Dan Henderson

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What Not To Do When Planning For Response For Intervention

Special education teachers are often tasked with teaching small groups of four to six students. Response to intervention (RTI) is the terminology used for supporting struggling learners, and special education teachers are being asked to teach these groups in addition to their regular student caseload. This poses a problem when the special needs children don’t get the individualized instruction that the IEP is trying to address. The other problem is the students in these groups are often the bad apples, the slackers, and the students who conceal bringing large black sharpies to your table.

I was teaching three special needs students at my table when I was told by the RTI coordinator that I would have Eric and Ryan join our group. Eric and Ryan had reputations of mischief. School supplies went missing. Bugs mysteriously materialized in desks. On the playground playful fighting and dares were the lay of the land. The P.E. teacher had Eric’s and Ryan’s parents on speed dial. Sometimes the playful fighting got out of hand.

Ms. Sumpter, Eric and Ryan teacher, had thrown in the towel. “We can’t teach these ones; send them to Henderson. They are driving me nuts,” Ms. Sumpter complains. Eric and Ryan have frequently called out statements to derive a laugh during class such as “This lesson brought you by spray on hair because you’re that ugly.” The whole class erupts in laughter leaving the students disinterested in Ms. Sumpter’s lesson and her own will to control the class seriously demoralized. Ms. Sumpter needs to provide evidence that Eric and Ryan should join an RTI group, she has to show they were behind academically. Ms. Sumpter willingly provides data to prove these students are behind in the grade level standards. I believe the lack of behavior management was reason these students were behind, and in terms of intelligence prior grades showed no warning signs. No matter the reason, if a student is behind academically, they are put into a RTI group. Today that intervention group is with Mr. Henderson and in dimly light hallway next to the stairwell. 

I go to Ms. Sumpter to investigate the interventions that have taken place and discover behavior management is the issue. I offer strategies, but the response is many shaking hands to signify your strategies won’t work Mr. Henderson. Ms. Sumpter debated gloriously with the RTI coordinator knowing if she could provide evidence of their failing grades she would gain a 30 minute of reprieve from Eric and Ryan each day.

I make one last ditch effort to recommend an intervention strategy, loaning my collection of Rocky movies. I envision Ms. Sumpter rewinding the scene where Rocky has just won the match and yells “Adrian!” and instead she yells, “Lesson Plan!” Diligently she types up her lessons on Sunday, spitting in a bucket next to her desk while her husband Mickey makes her some raw eggs. Alive and enthusiastic Rocky has inspired her to try new strategies to teach Eric and Ryan next Monday. Alas, my DVD collection idea was rejected and for collaboration, well that would have to wait.

I gather my herd of second grade students from their respective classroom. Ms. Sumpter smiles when I come as if I were removing a hang nail or eliminating a pesky bug for at least a moment. Thankful for the 30 minute relief, Eric and Ryan were always lined up ready to leave promptly at 1:30. I would march my group including Eric and Ryan to the hallway. We would huddle around a small kidney shaped table outside the hallway tucked away from the noise of wandering students. Our isolation which usually proves to be an advantage to eliminate distractions would prove to not always be valuable.

Eric’s and Ryan’s RTI group was a guided reading lesson on a reading level that closely matched all students at the table. My other three students know my routine and immediately get out a whiteboard and marker behind their chairs. Two days of teaching goes by, and I can see Eric and Ryan kicking the table and staring at the ceiling. I separate Eric and Ryan at opposite ends of the table. Little did I know about the black sharpies in their pockets.

I ask the group, “Write the word smart on your boards and then show me that it is correct.” Eric turns his board around and has written smart ass on his board. Ryan falls out of his chair laughing and grabbing his stomach to control himself.

“Eric, that is inappropriate, and if I see words like that again on your board, you will miss some of your computer time.” When the snickering stops, I escort them back to their classroom and I tell the teacher of the incident. The teacher does not act surprised and also gives me a worried look that says what are you teaching these kids. 

