For some reason, when I emailed Dr. Marable, I felt the urge to warn her about the difficulties we have been having in the classroom. I told her that Jacob had switched to a new behavior plan, and while we have been working toward transitioning into that new plan, he has been having a lot of difficulty focusing and maintaining attention during learning time. Then, I told her that Manny often bolts and flops on the floor during Handwriting time- so there may be a lot of time spent redirecting. Her response was: “No problem, I’ve been there! Thank God for programs like Summit for parents whose children need such intensity.” Her response put me at ease and I knew that no matter what happened, she would understand.
Little did I know what was in store for my observation. The second Jacob entered the classroom he had a meltdown. He threw himself on the floor screaming and crying, biting his hand. It took three trained adults to get him up off the floor, but he wasn’t settling down. It got so bad that they had to call in the school Crisis Team (which we have never had to do before). Within moments, 7 additional adults entered the classroom. Some adults helped Jacob redirect his attention by having him do “high probability” tasks. Others helped me.
Since I am in charge of running transitions and circle time, I had to be sure the other 5 students felt a feeling of normalcy as much as possible. I ran circle from two tables across the room from where we normally do circle (in order to not get in harm’s way and not be overstimulated by the noise and commotion). With the help of the speech therapist and one of the aides, we were able to get through circle as normal. The students seemed distracted enough to not notice that circle was different that other mornings.
Since Jacob was the student I had planned on working with for the first half hour of my observation, I had to think quick. My professor would be in the classroom in less than 5 minutes! I decided to work with Ian even though I didn’t know his casebook as well as Jacob’s. I got the other students established with the other teachers, and began working with Ian. Once Dr. Marable arrived, my teacher explained the crisis situation, explained the new changes, and she sat down next to me. Surprisingly, Ian was very compliant. He normally struggles with compliance but he did a great job following directions during learning time!
After working with Ian, I ran a Literacy and Handwriting session with Sammy and Manny. Sammy stimmed most of the time and Manny did a bit of bolting from the table. I maintained composure and got through my lesson as best I could.
By 11:00am, my hour of observation as over, the room was calm again, and the students had left for gym class. While the students were at gym, Dr. Marable and I had a chance to discuss my observation. She empathized with the overwhelming nature of how much can happen in such a short amount of time. She said that the team handled everything very well, and presented a very cohesive front for the students. She then went on to call me a natural, saying that “the fluency of your language, your rapid pace, your delivery of prompts, your ability to accurately record data… are at the rate of someone who has been doing this job for ten years.” She told me that I have a gift for working in this type of self-contained classroom, and it is a rare gift not everyone has!
The moral of the story is: you just never know what might happen in the classroom! But be prepared, stay flexible, do the best you can, and things will be back to normal soon. I would call today a rollercoaster ride: a day with a few lows, but a lot of highs!