Sunday, January 16, 2011

God Is Good

God is good.  Really.  God is good

My son is struggling with reading. 
I am learning to be a special education teacher. 
I am taking a class in literacy.
I am also struggling to understand my son's challenges, and am trying to navigate the process for getting him some help. 

It's funny how all of these go together.  One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8:28:  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Jesse loves God. God loves Jesse and is working things out for him; for what is good for him.  Ultimately, God is working things out for His glory.  Taking care of Jesse brings God glory, because I fully intend to honor God for the work that He is doing in our lives.

After I posted that I am trying to look for ways to help Jesse, a friend offered some writing paper with raised lines to help him.  Another friend bought me a book on dyslexia that she picked up at Half-Price Books.  Today, I was doing my homework, and I read up on the Response to Intervention (RtI) Program as part of one of my online assignments.  We had an RtI meeting on January 4th. What is so interesting about all of this is that I had no idea that RtI is a program, or how it works.  RtI is a way for schools to monitor the learning of children in general education classrooms, and to identify ways to increase the academic success of students who are at risk of falling behind.  Essentially, it is a multi-tiered system.  One diagram that I saw in my classwork illustrated the program as a pyramid, with the largest area of the base as the 80-85% of the school population who succeeds academically in a general education classroom.  This group is called Tier 1 in the RtI framework.

According to the RtI model, approximately 15-20% of students will have difficulty in the general education classroom and will need additional instructional support, such as small groups or tutoring.  This group is called Tier 2 in the RtI framework.  Within Tier 2, most of the students will make significant gains and will not need additional instructional support.  This additional instructional support at Tier 2 is carried out by the general education teacher and perhaps other support staff, such as an instructional aide or a reading recovery teacher.  However, for the 5% or so of students who have learning disabilities or special needs that require additional support, there is Tier 3.  Tier 3 encompasses special education programs, which come in different forms.  Also, students in Tier 3 may still receive instruction in the general education classroom.  Jesse is currently at Tier 2, where he is receiving modification in his instruction.  His teacher is carrying out these modifications, and the reading teacher at his school has been observing him to see if she has any suggestions for helping Jesse with reading.  A school district psychologist will come observe Jesse while he is in class to see if he thinks Jesse has any type of learning disability, such as dyslexia, that would necessitate further assessment. 

For now, Jesse is reading on a second grade level.  His spelling and handwriting are another matter.  I am interested to see what the RtI team at school will suggest at our next meeting.  That meeting will take place in early February.  Had I known all of this information prior to our RtI meeting in January, I might have reacted differently to the team's suggestion that Jesse would not receive a team evaluation for three months.  While I see the need for the process to move faster, my understanding of the RtI model is that the instructional modifications/strategies that occur at Tier 2 must be given time to see if they will work for the at-risk student.  If Jesse does benefit at this level, then we will not need to take the process further, nor will he need to be admitted into the special education program. 

Before today, I viewed this process very differently.  Had someone explained to me how the process works, I would have felt a bit better about, well, everything.  When his teacher told us that Jesse was behind, and that perhaps he had some type of learning disability, I assumed we went straight over to the reading recovery program or to dyslexia therapy, or something.  All I heard was dyslexia, much like those who hear a diagnosis of cancer only hear that word and nothing else.  I still do think that Jesse needs additional help, but now I see the method behind the madness, so to speak.  I am thankful that God has given me this insight.  I definitely believe His timing is perfect.  I have had moments of doubt about the timing of my going back to school, and now I see that it's all going according to plan.  I get it.

So, anyway, God is good.  Really.  He's working things out for your good, too, if you love Him.  Don't forget that part.  God's good looks differently for each of us, because each of us are unique.  There are those who would say that if God is truly good, He wouldn't have given Jesse the challenges that he has.  Well, maybe that's part of the goodness of God.  The book that my friend gave me today has a funny title:  The Gift of Dyslexia.  Hmmm.....

And now for something completely different...

Congratulations to The Colony High School Cougars Wrestling Team for their First Place win at this weekend's Cougar Classic! My Jacob is on the far left, and our pastor's oldest son, Marcus, is on the far right.  Great job, Guys!

