* Behavior modifiers: Garbage!

garbageI was in the middle of a fun social studies project with my students when it was announced that our school was up for accreditation.  We were going to be observed and evaluated!  Ooh!  I was teaching a self-contained class for kids with severe behavior and emotional disabilities; since I taught multiple grade levels, I always created content area projects with the entire group.  I had just purchased a really wonderful woodworking table with REAL tools.  We were creating a pilgrim village and already had a (Plains) Indian teepee off to one side.  Yes, my kids knew that wasn’t authentic, but it was the greatest place to read and hadn’t fallen on anyone yet.  The village was something else, though.  I brought a great number of huge hanging clothes boxes, along with oodles of scrap wood from a cabinet shop.  The kids created an amazing space, sawing and hammering wooden strips everywhere.  True, it didn’t look exactly like a village but you would be amazed at how they could all disappear like mice into the little nooks and crannies of that village.  Between the teepee and the village, we had filled up most of the room.  And it kept growing.  Well, the principal was doing his daily review of the place and reminded me that we were being observed.  He wondered if we were finished with all those boxes and wood yet.  The kids were alarmed.  Finished?  They had only just begun to experiment with the hand drills!  There was much more to be done!  The teepee hadn’t even been painted!  Oh, no!  We were not going to be done any time soon!  (We all spoke with exclamation points in my room.)  I hung a very large sign right over the ever-enlarging village which read: UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  Well, the accreditation came and went.  I never saw anyone in our room, but on the other hand, it was hard to see from one side to the other.  And hard to hear.  (The neighboring teachers were so indulgent!  I can’t imagine how that project sounded.)  The principal came by on his daily walk and said that all had gone well except for their observation of my room.  I know my face went red.  What had I done wrong?  The lady in charge had complained, “Why is that you are using the self-contained class as a place for garbage?  Isn’t that just the typical disregard for those special needs kids?”  The principal and I both turned to look at the village.  He raised his eyebrows and left without another word.

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