. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: February 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009


I'm so happy to report that my story about Sean has touched a few people. That is always nice to hear!

I received the following message via email and found it so heart-warming that I asked the author, Spedteacher from NYC, if I share it with all of you on my blog.

Your story elated me more than I can express. When I was in elementary school my best friend was blind. I used to carry his heavy braille texts and his heavy braille typewriter. I would lead him around the school and help involve him in our games during recess. I was the biggest kid in the school and nobody messed with Alan because that would mean messing with me. I was very peace loving (still am) but I know how to look very intimidating (still can do that, too).

In the summer before fifth grade I developed a (thankfully temporary) crippling condition that required me to use a wheelchair to move around. When we returned to school I told Alan what had happened and that i could not lead him around anymore or carry his stuff because I needed my arms to propel my chair.

Alan reached out and felt around my chair as I told him what had happened to me that summer. He asked if I could still see and I told him I could. He asked if I could steer the chair if someone pushed it. I told him I could. He asked if I could carry things on my lap and I said yes, I could. He thought for a while and said,

"Okay, I think this will work. You'll still carry my stuff, but on your lap. I'll push and you'll steer. That way you can still lead me and I can still get around easily." I was glad we could still work together, and he replied,

"You know, between the two of us we make a pretty capable person."

Your posting reminded me of Alan and how much I learned from him. I hope Sean learns, too.

Thank you, Spedteacher, for sharing your story with me and allowing me to share it with my readers. You are inspirational!

I asked Spedteacher what happened to Alan, but like most childhood friendships, they lost touch after Spedteacher moved away. Wouldn't it be great if they could reconnect after all these years? I want a Movie of the Week ending for Spedteacher!

Alan! Are you out there?!?!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Easy Target

Like most teachers, I have little patience for bullies. I despise hearing of students picking on each other.

I get especially hot under the collar when I hear about students bullying our visually impaired students.

Our school is lucky enough to be the home to the Visually Impaired (VI) class for our district, so that means we have about 12 students who are either totally blind or have significant vision loss. They range in age from kindergarten to sixth grade and all are mainstreamed for part or all of their school day in regular education classes. Some have an aide and all get around with the help of a cane and, at times, an adult or student helper. I am proud to say, we have no shortage of sighted students who volunteer to be a helper to one of their VI peers.

It is a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn from a young age how to live and work with individuals who are differently-abled than themselves. They have grown accustomed to seeing students tapping along with their canes, finding Braille tabs on all room numbers and signage, and seeing a working adult with a guide dog (because the teacher of the VI class is blind as well.) This chance to develop respect and understanding of others is not wasted at our school.

Unfortunately, those kids are also the target of bullies.

In my opinion, only the most desperate of bullies would choose to pick on a blind kid.

And in this case, the desperate bully is Sean.

Sean is not in my class. Throughout the year, he's been sent to me for time-outs by his teacher. We've developed a relationship of sorts, since he's in my room so much, and we even worked out a contract that would allow him to earn tickets from me that he can use to get popcorn on Fridays if he is behaving in his class.

That is until he discovered how easy it is to victimize a kid who can't see you.

If you want to join in on the fun with Sean, you too can run up behind a blind kid and shove him…

and then run away.

Or you could swoop in from the side and rake your nails down his arm…

and then run away.

Or, better yet, you can kick his cane out of his hands…

and then (you guessed it) run away.

And the beauty of it all is in the simplicity of it…

He can't see you to retaliate.

How Sean didn't realize the fun in all this before 3rd grade, I'll never know.

So he sheepishly darkens my door a few mornings ago, heavy-of-heart and note-in-hand from his teacher explaining what he's been doing.

Now, I don't get loud often. I'm more of a whisperer when I'm fuming because the growling whisper is far more fear-inflicting than any yell could ever be.

But I got loud this time.

I could not BE-LIEVE he would do this, which is exactly what I told him.

While I was railing him, my class was shakily trying to complete their morning work and listen in at the same time, which is exactly what I was hoping for because when I said that I was sure that there would be more than one student on our campus who would volunteer to step in the next time they saw Sean go anywhere near the other kid, each one of my students slowly raised their hands to be that volunteer.

I was so proud of them. At that moment, they were everything that is great about humanity.

I had Sean turn around to look at who was going to stop him the next time he attempted to victimize that boy and he was truly humbled.

