Friday, August 17, 2007

Educators and Hemophilia

It's the beginning of the school year. Which means hairy scary for parents, students, and especially teachers. I am one and have some of each so I feel tri-hairy scary.

I'm getting my classroom together. Setting up bulletin boards; putting those big sheets of butcher paper up and making the blank bulletin boards look nice and neat. It's not easy! The school I teach at has a VERY, VERY limited budget. We are grant funded and subject to the whims of the state legislature. We'll always have funding, but we never know how much.

I'm identifying my goals for my various students this year. And I teach high school resource (special education). So my goals for my students must help them achieve the goals they have on their IEPs. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan. This plan is set up based upon the "qualifying condition" that has made the student eligible for special education services. Somewhere along the way, it was determined that the student needed extra services to make that student succesful in the classroom. Each and every public school student is entitled to a free and appropriated public education. What makes a student a "special education" student is that what is deemed appropriate for most students isn't appropriate for this student because of some qualifiying condition.

A specific learning disability, a behavior disorder, a physical limitation (it's not appropriate to ask a student with cerebral palsy to have to handwrite answers to a test), an emotional disorder, etc...that's what counts as a qualifying condition. Each year goals are written for the student and specialists are designated to help the student meet those goals.

My students have lots of goals, needs, accomodations....etc. And then there are the students who have other issues that make school a challenge, but don't qualify for special education services. Like a student with asthma or diabetes. Or one who is pregnant. Or who lives with his Grandma's neighbor in the basement and can't get to school on time because the alarm doesn't work, they don't have a phone and the dog has to be fed before the student can walk to school. (You laugh? Oh...the stories I could tell)

Anyway, each year millions of classroom teachers eagerly plan and prepare their bulletin boards and make the room inviting and appealing to students. We think about the things that will make a student comfortable and ready to learn. We try to figure out a way to organize their papers and assignments so that when parents call with questions, we can find the information they are looking for quickly.

I personally spent about $100 today just on stuff I can't get my school to pay for. Stuff like making my all file cabinets hanging file cabinets. You know...those metal frames you add to the drawers? We buy those. Those plastic "in-boxes" that students put their homework in at the end of the day? I bought 4. White board markers? I buy those. 3 Ring binders to put student work in? I bought 6 today. I bought paperclips and staples too...I need to buy my own stapler and electric pencil sharpener, too, but I didn't like what they had at the store.

I bought a "boom-box" for my room because the vast majority of my students work better when there is some music playing in the background. I use classical music often. If the class completes their work and is cooperative, I let them pick a CD to play. But if they are REALLY squirrley, I put in a little kid CD like Raffi or nursery rhymes....they hate it. I can get them to get back on task pretty quick if I have to pull out the "baby CD".

People that don't teach have no clue how much teachers spend on the "little things" that make an empty room a classroom. Those cute little note pads teachers send notes home on? Some come from gifts from parents, but we usually buy those. Those cute cut outs that teachers put student names on? We buy those. Colorful pens? Markers? Gel Pens? Cute scissors? We buy those. Classroom games? We buy those.

[Hey, by the way - instead of another mug, cute apple candle, Christams ornamet, bath gel, or novelty pair of socks, your kid's teacher would much rather have a gift certificate to the teacher store ($5 is fine, too), or a gift certificate to the video store, pizza place, grocery certificates are the bomb! We never, ever expect gifts from our students. We are touched that you think of us and greatful for your gifts...but after the first couple years of teaching, we have a lot of teacher themed stuff. And we really do have lives outside of school.]

We work to organize our teaching materials so that there is little "down" time in class. There's nothing worse that not being able to find the hand-out that you need. We check the lightbulbs in our overhead projectors and buy new markers. We make sure our computers still work and even though I'm using an ancient Gateway I still make sure I have internet connection so that I have something to reward my students with (computer games are big) when they do well.

We have to listen to the new and exciting things our principle wants to implement and figure out how we can work that in to our day. We have meetings about the new state laws and mandates and take that paperwork back to our room and try to find a place to file it where it won't be lost so that we'll remember when it has to be turned in.

We read the information from the Federal Government about how good or bad our school is and what we will have to do to ensure we keep all of our funding.

We check through all the items we ordered at the end of the year last year and see which things were approved and which weren't and then we modify our classroom plans accordingly. We see that the new LCD projector we wanted - that all the stuff that all the other schools have but we don't - wasn't ordered and we figure out how we are supposed to expose our students to new technology when we can't even get a decent photocopy machine in our building.

I take some time to wipe off the desks and remove as much of the grafitti as I can. What I can't remove, I try to cover. I especially hate the swastika on the back of a big file cabinet in my room. I've got it covered right now, but I don't know how long that will last.

In the midst of all this, I'm calling my own children's teachers and asking them for a few minutes to tell them a little about the boys and what they can expect the impact of hemophilia to have on their daily lives. I assure the counselor that I only need about 10 minutes, I just want some "face time". I mostly want to reassure them that even though the big, scary word "HEMOPHILIA" is on their records, we (my husband and I) aren't going to ask more of them.

If only every parent of every child with a little something "extra" had the experience of being a classroom teacher.

If only every classroom teacher had the experience of being a parent who has to reassure a school full of people that their child won't spontaneously blow up on the playground.

Public education has been getting such a bad rap for about 10 years. Most of the negative stuff comes from people who've never taught a thing in their lives. I hope that my children's teachers don't feel overwhelmed with my kids and one more thing to worry about. I sure go out of my way to tell them specifically what we expect.

Parents get a bad rap, too. No one wants to raise their kids to be brats. I don't expect my kids' teachers to be nurses....

Just a little sympathy, empathy and compassion on all sides would be and welcome thing.

What I expect my children's teachers to do about their hemophilia is very simple.

Rule #1 - Listen to my children. They've never faked an injury or only pretended to need ice before. I'm well aware that this may happen at some point. Let me be the one to make that call. Trust me, my punishment for faking will be far worse than what the teacher could come up with. However, the consequence of a teacher THINKING he's faking when he's not are worse than either of use could come up with. Give him the ice. Let him call me. I'll deal with that end.

Rule #2 - When in doubt, call me.

Rule #3 - Even if you're not in doubt, call me.

Rule #4 - If you don't like me, call his doctor.

Rule #5 - Don't mess with my kid. Don't single him out. Don't discuss his bleeding disorder aloud (with the class, other students) unless you have his explicit permission.

I think it's pretty easy.

Let's hope their teachers do, too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great 5 Rules.

I'm a hemophiliac and played hockey, got 13 stitches from a snowball, two stitches from rock climbing (fainted in the parking lot) and arthritis from soccer. So trust me your kid is going to fake a bleed but it is not up to the discretion of the teacher or anyone but your kid to decide when a hemophiliac should stay out of a game or tell the rest of the class or school about hemophilia.

As far as I'm concerned a hemophiliac should either be running or laying down, walkings for clotters.