Highlights

While there are some downsides to teaching  – the occasionally emotional days, the ick factor, working with 11 other women which means there’s ALWAYS someone PMSing… there are some awesome moments, too. So I thought I’d share them with you.

Today, I got my kids to draw their faces, since I’ve been focussing a lot on body awareness the last few weeks. Rethabile started colouring something in, and I couldn’t figure out what she was doing.

Me: Whatcha drawin’, Retha?
Retha: Red eyes.
Me: O___o; O… okay…

Where she got the idea from, I don’t know, but next thing I knew, her entire group all had red-eyed drawings.  A trend setter in the making!

See, I studied anthropology for a few years, so teaching absolutely tickles the part of me that is an anthropologist (my gods that’s a complicated word to type!). Last year, for insance, I saw first hand the development of slang: there’s a TV show on Cartoon Network where a main character eats bananas to gain super powers (laser beams shooting out of his eyes). The character eats a banana and declares, “I am Mighty Ray! FEAR MY EYEBALLS!!!” and then it’s smack-down for the baddies. So one of my kids, upon bringing a banana to school, said, “Hey, I’m Mighty Ray! Fear my eyeballs! Shwooooom!”

Within days, all the kids were referring to bananas as Mighty Rays. It’s what’s for lunch. For the whole year.

I also love when I set a task for my kids where they really excel beyond what I expect.

Last week, I asked my kids to assemble a torso, legs and a head on a piece of paper in the right order. Some were… interesting…

Yet by no means not good!

 

The rest were simply awesome.

 

 

 

This kind of thing makes me so happy I actually have no words for it.

And then there’s this:

Munaishe has an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I’m not sure what was going through his head, but he opened his yoghurt at snack time and decided to put the lid on his head. Then he dribbled yoghurt on the table and set about wiping it with his sandwich plastic with a look of absolute, focussed glee.

Cleaning up is honestly no chore after that. Seriously.

And lastly this:

This is Calvin, and if you’ve read that post, then this picture needs no other words.

 

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Calvin

“I don’t know what I’d do with a special-needs kid.”

“You must have loads of patience to deal with him.”

“Oh shame, can’t he go to a special school for others like him?”

“Is he safe?”

“Why is he here, can’t he go somewhere else?”

“It’s a bit unfair, isn’t it? How do you manage to teach the other children when he takes up so much of your time?”

And my answer?

“It’s my job. And I love him.”

I have a little boy in my class who is classified as special needs. He has foetal anti-convulsant syndrome, because his mom has to take Epilem, a common anti-seizure drug. Many, many children are born this way because doctors don’t have a choice when it comes to managing a mom-to-be’s epilepsy or bi-polar disorder and ensuring the safety of her unborn child. They choose to ignore the data. So many moms have to deal with such guilt and pain, and the struggle of raising a child who, despite everyone’s best efforts, will always have a harder time than other kids. And it’s not their fault. Not at all. But try telling them that.

Calvin has clubbed feet.

He narrowly avoided spina bifida.

He is 5 and a half, and still on nappies much of the time.

Mentally, he is about 2 years old. Physically, he’s a big, strong boerkind.

He battles to swallow, so he drools a lot, and has to wear a bib.

He wanders off, and all the staff know to keep an eye out for him, especially when I am working with one of the other kids.

He gets frustrated because he knows that for some reason he can’t do a whole lot of the stuff the other kids in the class can do. The other kids are all 2 years younger than him.

He bites himself when he gets upset. He lashes out at other kids who tease him. He has to constantly be reminded to be gentle.

Calvin also gives the best hugs.

His smile can light up a room.

His laugh can bring smiles to the faces of people on the other side of the school.

He can tell a joke.

He loves doing work in class, and even though he can’t perform at the level of the other kids, he tries.

He loves to see smiles on other people’s faces.

He is perceptive and can tell when someone is upset. Then he’ll hug them.

He’ll greet other parents with lables of “Papa”, “so-and-so’s Mama”, “Oom” (uncle), “Tannie” (Auntie), “Ouma” (Granny) “Oupa” (Grandpa)

He’ll hug them, too.

He has this way of staring through you with this puzzled expression as he figures out who you are and your place in his world. Then his eyes focus, and he give’s the statement, “Calvin’s Teacher Kirsten”, or the like. It means he likes you. It means you’re a part of his world.

