And God Laughs
I told God my plans and He laughed. So now I am living, laughing, and loving according to His Plans.

Lessons From The Front Line: Hostage Negotiations

I have decided to start to share some of the many, many multitudes of stories and lessons that I have stored away from my years as a teacher both because they are incredible meaningful to me and they might be of some small assistance to someone else. I decided to start with one of my favorites.  I learned early on that I refuse to negotiate with any child who still needs their rear end wiped after going to the bathroom or who still wears diapers. The classroom is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship and I am in charge. I offer plenty of opportunities for choices, but I never make no an option when it is not an option I am willing to accept. Instead of asking "will you please clean up the toys" I might ask "do you want to pick up the blocks or the toy cars". I may ask a child "can you walk to the table by yourself or do you need some help to make the right choice?" or "Do you want to sit in the red chair or the blue chair?". This does not mean that my delightful, inquisitive, stubborn children did not routinely put me to the test in negotiations.
During my first week of student teaching we were transitioning from center play time to lunch and Desiree had been using the computer to play an alphabet/phonics game. When I informed her it was time to wash her hands and come sit at the table she stared me in the eyes and said "No". I gave her an opportunity to make the right choice and she informed me that she was not finished on the computer and was not going to come eat lunch. A hostage negotiation situation was quickly emerging. I very calmly walked over to the computer where Desiree was working, reached behind it to the wall outlet and unplugged the computer. I then informed her "Computer time is over. Do you want to wash your hands by yourself of do you need me to help you?" Completely shocked that I would follow through and actually disconnect the computer, Desiree very calmly washed her hands and sat down as requested. At no point did I have to raise my voice, or bargain with her, or physically engage with her.
Ella was a highly precocious 2 1/2 year old who never failed to keep me on my toes. A peer had a highly desired toy camera, and Ella decided that the best way to get this toy was to cry and have a dramatic tantrum. I informed her that her choices were to wait patiently for a turn, or to go without playing with the camera for the day because crying and screaming were not going to work. At that moment her very sympathetic peer delivered the camera to her in an effort to make her feel better. With a wicked grin, Ella looked at me and said "Well it worked for me!" I replied "Not so much. The camera is going in time out for a while until you can show me that you know the right way to ask for it and to wait your turn. Crying and screaming is not how you get the things you want in this classroom."
For some reason my three year olds loved to run laps around my classroom like it was a track course instead of a classroom filled with obstacles and equipment. Rather than repeatedly asking them to slow down or surrendering to the chaos, the rule became a simple choice that laid out the consequences and avoided any negotiations. "Show me walking feet or show me sitting bottom". I did get the occasional adorable response along the lines of "my feet just won't walk, they HAVE to dance!". Then we might resort to a few rounds of shaking out sillies out at circle time so our walking feet could come back out. :)
Never did I make no a choice unless I was willing to have a child give me no as an answer and respect that choice. No could be a choice for choosing materials in an activity, for activities during free play, for choosing reinforcers, for deciding if a child wanted a turn during a special activity and in those situations I respected it. No could not be a choice in following directions, obeying rules, and participating in academic activities so instead of negotiating and entering into plea agreements I simply offered choices where either one was still an appropriate choice and a victory. Often this meant doing the task independently or requiring help to do it, but either way the task got done without arguing over it.

Job 8:21

"He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."

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Wild Olive

Wild Olive

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Creative Victory

This is Me

I am a thirty year old enigma who has defied every expectation ever placed upon me and refused every definition created for me. My greatest passion in life is to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs and their families. As a special education teacher I broke all of the unwritten rules to make sure that my kids received the services they needed and had a right to receive. I have never been so proud to be reprimanded before in my life. Now, due to unpredictable twists in life, I am learning first hand what life is like when you rely upon a wheelchair for mobility. I am a medical puzzle with the pieces slowly being identified and put together, and my medical bills alone could fund a small nation. It takes a village to keep me alive. :) However, I am not defined by the genetic misspellings. I am a teacher, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a dreamer, a reader, an amateur photographer, a writer, an advocate, a star gazer, a world changer. I am stubborn, situationally shy, quick to use humor and wit to make others laugh or cope with a situation, sarcastic, fiercely independent, giving, compassionate (sometimes to a fault), protective of those I love, defiant of arbitrary boundaries, perfectionistic, self conscious, self assured (yes you can be both!), articulate and occasionally dramatic. And that is just what I could fit in two sentences! :)

Who's On First, What's On Second, I Don't Know! (Third Base!!)*

Simple Vocabulary Definitions for those who may not speak fluent medical :)

Undiagnosed Progressive Neurological Disorder- This is the diagnosis that is believed to make everything else fit together. It explains my frequent infections, my muscle weakness and dystonia, my dysautonomia, my cardiac issues, my inability to regulate blood pressure, my dysphagia, my ataxia, my severe fatigue, my extreme nausea, my gastrointestinal dysmotility and IBS like syndrome, my unbelievable migraines, my sensory changes in my arms and legs, my vision issues, my hearing loss (so much for blaming medication), and so much more. Going back to infancy and childhood, this would explain the severe apnea, the significantly delayed motor skills, the reason why I could never keep up with my peers in physical activities, the neurogenic bladder, the malfunctioning thyroid, and my frequent illnesses and vomiting. This is the diagnosis now being used since the DNA testing for Mitochondrial Disease came back odd and I can not afford the expenses of a workup at the Mayo Clinic. We are treating symptomatically.

Pan-Dysautonomia- "Pan" means that it impacts many different systems of my body, "dysautonomia" is a failure of my autonomic nervous system or the part of my brain that does all of the automatic things that do not require conscious thought like telling your heart to beat, regulating your blood pressure, adjusting your body temperature, maintaining balance in space, digesting food, hunger and thirst, etc. It is believed that I have had this from birth based upon my history of symptoms, including severe life threatening apnea as an infant, but the cause remains elusive at this time

Dystonia- abnormal muscle tone and spasticity, including painful spasms, that primarily impacts my feet and lower legs and is now starting to be a problem in my back

Ataxia- difficulty maintaining balance and coordinating/executing movements

Dysphagia- difficulty swallowing due to any number of causes including muscle weakness and poor muscle coordination

Adipsia- the absence of a sense of thirst

Other Medical Issues- Lupus Anticoagulant (autoimmune disease that causes me to tend to form blood clots and has already caused two deep vein blood clots and one mild stroke), Migraines, unknown connective tissue disorder, abnormal gastric motility, allergies, history of v-tach and severe sinus tachycardia, changes to my echocardiagram that include leaking valves and a new murmur, low blood pressure, ataxia, untreated PFO (small hole in my heart that increases the risk of stroke), chronic lymphadema in my left arm, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Narcolepsy/Idiopathic CNS Hypersomnolance (believed to be a result of the dysautonomia and my brain's inability to regulate the sleep/wake cycle), mild hearing loss, malformed optic nerves, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pernicious anemia, vitamin deficiencies

* Title comes from an old Abbot and Costello routine that I chose to memorize in 6th grade and absolutely love.