Monthly Archives: May 2008

Mommy

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Last night an employee from the residential treatment hospital called because Evan wanted to speak with us.  I held the line waiting for the call to be transferred to him.  When Everett told him I was on the line, with excitement in his voice he sang “Mommy!”  I was shocked.  He has never called me this before.  When he got on the phone I asked him what he had said.  He said “Everett told me you were on the phone and I said Mommy.”  So I hadn’t misheard him.  I quickly changed the subject because I was a bit uncomfortable.  I started feeling guilty like I was betraying Eliza in some way.

 

I knew that Eliza would not like him calling me this.  I can’t say that I blame her.  During our conversation I let him know that his mom loved him and asked if he wanted me to relay any messages to her.  He wanted me to tell her that he loved and missed her.  He also asked how she was doing and I assured him that she was fine.

 

Even though I did not initiate the term of endearment, she would never believe it.  She would assume that I told him or better yet, made him call me mommy.  Though I really think it was a fluke or a slip of the tongue on his part.  However, last year in a fit of emotion he did tell me that he wished I could be his mom.  Evan is just so needy right now.  He needs a mother.  I guess I am the next best thing since Eliza is not available.

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Meet the Artists

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Man in Turban

Purple Haze II

 

I love this piece that Evan created in his art therapy class last year.  I call it “Man in Turban.”  This piece is displayed on its own stand in our living room.   I sent Eliza a picture of it, too.  I am so proud of him!  When he comes home, I would like to enroll him in art classes to further develop his talent.

My son, Nicholas,  is also a fantastic artist.  His pieces are featured throughout our home as well. “Purple Haze” is just one of his many masterpieces.  He created this one when he was three years-old.  It hangs in the family room.   Last week Nicholas’ school had an art show that was fabulous.  His art teacher is crazy creative with the kids.  I can’t wait until she sends his portfolio home!  His work has been on exhibit at both Starbuck’s and Hubbard and Craven’s.  They even had meet the artisit nights at both shops.  Of course we were there beaming with pride at our little Picasso. 

She had a bunch of student paintings turned into note cards and place mats to raise funds for the school.  I am proud to say that Nicholas’ beautiful design sold out on the first day! 

Not to mention, I save so much money by using their art for decoration.  I even provide them a little commission for the rights to display their pieces!  I am thinking about converting our currently barren garage walls into an art gallery for the boys.  I think that would be so cool!

 

Missing in Action

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I have been missing in action from the site for a few weeks.  So much has been going on.

My job had me on special assignment away from my building for the last two and a half weeks.  As you know, Kierra also had surgery a couple of weeks ago.  Then the following Friday my 72-year-old grandmother had surgery. 

 

My grandmother’s doctor sent her to progressive care after surgery.  I talked to her on the phone Saturday afternoon.  By the time I got to the hospital Saturday evening, she was non-responsive.  I called for the nurse to come and check on her. The nurse said that my grandmother needed some rest.  I was not buying that explanation.  My grandmother is the type to say if she needed some rest and be blunt about it.

 

My cousin was there with me and called her mom.  So my two aunts came out to the hospital.  The nurse came back in and fed my aunts the same story.  They requested the doctor to call them as soon as possible.  The nurse noted it on the chart and we all left.

 

Sunday morning I got a call from my aunt.  She told me that my grandmother had a heart attack Saturday after we left.  The doctor moved her into intensive care and she was put on a respirator.  Things did not look good.  My aunt assured me that she would be alright and if there was any change she would call me.  Shortly thereafter my cousin called to tell me that everyone was on edge.  There were many arguments going on between my family members.  So I decided not to go to the hospital.

 

On Monday I went to visit her after work.  My cousin was there along with my uncle in the waiting area.  When I walked into her room, she was sitting up in bed.  I told her that I had been out there on Saturday.  She didn’t even remember that I had been there.  We talked for a little while and I was relieved that she was feeling better.

 

Tuesday my husband went to visit her while I stayed home with Ian and Imani.  He reported that she is doing well.  She was eating and cracking jokes.  It seems as though she is back to normal! 