There is no special school for him. Not until he turns 7 and is in grade 1. And by that time, the formative years have passed and the brain settles into the patterns that will define a child for the rest of their lives.

He comes to our school because his mom had nowhere else to turn.

And I believe that some higher power must’ve sent him to me. And I thank that higher power every day.

I look after him because I love him. I love him so much my heart aches. He’s special. In more ways than one.

He has taught me so much about a world of things.

He has taught me patience.

He has taught me to see the funny side.

He has improved my ability to speak Afrikaans.

He has taught me to appreciate the beauty in simple things.

He has taught me about the strength of the human spirit.

All the people who’ve ever asked those questions at the beginnings of this post… they’ve all become his biggest fans, because they see how his joy, his sense of humour, his boundless energy and bright spirit enriches the lives of them, and their children, and their children’s teachers.

When he first came to me, I was uncertain.

I was stressed.

I was afraid.

I didn’t know how to deal with him.

I cried most nights for the first couple of weeks.

Not because I didn’t want to. But because, as his teacher, I wanted to do right by him.

Because that’s my job. My vocation.

And I won’t lie, this one child has affected me more than any other child I’ve ever taught. In the few short months I have been Calvin’s teacher, his spirit has become inexorably bound with mine. And even once he’s long gone like the others, gone to big school and a bright future, I will always remember that I was his teacher.

And when I remember that I was his teacher, I want to remember that I did all I could to make sure that future is as bright as I can possibly make it.

Why Witchy?

I am Pagan. I am a Witch. I practice Witchcraft and work spells under the full moon and at the Solstices and Equinoxes and other times of power and Magick.

Yeah, I get that look a lot.

Say “Witch” and people picture one of the following:

The Wicked Witch of the West: Evil, conniving (though, really, all she really wanted was her dead sister’s shoes which were, technically, rightfully her’s and should not have become the property of her sister’s murderer), and an animal hater. Green skinned, dry-clean only.

The Cast of Harry Potter: Running around with wands and broomsticks muttering quasi-latin spells under their breath and saving the world. Which is cool anyway.

A Halloween Hag: warty, eats kids for breakfast, has high-pitched cackle.

I am none of these things.

Pictured: Pentacle. Not pictured: warts

I have been a Pagan for ten years. I was first introduced to Wicca when I was 15, and in early 2002 I decided that it was the path for me. I didn’t understand it well, but I liked what I was hearing. I then spent several more years reading about it and studying it, finally completing a course in it in 2008 and undergoing a dedication ritual where I pledged myself to the God and Goddess. I have since become a full Initiated member of my coven.

Being Pagan is not only about Magick and spells. For me, it’s about the total atunement with nature that I gain and further appreciate with each passing day. I feel the changing of the seasons in my blood, breathe in the power of the full moon and have a stronger connection to the Divine than I ever had before.

Many people don’t understand that. They can’t understand why I don’t believe in Jesus or the concept of God as the Bible understands it…

I have no answer, except that my feet are taking me down a different Path. And I am happy. And I don’t wish to be “saved” or converted. If I can respect that others believe what they believe, then I hope that others can understand that I believe what I believe.

I am religious. I pray. I see my God and Goddess in everything that surrounds me. I feel Their hands guiding me.

Religion is personal. Everyone is entitled to believe what they believe. Everyone is entitled to a deep bond with their concept of the Creator and the Universe.

It is a beautiful thing, in all its forms.

A Shitty Job

WARNING: This post is not to be read if you have a weak stomach, or do not like reading about bodily functions and the cleaning up thereof.

 

 

 

Are you still reading? OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned before that in my opinion, I have the greatest job ever. It’s rewarding emotionally, it’s fun, it allows for creative freedom and it’s constantly dynamic. Even though we have a fairly strict routine, no day is ever the same as the next.

But then I have an afternoon like today.

And ooooh man am I glad genetics gifted me with a strong stomach.

A little girl in my class has been battling for a while with constipation. Kids do sometimes, especially the picky eaters who won’t eat anything with any sort of fibre content. At my suggestion, the Mom has packed WeetBix for her the last two days, and I’ve been ensuring she eats it. It’s the chocolate flavoured WeetBix – not idea, I know, but it has fibre and at this point, no one’s complaining.

So she pooped the other night, which was great, but it was painful, so the goal is to try and get her “regular” again.