The next day I escort my learners to our table of knowledge. Eric and Ryan are already laughing as we come down the stairs. Teachers pass us and shake their heads in disapproval of Eric, Ryan, and possibly me. Our group settles down at the table. After we cover vocabulary and a brief introduction each student begins reading. I hear a scream down the stairwell and then a female voice yells, “help, help” in a very panicked voice. I quickly scan the halls, but no one is around. I hesitate. Can I leave these kids alone for two minutes? I hear the voice again, “help, help” and quickly rise accidentally knocking over my chair. 

I point at Ryan and Eric sternly to command, “Stay in your seats and do not go anywhere. I need to go see what is going on. If you finish the book, read it again. I will be back in two minutes.”

I run down the hall to the stairwell to find my co-worker Penny sprawled on the floor grabbing her shoulder. Penny was in her forties and had a slender build. Penny was an avid runner. If she was in pain, it was serious.

“Penny, what happened!” I yell from the top of the steps.

“I think I dislocated my shoulder. It hurts. I can’t even move,” she moans as she lays on her other shoulder trying to gain comfort.
“Just stay still; I will get some help.” I rush to the security guard by the front of the school. 

“Out of my way.” Students part nervously as they see me barrel through the halls to run to the front of the school.

Winded, I told the security guard of the situation. I ran back up the flight of stairs. I could not have been gone for more than five minutes. I turn the corner, and I see Eric and Ryan rolling on the floor in a congealed ball. They both have sharpies. They are writing obscenities all over their faces and whatever they can etch. It’s a sharpie war! I pull Eric off of Ryan, and his face is completely covered in black sharpie marks. My other three students were unaffected, but clearly Ryan had won the battle.

“Eric…. Ryan are you crazy? I go to help Ms. Penny because she dislocated her shoulder and I come back to find you writing curse words on your faces!” I yell still gasping for breath after my recent sprint.

“We were just playing.” Ryan said earnestly handing me the sharpie as remorse.

“Your computer time is gone today and for the rest of the week.” They sulk, and the excuses cease. 

I take the whole group back to class and tell Eric and Ryan to wash the sharpie battle marks from their faces and arms. I take Eric and Ryan back to their teacher to inform her that I will have to call their parents. However, before I can explain the story, I get a worried look from Ms. Sumpter. As she reads the obscenities that have only slightly faded after they washed their face she states, “Right, I think it might be a good time for us to collaborate so I can tell you what works best for Eric and Ryan.”

“Pencils?” I muse and get a smile from the teacher. I take Eric and Ryan to the principal’s office and prepare myself for the phone call home. I stopped to think how I could of collaborated better with Ms. Sumpter to uncover prior interventions that would work. Over the years I have followed these tips.

The Three Tips

Both teachers need to collaborate on what they will be teaching every week. Although my first year of teaching ended with me learning these lessons the hard way, these tips will help your students have coordinate practice which will bring fluency in an subject.

Uncover prior interventions: What has worked in the past, and what hasn’t? It’s encouraging to know the interventions that have worked, and why should you re-invent the wheel? Talk with the students prior year teacher and create a checklist of successful strategies.
Use scientifically based methods: Use the PRIM ( Pre Referral Intervention Manuel ) or any scientifically proven resource at your disposal with your co-workers. Teachers have a responsibility to use scientifically tested methods that work instead of winging it. 
Use the same interventions: What we are wanting to build in a learner is fluency. By using the same templates, comprehension strategies, or steps, both teachers are allowing the students more time to practice. Some students just need RTI or special education services because they need more practice to build fluency.

The real key in collaboration with your RTI group is using the same strategies. Don’t believe me that collaboration makes a difference, check out how teachers in developed nations outside the U.S. with less instructional time get better results through collaboration.