Many blessings,


Friday, January 14, 2011

My Husband/My Hero

My husband, Brian, has had a rough couple of days.  Lily was sent home from school on Wednesday with a fever, so we've been keeping an eye on her.  Yesterday afternoon, as I was getting ready to leave for class, I leaned over to kiss her and noticed that she felt warm again. I checked her temperature, and sure enough, she had a fever.  I gave her some medicine, left her with Jacob and Matthew and departed for class.  When I left, she and Jacob were lying on the couch together, and Matthew was keeping a watchful eye on her.  Since Brian would be home in a bit, I called to let him know what was going on, and that I had left for the long trek to school.  Inwardly, I was worried that when I told Brian about Lily's fever coming back that he would be stressed.  It was too late--he was already having a migraine when I called.  Brian and the rest of the office had been getting ready all week for an office-wide presentation about goals that they are working toward for the company in 2011.  He let me know that he was going to leave the office as soon as he could see again.  It sounded as though this particular migraine was going to be a bad one.

Despite having a terrible headache, Brian managed to cook supper for the family.  He even had food on the stove for me in case I was hungry when I got home from class.  He went to bed early, but was up at his usual time to get ready to go to work.  He kissed me goodbye on his way out the door, and I prayed for him to have the strength necessary to meet the demands of the day.  When he came home this evening, he said that the presentation went well.  His boss told him, "Man, I'm so glad you're here." 

I'm so proud of him.  He works hard for all of us.  He gave his presentation, and I guarantee that no one had any idea that he was hurting.  He was depleted when he came home, though.  Poor guy.  Hopefully, he'll get some rest tonight and will wake up feeling better, if not completely restored.

I knew that when I embarked on the journey toward getting my teaching certificate and full-time employment that the ones who would suffer the most would be my family.  Being available 24 hours a day for Brian and the kids for all of these years has been great for all of us, and being less available--even if the end result is favorable for our whole family--would be tough.  The kids have been troopers.  Jacob has worked hard to get his provisional driver's license, and we anticipate no problems in his earning his driver's license next fall.  Matthew gets himself up early and on the bus, and though his grades aren't showing his full potential, he's showing a strong sense of responsibility in our family.  Jesse and Lily have made the transition the best, I think.  Lily wants me to be her substitute teacher, and Jesse seems to be happy as a clam almost all of the time--well, except when he's hungry or tired. :)  No one complains when Mom has homework or has to go to class.  There are occasional grumbles about bus riding or laundry--they aren't perfect.  All in all, though, they are weathering the changes in our family pretty well.  Brian told me from the outset that he supported my goal to teach full time.  I could've gone back to Early Childhood Intervention, or to some type of non-profit work, and would've made the same amount of money as a teacher's salary without having to go back to school.  We both agreed that teaching made sense for our family, because we would not have to put the children into daycare after school and during holidays.  Brian has stepped in to help with cooking, cleaning, and homework when I haven't been able to. 

I have to credit our friends for their support.  Duane and Michele Green have been there to help out with the kids.  It cracks me up that when I go to pick Jesse and Lily up from their house after school, Lily cries, "Why are you here so SOON!  I want to stay longer!"  Frankly, I wouldn't be able to substitute teach without friends to help with my children.

This evening, as we all sat around the table for supper, I watched my sweet husband as he asked his children how their days had been.  Despite feeling terrible, he affirmed each one of them.  I think that he probably wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a while, but that's not what he did.  I'm thankful for Brian and the strength and resolve with which he carries himself.  I sure wouldn't want to be on this journey without him.

Many blessings,


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Learning to Learn

Snow has come to Texas.  I must admit that that I am not a big fan of the snow.  I much prefer hot weather, and I think that snow is overrated.  I prefer vacations on the beach to mountains and snow skiing.   The great thing about living in Texas is that cold weather is short lived.  It will be cold for a couple of months, then cool,  and then hot for a long time. 

Cold weather does give me the opportunity to stay indoors and be grateful for a nice, warm house.  It also affords me the opportunity to get homework and research done. At present, I am taking a Literacy class.  I am also researching ways to help my son, Jesse, with his reading and writing challenges.  I am certain that the timing of this class is providential.  I don't believe in coincidences.  Substitute teaching is also placing me in the path of teachers who are wise about reading and writing.  I am learning so much, and am hopeful that the information that I am gaining will be to Jesse's benefit. 

Right now, I am looking into dyslexia and dysgraphia.  Jesse is slightly behind in reading, but is making progress, which is good.  He is gaining confidence, which is great. Spelling and writing in general are a much greater challenge to Jesse.  His writing is illegible, though he has lots of ideas and is very creative.  I believe that his challenges may be traced to a learning disability called dysgraphia, but I will not know for sure until he is properly tested.  We have asked for a consult from a school psychologist.  He'll come in the next few weeks to observe Jesse and give strategies to his teachers and Brian and I to use in helping him to improve in reading and writing.  It has been suggested that he may have a 'focus issue', but I think that this is secondary to his reading/writing challenges.  We'll see.  His other grades are good, and he does not have any behavioral challenges in school.  I've ordered books on dyslexia and dysgraphia, and have plans to purchase writing paper with raised lines to help him 'feel' the lines when he is writing.  We also plan to purchase dictation software in the next week or so to help give Jesse some success in writing stories.  He is very bright, but he has a lot of difficulty expressing his ideas.  I want to foster in him a sense of success in writing so that he will not avoid the subject altogether.  It will be at least another three months before he is evaluated by the district--if the psychologist feels that he qualifies for assessment--so I want to go ahead and try some strategies to help him in the event that he is diagnosed with a learning disability. If he is not learning disabled, then it can't hurt.  Fortunately, his teacher is open to helping Jesse succeed.  She is looking into strategies to help him in class, so I don't feel like I'm working against the system, so to speak.

