Welcome! Did you happen in onto Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 2 blog before reading Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 1?
Naughty, naughty! Before I can let you in, you're just going to have to play nice and catch up like the rest of the class. Don't worry, I'll wait! Here is a link to what you missed:
Okay... everyone back? Good! Hope you took notes because there will be a test at the end! Think I'm kidding? Hmmm.... We'll see!
When we previously left off, I just finished sharing Tales from the
2:54 p.m. -- (I'm not sure of the exact time here but since Ryan's favorite number is 54, it seemed as good of an estimate as any.) We all walk outside and are immediately struck by how bright it is outside. Seems like our locker hall experience really put us in the dark side.
Justin looks at his schedule and his first classroom is in a portable right near where the bus will let him off in the morning. This is a good thing. Getting to Period 1 should be a snap!
The portables are positioned as 2 classroom portables back to back or side to side depending on how you look at it. They are self-contained classrooms outside the main school building. Well, the way the school has it set up is that the 6th graders are away from the 7th and 8th graders except for certain electives. This is a good idea in the beginning because with so many kids in the school, it gives the new middle schoolers a chance to find a familiar face or two from elementary school while passing from classroom to classroom and begin to get familiarity with their own 6th grade group. I think that 3 - 4 elementary schools feed into this middle school and each elementary school had between 75 and 125 5th graders. That is a lot of new faces for children to see.
It turns out that Justin's 1st period Math and 3rd Period English / Social Studies portables are next to each other. This is a good thing because 1st period is first thing in the morning and 3rd period is first thing after lunch so he will get into the pattern of going to the same part of the school grounds after a bell rings.
Ryan or maybe it was Justin tried to open the door of his math classroom to see if it was open and just a few seconds later, Justin's new math teacher comes to the door and takes a few minutes to talk and give us a tour. He's a sharp, approachable man and appears to run a very organized classroom. He seems like the kind of teacher that if you give respect to, you will get it back in return.
Justin is used to having female teachers so this will be a change for him and I hope it will be a positive experience. Justin liked him and so did I so that is a good start. It turns out this teacher grew up in the midwest like John did and so they talked briefly about the Packers. (I don't know what it is about that team but wherever we go, John seems to find cheeseheads. Truth be told, he really isn't even much of a fan (shhhh) but his family would disown him if they knew that. KIDDING...)
3:10 -- We head over to another part of the school to try and find Justin's second period classrooms. Justin's second period is technically two half periods. His first half class will be CEO Boot Camp (a business and marketing class with an emphasis on entrepreneurship) which I know will be right up his alley. His second half class will be SCIP (his Social Skills class) and will probably be the only classroom where there won't be 30 kids. I'm actually quite relieved at this. That's one thing about this school that I feel overwhelmed with (class size, so many kids) but I don't want to pass that anxiety or tension along to my son.
Unfortunately neither of the teachers for second periods were in the portables but we hope that they will be there in the evening.
We head back from the portables to a short-cut entrance (thank you, 7th grade tour guide Justin) into the 6th grade wing where Justin has his last class, Science. Not too far away from this classroom (which was locked) is the ominous Looney Tunes Locker Hall (see previous blog) where we see kids and their parents fumbling with their lockers. Rather than go through those uncomfortable feelings again, I tell Justin we'll work something out. John suggests we all go home, take a break, get prepared for evening orientation and refill our water. (Ryan thought it was funny to take huge sips and then spit the water out giggling. SOOO funny!)
So we said our temporary good-byes to Shahala and then headed home. We got back around 3:38 p.m. or so and had about an hour to relax before we headed back for the evening orientation. In retrospect, this would have been a smart time to put on Ryan's weighted vest, do joint compressions or dots and squeezies. Sigh... we live and learn!
4:37 p.m. -- Time to head back to the school. Since we had Justin's schedule, I visited the school website during our brief break and looked up the individual pages of his teachers to see if they had something in common with Justin that he could use as a talking point to help out with transitions and introductions. The more obstacles we can remove, the better.