If you enjoyed this story check out Dan’s new book. That’s Special

Email me at [ Dan ] [Henderson ] danhendersonthatsspecial@gmail.com

Reviews from That’s Special A Survival Guide To Teaching:

If you were considering a career in teaching special education students and read Dan’s stories, you might think twice. After reading about his tools, however, you should see how it can be a rewarding option thanks to his tools and your own hard work and caring.

-Dr. Doug Green

Like the Facebook page at 

*Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect their identity.  All specific geographic indicators have been removed from these stories. Additionally, these stories are written about incidents that happened one year or longer from this date. @ That’s Special December 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hickie Hiatus

Vampires or Hickies? Those were the only two explanations of mysterious, blueish bruises appearing on the necks of our pupils. Concerned parents began calling teachers. The culprits: the fifth graders and their new raging hormones. 
Not yet fully aware of how to respond to these new emotions and still too young to properly suck face, the girls would hide their hickie trophies behind their long hair. Parents grew wise to turtle necks and discovered their children's’ love marks.
“My daughter is too young to get hickies! What are you teaching these kids in your school?” Ms. Orbison yelled into the phone.
I listened, tapping my toes to save my patience as Ms. Orbison berated the elementary school in which I was employed. I checked email as the rant continues well pass the time I had plan to leave at the end of a long school day.  After I apologize and reassure her that these escapades won’t happen again the yelling stops. What I really wish to say is this,”Yes, hickies are a part of the curriculum. We want our students to have a wide array of career options. If they choose to become part of the living dead of course we want to encourage appropriate neck biting technique at an early age. Vampires 101 is new, but I assure you rewarding. We don’t want your children to look like newbies when they give their souls over to just any vampire lord.” If only I could say that to Ms. Orbison and keep my job, I would.
Instead I wrapped up the conversation by saying, “Of course we do not encourage or teach our students to give each other hickies. I am as outraged as you. This is the last time it will happen in our school.” Why do some parents always want to point blame? Don’t they know teachers and parents are on the same side?! 
The following Monday I planned to create a symbol to get the point across that I am as serious about routing out the vampires at our school as the PTA. I searched for a garland of garlic and crucifix on Amazon. That should prove that I was on the same side as Ms. Orbison. I found an eight foot crucifix on Amazon. Success, two day shipping on Amazon prime, score!
With my crucifix in hand and a black robe, I proceeded to expose these demons to the light and vanquished this disease that ravished our school. Can I get a Hallelujah!? 
It is a sunny Monday morning in the school parking lot, I look towards Ms. Orbison's minivan mafia with matching paper coffee cups. One by one, slowly, the self-sliding doors opened. The doors move as I see moms giving order to the troops in the back seat. The kids enter the school and the minivans park. I see moms gather in a small group. Matching style fleece vests, all with bright contrasting colors indicate the colors of the mom mafia. Who really runs the school?  As teachers scurry worryingly past the circle of brightly marked J. Crew vests, I have my answer. 
I was greeted with sour grins by the fifth grade PTA mom mafia as I walk by their inner sanctum. Moms gave me a concerned look. Did he really pass his background check? Who is that teaching my child?
I give a wide grin back to the moms as I enter the school. “I did not promote, encourage, or help your students to suck face. I was shocked as anyone.” I hoped this incident was over as we began our 8:00am staff meeting for the entire school. What was the last item on the agenda? A PowerPoint bullet that just said, “Hickies.”  
Once the principal was alerted, a task force was organized. I teamed up with my co-worker, Greg and the janitor, Garrison. Other school staff members were made aware of our new hickie-alert status. We were now at DEFCON 1. An immediate nuclear hickie attack was imminent. 
My principal was irate about the faculties’ lack of knowledge. We knew vampires could be the cause, so we had to order extra garlic to prepare for this new emergency. 
“Couldn’t these kids be giving hickies at home?” I offered as a reasonable explanation hoping we could switch topics to actually teaching students. 