 

 

 

It Gets Greater Later

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I often spend my Saturday mornings grocery shopping. The local shopping district that I utilize is routinely populated by students who attend the school where I teach. So it’s not unusual for me to run into students, both past and present during this time. The trip I made to the grocery store last weekend was no different. I was spotted by several former students. For the most part, I am always happy to see them. I love to see how they have grown and hear about the progress that they have made in life. Then other times I liken myself to a celebrity being chased by the paparazzi. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I dodge, hide, or dart down the aisles in order to avoid my current students. Because even the students who don’t like you as a teacher at school, love you when they see you in public and always want to talk to you. Of course, this makes me feel weird, but rest assured, I know that by Monday morning, they will be back to their old fickle selves. How comforting!

I was standing at the cold cuts case trying to find a suitable Lunchable for Nicholas’ lunch when I felt a slight touch to my lower back. I turned and faced Nina, a former student. Nina was a student from the beginning of my teaching career. She had a great personality, but was not really into school. I think she was there largely for the social aspect and eventually quit school altogether.  Over the years I saw her a couple of times at Skyline Chili where she worked.

We were both pleasantly surprised to see each other considering three years had passed since she had served Cincinnati’s famous chili. Nina shyly told me that she was working on getting her GED and that she had hopes of attending college. I told her about the new changes within our school system, like how all the teachers at our school had to re-interview for our jobs. I was among the first to be interviewed and had already received my position back. Nina gave me a quick smile before saying “I knew that they wouldn’t let you go because you are the best English teacher at AHS.” Having finally learned the art of replying to compliments with grace, I simply said thank you. However, I was somewhat surprised by her commendation. As I mentioned, she was not particularly studious and rarely did the assignments I gave. I had no idea that she held this view of me. But it did make me feel good.

After a little more small talk, we parted ways and continued our shopping. A little later in the day it dawned on me—being a stepparent is a lot like being a teacher. Oftentimes you don’t know the impact that you are having on your students until years later. Just when you think you have bombed and didn’t make a dent of difference in their lives, the exact opposite is true. I receive many letters, emails, and visits from former students who express their gratitude over lessons learned. I love this. This fuels my passion to perform better each year since I rarely get to see the immediate fruits of my Herculean effort that I put forth. I have no problem accepting this fact of life as a teacher. This is a hard concept for me to master as a stepmom. But listening to Nina gave me hope. And it’s not that I expect something in return from my stepsons for being a positive influence in their lives, however, just hearing that you somehow made a difference does feel mighty good.

Brainstorming For Evan

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Visiting Evan at the residential treatment psychiatric hospital reminds me a lot of visiting Eliza in prison.  It makes me so sad and so mad.  But when we see him, I try to put all of that aside so that I may enjoy our time with him.  He has been there for five months now.  Evan has made a lot of progress, but not quite enough to come home yet.  He is still having trouble handling his anger.  I have written about Evan before in a past post titled Evan Almighty.  In case you haven’t read it, he is comorbid and suffers from ADHD, ODD, PTSD, and BD. 

I have been brainstorming ways to make his transition from residential treatment to home go smoothly.  Here are the following things that I have come up with:

·        Continue private counseling

·        Continue to monitor his school to make sure that they follow his IEP

·        Get him involved in a low risk extracurricular activity

·        Continue journaling with him so he can explore his emotions in a healthy manner

·        Resume his visits to see Eliza to help maintain the bond they have

·        Continue attending the ADHD support group that I have joined

·        Continue with positive reinforcements

·        Continue setting good examples for him to follow

·        Continue spending one-on-one time with him

·        Continue reading literature regarding his problems

·        Continue praying for his recovery

The facility is located three and half hours from our home and our next visit will be in two weeks.  (I hate that gas in our city is $3.95 a gallon!)  Hopefully by then he has earned a pass so that we can at least go out for ice-cream and maybe to the park.  I am sending him a care package this weekend to tide him over until then. 

I wrote asking Eliza for ideas but she did not have any.  Therefore, I would appreciate any suggestions that you readers may have. 

