Sunday, November 30, 2008

Clean Sweep

There are many more important things that I could (and should) be blogging about, but this amazed me so much I just had to write about it. My sister came to stay with us from out of state for the Thanksgiving holiday. While we were preparing our back room upstairs for her to stay in, Liz noticed that the walls had some "stuff" on them.

"What is that?", she said. Sweet Pea, ever the helpful one, said "Looks like poop!" "What is it?" Liz says again, a bit more stridently. "It's smeared all over the place."

Buddy Boy chimes in "That's from the fly paper."

My heart sinks a little. The fly paper.

A couple of weeks ago we had thousands of flies swarming outside of our house for a couple of days. We called an exterminator, who assured us that this was common this time of year, and that they would go away with the first frost. Needless to say, a couple dozen made their way into the house. Buddy Boy insists that any insect must be returned to it's environment if we won't let him keep it as a pet (Andrea would love this kid), and Sweet Pea seems to think that any insect has the power to kill her instantly, and is thus terrified of them.

Faced with the prospect of dealing with both of them, I looked for a way to eliminate the problem. I looked thru our pantry and found a couple of rolls of flypaper. Thinking this might work, I put one up in the back room. Liz had me take it down a couple of days later after it became apparent that the unique sticky surface attracted curious kids more than it did flies. I didn't notice at the time that they had managed to smear some of the sticky stuff on the cream colored walls (which we don't have matching paint for).

Now, with 24 hours before my sister shows up, I was tasked to "Take care of that!"

Realizing that I didn't want to make a bad situation worse, I resolved to get the icky brownish yellowish stuff off the wall without destroying the paint (I did not want to have to paint a wall before she arrived). So I proceeded carefully.

First, I started with a rag with dishsoap on it. I scrubbed carefully and increasingly harder for over 20 minutes. I got some of it off, but most of it stayed where it was.

Like a philosopher progressing steadily up thru Maslow's pyramid of human needs, I tried what I viewed as successively more potent materials on the wall. The next material I tried was a floor and tile cleaner. I tried it carefully on an out of the way spot to make sure it wouldn't ruin the paint, then had at it again for another 20 minutes. Again, it left most of it where it was, only it turned what remained a darker shade of gray. Getting exasperated, I retreated to the mud room and tried some pine based floor cleaner, again to no avail. This was starting to get to me. I finally decided to go for the big guns-a scouring pad and kitchen cleanser-realizing that I would have to be very careful and would still probably remove some paint.

Luckily Liz saw me at that point and asked what I was doing. Fortunately it had been long enough that she had lost most of the fire out of her eye, and recommended the Mr. Clean magic sponges kept under the kitchen sink.

With little hope for successful resolution of the problem at this point, I took the sponges to task. I moistened one and started scrubbing lightly. And after spending more than an hour trying to get the stuff off, it started lifting off immediately. What's more, the paint underneath seemed totally unharmed. In five minutes I was done with those spots, and gleefully going after other spots (finger prints, putty, crayon marks, etc.).

"There's some rockin' chemist out there that hit one out of the park with this!", I said. Life is full of small miracles, and I experienced one this week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Being Thankful

photo credit-Hey Paul

creative commons license

Thursday is American Thanksgiving Day. It's one of my favorite holidays, because it remains one of the holidays that is least tainted by commercialism. We get to sit down, have a good meal with family and/or friends, and reflect a bit on all that we are thankful for (it doesn't hurt that I LOVE turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie).

We're now far enough into the school year for me to say that Buddy Boy's teachers, indeed his whole school, are bigs thing I'm thankful for. This year has been going GREAT! Buddy Boy's school instituted a model of teaching this year called "co-teaching". I'm not sure if it's the model or the individuals involved (or both), but it has been working out very well.

Basically, co-teaching is when a heterogeneous class of students is taught by both a gen ed teacher and a special ed teacher. One usually takes on the role of being the "content" specialist, while the other becomes the "process" specialist. Like all new things, we were a little anxious regarding how this would work out for Buddy Boy, but it has succeeded grandly.

Both of Buddy Boy's teachers volunteered to co-teach. One of them is a special ed teacher, and the gen ed teacher is actually currently pursuing her master's in special ed, so is open to doing things in non-conventional ways. The model seems to work for a number of reasons:

-the presence of two certified teachers decreases the student-teacher ratio

-rather than teaching of kids with special needs devolving down to the para-professionals during busy times during the day, there is a certified teacher to actually teach the kids.

-special ed kids are more likely to stay in their home classroom for larger portions of the day, rather than being parceled out to other venues.

-because it is voluntary, both teachers are enthusiastic about the model.

-even the kids that aren't identified as special ed get extra help when they need it.

The principal of the school also has a special ed background, and welcomed us with open arms when we transferred to this school two years ago. Everyone in the place knows Buddy Boy, and he is well liked by the teachers and staff.

I know that Buddy Boy is maturing, and in doing so is able to go with the flow more than he used to. Though this is a big part of his success, I'm equally convinced that it has been due in large part to the attitudes that are prevalent in the school and in his classroom in particular. He still has little incidents (like a couple of weeks ago when he followed another group of kids outside of the school when he was on the way back to his classroom from the school nurse). But these things are seen (and managed) as little speed bumps along the way, nothing to be concerned about, just things to be dealt with. His teachers celebrate his successes, instead of his shortcomings.

I'm a real thankful guy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Question As To Her Judgement

photo credit-navets
creative commons license

Remember Wendy Portillo, the teacher in Port St. Lucie Florida who back in May this year allegedly had her students publicly humiliate and belittle a 5 year old student, Alex, then vote him out of the class? Well, the Port St. Lucie school district finally made a decision on Wendy. According to the TC Palm:

While school district internal investigators said there's no evidence Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo meant to cause harm or embarrassment to Alex Barton, they said in a report released Thursday there is a question as to her judgment.

Additionally, the article noted:

The St. Lucie County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to suspend Portillo without pay for one year. Her attorney notified the School Board in a letter that Portillo intends to contest Lannon's recommendation with the state's Division of Administrative Hearings.

So after 6 months of investigating, this is what they came up with. It's certainly less than I would want for someone who psychologically traumatized a 5 year old child, but if she moves on and gets a job somewhere else it will be worth it.

The report by the school also said:

The incident could cause Portillo to lose the respect and confidence of her colleagues, students, parents and the public, the report said, citing the extensive national and local coverage of the incident.

I don't think Portillo could lose much more respect in the public eye, though in checking the comments on that story 2 out of 6 still support her.

There are a lot of great teachers out there. Buddy Boy has two of them this year in his class. But when anyone abuses 5 year olds, (especially when they are in a position of authority and trust) then that person needs to be called out.

Here's hoping other potential offenders take notice of what happened to Wendy.