Ms. Orbison had apparently rooted out that scenario from her inside sources within the minivan mafia. After 10 minutes of getting barraged by the administrators about our lack of adult supervision, we were given the unholy mother of all assignments. Outdoor recess.
“Squirrel Team red,” I joked to Greg, as the name for our new task force. We would be the outside supervisors of these young vampires.
“Hickie free in 2003. Maybe Ms. Orbison would like us more if we made signs and picketed our own school.” Gregs comments, makes me laugh.
Squirrel team took it’s first assignment seriously and watched the would-be vampires on the playground. For half an hour each day we patrolled the jungle gym looking for the undead. Before entering the building, all fifth graders were asked to pull back their hair for vampire inspection. 
“If found with a foreign agent, you will be quarantined. I repeat you will be quarantined.” No child got my joke, but I made Greg laugh.
Two weeks went by and we did not have any incidents with the mom mafia. With a 1930’s noir voice, I think, “They are laying low you see, they got wise, a gum shoe is hot on the trail. We better ice this before someone gets burned. If we can’t catch them in the act, maybe we should set a trap.” 
Children are smarter than you think. They ones that got away with dirty deeds were the ones that knew when the adults were not watching. 
The week slowly rolled on and Friday was finally upon us. The fifth graders lined up for inspection, but Ms. Orbison's daughter, Tiffany, refused to show us her neck, for the first time in our two week Red Squirrel squad mission.
“Tiffany pull back your hair.” I demanded.
“No, it’s my neck and you can’t tell me what to do.” She argued.
I want to say, “Actually, your a minor and technically….well we will argue semantics later.”
“Do you have something to hide?” I asked.
“No.” She pouts looking away.
“If you have nothing to hide, why don’t you show me your neck?”
“Logic bomb!” Greg yells out and makes it hard for me to keep my teacher-face straight.
Tiffany gave Greg an evil look.
“Show me your neck, Tiffany, or you can wait in the office until your mom arrives.” She realized that that would mean her mom, head of MVM, would discover the love marks first. Without a teacher as a buffer, she could not bear the brunt of the vocal onslaught. If I told her mom, she just might live to see another day.
Tiffany slowly peeled back her hair to reveal a new blueish mark. “Ah ha! So it was happening on the playground, but how and with who?” I exclaim thinking out loud.
Of course, Ms. Orbison blamed us for not catching Tiffany’s young lover in the act. Tiffany refused to give the name of her Romeo, despite a harsh grounding sentence of three weeks. The principal luckily thanks us for finding the source of these events and began to be more sympathetic to our cause. However, the passive aggressive grins I see in the morning parking lot indicate we still need to find our Romeo. It’s not easy pleasing the minivan mafia. 
A few weeks went by, as Squirrel Team, including our janitor Garrison, patrolled the monkey bars with vigilance. We narrowed down the lover to three possible boys. The students had grown wise to our increased supervision and were avoiding our quarantine. 
Greg and I devised a plan, because Tiffany was not the only one who was originally found with bite marks.
Garrison was always in the background, and the students didn’t notice the janitor’s presence the way they noticed teachers. Greg and myself decided to go around the corner of the school, out of the immediate eyes of the playground equipment. We both acted like we are deep in conversation and unleashed our stealth weapon: Garrison. Garrison watched Gwen from a distance and noticed her going into a slide. 
This slide was a tube. The tube was perfect for hiding from the prying eyes of adult supervision. The slide, the highest on the playground, swirled around twice before your journey was over. 
Garrison watched intently. Gwen went down the slide. She did not come out. There were about 100 students on the playground. One boy, Ben made a dash for the slide. Once both were inside, Garrison made his move.
Garrison scurried up the slide, making all the members of the Squirrel Team proud. 
“Gotcha!” he yelled. Garrison grabbed Ben and pulled his fangs off his lover’s neck. We heard Gwen scream from across the playground, making the whole playground aware of the commotion. I did not think our lovers expected a six-foot tall, 200 pound janitor to crawl up the slide and ruin their romantic randevu. Why is love never like the movies?
The principal talked to Gwen and Ben about taking a break from this hickie exploration until they are bit older. Greg couldn’t resist his jests.
“Yes, a Hickie Hiatus is in order.” Greg excitedly proclaimed, hoping to get a laugh from our principal. 
Instead, Ben turns around with a inquisitive look,“What’s a Hiatus?” 
“And then I remembered that my job was not vampire hunter, but teacher. I should probably get back to that.”

