Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Have a Teacher Crush

So here we are 10 weeks later and I'm pleased to say that, this year Ayla's mainstream school ROCKS!

Everything has come together and the tears of the first day of school (mine ...not Ayla's LOL) are a thing of the past.

Ayla has a truly amazing teacher this year.  A-MAZE-BALLS!!  Ayla is finally TRULY included in her class.  She is a part of the lessons that the other kids are taught and her teacher has very creatively come up with ways of including her in each lesson. 

This teacher absolutely GETS IT.  She has understood that Ayla needs to be pushed to make choices and thus gives her choices.  She understands that if Ayla could give a consistent 'yes' or 'no' answer to questions, that her whole world of communication will open and she is working hard on this. Ironic that a 'fresh from uni' teacher understands more about Ayla's communication needs in 2 weeks, than a whole swag of government Speech Therapists in 6 years!  I have a serious Miss W#@$s crush right now.

Our parent/teacher meeting in the second week of school revealed to me that Ayla's teacher really does listen.  She said to me that there was one little thing that she heard me say in the first week that really spoke to her and affected her, and that was, "Everyday I ask Ayla what she did at school that day and the silence is deafening.  I have know idea what she does at school or whether she enjoyed her day".  Her teacher acted on this immediately and at the end of each week, I have received a picture collage of Ayla's school activities for the week and you can browse through them below.  Some of my favourites aren't here ....They are in pdf format and I haven't had time to reload photoshop on to my computer so that I can convert them to a jpeg. 

And newly implemented is a daily activity log of removable pictures telling me what lessons she did that day and how it made Ayla feel.  This is really exciting because it means that at the end of the school day, I can sit down with Ayla and we can go through this together.  It's like having an after school conversation with my daughter!!  It's almost normal .....almost :).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hit the Ground Running?

I'm feeling really lost today.  And confused.  I want to react quickly and decisively but I don't want to do 'my usual' and react too quickly without completely understanding what's going on and what should be going on.  I just know that what I saw this morning, Ayla's first day back at school, is not ok.

I knew the beginning of the year was going to be full of surprises.  Everything is new this year, in both schools.  At her mainstream school Ayla will have a new teacher, a new principal and a new LSA (so I thought) and at the specialist school, a whole new teacher and LSA team.  I found all of this out in the last week of school which, in Canberra, is only days before Christmas.  It makes it really hard to get in there and plan for the new year.

I rang her mainstream school 10 days ago to get a meeting to see if we could get things nutted out answer, no return phone call.  I should have known then that things could get interesting.  I just wanted to keep an open mind and try to feel excited about everything being new and different this year and see it as an opportunity to make things better this time around.  Unfortunately, within minutes of entering her school I could see things weren't right.  Ayla's LSA from last year, was teary and trying not to get upset whilst trying to avoid discussions of what was going on this year.  The deputy principal who is normally very friendly and always engages in conversation was remaining well in the background and also avoiding discussions.  Something just wasn't right.  I met her teacher who seems to be lovely.  She is relatively new out of university having taught at Ayla's school for 2nd semester last year, but the kids, teachers and parents are very responsive to her and she was very engaging when introduced to me.

It was going into Ayla's classroom that caused me to fall apart inside.  An LSA wheeled Ayla into her classroom and when I asked her if she was Ayla's new LSA she said, "Kind of, not really".  WTF is that supposed to mean???  My blank, open-mouthed look must have said volumes as she quickly responded that this year there are not enough LSA's to go around and that the 4 LSA's at the school are rostered to care for Ayla in a rotation.  My mind immediately started creating little bullet points for later:

  • No student/LSA relationship.
  • No continuity for Ayla, the LSA or the teacher
  • Very unlikely to be communication between the LSA's, which means
  • Very unlikely to be good communication between the LSA's and myself.
The teacher began her class with a get to know you session where the kids were given a list of questions to answer regarding their holidays, their families, their friends etc.  Ayla was given a box a blocks to play with.  And the LSA asked me what she should do with Ayla right now?  My immediate response was, "This really isn't going to work for any of us, is it?"

 They have made no plans.  NO PLANS.  Nothing is organised.  Apparently, the teaching staff didn't even know which grades they were teaching until late last week.

A mentor of mine often says, "If this was good, what would it look like?".  I keep reminding myself of that.  I keep asking myself the question.  And I know that the answer is this:

  • it's a clean slate
  • it's an opportunity for me to step in and make it something special
But I'm scared and I don't know how to make it special.  I don't know how to help.  I don't know who I need to talk to.  I feel unsure of the Principal and her role in all of the unhappiness that I saw today.  And I have so much on my plate, I don't know how in hell I'm supposed to fit creating Ayla's mainstream educational plan in to the year as well. And I feel like I need to wait until the tears stop before I start trying to tackle the situation ...but then I don't want to leave it too long either.

For now I'm taking deep breaths and wiping away my tears because they really are not going to help me here.