’t care to know all the hairy details of the program, but I will tell you that I am very excited about it, and also feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I’m overwhelmed because I’m daring to imagine a different kind of job for myself.  Change makes me nervous, even good change, and this change will be good, but it’s expensive!  I’m excited about the prospect of being my own boss, of continuing to help families, and of being able to work from home sometime in the future.  I’m completely overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do while I’m in supervision, especially once the school year starts.  I hope I’ll be able to handle it!

Anyhow, Houston was exciting, scary, and even a little bit fun.  I met some nice people, one fairly rude person, and celebrated Canada Day.  I also got to visit the Galleria, which is the biggest mall I’ve ever seen, and the Johnson Space Center.  Here are some photos from my trip…

Mistletoe hung out with us almost every day during our seminar!  I  loved having a pup around!

Me and the crew of the Apollo 13

Equipment at the Astronaut Training Facility.  I wish I’d been able to get a good shot of the computers.  I was expecting awesome technology, and the computers there looked liked movie props from the ’80s!

Here we all are.  The future RDI Leaders of the World!

That’s my trip in a nutshell.  I’m so happy to be home again!  What have you been up to the past two weeks?  Please tell me, since I marked all my posts as read in my reader!

Looking Back

This post is part of 20SB’s Looking Back Blog Carnival, and Ben & Jerry’s is awarding free ice cream to lucky bloggers and readers.  You can find out more about it here, but the idea is to show you a post from when I first began blogging.  I began blogging in graduate school, but that blog is long gone, so this post is from the first month of this particular blog’s incarnation.  When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about teaching.  I spent a good deal of time reflecting on teaching, and I really viewed my blog as an education blog.  Nowadays, teaching is still part of my blog, but it doesn’t dominate it.  I hope you’ll enjoy this little trip to the early days of my blog!

Consistency vs. Chaos — November 28, 2005

Like any good early childhood special educator, I spent a lot of time before school started this year setting up various systems and visual cues around my classroom. Consistency is key when working with preschoolers, especially those with special needs. I spent the first 6 weeks of school teaching these systems and allowing my students to settle into their consistent routine.

For example, each student in my classroom has a symbol and a color. One child in my classroom is the green frog. He hangs his coat and backpack at the green frog cubby, takes the green frog off the door for attendance, sits in the green frog cube chair at circle and at the green frog space at the table, and writes in a green journal with a green marker. Using these sorts of visual cues and consistent themes allows my more involved students to become independent and I have seen independence flourish in my classroom this year.

I’m very proud of the systems that I’ve set up, but now I’m starting to wonder if I need to make a change. The real world is very chaotic. You don’t get to sit in a chair marked by a frog everywhere you go….you have to choose your own seat. These elaborate systems aren’t in place outside of my classroom. In fact, the only consistent thing about real life is that things change….all the time!

Now, I know that my students are just preschoolers and I don’t have to worry too much about sending them off into the real world just yet. However, if my students are only able to function independently in an artificially created environment, I’m doing them a disservice. They may not be stepping out into the real world on their own just yet, but they visit the grocery store and restaurants with their parents on a regular basis.

I think it’s time to make a change. I’ve done right by my students in setting up systems that help them to learn the classroom routine and complete their days with a minimum of adult supports. Now, though, I need to pull back some of those supports and let my students become even more independent. This will surely mean chaos in my classroom….and back to the screaming that always occurs at the beginning of the school year, especially for my students who have difficulty changing routines.

I’ll have to start small….maybe you sat in the green cube chair, but today your symbol is on the red cube chair. Yesterday you sat at the circle table, but today you are sitting at the rectangle table. I think that by slowly implementing these changes, I will increase the independence of all my students, and also help to break some of the fixations of my students who are on the autism spectrum.

Consistency is key in early childhood special education, but I also owe it to my students to help them gain as much independence as possible if they are to have any hope of staying afloat in Kindergarten, and in life.

Urgent Action Needed

Please not that the following was not written by me, it was written by the director of the program I work for.  However, I felt it already said what I needed to say, so why reinvent the wheel?  If you live in Illinois, please take action on this today! If you are not an Illinois resident, get this information out to people who do live in Illinois.  Thank you!

Illinois is in grave danger of losing services on July 1 for our most vulnerable citizens: our children.  The effect of Senate House bill 1197 places the burden of Illinois’ budget problems on the backs of children and families, eliminating services for children living in poverty and those with disabilities by cutting intervention services, preschool, and child care to balance the budget.

Become informed and be an advocate for the children and families that can’t advocate for themselves.  The educational, social and economic systems of Illinois will be negatively affected for years to come if we don’t pass a state income tax increase to balance the budget, instead of cutting human service and educational programs.

