Dan Henderson

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

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*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