4:51 p.m. -- Okay, this is more like it. NOW the main parking lot is full and there is overflow into the parking lot on the side. Fortunately we find a spot and as we get out of the vehicle, we hear through the loudspeakers in the distance that all families should report to the main gym for a group presentation.
This brings to mind this photo...
Just herd them on into the gym.... nothing to see here... MOOOOOOOOOve!
Truth be known, the loudspeaker announcement first brought to mind another photo but that one included me with the cows and well, it's my blog and I think this photo is funnier!
4:57 p.m. -- We are in the big gym. It's crowded. We go up about 12 rows of stairs and try to sit at the edge of a row so that we can make an easy exit should for example someone with blonde hair, blue eyes and an adorable impish smile suddenly have to go to the bathroom. We initially neglect to see that there are posters at the top of the gym walls which indicate we should be sitting in a certain section based on the names of our student's core teachers. By the time we figure this out, we realize that we have to scoot our bottoms to the side about 15 feet. We are now surrounded by people on all sides.
This of course guarantees....
5:06 p.m. -- Ryan now has to go to the bathroom. The presentation has just started and the principal has just assured the hot and restless crowd that it won't be long, there just are going to be a few introductions and then we will all be dismissed in an orderly fashion to head out to our student's first period classrooms. (That's what they think!)
John tells Ryan that he can hold off going to the bathroom until the assembly is complete. Ryan insists he can't and starts to do the sitting version of "the pee pee dance". John again exasperatedly tells Ryan to hold on just a few minutes and Ryan sits quietly for about 30 seconds and then starts wiggling again. (I know this is not going to turn out well but it was not my call and sometimes you just have to let things play out so that there is learning in the future...) Ryan exclaims in a voice only appropriate for the playground, "I really have to go and the PEE PEE is coming out!"
It's amazing how many people will quickly scoot out of the way when there is instant fear that they are about to be peed on by a preschooler. Since a pathway around us had now opened, Ryan and John quickly exited the bleachers, went out the gym door and headed in the direction of the cafeteria. Justin and I just looked at each other and laughed. We are so socially inappropriate. But tell me... you thought it was funny when I told the story, right? Be honest! No? Well, I guess you had to be there then. It was hilarious and just one of those many special "golden" moments which make up a typical day in the Krejcha family household.
Justin and I sat together and listened to miscellaneous instructions. Parents were assigned homework of having their kids know their bus assignments and their home street addresses. There are 14 school busses and the end of the first day when all the kids are trying to figure out what bus to get on can get very hectic. I glance down at Justin's schedule sheet, don't see a bus number and make a mental note to myself to figure this out shortly. (I now have it! Thank goodness for all the tools and resources available online. Google Goddess is my name, Nancy Drew can't steal my fame!)
I noticed Ryan and John re-entering the gym. Since the nearby crowd had closed back around us after the "PEE PEE is coming out" incident, I wasn't sure if the boys would make it back to where we were. John decided to sit on the steps in the row where we were at and not cause a scene. Ryan decided he wanted to sit with his "nice Mommy" and made his own path back to me. John subsequently apologized to all the people trampled in the process. (Could have been worse though. They could have been tinkled on!)
Well, just about two minutes or so after Ryan is back in with me and Justin, the group is dismissed in an "orderly fashion", we meet up with John and start to head off to Justin's math class where his first period teacher that we met before would be giving us a brief presentation.
At this point, Ryan was really rambunctious and needed a sensory break that just wasn't going to be happening. Fortunately we had doggy backpack so we were able to prevent him from bolting, a safety issue that happens with Ryan and certain children on the autism spectrum. There was way too much excitement going on, lots of interesting big kids and he caught a glimpse of one of Justin's close friends that had been over to our house before and immediately wanted to follow him. (Justin has two different friends that will occasionally come over separately. Ryan adores both.)