FACT: Prekindergarten Programs Positively Impact K-12 schools

It is a research-based, documented fact that high-quality early childhood programs help children succeed.  Four landmark studies began in the 1960s, 70s and 80s provide ongoing evidence: High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, Abecedarian Project, Chicago Child-Parent Centers Project and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.  All four projects were well-designed, methodologically sound, and longitudinal.  All four studies found the same results.  Children from poverty who receive a high-quality early childhood program:

    • Show more self-discipline in kindergarten
    • Exhibit fewer behavioral problems throughout elementary school
    • Score higher on standardized reading and math tests causing overall school scores to improve
    • Are less likely to repeat a grade
    • Are less likely to need special education
    • Have less absenteeism
    • Are less likely to engage in risky behavior: alcohol, drugs, gangs
    • Are more likely to perform at a level considered “high-achieving” in high school than a no-early learning-group: early learning group 49%, no early learning group 15%.  (High/Scope study, cited in Cunha & Heckman, 2007)
    • More likely to graduate from high school

FACT: Early Childhood Education is a Sound Investment in Society

    • Preschool alumni are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, less frequently on welfare, more likely to own their own home and earn higher wages
    • Reducing the number of people on welfare and lowering the crime rate represents a substantial savings to taxpayers
    The effects of high-quality preschool for disadvantaged children have been studied extensively.  The programs improve student outcomes, increasing their educational attainment, decreasing their criminal activity, and improving their employment and earnings as adults.  These changes in behavior reduce the burden on public resources by decreasing special education, incarcerations, and public assistance; and by increasing future tax revenue.  Such changes produce a substantial return on investment.  Studies have estimated that these programs produce as much as $17 in social benefits for every dollar invested. (James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in economics, from Heckman & Masterov, 2007, p. 1)
    Just as public and private entities take an active interest in the construction and maintenance of road, public transportation, utilities, housing and educational facilities to support economic development, quality early childhood education should be considered essential to the [nation’s] economic health. (Gruendel, 2004)

WHAT TO DO: Contact Governor Quinn (1-217-782-0244)  and your legislators to veto  SB1197 and call the legislators back to session to work out a budget that doesn’t try to solve Illinois’ money problems on the by cutting services to disadvantaged children and families.

Are You Some Kind of Idiot?

President Obama’s recent comment on the Tonight Show (for which he has apologized) reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write this post.

Did you know that the word dumb used to refer someone who was mute?  It’s true.  One of Helen Keller’s first spoken sentences was, “I am not dumb now.”  I think we can safely say that a woman who graduated from Radcliffe was never dumb.

Have you ever called someone an idiot?  An imbecile?  A moron?  I’m sure you have.  I call people morons all the time.  What you may not realize is that idiot, imbecile, and moron used to be actual psychological terms.  A moron was someone with an IQ between 50 and 75.  Imbeciles had IQs between 25 and 50.  Idiots had IQs below 25.

Words like dumb, moron, imbecile, and idiot are no longer used in the educational, psychological, and medical fields — at least not by true professionals.  These days, we just use those words to make fun of each other.

There is, however, another word that we use to mock and ridicule.  Retard.

It’s true, mental retardation is a legitimate educational and medical term.  These days, however, it’s a term rarely used by educational and medical professionals because it has taken on such a derogatory meaning in our culture.  Many people use the word retard without any thought to what it really means.  I’ve done it.  You’ve done it.  In his own way, President Obama did it.

Using the word “retard” in a derogatory fashion serious  insults and undermines the value of people who are living with cognitive and developmental disabilities.  As someone who works with children with special needs, I cringe when I hear my students referred to as retards.  To me, there is just no reason to fling that word around.  Find another way to insult your little brother.  Find a way to call your friends names that doesn’t demean the children I work with every single day.

Calling someone a retard just makes you look like an idiot.  Take the r-word pledge and change the conversation.

Kyla Wants to Know

So, Kyla participated in an interview meme, and since I love a good interview, I decided to join in.

The Rules

1. If you want to participate, leave me a comment saying, “Interview
me.” (And your e-mail address, please.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone
else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them
five questions.

Kyla asked, and I answered.

1. If you could live in any city, what would it be? If it isn’t where you live now, have you considered moving there and why have you decided against it?

I would live in London.  I’m obsessed with all things British, and London was such an awesome city to visit.  I mean, they have Banoffee Pie there.  And Alan Rickman.  Plus, let’s face it, they have such cool words.  Loo sounds way better than bathroom.  Doxy is so much nicer than hooker.

