Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Inside Scoop

Today I got the real inside scoop on my son's classroom.  That's right, I subbed for my son's resource teacher!  It was a half-day job, just enough for me to meet the kids and get a read on the classroom dynamics.  It was very interesting, to say the least.

Let's just start off by saying that seventh graders are all a bit flaky.  Hormones + little/no prefrontal cortex activity (i.e. their decision-making skills fall somewhere between those of a spider monkey and a nerf ball) = all sorts of, um, unusual conversations and situations.  And, there is virtually no filter and no time lag between what they think and what they say or do.  They all live in a perpetual Steve Urkel "Did I do that?" haze.  Add on top of that their perpetual embarrassment at the fact that they even HAVE parents, and I wasn't sure if Safety Guy would be glad to see me, or mortified.

I don't think I embarrassed Safety Guy too badly.  He only tried to get away with a couple extra trips to the drinking fountain (squelched or postponed), and he got a kick out of watching me deal with the other students in his resource class.  I know a couple of the students from outside school, and that in itself was interesting - one guy acts the same everywhere he goes, while the other is a hapless follower of the stronger personalities in the class, doing and saying things I'd never heard him say outside of that room.

Several of the kids are given to all sorts of double-entendres of the young teen variety - that is, virtually any innocent remark anyone makes can be construed as something suggestive or rude.  Oddly enough, I earned brownie points for calling them on it and not letting them get away with it - they were impressed, and said I was cool.  I'm not sure if I'm pleased that I handled it well or disappointed that I got the subtext on the first try.  I guess I'm both.  Anyhow, they now know that I'm really listening, and I'm really not going to take it from them.

A couple kids in there have picked on Safety Guy in the past, leading to him having meltdowns at school.  They don't consistently target him - I get the impression from Safety Guy that they're opportunistic, but not seriously trying to harass him.  It's good to be able to put names and faces to his classmates.  Hopefully that will help me help him deal with their bullying behavior in the future, since I'll know who he's talking about.  And, his classmates now know that I'm in the school frequently and know who they are.  That may help as well.

But really, what I've seen is that the resource classes in our district essentially track the kids, keeping the same group of kids together year after year.  That's true of most schools, who find it easier to keep kids with similar learning needs together.  If it's a good group of kids, that's not a problem, but when there are all sorts of personality conflicts and behavioral issues involved, that becomes a big problem, especially for the kids who are the target of bullying behavior.  Safety Guy feels like he cannot get away from the kids who have picked on him, no matter what he does; he feels trapped.  I'm not sure if there's a remedy for this situation, aside from being on top of what's going on in his class as much as possible, and making sure the school knows I'm watching.

I'm not sure how much Safety Guy's classmates learned today, but I know I learned a lot.