What were we to do except maybe split up where either John or I would go with Justin and the other would hang out with Ryan? We decided initially to stick together. We got over to the portable where we had previously met Justin's math teacher and since Ryan had met him too, he ALSO wanted to go sit in the classroom and listen quietly with the rest of the group to the presentation. Hmmm.... too good to be true but why not give it a shot? Justin, Ryan and I sat in chairs at a table and John was a little behind us in the back just in case....
Just in case....
So the teacher starts talking and one of the first things he talks about is punctuality, coming into the classroom quietly and showing respect to the other students and the teacher.
This is Ryan's cue to shout out random noise and ask a question about maps and GPS directions. Now this is more like it... parents turn, students turn, the teacher gives us a polite (but please keep your kid quiet) look and I immediately draw out a quick social story showing Ryan that he needs to be quiet in the classroom.
This works! What a relief! My stick figure drawings have gotten through to Ryan and he is sitting quietly again. For 2 minutes... after which he attempts to answer one of the teacher's questions with a nonsensical exclamation of his own. At this point, he smiles, sits back in the chair quietly, looks directly at me, takes a pen from Justin and chooses to cross out my social story. Apparently it is no longer applicable.
I know that at this point we should remove him from the classroom to show respect to the teacher and other families and to not embarrass Justin. Ryan and John quietly exit the back of the classroom and Justin and I sit together for a few minutes listening to the teacher. From outside I hear a thump, patter, thump, thump on the ramp to the classroom portable and Ryan bursts in, runs over to where Justin and I are, shouts "BEST WESTERN" and then leaves the same way he came in. I look at the pen that Ryan had taken from Justin and it indeed was from the "Best Western" we had stayed at in Yreka, CA on our recent trip. Hooray for the reading, not so much for the timing.
What seemed like maybe two minutes passed and this time Ryan tiptoes in being careful to say SHHHH to indicate he is trying to be quiet, comes back to our table and in a voice just a little quieter than a blaring alarm clock exclaims, "BEST WESTERN" again! By this time, I am VERY embarrassed and just like you, my Aspierations friends, I am wondering where the
#*%^@_!* heck is my husband!! I give Ryan the pen thinking that is what he wants or that for some unexplicable reason John had sent him in to get it and then the little cherubic love of my life exited the classroom again.
At this point, I could tell what was going on in the minds of some of the parents. Some were giving me the bad parent look (one even clucked), some were commending themselves silently on their own fine parenting skills, a couple showed empathy, a couple pretended they were ignoring but hey, I can still see that "casual" side glance, you're not that clever; others showed pity and one father at the other side of the room was chuckling. (Hmm... maybe he's an Aspie like me.) Little did most of these parents realize at this point but our fun family unit was going to be following them along the evening to their children's other core classrooms as well. The fun was not over yet.
Eventually the meeting ended and we were dismissed to go to Justin's third period classroom which luckily for us was just next door. Unfortunately, neither the elective teachers or the SCIP teachers were on campus that evening. This was a HUGE bummer for me and actually pretty confusing. I would think that if there would be any teachers that would need to be on hand for children with Asperger's / HFA during school orientation / meet the teachers night, it would be the SCIP teachers to help get the kids off to a good start with their routine.
I'm sure they didn't have a choice though and so we'll be proactive and drop his teachers an email introducing Justin and inviting to meet briefly at a time conducive to their schedule, hopefully before school starts.
Anyway... it was on to 3rd Period and meeting Justin's English / Social Studies teacher for the first time. We tried Ryan in the classroom for about 78 seconds before realizing it just wasn't going to work. In my head I heard a couple of the parents cheering but of course that was just my imagination... I think. Soccer Mom #4 isn't going to be inviting me over for a family social in the near future.