Response from Readers
Every month I ask a question to the readers of this blog. My question last week was:

How do you handle vandalism at your school?

Brian Groberg writes:

 Graffiti used to be a big problem in our schools until our art teacher came up with a creative solution. Prior offenders were gathered up and ask to do a mural for the schools auditorium  However, the catch was if there was any new 
graffiti around the school, all work on the mural would be halted. There was no new graffiti on the bathroom walls for three weeks.  When the mural was finished we began to see graffiti again. The principal decided to let students have art supplies in the cafeteria and that students could enter in a cafeteria art competition. I can't say that vandalism and graffiti was eradicated, but it was seriously reduced. 

I want to hear your thoughts, please share your ideas. The questions this month are:

Do you think our students are blooming sexually too early these days?
When do you think an appropriate age for sexual education to be taught in our classrooms?

Email me at [ Dan ] [Henderson ] danhendersonthatsspecial@gmail.com

Reviews from That’s Special A Survival Guide To Teaching:

If you were considering a career in teaching special education students and read Dan’s stories, you might think twice. After reading about his tools, however, you should see how it can be a rewarding option thanks to his tools and your own hard work and caring.

-Dr. Doug Green

Like the Facebook page at 

*Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect their identity.  All specific geographic indicators have been removed from these stories. Additionally, these stories are written about incidents that happened one year or longer from this date. @ That’s Special 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

4 Tips For Smarter Collaboration With Resource Teachers
by Dan Henderson, Author of That’s Special: A Survival Guide To Teaching

It was an arranged work marriage spurred on by the ceremonial job fair.

Two principals were swapping teachers as casually as goats in a dowry. This was the last job fair before the school year, and these teachers were either inexperienced or lemons. The lemon dance squeezed out Paul to our elementary school. Eliza, an experienced teacher, was weary of this arranged marriage when Paul’s first question to ignite their foray was “When is lunch?”
Eliza stares at her countdown till summer calendar in her classroom. The dismal number 163 taunts her in blood red ink. Eliza witnesses her first graders dare each other to lick their names on the table.  The first grader laughed as Todd’s lips open making a smacking sound. The tip of his tongue makes first contact with the table. Mumbling and laughing simultaneously he writes, Todd on the table. Eliza asks Todd to repent, but the saliva has already melted through the first two floors of the school. Carefully crafted ham and cheese sandwiches from loving moms are garnished with Todd’s saliva.
This was not the condiment of choice.

Collaborating With Resource Teachers Isn’t Rocket Science
This gross dare has one positive outcome. Eliza recently bought stock in Clorox wipes. Eliza’s post teaching career was to be a spokesperson for Clorox. Buy Clorox wipes, because no one ever told you that being a mom involves cleaning saliva off your furniture.
Eliza looks at the clock, 1:30pm. “Where is my inclusion teacher? Where is Paul?” Eliza thought.
Eliza hears Paul running up the stairwell. He bursts open the door disturbing all the busy bees working hard at their desks.
“Am I late?” Paul asks sheepishly. Looking at the clock, Paul starts to blush. Eliza got the short end of the dowry.
“Late, Late, it’s 1:30! You were suppose to be hear at 1pm. Not only did you miss the center with your students but don’t you have to get to your next class?” Eliza pauses hoping this newbie understands the importance of timeliness.
Paul looks down at the ground in shame.
“Well, why were you so late?” Eliza demands.
“The deli six blocks away has really good pastrami sandwiches.”
Eliza realizes that falling test scores in the U.S. are not because of lack of funding or adequate education but because of the power of the pastrami on rye.