I asked my class how they planned to do this without participating in bullying behavior themselves and they suggested that they would simply stand around the other student and make a human shield to preventing Sean from getting anywhere near him. They figured their sheer number would cause him to stop whatever he was doing. (I could have hugged each and every one of them!)

I then had Sean cover his eyes completely and had him attempt to fetch a pencil from my desk. He bumped into desks, walked into the closed door, nearly fell face-first over another student, never made it anywhere near my desk, and was teared-up at the end. When I asked him why, he said it was embarrassing to stumble around in front of others.

And then one of my toughest boys said, "You only had to stumble around in front of us, but that other kid has to stumble around in front of the whole world."

A little rough in the delivery, but the sentiment was all there.

So I designed an intensive program for Sean for the coming weeks. Tomorrow, he'll be working with our mobility teacher. She teaches our VI students how to use their canes and their other senses to make their way through the world. She will blindfold Sean and help him to make his way around the playground during recess time, the single most frightening time for a VI student, with only the help of her voice and a cane.

Then he'll be interviewing a blind adult (our VI teacher) and a blind student his own age to find out about how their lives are both similar to and different from his own. Then, he and the blind student will complete a compare/contrast diagram together about their lives. Then he'll research on the internet about blindness and write a report about what he's learned from all his work so far.

Finally, he and I are going to develop a plan for him to become a helper in the VI classroom. I'm hoping that if we make him an "expert" of sorts in this area, he'll become less of an offender and more of a defender of others.

I'll keep you posted on his progress.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Totally Worth It

Here's a Valentine's letter I received from one of my little girls yesterday.

Dear, Mrs. Lee

I LOVE you. You are the very bestest teacher I have ever had. I will always remeber you and all the things that you teached us. You can always make us lagugh and I will think about you when I am in 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and all the other grades that come after that. I really do love you

One of my favoritest memorys is the time you wrote a story about how Mya did CPR on a man in the park and saft his life. (By the way, Mya is my dog and is the main character in every story I model for my students. That particular story was on the topic of heroes.) I love bean in your class and I wish you could be my teacher for ever. You make coming to school very, very, very fun.

Love, always


P.S. I REALLY love you!!!!

Ok, it official.

This job…

Totally worth it.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Welp, it's been 1 year and 1 day since I began The Bits.

Thank you for listening to me yammer on about a teaching life that is probably strangely similar to many of yours.

Here's to hoping more bizarre, story-worthy events continue happening to me at work (or else I'm not sure I can continue this job!)



Friday, February 6, 2009

Elton John Knows Best

Oh Harvey, Harvey, Harvey...

You, me, and your constant behavior issues had called a truce as of late.

Why couldn't you have just quietly gotten in line at the end of recess?

What WERE you thinking?

Announcing that "Ms. Lee sucks" and that "she isn't even smart enough to do 2+2" miiiiiight not have been your best move this year.

You see, I don't care if you hold me in low regard but all the other kids in our class evidently DO care because they







You see, Harvey, even though YOU thought you were sharing your feelings in confidence with your friends, THEY thought you were mean-spirited and ratted you out before you could finish the word "two".

And have you forgotten Harvey, that next to soccer, the best played game on the playground is "Fastest Tattler in the West" and some of them are pretty darn quick on the draw, let me tell you.

In addition to ostracizing yourself, you gave me 30 students anxious to assuage my damaged feelings and therefore readily behaved like perfect little angels for the remainder of the day; not to mention how they believed their efforts would easily rank them higher than you in my esteem.

But all the drama that ensued the next day could have been avoided if, when I pulled you aside and asked you why you said those things and if I had done anything that we needed to talk about (to which you said no), if only you'd apologized rather than simply hanging your head and nodding like a sad mute….

Or when I pulled you aside at the end of the day to say that an apology would have been appropriate, and you still just nodded your head, we could have put this to rest.

But you didn't.

And you showed up the next morning, smiling and all full of "Good Morning, Ms. Lee's" while your classmates stared at you like you were a foreign object in our room, and I simply said, "Good morning, Harvey. The principal is waiting to speak with you."

And you hung your head and nodded your sad mute nod.

And now your continued disrespectful behavior, both in school and at home, has earned you a dressing-down by the principal, a phone call to your father who dressed you down in two languages, a week in the hole (aka - library detention), a twice-weekly visit with the counselor, and a spot front and center in our police department's behavior boot camp.

Elton John was right…

Sorry seems to be the hardest word