Well, she got “regular” in her undies this afternoon.

See, I love my job. Really I do.

Because if I didn’t, there’s no  WAY I would’ve been able to clean up the kid. It was a combination of runny mess and rock hard solidity. No wonder this kid hasn’t liked pooping lately.

So, I stripped her off and put her in a large bucket of water to wash her down (’cause wetwipes just weren’t gonna cut it), disinfected her, dressed her and all the while reassured her that no one was cross with her and that she shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

And that’s the thing – yes, it’s an inconvenience, yes, it’s a horrible, horrible thing to have to clean up someone else’s poop… but the one thing you can’t do is shout at a child for having an accident like that, especially not when they’re so squeamish about the process in the first place.

You have to keep your cool and be nice and keep a hold on your stomach. And I mean a strong hold. Poop is NASTY.

Oh, and after cleaning her up, I then had to rinse her clothes in order to put them in a plastic bag for her to take home. It involves scrubbing.

It involves lots of soap and handwashing later.

And I’m really grateful we have these little disinfectant alcohol dispensers in the school for hand sanitising.

I suppose the one plus side of this is that no one can tell me that they have to deal with a lot of shit in their job – I’ll always have a story to top their’s.

Woot, an Update!

Such a great day today with the kids! We did our first workbook sessions today, and most of them managed to follow the instructions without a hitch! The only ones who struggled are the ones I’ve already put into a group for more intensive work, so it makes me happy to know my initial perceptions of them were correct. They all did me so proud today. I can’t wait to do more work with them!

Tomorrow is Baking… haven’t quite decided exactly what we’re going to make, but I’m banking on something simple. Our colour of the week was red, and the shape was circle, so I’m thinking of putting red icing on a marie biscuit and giving them circular sweets to stick on… maybe some jelly tots and some marshmallows. When we do more complex themes like the seasons or animals, I get a lot more creative. My favourite thing to make is trees. ^_^

On that note, it’s pretty late for me. I’m off to bed, but I wanted to post something before I do. Blog every day and stay disciplined – I’m determined that this blog shall be my procrastination cure!

One last thing though: I was introduced to the following video via http://www.gaystarnews.com. Being a lesbian, and knowing what others “like me” face every day is heartwrenching. To see people attack us for who we are, and condemn us, and drive children to suicide while murdering others… this is something that needs to be shared, so share it I shall. Maybe things will change for us, if only the perceptions of us change first.

I am gay. I am not a monster. Ask anyone who knows me.

Storage Space Woes

OK, so, we have this thing at work called “Termly Requirements”. Basically, this means we ask parents to supply wet wipes (even big kids, those things clean faces really well), tissues, toilet paper etc. It’s a system that works really well.

At the beginning of this year, I worked out how much of each requirement I needed, put it in a letter and sent it home.

Man, is this class so much more on the ball than last year’s.

Last year, I had to practically beg on my hands and knees for parents to bring in stuff – you’d think they’d jump at the chance to make sure their kids had snot-free noses, clean faces and wiped bums, but no. I never really had to worry about where I was going to put everything because I was using up requirements at roughly the rate they were trickling in.

Not this year.

Man, and it turns out boxes of tissues, packs of wetwipes, bogrolls galore and plasters in case of minor injury take up a hell of a lot of space. Also, my cupboard is disorganised.

I have a big cupboard in my class, but it’s filled with all sorts of crap in the first two shelves. Yes, it’s my fault, and yes, I know that I should take more care to chuck what is not needed… but I did that already and it didn’t make much difference.

Oh well.

Guess I’ll just have to get creative.

Oh, and in other news, I’m really really sleepy! And instead of using my lunch break to sleep, I’m updating my blog! Now that’s dedication.

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programing

For once, unusually for a journal/blog belonging to me, the hiatus was not of my own doing. We recently joined a new internet service provider and had a few hiccups and only got back online yesterday, and I haven’t had computer access until now. I’ve wanted to write, I really have, but I can’t update this thing on my phone. I get to the “New Post” screen, and can’t go any further. It was frustrating.

We’ve been back at school for nearly a week now. The kids are all in and settling – I only have one more child who hasn’t come in for the new year yet, but she should be in tomorrow once the primary schools go back and her transport service starts running again.