4 Tips For Collaboration With Resource Teachers

1. Use A Schedule

And try to stick to it.
Yes, resource teachers have meetings and paperwork through the yin yang, but the students come first. Actually, by law, the hours agreed upon per week or month are a legal binding document. Special education teachers who habitually miss hours of instruction can only make up so much time in the week. This sacred instructional time needs to be honored, and all efforts must be made to protect the special education instructional time with their students.
You also may need to make up time. The special education teacher will be late. They may be dealing with a student in crisis or just be out sick. When setting up the schedule, plan for extra hours in the week in case you have to make up hours. If the special education teacher does not need them, they can use them for extra planning time.
The give and take of your arranged marriage has to work for you. Respecting each others time is the cornerstone. If the principal can throw in a llama to the dowry, then your inclusion marriage will be that much sweeter.

2. Clarify The IEP Items & Goals
The special education teacher should provide an IEP to the general education teacher (among other staff). The program should list goals and rubrics for how each of the goals is to be measured. The general education teacher and the special education teacher need to work together to accomplish the student’s IEP goals. But how?

3. Actually Collaborate
Collaboration is not a pointless meeting. Many times students with learning disabilities need the material presented in a different way. A simplification of the steps and the appropriate re-arrangement of the curriculum can only be done though collaboration. How can you adapt a lesson on long division if the special education teacher has not seen the lesson plans?

4. Focus on the student’s strengths
Far too often, the special education student’s strengths are not being used.
Self-esteem is as foundational to teaching as food and water. I always start a lesson off with a topic or problem the student will be guaranteed to get correct.  Motivating the students by positive re-direction of what they can do builds up momentum for them to tackle difficult problems ahead. Instead of seeing the child as a concern, talk to your students about their strengths. Find the positive attributes in your students instead of labeling them a problem. To sum it up…
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Anonymous 

 I wrote this article for Teachthought.com. Thanks for reading! -Dan Henderson

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Incredible Hulk and Stink Bombs