Provided that all of this slushy mess doesn't freeze overnight and make the roads dangerous, I'll be working tomorrow afternoon in a Kindergarten class.  I'm booked for Wednesday, as well; also Kindergarten.  One great thing about Kindergarteners: They know how to greet you--with big hugs!  It should be a fun, busy week.  I'm curious to learn more about literacy, so I find myself looking forward to my classes this week.  Before, I looked at my education classes as preparation for my career.  Now, I look at them as a way to gain useful knowledge for my son. 

Many blessings,


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Substitute Teacher

Just like countless parents across the Metroplex, Brian and I prayed yesterday that our children would be ready to resume school and get back to the daily grind.  Added to that, I offered up my own prayer that I would be ready to get back to work!  Though I had called into the automated system several times to see if there were any sub jobs available today, I had not been able to set up a job ahead of time.  This meant I had to be ready for the system to begin calling at six this morning.

Most days (except during holidays), I am up by 5:45 to be ready to either receive a job or to fulfill one.  Today was no exception.  Brian and I bounded out of bed and started our morning routine.  On Mondays and Tuesdays, he arrives for work by 7:15.  The rest of the week, he gets there by 7:30.  Before he leaves, he helps me wake up Jesse and Lily, and I help them get dressed for school.  We've gotten this down to a fine science.  Jacob and Matthew set their alarms and get themselves ready, naturally. 

Well, despite having made my lunch the night before and getting dressed for work this morning, no sub jobs were offered to me today.  So instead of going into work, I have had the day all to myself!  I cleaned house a little, did some laundry, and ran a few errands.  A Facebook friend had posted that she went to Macy's and bought something like $300 worth of clothes for $46 on clearance.  On my way to Costco, I decided to pop into Macy's to see what I could get for $46.  I ended up spending exactly that amount on a cute sweater and a dress.
I know it's hard to see in this picture; I was using my mobile phone.  It's a bright red with a 'shirt' under it. A sort of two-fer-one.  I also bought a gray sheath dress, that will do nicely for work or for church.  I'll have to take it up a bit in the waist.  I have one of those figures where my top half doesn't match the bottom half.  In order to buy a dress that fits the top, the bottom is too big.  So, I've gotta take it up.  Tailoring garments is tricky by yourself.  I had to very gingerly escape my pinned up bargain, and still managed to stick myself a few times.  I didn't get $300 worth of clothes, but I did save about half.

After Macy's, I went to Costco.  I love Costco, mostly because of the good deals.  I could do without most of the people that I encounter there.  It seems to me that if you're going to a store that has fabulous deals on really great stuff that you would be in such a state of bliss as to really extend kindness and courtesy to your fellow shoppers.  Not so much, I find.  While I may be jazzed about shopping at Costco, the average shopper at the Plano Costco seems more concerned with body counts.  I can't count the number of times I've nearly been maimed or disfigured by a single-minded Costco shopper.  The thing is, it's a freaking warehouse.  I don't get why there is such a need to hurry.  They are not running out of the pallets of chicken broth and toilet paper, for crying out loud.  Anyhoo, here's what I ended up with, after taking my life into my own hands and shopping at Costco:
That yellow container to the left center of the shot is a can of NESQUIK!  They have never carried that before!  The poor cashier was like, "Did you find everything o.k.?"  I said, "Oh, yes I did!  You all carry Nesquik now!"  Like some kind of geek.  He just went, "Um, o.k., ma'am," with a really worried look on his face.  I think he probably just wanted me to hurry and leave.  Thinking about it, it does seem really unstable to be excited about chocolate milk mix.

So the rest of the day was spent putting away groceries, eating lunch, and reading a romance novel that Brian bought me for Christmas.  It's a 'sequel' to Pride & Prejudice, but really it's like fanfiction.  It's a fun read.

I hope your New Year is going well so far.  A quiet day three days into the year is a good day in my book!

Many blessings,