Barring some screamers on the first day, I haven’t had any hiccups. I have two children who cry in the mornings, but only when they leave their parents. They’re happy and playing within minutes. They’re getting used to my routine and they’re actually more organised than my last group was this time last year. We’re settling into class work (I had them make Ladybirds yesterday – it’s our class symbol, plus I was able to integrate this week’s shape and colour – circle and red). We’ve had some disruptions from the external exta-murals who come in and do demo-lessons, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.

My current perceptions:

Abigail: Clingy, cries for mom in the mornings, but it seems mostly to garner attention from her as her little brother Josh cries. Otherwise well-behaved and is learning that it’s my way or the high-way – no exceptions!

Boikanyo: The oldest (save Calvin), already turned 4. Well-adjusted, bright, mature, polite, but a bit quiet.

Calvin: Has Fetal Anti-Convulsant Syndrome, which leads to some physical and mental delays. The actual oldest at and 5 and a half. Very sweet and affectionate, but is still a toddler in a big boy’s body. Big project this year – get him into a remedial school as opposed to a special needs school.

Catherine: Well-behaved and chilled little girl. Mom going to have a baby in a month so it’ll be interesting to see how she reacts and if she becomes emotional and/or clingy. I really need to work on her slow eating habits.

Farhanah: A staff kid (Teacher Faridah’s daughter), with all that goes with it, but she seems a lot less high-maintenance than some other staff kids I’ve taught. Quiet but sweet-natured and clever. Very gentle little girl.

Gabriel: Emotional in the mornings, but usually fine once Mom and Dad have gone. Has some problems with speech (he garbles his words) but is otherwise talkative with a good vocabulary. He enjoys taking on responsibility so I think I’ll give him class Leadership slightly more often to build his confidence.

Hlumisa: The ever-elusive child who has not come to school yet! Last year’s perceptions are that she very much has a mind of her own, but she is very clever. I want to try to get her into a gross-motor movement extra-mural to try and combat the fact that she’s far too overweight for a 3 year old.

Jack: Does not speak when I talk to him, but talks up a storm with his friends – need to work on that! Screamed blue murder on the first day but has calmed down. He’s another one expecting home upheaval in the form of an imminent little sister so again I’m curious to see how it affects his personality.

Jade: Former staff kid, and still acts like one. Very much a little madame and wants her own way ALL THE TIME. She’s learning that I’m no push over and that respect is the number one rule in my class. She’s talkative and clever and VERY charming. If I can get her out of the sulks she has when things don’t go her way, I’m going to have a real gem.

Kagiso: Very sweet little boy and very funny. Can be naughty but all little boys are. Needs to develop confidence with his shapes and colours, but he’ll get there.

Munaishe: My fairy child. Fairly sure he has an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) but he is such a character! In his own little world and smiling 90% of the time. Next step is to convince Mom and Dad to go for assessment to work out if there actually is a disorder. Not going to be a fun conversation.

Olwake: Does not speak and very shy, but play him some music and he’s away. I’m definitely getting through to him when we sing. He loves it.

Ofentse: Doesn’t understand English and is way behind in where he should be… unfortunately leaving at the end of the month so I won’t get the chance to work with him.

Rethabile: Dynamite comes in small packages. She’s tiny but she knows what she wants. Ignore her at your peril! Very confident and verbose – talkative children make me happy.

Riley: Very fun little boy with a whip-like wit and great sense of humour, has a bit of a stutter so I may recommend speech therapy if he doesn’t show improvement by June or so.

Sanelisiwe: Well-behaved and mature, slightly shy. Can talk but doesn’t put herself out there. Very clever though, I just need to get through to her.

Sophie: Total angel (and I’m not just saying that because her Mom reads this blog!) Can be quiet at times and talks softly, but has the best general knowledge of the class – I’m hoping she rubs off on the others, especially Abigail and Jade.

Thabang: Can talk but chooses not to talk to adults. Very shy and insecure, but there seems to be instability at home. I’m working hard to make sure he feels loved and safe in class and with me. He responds to praise, so I’m hoping that’s the key if I just give him simple tasks that he can easily do and work from there.

Wihona: The youngest. Red-haired and a total fire brand. Very strong leadership qualities, mothers the rest of the class like nobody’s business! She’ll definitely be a big help through the year as she follows instructions and requests very well.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun year!

Oh, and in other news, I held fifty million Dollars  in my hand yesterday. Pity they were Zimbabwe Dollars and worth about R2!

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