Health care is a basic human right, not a privilege. For some reason, we’ve allowed ourselves as Americans to be fooled into accepting that one must be blessed with “means” to actuate appropriate health care. As a nation we have failed to realize that our health care system is a barometer of our society’s value for human life.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Classroom Observation

One thing that I have decided to fit into my schedule every month, for at least two hours at a time, is classroom observation. Helping my son at school and helping the school help my son is a huge deal to me. I hope that by observing my son in his classroom, I will get a better feel of what he is encountering during the day. I hope seeing the situation and environment he is in first hand will help me to understand what the school and teacher recommend and enact as aides to him. I hope that experiencing his classroom will help me to come up with my own ideas that fit within his day to help make day to day activities run that much more smoothly for him. I want to make a difference in my son’s education, and I really hope this will be a key part of me understanding and effectively assisting him with it.

I volunteered today in Sandis’s classroom for their “Friendship Feast.” Holey smokes man, if you have never spent a couple of hours first thing in the morning (before breakfast) hanging out and helping to direct 20 some kindergartners, I don’t recommend it! That being said, it was really fabulous. The kids were sweet. I was there from the start of the day, and I actually got to sit down with Sandis as he ate breakfast. He pointed out a boy in the lunchroom during breakfast who apparently picks on him. Sandis got to show me around HIS town, and I think he enjoyed it.

This was my opportunity to see Sandis interact in the classroom. This was my first time in the classroom not only to volunteer, but to see Sandis in action. I have to say, there were moments where I wanted to walk out, take to a corner, and cry. It was painfully obvious in a few instances just how different Sandis is from the other kids, and how ostracized he can be in these instances by the class. There were other times, though, where he blended in and was just another kid. I let those times calm my heart.

I never wanted Sandis to be different. I think that my desire to have him be just like everyone else really blinded me to what was really going on with Sandis’s development. No one ever wants their child to be the one with the developmental delay or problems. It isn’t something we wish for with child still in utero, marveling over baby kicks in mommy’s ribs. Accepting this difference in Sandis is very hard. I know it will bring him pain in his future. I know that there is more burden on me to protect him from that. Sometimes that burden is very heavy.

The thing is though, I didn’t wish for this, but I’m not sure I’d change it. My son is fabulously quirky. He smiles often. My son could not conceive of bullying another child, he does not have a mean bone in him (just don’t ask his sister about this!) My son has focus that exceeds most others abilities when it comes to things that interest him. My son started running when he started walking, and he has never stopped. He will never stop! My son is a blessing of insights and joys that I would not have if he were not exactly as he is. My son is not a mistake, he is a gift from God exactly as he is supposed to be.

I will be in Sandis’s classroom next month, and I imagine it might be hard again. I hope it will get easier. I kow though, that he needs me there, and I need to be there to see him. Seeing my son’s differences makes it easier to go through all that red tape the education system puts down in front of his IEP. Seeing my son’s differences makes me appreciate them that much more.

On a final note, the other night I asked Sandis: “Did you pick mommy? Or did mommy pick you?”
Sandis without hesitation says: “ You picked me mommy! Silly!”

And you know what? He’s so right. I did pick him. I would pick him again. And again. And again. He is mine and I am his and we belong together.


Minnesota Nice said...

Beautifully put, Sarah.
Hope you have a safe trip and Happy Thanksgiving - at least the weather will be good - no blizzards, no ice storms, no below-zero temps - yipee

Chris said... am so glad that you commented on my previous posts. I just fluked into your comments a few minutes ago. Otherwise i would have been totally lost when reading your new posts.
I just couldnt belive what i was reading. I dont even know what to say to you at this point. Other than we''ll be here for you. Reading and posting. Unfortunatley it is late but i am going to sit down tomorrow and catch up on some past posts.
We as well have some experince with autism (not like your son's, but autism nonetheless.). And cannot think any more highly of the job you are doing with the hand you have been dealt.
our thoughts and prayers.
Be strong.

In Search Of Balance said...

It's wonderful to hear what a bond you have with your incredible son. He sounds like a great guy.

I was so sorry to read about your daughter. What an amazing year for your family! Nothing compensates for diabetes, but having you as a roll model and inspiration will serve her, in so many ways, her entire life long.

Wishing you and your family all the best, always.

AshleyLeo said...

Hi Sarah - I followed you from Kristina Chew's site. Diabetes too? Quite a lot to juggle. I good friend of mine has a combo of your two (PDD and diabetes).

Good for you, dedicating yourself to the classroom like that. Info straight up is the best, isn't it?

What a wonderful little family of 3 you are! You are lucky to all have each other. I feel the same way about my 2 little ones (well, the older one is quite tall). Anyway, I love your site and I look forward to reading more.

BetterCell said...

Hello Sarah........Regarding what is going on with your son in school, it does not "sound good" in terms of the school not eliminating the bully problem. If I lived in MN....I would be happy to teach your son SelF Defense. There is a way of dealing w/bullies that is more effective than someone "sitting down" with them. Since I am not in MN, I then suggest that he study/learn Martial Arts from a "Good School" that has a "Good Instructor". He would benefit emotionally, physically and spiritually from the Movement and at the same time be able to deal with most bullies(cowards).
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your Blessed Family.

Anonymous said...

A search of 'classroom observation' blogs brought me here, and I'm glad I found you. I'm a retired educator, K-12 and higher ed, and a bit of an expert on classroom observations. I'll be so bold as to butt in with a suggestion.
It's so very easy to be a victim of observer bias. When an outsider enters the classroom, there's always an expectation and/or agenda - we can't help it as it's human nature. In the profession they make use of extensive training and statistics to deal with that (rater reliability) in order to have the results of the observation credible and useful. The 'rater reliability' approach is too cumbersome for individuals, but there is another approach that might be helpful.
I call it Data-based Observation, and it's a process of objectively gathering data and then drawing conclusions when finished, as opposed to seeing an event and immediately reacting to it through our emotions and bias.
Classroom goals, whether the teacher's, a student's, or a parent, are functionally translated into observable behaviors. When we 'judge' that a student is fitting in, or happy, or ostrasized, or engaged, we're seeing something to bring us to that conclusion. However, unless we're careful, our bias will fill in gaps and create interpretations that we either fear or desire.
Soooo.... the approach is to determine the kingpin behavior, the indicator behavior. We might judge how well a student is engaging with other students by how many times he/she is touched by another student (lower grades), or eye contact, or smiles. We can track mental engagement through the kind of questions that students ask, or how often they raise their hands in response to a question. I don't know enough about you or your son to suggest specifics, but can recommend a software tool that might give some insight/ideas.
It's call the eCOVE Classroom Observation Toolkit, and I wrote it for university supervisors of student teachers (one of my prior lives). It's now used by principals, teachers, and students themselves. I'm not trying to make a sales pitch, but really believe that approaching observations in a way that serves to keep us objective will, in the end, be of more beneifit to the child. You can look at and download the software at
If the idea behind the software appeals to you, let me know. I can design tools that will target the specific behavior you have in mind. VERY often, the data will reveal behaviors that were disguised by our, or the teacher's, expectations. The data can bring new insights to the situation, and in the end, help the child. Peace, John