It’s been an exciting few weeks at JRA. We had a phenomenally successful open house, resulting in our adding five new students in January. We are aware that this will stress our existing students, but we feel they are ready to handle it. My co-teachers and I occasionally look back to where they were in September and are amazed by their growth. But we aren’t taking anything for granted. We continue to look for ways to wrap each child in services and supports. Sometimes I feel like a conductor, pointing this one to speech, another to OT, yet another to Achievers class. We have been lucky to identify and bring on board some top-notch people.
We are thrilled with the services that we are receiving from A Place to Grow. There were many good OT/Speech groups that contacted us, but this was the one parents requested. Natalie, our great OT, comes on Monday and works with three students. Jen, Speech Language Pathologist, comes on Monday and Wednesday. She works with six of our students, either individually, in a social thinking small group, or both. On Monday, Jen leads a group for the whole school called Bucket Time. They also consult with us to help us make modifications to our environment or teaching methods to better support each student. And wonderful SLPs Tracy Vail and Mae Rant consult with us for two other students. The days when speech therapy was only for kids who stutter or are speech-delayed are long gone; we’ve renamed speech “Getting to yes,” and that has made a big difference in how they perceive it.
Our Japanese class, taught by Ryoko Huneycutt, challenges two of our very bright boys. Ryoko teaches both reading and writing, and these guys love it. Yesterday they were whispering to each other during my class. I was ready to call them down until I realized they were talking about Japanese verb forms. The majority of our kids are college bound and we want to work with both their interests and challenge them to succeed.
We continue to individualize according to each student’s needs. We have students divided into three groups, which move through our morning time. Our groupings are based on learning styles and needs, and within those groups are further divisions. One seventh grader finished pre-algebra in three months and is on to algebra. Another student, equally bright, somehow missed out on learning to tell time and do simple multiplication. Once students realize they are accepted where they are academically, their anxiety decreases. And guess what? When their anxiety decreases, so do behavior problems.
We are working harder than ever. But our work is so satisfying because as the kids feel safe and supported, we have begun to see what they are truly capable of. I won’t tell you our students’ names, but I promise you, that many of these kids WILL make a name for themselves doing something positive and amazing.