The Halloween holiday brings with it a certain sense of anarchy.  Children excited for the annual Halloween diabetic coma, flock the streets in search of sugar.  The one day of the year you parents give you the opposite advice. Yes, please go accept as much candy from strangers as possible. In fact, be proactive about it, please knock on random doors. Energetic children have spent hours to select a costume to scare the public or have designed the perfect pink princess dress to impress. Then there is the trick portion of Halloween. Where one student decides to buy items to prank their school from the dollar store. 
Halloween is one of the few days at school that the uniform dress code is not enforced.  The only problem with costumes in school is that someone has to keep everyone in line.  The responsibility falls on the teacher to keep order, but a foul stench is slinking in the air.
Halloween coincides with another problem that is occurring weekly at our school, stink bombs.  Easy to smell, but not easy to detect. The culprit who delivers this prank is avoiding capture.  The stink bomb remnants can be see as shards of glass in lonely hallways or bathrooms.  The stink bombs are always cleverly placed near an air duct.  The result is a creeping smell that slowly stings the nostrils. 
Creepers was the name my brothers called our flatulence.  My mom had an old mini van with cloth seats and a big bench sat three in the back.  In our middle school days, we called it the Magical Seat. Mom would be bringing five middle school boys home after a strict day of school.  Our home was two miles away from the school and not far enough to warrant a bus and too far to walk on bitterly cold days. It was your duty to fart in the magical seat.  My mom, always a saint, would scold us and laugh it off.  
Until the day Ben made an eruption that forever scared my mom. She screamed, “Oh God!” The noise was so loud she thought she had blown a tire.  She veered franticly on the shoulder as we laughed.  Then we smelt the power from the magical seat and stopped laughing.  We smelled the full force of the creeper and exited the car for five minutes of relief.
These stink bombs were chemically engineered to be ten times worse then Ben’s farts.  They linger, haunting the air.  Fresh air is often taken for granted. When a stink bomb went off, it inevitably caused the class to stop learning.  Like wanting to quench your thirst after a long run, students ran to the windows to suck in the fresh air.  I know there are Weapons of Mass Destruction, but in my mind these stink bombs are the closest I hope to ever come experiences a WMD.
That smell! It is 10 am and I feel a harsh scent stinging my nose. Of course our guided reading lesson halts.  I call down to the office and tell them of the attack on our home soil.  The security guard runs up to capture the culprit.   
As we open the window and try to regain the lost oxygen, the security guard enters our classroom. She makes a long speech about how she is going to catch the culprit and we reluctantly return to learning in our stinky classroom.
I am teaching Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man and many other Marvel characters at my guided reading table.  We allow for a Halloween holiday art activity and a change from the typical day.  A simple break in routine is all you need for a stressful day of teaching.  Kids take advantage of the change in schedule to do what they do best: Play.
I march my fifth grade class of action heroes out to recess. Greg dresses as the Hulk and has huge green Styrofoam punching gloves.  Immediately seeing the potential incident waiting to happen, I tell Greg to put away the gloves away before we go out to recess.  Fortunately, all the superheroes get along on the playground and I march the troops back to class.  I’m already exhausted and tired from climbing three flights of steps. I forget Greg has the gloves in his backpack as the fifth grade classes put away their coats. Greg hates Sam as these two social butterflies are always fighting for the entire attention of the class.
Wham!” Out of the corner of my eye I see Greg hit Sam with his Hulk gloves.
“You asshole!” I see Sam swing widely at Greg, pushing him back against the lockers.  Greg changes his stance and then uses his Hulk power to bring Sam to the floor.
“Hulk smash!” He laughs wildly swing the gloves at Sam’s face. The punches are hard enough to keep him on the floor, but not hard enough to cause any bruising. 
I call out, “Security!” 
“Im going to kill you!” Sam gets up quickly, but the security guard and myself grab Sam to restrain him.
“Stop Sam! Greg, you and Sam need to come to the principal’s office.”  The security guard escorts Greg and Sam to the office while I escort the other students back to their class.  I catch up to Sam and Greg on the stairwell. I notice Greg smells like a Stink Bomb.  I keep this information to myself and wait to see the principal.
We wait for five minutes a stern face with folded hands greets us behind a powerful desk. 
“Come in.  What is this I hear about a fight?” The principal asks impatiently.
Sam speaks up first. “He hit me with his Hulk gloves.  He hit me so hard I fell on the floor.”
“Is this true Greg?”
“Yes ma’am.” Hulk was now controlling his heart beat and is calm. Greg seems remorseful staring at the floor.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself.” The principal asks sternly learning forward in her chair. 
“No ma’am.”
I believe Principal Davis was going to say more, but I interjected.“Principal Davis, I think I may have found our stink bomb culprit. Smell Greg’s clothes.” She smells Greg’s clothes bending over at a 90 degree angle while inhaling deeply until she stood upright.  Principal Davis went from diplomatic administrator to all out rage in about five seconds.  Davis’s face was bright red and her eyes were sharply focused with anger on Greg.