Ted and I talked about moving there once upon a time, before we were even married I think.  Originally, we decided against it because we were joining the Peace Corps.  When that went sour, we were already settling into a routine here.  Now that we’re planning to start a family, I can’t imagine raising my kids away from my parents.  Plus, with my dad being sick, I’ve come to realize just how important being close to family is.  Maybe we’ll retire there…

2. When and why did you decide to be involved in early childhood special education? Was there an Ah-Ha moment you can pin point?

Taken from another interview post I did — “I first read about Helen Keller when I was in 2nd grade. I found her story absolutely fascinating, and I really consider that the beginning of my interest in people who have different abilities. I taught myself to fingerspell and to identify braille letters by the time I was in 3rd grade. My friend, Heather, and I played Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller in a play in 3rd grade. In fifth grade I wrote a speech about a great American Invention, and I chose American Sign Language. I guess my point is, that the education of people with different abilities was a passion of mine that started very early in life. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

I spend my summers as a teenager working at a Montessori school’s summer camp.  I loved working with young kids, and by the time I got to college, I knew I wanted to teach little ones.  I got my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and stayed on to get my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education.

In some ways, I feel like working with children with special needs is my calling.  It’s what I’m destined to do.  I feel like my own educational and life experiences led me to become the type of teacher that I am.  There was no one specific moment that turned me towards my career.  Rather, there were a lot of little moments with a lot of really amazing little people.  I am an absolute geek when it comes to brains, neurology, and child development.  I also love working with families, helping them through difficult times, and helping kids to become everything they are meant to be.  I get really corny when I talk about my job!

3. When you were a teenager, how did you imagine your twenties? Has your life turned out anything like your teenage visions of your twenties?

As a teenager, I imagined myself in my twenties in a hundred different ways.  Sometimes I was married with kids.  Sometimes I was a famous actress.  Sometimes I was a geneticist.  You name it, I imagined it.  I don’t think my life is anything like what I imagined it to be, because I never could have dreamed up such an amazing husband, such insane dogs, or such a passion for my job.  I guess that’s pretty cool.

4. As someone who works in a helping profession, and one that’s very hands on, do find that you need to carve out “you” time to recoup from your work? Does it take a lot out of you, or does it recharge you?

When I first started teaching, I brought work home with me all the time.  I basically worked all the time.  I don’t do that anymore.  If I have reports I need to get done, I’ll occasionally do them at home, but, for the most part, work stays at work.  I have to do what I can to keep my work and home life separate or I will work myself into the ground.  You’ve already seen how crazy I get about my job.

I definitely need to take “me” time, and I do most of that on the internet.  I come home everyday and head straight for my computer.  I read e-mail, blogs, update twitter, and let my mind take a break from thinking about my work day.  It’s kind of my zombie time.  If Ted happens to be home, he usually is hard pressed to get a response out of me.

My job definitely takes a lot out of me.  I am physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day.  Sometimes, I am amazed that I don’t sleep more than I do.  On the other hand, my job is incredibly rewarding.  I get so much fulfillment out of it that it kind of makes up for the stress and the exhaustion.  I wish more people felt that way about their jobs.

5. As a twenty something who has been married for almost 5 years, what have you learned about your relationship in your marriage so far?

First and foremost, I have learned that I married a truly amazing man.  Ted is everything I could have ever wished for in a spouse.  I know that now more than the day I married him.

I’ve learned that we are really goofy people, but our goofiness is a key ingrediant in our marriage.  We spend a lot of time being really weird.

I’ve learned that, while marriage is sometimes about compromise, it isn’t about compromising yourself.  Ted and I encourage each other to grow, to try new things, to be who we want to be.


So, that’s that.  Thanks to Kyla for the questions!  If you want to play along, be sure to let me know and I will send some questions your way!

Dirty Mouth?

Today I had an interesting conversation with one of my students during circle time.  Keep in mind that this child generally speaks in consonant-vowel or vowel-consonant utterances (ba, ma, oh, ah), so I’ve translated a bit.  He does have some words and is learning more every day.

Kiddo:  I dirty.

Me:  Are you poopy?

Kiddo:  No.  Dirty (points to mouth).

Me:  Oh.  You’re thirsty?

Kiddo:  No.  Mouth.  Dirty.

Me:  Your mouth is dirty?

Kiddo:  Yeah.  Soap.

Me:  You have soap in your mouth?

Kiddo:  Yeah.

Me:  Did you get soap in your mouth while you were washing your face?

Kiddo:  No.  Mom.  Soap.

Me:  Mom put soap in your mouth?

Kiddo:  Yeah.

Me:  Ohhh.  Did you say a bad word?

Kiddo:  Yeah.  I say fuck.

Yeah, you read that correctly.  He said fuck.  Clear as a bell too.  At that point I was hiding my face and laughing uncontrollably.  He may have said a bad word, but it was in his longest sentence to date!