Note:

Today when I walked into work, I noticed a coworker carrying a stack of Newsweek magazines. The cover read “Growing Up Bipolar: One Family’s Struggle To Raise A Troubled Son” Of course, I grabbed a couple for me and my husband!

What Was She Thinking?

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            Last night my husband and I happened to turn to the news channel as they were featuring a story about a teacher who allegedly had sex with a student. Can you imagine the shock I felt when they displayed the mug shot of Evan’s teacher?  Evan’s teacher! Mrs. Vasquez, age 37, had been charged with 4 felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor!  Here is an excerpt from the news paper article:

 

Investigators say she allegedly drove a 15-year-old male student to her home in the Castleton area May 1 and had sexual intercourse with him, said Sgt. Matthew Mount of the Metropolitan Police Department.


Vasquez, 37, faces preliminary charges of sexual misconduct with a minor, Mount said.

 

According to a police report, the student told authorities Vasquez first had engaged in flirtatious behavior with him.
The two eventually concocted a plan; the student told police, for Vasquez to arrange to take the student on a special lunch outing that would be described to administrators as a reward for recent improvements in the boy’s classroom performance. The two intended instead to go to the teacher’s home for sex, the boy told police.

 

 

            At the beginning of the year I filed a complaint against the school for not following Evan’s IEP.  One of my many issues was with the teacher, Mrs. Vasquez and her educational practices.  She had a variety of grade levels in one class, and therefore gave ALL of the kids the same assignments.  So while Evan was in 3rd grade and should have been doing 3rd grade work, he was doing 2nd work because she had more 2nd graders than any other grade.  This was confirmed when she had mixed up papers from other students in Evan’s folder. Grades 1-5 were all doing the same worksheets.  When I asked her about this, she acknowledged that she had trouble finding lessons for each grade level.  Her class only consisted of 6 students and she even had the help of an assistant and a therapist; it wasn’t like she was going at it alone.  But the number of students fluctuated often due to students moving, being transferred back to their home schools, being expelled, or like Evan, eventually placed in residential treatment. 

  Nor did she have any classroom management.  She got flustered very easily and was always a nervous wreck.  She used a point system to reward and punish behavior.  However, this was a random practice.  Some days she would use the system and other days she would not.  I asked her to email me his point sheet because Evan was very good at “losing” his.  She emailed me this information maybe once per week when it should have been a daily form of communication.   They did more watching movies and recess than actual assignments. 

My biggest problem with her was that she gave the kids the answers to their work.  When they could not solve a problem, rather than teaching them how to come up with the solution, she would just tell them.  This was done on a regular basis—even on tests.  I figured this out when I would give Evan work to do at home because of course, they never had homework.  I suspect that she did not want to experience the wrath of the volatile children when they could not do their work.  The very same standards that he was mastering at school he could not do in any form at home.  He finally told me that they “shared” work, especially when the students got angry.  Evan even got frustrated with me once because I didn’t “help” him like Mrs. Vasquez.   Overall she was not very consistent in any area—something especially needed when you are working at an alternative school for students with behavior problems.  

            When I requested a case conference, they did not address my concerns about Mrs. Vazquez.  I suppose they did not believe them to be valid because she was one of their own, even though I came well documented regarding my claims.  However, when I filed an official complaint with the department of education, my lengthy allegations were substantiated.  After Evan left for residential treatment, they finally placed her in another class of four eighth grade students.  This is where she met her victim. 

I am left to wonder if maybe this incident could have been prevented had the school been willing to monitor her more closely?  I also wonder if she was ever inappropriate with any of the other students such as my own stepson? It saddens and angers me as both a teacher and a parent that this happened.  I hope with all the hope I can muster that the allegations are just that.   

 

 

A Brief Update

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            Kierra’s surgery last Friday was successful and she is continuing to do well.  It was an awkward time due to the obvious lack of civility.  Kierra’s mom came with her oldest daughter and her male friend.  There was no conversation exchanged between most of the adults.  However, my husband and her friend did manage to talk while taking breaks in the lobby.  I was so uncomfortable with the way things were.  I mean, this would have been the perfect opportunity to pull together.  Apparently Kierra’s mom did not feel this way…to be continued.