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Sub's Tightrope: SPED Middle School Class
Old 12-09-2009, 05:24 PM
 
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Okay, I need to vent. I feel frustrated today after subbing in a middle school special ed class for students with behavioral disorders. I am trying to build trust with these students but itís like walking a tight rope with the paras and other teachers. I find myself letting some things slide with the most challenging students (e.g. the ďfĒ word or an occasional use of a cell phone) in the interest of building rapport with them and getting them to work. Today I felt judged for this by the para but she didnít communicate with me enough for me to explain. I donít want to undermine anyone in keeping the kids accountable for the rules and I donít want the kids to escalate, but if I start warring with them incessantly about every single rule, I get no work out of them and itís a constant battle. I find if they see they canít shock or provoke me, I can eventually gain their trust and get them to work. I feel like the para is expecting me to come in with no prior relationship with the kids and be as skilled as she is when sheís known the kids for years.

Another thing that happened was that while the para was out of the room, a counselor came in and tried to do a music therapy activity using some song about a guy who was contemplating suicide. I was helping another student who a teacher had sent in to get help when the counselor lost control of the class and a kid escalated and banged his head hard against a metal cupboard. The students did not like doing this activity about such a depressing song. After this happened, the para (who was out of the room when the incident happened) changed my schedule so I was assisting kids more one on one in other classes. Eventually I returned to our class and was there alone with the hardest kids and established some rapport and got work out of them. But I felt like Iíd been assessed as inadequate by the para and counselor. Maybe it was for the best, but it almost seems like they stroke their own egos by assuming that subs cannot handle these students.

When the incident above happened, I should probably have kept a closer eye on the students and walked over to help the counselor, but sheíd said to go ahead and help the student who needed assistance reading one-on-one. I also feel a little hesitant to proactively help other teachers (or counselors) who are losing control because I donít want to undermine their authority and in the past Iíve seen their egos get into it. Later this counselor told me that the kids had been acting out for her because they always do that when a sub is there. I realize this could be true, but she took no ownership over the fact that her own activity might have triggered the kids and she needed another adult to help her.

I thought about contacting the teacher and talking to him about what to do regarding some of these fine lines, but I wonít because I believe, as a sub, that oftentimes the school prefers that I fly off the radar and basically speak only when spoken to.

If anyone subs in SPED classes, Iíd be interested to hear your tales and how you handle the other adults in the classroom!


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yoohoo yoohoo is offline
 
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long...............
Old 12-10-2009, 05:26 AM
 
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whenever (and I mean whenever---which is rarely now) I take a sped ed. job on AESOP I make sure I know who the teacher is and how the class is run---of course, this can only happen if you're there more than once ---2x's is more than enough to figure out how things work in these situations)

there will always be another teacher/aide/counselor in the room with you because THEY'RE not licensed to be in the room with the kids--you are. That being said, I always treat them with the utmost respect because they're in the room 5 days a week. I always introduce myself and ask them what the daily routine is and any info. on the kids (who needs one on one; any medical conditions like allergies, do they have assigned seats, etc....in other words, this establishes the fact that you're NOT there to take over the room and run over them.

I know other posters will respond with well, you're the sub and in reality it's your room and if anything goes wrong you're ultimately responsible...but this is where the CATCH-22 rubs in.

you're responsible but you don't have any rapport with the kids--like you posted one kid hurt himself because he didn't like the song and the counselor basically didn't own up to it---what can you do???!!!

Just note this when you write your notes for the regular teacher (any accidents/mishaps/incidences) write them in your notes and be specific---which student/what was the activity that triggered this reaction and who was working with the student)---this will cover your A$$ if S----- flies.

as for dealing with the aides, counselors, you did the right thing by asking for help (put this in your notes too---I asked ----- if they needed help and they declined) otherwise, you can go with the flow and follow their lead. There's really NOT a lot you can do in these situations.
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Teachermom65 Teachermom65 is offline
 
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Old 12-10-2009, 06:11 AM
 
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Hi there,

You might want to look for my recent "lessons learned" post about a longish term assignment in a special ed middle school. You are not alone!

The first time I subbed for these kids, I had the exact same dilemma - When should I respond to inappropriate behavior? I also feared setting off bad reactions I spoke with a few teacher friends, and they all told me the same nugget of advice. You have to respond to the "F" word and other inappropriate behavior just like you would with a regular class. These kids may be SE/ED, but they still need to learn how to function in society. After that, I responded every time to inappropriate behavior. However, I did it in a *very* non-confrontational way. I asked them to meet me in the hallway. I did not ask why they did or said something inappropriate. I just stated that the behavior was not appropriate because of _______ (disrespectful of others, disrespectful of me, etc). I told them that I cared about them and that I want them to stay in the classroom. Then, I asked the student what procedure or change we could work out to avoid this in the future (for example, if you are dealing with a lack of impulse control, the student could count to 10 when they get mad, go to a COPE room,etc. Honestly, I found that as long as I was patient, kind and respectful to the students, I was able to confront them on their behavior. Sometimes, these SE/ED kids do a lot of testing.

In terms of the paras, I think the other poster had good advice. They should be there to assist you, not bully you or make you feel inferior. If you ask them questions about how the class runs (teacher consequences, policy on bathroom or other leaving the room issues, etc), you'll get a sense of how much the para is going to help you. I never had a para who I thought worked against me. That would be *very* frustrating. I did have a para who didn't do much to lift a finger. I just tried to do my best and use my own common sense/judgment about things. I cannot believe that counselor blamed you for the student's behavior! Obviously, even though any change in routine can be especially difficult for SE kids, that kind of response is extreme and cannot be "blamed" on having a sub in the room! Clearly, that kid was having a *really* bad day and the suicide theme pushed him/her over the edge. I agree with you that the counselor was trying to blame you for an ill-chosen activity. That should be done - if at all - on a "normal" day when the regular teacher is around. Post mortum for the counselor is to not do that again! I always keep a composition book in my "sub pack" where I document anything unusual (like that situation) to cover myself just in case.

I think leaving a note for the teacher - and possibly talking with them - is appropriate. I sub a lot and I find that some teachers really appreciate that you care enough to follow up and see if there are any lessons learned for how to handle things in the future for those classes and there are also teachers who do not want to take the time to talk with a sub. Honestly, I prefer subbing (and get requests from) the teachers who care enough about their classes to talk with me and make things go smoother next time.

Good luck in the future! Just try to view this as a learning opportunity.
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