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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The downside of being in charge.

I was going to write something about some of the difficulties I am having with one of my counselors at camp. And well, I did write something really long, but I think it is better kept on my computer than floating around elsewhere. I would like to let it be known though that I am planning on having a serious conversation with one of my counselors tomorrow. I hope it results in positive diologue and not intense awkwardness. (Really, it could go either way.) Things were just-about-okay before, but some of the behaviors of one of my counselors has gotten out of hand.

The kids though are amazing. Yes, they have reached end-of-summer levels of craziness (super-high) which necessitate daily discussions about camp rules (basically including: listen to counselors, list to each other, keep our bodies ourselves). Despite this all this (or perhaps because of the chaos of it all), I come home from camp every day excited for the next.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Random bullets of insomnia.

There is nothing like waking up at 2:00 in the morning and worrying about random things to make the week start off right.
  • Last spring break when I volunteered in an ESL class, why did the teacher have me work with a 73-year-old man on writing in English? This was only his 2nd or 3rd class session and he was not literate in his first language. Wouldn't developing some basic conversational skills in English have made a lot more sense? I don't know what random mental association brought me to this thought, at 2:30 in the morning, but it's really bothering me despite the fact that it is something that happened months ago in a city I will likely never return to. This man was so motivated, but why not teach him how to speak/understand spoken language, instead of teaching him how to write the alphabet in English and focusing on perfectly forming the letters? (Or, teaching him how to write/read in Spanish, if literacy was necessary.)
  • Why won't my left shoulder/back stop twitching? It's really irritating.
  • At camp the theme for the week is "Travel the World." Let's say that tomorrow was "China Day" and originally on the calendar we had an activity listed that really was related to Chinese culture, but then changed the activity to "Make Candy Sushi" without changing the day to "Japan Day." So on the calendar under "China Day" it says "Make Candy Sushi" which is culturally incorrect and embarrassing. (Not the real error made, but our error is somewhat analogous.)
  • How long do GRE scores last? Is it 3 years? 5 years?
  • My room is an absolute mess. I really, really need to clean it. And finish getting rid of all the junk I have accumulated over my lifetime. Because sometime I'm going to stop coming back to my parents' house.
  • I'm going to be so tired tomorrow. Why can't I fall back asleep?
  • I need to buy a car. I've been putting it off since December. Seeing as how the place I am living in the fall is quite a distance from where I will be student teaching, I need a way to get myself there. However, I'm thinking that I will hopefully try to leave the country for at least a few months after I am done student teaching. What do I do with my car during that time? My parents have no extra garage/driveway space.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My life in the fall.

Last weekend I went to College Town to meet and talk to my C00perating Teacher (from now on, CT, so I can use abbreviations like all the cool kids) and finally see the school and town in which I will be teaching.

The Student Teaching Town is nearly an hour away from College Town (where I will be living when I student teach). This weekend though, at least, it was a very relaxing and beautiful drive. The school is in a rural town of about 25,000 people, surrounded on all sides by farmland. The classroom in which I will be teaching is currently all packed up for summer (and painting! and new carpet!) but seems like a good size. Although really, I cannot conceptualize of the actual layout/size of the room with the desks/tables situated as they were.

I think that I will work well with my CT (both because I truly do think and hope I will learn a lot from her, and because I know that in order to have a good experience, I need to think that I will learn a lot from and work well with her).

I learned some interesting things about the setup of the school and the curriculum. I still am somewhat apprehensive of it all, but I am very much looking forward to the experience. The fact that I get to begin with the kids at the beginning of the year (and not start in the middle) will make it all feel like I'm really teaching and less like I am a temporary visitor. That will be nice and help to build my confidence and investment in the classroom.

I still don't know who my college supervisor will be (which I will hopefully find out soon), or what I will study in my action research project, but everything will come together in time.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Frustration with others. Or, I do my job, why can't you?

At the day camp at which I work we have about 50 entering kindergarteners, and enough counselors to advertise a 5:1 counselor to camper ration (though actually, it's better than that). We also have an inclusion aide who works with two of our campers. The aides we work with are not trained aides. They are mostly high school and college students, the same as the camp counselors, who do not necessarily have any degree or qualifications that allow them to work with children with different needs.

In the past, all aides have been 1-on-1. Most summers there have been between one and three children who were assigned to inclusion aides. The kids always have differing levels of need for these aides. Sometimes the aides stay with the kids at all times and are absolutely necessary for the child to have a positive camp experience. Sometimes the aides are only necessary if the child gets particularly stressed or upset. This year, for the first time, the organization who hires these inclusion aides, (it is a different hiring process than the one for the camp counselors) decided that some children would be okay with a 1-on-2 ratio, one inclusion aide for two campers.

So that leaves us this year with one aide for two little boys. My co-director and I have both worked with one boy named E--- previously, without the help of an inclusion aide and without problem. Based on these previous experiences, we expected this boy to cause few problems in our camp setting. The other boy, L---, we had never met. We were assuming that the aid could, if necessary, devote a majority of her energy to L---.

