better than expected

Just in case you missed it, (although I think I've mentioned it about 324957829 times, so I'm not sure how you could have...) I went back to work on May 3rd. I've made it through two weeks now, and I know a few folks (okay, mostly my mom and dad) have been wondering how it's been going. All in all, I can say it's gone much better than I expected.

I'm a long-term sub for the teacher of the Autism program, which is a population I've never worked with before. Well, never in the self-contained classroom; I've had several autistic students included in my general education classrooms. I'll admit, I called into question my ability to serve these students well. Not that the students themselves are cause for fear, that's not what I'm saying at all. (Quite the contrary, actually, in only two weeks I have really come to love them!) It was an anxiety borne out of my own insecurity about (practically immediately) understanding each of their needs and providing a seamless transition and continued support, particularly for the non-verbal and limited verbal students. I know from experience with other students how long it can sometimes take to develop trust and repoire in order for progress to be made. And actually, that has all gone much better than expected.

As you know, I have young children, including an eight-month-old. It's pretty much a given that when you submerse yourself back into school after a time away, it takes awhile to build immunity back up to prevent illness. And one of my students had recently developed an obsession with spitting and playing with it, so basically out of fear for my baby, I became a germophobe for about an hour. After that, I remembered to just pray about it and wash my hands like it was going out of style. And I learned some pretty quick moves when the little man moves to spit on my shoes, hands, or in my hair. It's all good now. And no one at home has gotten sick. And actually, we've implemented a few tricks that are cutting down on the "saliva manipulation." Indeed, that has gone better than expected.

In two weeks, I haven't forgotten I was teaching. Yep, every day, I have remembered to get up and go to work. I know, kudos to me! The near three-hour shift in our daily schedule is really kicking my butt, and I've slept through four alarms two days in a row, but all in all, better than expected.

Callan was not consistently taking a bottle before I began working. This really concerned me. But actually, it eventually worked itself out. He only took 4-6 ounces the entire time I was gone for the first three days, and then he'd eat like a fiend as soon as I returned. Now he's taking at least twice that and seems to be acclimating just fine. Like I said, better than expected.

The last few times I have returned to a long-term subbing position, and (before I had Callan) when I was even just gone for the day, Cameron would refuse to speak to me when I returned. Seriously, my stubborn middle son would ignore me for roughly an hour when I got home, answering me with grunts and refusals to make eye contact. Talk about a terrible guilt trip! Thankfully, he's been all smiles and lots of love this time around. SO much better than I expected.

One of the most daunting aspects of this job was the planning. I've never had a teaching job where I've made completely separate lesson plans for students, much less eight of them on four different grade levels. Modified and differentiated plans? Absolutely. Tiered lessons and guided learning groups? Yep. But eight, completely separate, daily plans for students K-3? No. The administrative aspect of teaching is not my forte. I was anxious. As it turns out, two of my students are mainstreamed into the regular education classroom, and two others, while they have separate behavioral and communication goals, are in roughly the same place academically. And I've managed to stay on top of it for two weeks. You guessed it, better than expected.

Some days, I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this job. Last Thursday, we went horseback riding. Well, I didn't actually get to ride, but I got to leave school for three hours, sit out in the beautiful sunshine, and run around chasing after seven little boys as each of them took a turn riding. And catch this...I get to do this weekly though a collaborative program for therapeutic riding in the county I'm teaching. It's incredible to see the interaction between the students and the horses, and how much they love being around them. And the benefits are tangible: social, emotional, behavioral, intellectual, communicative. What a treat, and not one I expected. Better.  

Of course, the first day we returned from horseback riding, I was accosted (not really) by a parent volunteer hunting each staff member down and taking pictures for Teacher Appreciation Week. After we'd been running around outdoors for three hours. Lovely. But considering this, the picture was, you know, better than expected.

Three times a week, my students have an adapted PE class where they work on targeted fine and gross motor skill development. Last Friday, I got to spend part of my day playing Wii games. Really, I did. Again I thought, "I get paid for this?!" Better than expected.

I mentioned the difficulties of completely shifting my daily routine by about three hours. It's craziness. And unfortunately, Callan is not catching on. He's still be-boppin around until midnight, crying, eating, writhing, and doing the reflux thing. So...I'm not getting much sleep. He goes to bed at midnight or later, wakes to eat around 4:30am, and my alarm goes off at 5am. I'm an eight-hours-a-night sort of person, and that hasn't happened for two weeks. I think my cumulative sleep debt for those two weeks is around 30 hours. Frankly, I'm surprised I'm still functioning coherently. But you know what? I am. And that, my friends, is very much better than expected.

Through it all, I've managed to (sort of) keep blogging. I know I haven't done any of the deeply introspective, personal revelation, or fun story-and-pictures kind of writing, but I'll get there. Promise. You just keep reading, kay? I've got a few things up my sleeve that will hopefully materialize into some interesting, thought provoking, and perhaps even inspirational reads. Hopefully. Who knows? Maybe they'll even be better than expected.

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