“You are the one throwing the stink bombs, aren’t you! Search his backpack. You are going to be expelled from this school for 3 days for vandalism and 3 days for starting a fight if I find those stink bombs in your possession.  I did not forget about the fight you started at the beginning of the year as well.”
The security guard interjects, “Let me smell him.”
Greg turns a pale white. Scared shitless as a 200-pound, six-foot-two woman comes marching over to his chair.  Greg tries to instinctively push her away. She seems to summon all the air in the room. Pushing her nose close to his chest she pushed his hands down.  The security guard grunts before saying, “He is the one. I am going to check his backpack right now.”
Fearing the security’s guard wrath, I volunteer to go upstairs with the security guard and help determine if Greg is our stink bomb bandit.  The security guard was known to be rather harsh on children.  Yelling and tearing them down until they burst into tears had already resulted in many complaints from parents. She drags Greg to his backpack by the arm and begins searching its contents.
Greg looks nervous and she rummages though textbooks and loose papers.  Deep into the front pocket her hand wiggles, ruffling his book bag. A smile appears on her face and she pulls out a glass Stink Bomb fully intact.
“Ah ha! You are the one! You are in so much trouble!” With a smug smile and broad shoulders the security guard appears to have just finished a marathon.
“It was just a prank!  It did not hurt anyone.  I should not get in trouble!” Greg shouts.
“You think it’s funny to have everyone smell this gross smell at school?  Ok….. Ok…… this is what I am going to do.” In a instant she breaks the glass stink bomb over him. Spilling the stink bomb juice all over Greg’s head.
“Ahhh how could do that?!  I am going to smell for the entire day.” Greg moans.
“Exactly, exactly, that’s what you get for throwing stink bombs all over this school.  I hope you smell for weeks.”
“Everyone calm down, calm down. Whoa-hold on a minute.” I cover my nose with my sleeve and take a few steps back.
“Wait until Principal Davis smells this.” She grabs Greg by the arms. Greg is covering his nose from the smell of himself.  I am in pursuit, but I take my time.  Just enough to see both of them down the hall, but far enough back to try and avoid the intense smell.
I see the security guard pull Greg back into the principal’s office.
“My God what is that smell?” Davis says wincing.
“It’s Greg. We found our stink bomber”
“Ok, Ok, that’s great. Just get him out my office and I will call his parents.  Mr. Henderson, wait in here for a second.”
The security guard escorts Greg outside.
“Why does Greg smell like a stink bomb?” Davis inquires putting two hands on her face and taking a deep sigh.
“Well.” I try to see if I can be subtle about the incident.  Unfortunately, the truth would come out at some point and I have no loyalty to this contracted security officer.
“The security officer got upset and broke the stink bottle over Greg’s head.”
I can see principal Davis start to get upset and then calm herself down.  I think we telepathically have the same thoughts.  For weeks on end we have had interruptions from stink bombs. Our nostrils have been poisoned and it is Friday.  The culprit deserved to have a taste of his own medicine.  Greg deserved to be covered in his own prank and learn a hard lesson.  However, we can’t pour stink bombs over students heads in school.  The security guard would be written up for corporal punishment.
Davis replies, “That will be all Mr. Henderson.”  
I, for one, think it was pretty awesome.  I doubt Greg will be throwing stink bombs in school anytime soon.  However, the question behind corporal punishment is always, where do we draw the line?
I walk back to the classroom to find a stinky isolated Greg by a window.  Every desk is as far away from Greg, with a fan on him, airing out the stench. Greg was more than sad, he was humiliated.  I felt for the kid, but was glad we caught the stink bomb bandit. 
Cue sad Hulk slowly walking away to music.

Response from Readers
Every month I ask a question to the readers of this blog. My question last week was:

How do you have students cope with anxiety in your classroom?

Kelly Villatoro writes:

Testing is a particular stressful time for my students. I know certain student will take longer and I group those students together. Additionally, I have places in my room where students can de-stress where they can build with Legos or relax for five minutes before returning to the group. 

Dan wants to hear your thoughts, please share your ideas. The questions this month are:

How do you handle vandalism at your school?
What are your thoughts on corporal punishment?

Email me at [ Dan ] [Henderson ] danhendersonthatsspecial@gmail.com

Reviews from That’s Special A Survival Guide To Teaching:

Dan writes what I think, but can’t say to my wild students. That’s Special has been a source of stress relief that provides helpful teaching tools. -Meredith Collier 4th Grade Teacher

A great gift for the teacher who needs a laugh. Any teacher or parent can relate to these stories and use the teaching tips. -Elizabeth Sellers Literacy Reading Specialist

Like the Facebook page at 

*Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect their identity.  All specific geographic indicators have been removed from these stories. Additionally, these stories are written about incidents that happened one year or longer from this date. @ That’s Special 2015