Unfortunately, E--- is having a lot of problems at camp. He has been hitting other children which is not acceptable camp behavior, and not a problem he has had previously. L--- is doing fine, he needs very little help and could very easily go without an aide in our current camp setting. The problem is, the aide finds L--- to be very cute and charming while she finds E--- to be more difficult and less rewarding to work with. Therefore, she unnecessarily spends most of her time and energy around L--- instead of devoting herself to the more difficult E---.

This is not as it should be. The camp has gotten phone calls from several parents complaining that E--- has hit their children. We have received phone calls from E---'s parents saying that E--- has told them he has been hitting. The parents confirmed that this is not typical of E--- and should not be permitted.

If we did not have an inclusion aide, we would certainly make sure to always have a counselor around E--- to make sure he keeps his hands to himself. However, since we do have this girl (her maturity level definitely allows me to call her a girl and not a woman) who is supposed to be working closely with E--- we can't really require another counselor to watch out for him. Or rather, we feel that we shouldn't. Since the aide is not working with this child the way she is supposed to though, we want to.

We have talked to the the organization that hires the inclusion aides. They have talked to her. She is not responding to our suggestions, our bosses suggests, or her bosses suggestions. She is not helping either of these children have a positive camp experience. (She frequently removes the other child from the group when he is not experiencing any problems. This removal is not necessary and even seems somewhat harmful in that it is constructing him as someone who is "different" than the others, when that is not so. He should be spending at least most of the day, if not the whole day, participating in the same activities as the other children.)

It's a shame, really, that this girl doesn't seem to understand how to work with either of these children. When my co-director and I watch E---, he behaves very well. We can tell when he is getting agitated, when he needs a little more space. His aide though doesn't seem to be able to read him at all. This is confusing for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that sometimes the boy says something to the effect of, "I need more space." Of course, he isn't always quite that explicit about his need for space, but it is fairly easy to tell when he needs to be pulled away from the group for a moment, or when he just needs people to stand a little bit further away from him in line.

If it is so clear to me and my co-director, and we are in charge of running everything, (50+ kids and 10+ counselors) why can't the aide, whose job description specifies supervision of two children, read his warning signs?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gendered items.

At camp we are always finding lost, unlabeled items such as socks, shirts, shorts, lunch bags, and water bottles. Oftentimes the object is quite gendered in appearance (a pink flowered lunch bag, a sleeveless/sleeves-cut-off shirt, socks that are what appears to be a “girl” style or a “boy” style.

When looking for the owners of these particular lost items, I always feel in conflict. Should I say, “Girls, look up here. Who lost a pink flowered lunch bag?” Or should I just say, “Campers, look up here. Who lost a pink flowered lunch bag?” The lunch bag belongs to a girl, of that I am certain. However, I don’t want to reinforce the children’s already developing gendered ways of thinking. I want the boys to know that if the lunch bag were to belong to them that would be perfectly acceptable. However, it’s hard enough to get the attention of 25 children, trying to get the attention of all 50+ of them is rarely possible.

In cases like this I usually do address the entire group of campers, but if the item is not claimed after a whole-group advertisement, I target those of the gender-stereotyped owners.

8 things about me.

Ms. M at Ms. M’s Apples tagged me for a meme. Is this the first meme I’ve ever done? I think it may actually be the second. Regardless, here I go:

The rules are:
1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

And here are the 8 random facts...

1. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be an autism specialist when I grew up.

2. I am, at times, incredibly awkward. I kind of love it.

3. Overall, I am quite happy with who I am as a person, emotionally, mentally, and physically. This is not to say I don’t have many things I would change about myself, but I think that I have accepted who I am. (This also may be negative though, in that I don't necessarily actively attempt to change things about myself that I should change.)

4. I still wear my retainer at night (about 9 years after getting the braces off). I figure my parents paid way too much money for my “Dr. Ortho Smile,” I might as well keep my teeth straight. The problem is, now I have a hard time falling asleep without the retainer.

5. Even if I am given a larger bed, I will only sleep on one tiny little corner of it. I am a very contained sleeper.

6. I look shy to other people, but I don’t really consider myself to be shy so much as introverted, an internal thinker, and kind of…contained? I did a research project on shyness in an attempt to clarify this distinction. It turns out that the researchers are in disagreement on whether shyness and introversion are part of the same trait or two distinct traits.

7. I really like giving presentations in front of my class. I even liked it when I was in Mexico and spoke pretty poorly. I just think it's fun! However, I have in the past had a very difficult time participating in day-to-day class discussions. (See above - I appear to be shy.)

8. It usually takes (or rather, took) me between 10 and 30 minutes to write an email to a professor. This includes emails that are short responses or questions (fewer than 4 sentences). Longer emails take (took) significantly longer to compose. I want to represent myself well. I don’t want to be one of those students who send inappropriate/unprofessional emails to professors. (I tend to obsess/over-think/overanalyze most things.)

I’m not going to tag anyone. I’m oddly too self-conscious for that. Sorry. (Besides, most everyone has already done this meme, or at least it feels that way.)