Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Week of Culture and Special Needs

This week has been interesting, as most weeks are being a supply teacher.

On Monday I worked with a year 1 class. This was my second visit in that class and they were much better behaved as a result. They have a system where there is a tick put by their name on a star chart each day for good work or behaviour. They then get a sticker at the end of the day for each tick they have on the chart. Last time I was there I gave out about 4 stickers to each child because of all the stars they had. This time some children got only one or even none. It was a little weird that the overall behaviour was better this time! They often physically put a tick by their own names at the request of the Teaching assistant or the Teacher. Anyway, One boy had 5 ticks and I asked him what they were for. He said playing nicely on the carpet. I then asked who had given him the star and he said no-one. He had just thought that he deserved it and gave it to himself. It turned out that no adult had given him a star at all (poor lamb) and he had awarded them all to himself.

On Tuesday I worked as a Teaching Assistant in a residential school for Autistic children. This was miles from anywhere and too far to cycle, but amazingly the nearest bus went passed the bottom of my road! The bus went every 2 hours so I got the 7:13 am one, arrived at 7:45, walked down a country lane, arriving at about 8 am and waited an hour for someone to escort me to the classroom along with the children.

There were 4 higher functioning boys in the class and I made the 3rd adult in the team. They were aged about 10 but working at a year 1 level. I had been to the school before and enjoyed it greatly. Last time I worked in several parts of the school, with the higher functioning children and also those functioning at a low level, with little or no speech. Last time I was paid as a teacher but this time I was being paid as an assistant at half the pay. However it seems I did a very similar job. The room leader was a man from Ghana who had his two little girls and wife still over there. I was struck by the love and respect both Katie and Erastus had for the children, indeed, one of the reasons why I like the school so much is that all the staff have a wonderful manner. I also liked the kids.

The first thing a person new to the room does is read the information displayed on each child to learn the triggers for behaviour and strategies of dealing with them. This day did not look too promising because one boy, I'll call him Tony, was afraid of the sound of rain and the weather forecasted heavy rain. The strategy was to put on music to attempt to distract him. He started out the day in a difficult mood but fortunately the rain did not fall and his mood improved.

There is a drawback to agency staff. Even though we all have current CRB checks we are not allowed to be left alone with any child. This is usual in this situation and in nurseries too. The reason is that the children do not know the adult and the adult has limited knowledge of the children. After lunch one boy, Jonathon sustained a bump on the head and started feeling sick so Katie took him to the nurse. When it came time for Troy to have his Occupational Therapy session we all had to troop to take him to the room as I could neither take him on my own, or be left with the others.

The last 3 days of the week I am in my contracted school (which is in a very deprived area)- 1 day taking a class so the teacher can have preparation time and 2 days with my normal year 3 class that I share with the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) who needs time out of the classroom for all the work that entails. We have boys on the autistic spectrum in year 3. Why is it that there are more children with autism now, than there were 10 years ago?

It was Cultural Arts Week and so I dressed in a sari in the afternoon teaching the story of Rama and Sita in our India room. We have three year 3 classes and for three afternoons the children rotated through to 'India', 'Kenya' and 'China' to do various arts activities . Our new TA, Deep, is a lady who was born in Kenya from Indian decent. She provided wonderful resources for both India and Kenya.

Thursday saw me learning an Indian Dance and

Friday watching a brass band from England. The 5 members were all peripatetic music teachers who demonstrated their instruments and played a variety of interesting and enjoyable music. with the children in year groups, joining in with the complicated percussion rhythms on the Latin piece.

I taught a different year 3 class on Friday. Two of the year team were having PPA time, so whilst the children were watching The Lion King (for the Kenyan landscape scenes) with the other PPA teacher the rest of us got some displays on the wall from the week's activities.
I also did an international music quiz with them. They had listened to music from India, China and Kenya whilst doing the various activities about those countries. I put together several clips of music from those countries and played them one at a time for them to discuss with a partner and decide where it came from.

The resource I used for this was the catalogue on CD of ARC Music. This has clips of a few minutes of all their music form all over the world. A wonderful resource for any school, or anyone interested in music from around the world.

Cycling home in the light has become a novel experience these days. It was great to be able to get home before dark on Friday. Whilst cycling on Thursday I had a beautiful red sky in front of me that kept changing until, as I cycled into the car park at my apartment there was just a deep red low in the sky.