Justin's 3rd period teacher seems like a very nice woman. Over the summer, the 6th graders had to read a book, "Iqbal" and she talked briefly about a project for the students to complete. She also suggested that when students leave their first period math class next door that they put their backpacks in her classroom so that when they are done with 2nd period (electives) and then lunch, they can come straight to 3rd period after lunch without having to go to their lockers. (Her classroom is closed up 2nd period and she says this works out great for her students.)
YIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPEEEEEEE!!!!! I know I wasn't the only parent silently cheering about not having to deal with "the locker" situation the first few days of school. Creative solutions rule! Now granted, we do want Justin to learn to get his locker open. It's just not something we're going to press or have him stress about first day. YES!!!
I honestly don't remember much more about that presentation except to hear that the teacher was very email friendly and checked her email every 20 minutes and that students were welcome to email her. (Really? Well, I can guarantee you she will be taken up on that offer by my son!) I also remember hearing that the students would all be getting planners that they would bring from classroom to classroom and then bring home each day. This is an organizational tool that helped Justin a lot in his last two years of elementary school and it was great to hear the school already had a system in place to help keep the kids organized.
So after that, we all went outside and started to head to the 6th grade hall for Justin's 4th period class, Science. This would be our last presentation of the evening. John and Ryan met Justin and I outside and Ryan seemed calmer than before. He and John had been playing on John's new iPad. Whatever works!
There was a couple minute wait inside the 6th grade hall before the room to Justin's Science class opened. We could see a few rows of double-stacked lockers out of the corner of our eye but this time, it didn't phase us. In fact, I think we were feeling so confident that we decided that we would brave Ryan coming in with us to Justin's last class. Just to be on the safe side, John would stay with Ryan and sit near the door to be able to make an exit.
So.... the door opens, parents and students come out (MOO.....), and our group goes in (in an "orderly fashion" of course). We were near the back of the pack so a lot of seats were taken by the time we got in, including all that had the possibility of an easy escape route. John heads to the back right of the class to check Justin's name off on a sign-in sheet, Justin finds a seat in the upper left of the class (this way he isn't immediately associated with us) and Ryan and I find remaining seating in the back left which is as FAR from the exit door as you can possibly get and my last choice for seating.
Ryan decides at first that he doesn't want to sit immediately next to me but that if I am a few feet away its okay. I surreptitiously edge next to him anyway. At this point the classroom door shuts, I read Ryan's facial expression and KNOW that this will be a challenge. I try to catch John's gaze to indicate that HELP will be needed but he appears to have taken a special sudden interest in examining his fingernails. Sigh...
I start to draw a new social story for Ryan and during most of the presentation, he is very well behaved. There is a survey for me to fill out about Justin and how he learns best and I'm actually able to fill out 90% of the questionnaire without disruption. When I got to the last question, Ryan decided it was time to push the table he was sitting at into the backs of the people in front of us. OOPS! Sorry! He knows better not to do that. (Maybe?)
"Ryan. That was NOT a good choice."
Ryan apologizes. All is silent for approximately 54 seconds and then Ryan inquires in an inside classroom voice (loud enough for two rows in front of us to hear but not the whole classroom), "Mommy, is touching boobies a good choice?" Before I had a chance to answer, he... well, come on, you can GUESS what happened. He wanted to test the theory manually.
(And yet another Mom has written me off her sorority party social list... That of course is balanced out by one Dad adding me on to his list.)
Do I sense being elected PTA / PTO Mom of the Year in the near future?
Fortunately, the rest of the meeting went smoothly.... (in comparison) and at the end, we had a chance to meet the teacher after everyone had left and introduce Justin and mention he was going to be in her classroom but also integrated along with the SCIP program. I thought it was important for the teachers to know in advance who Justin was and to do so in a setting that wasn't going to be embarrassing for him and could show the teachers we're devoted parents looking to help out and partner with them to make the best possible year for our son. Since we hadn't had a chance to meet Justin's English teacher 1 on 1, we headed back to the portables to see if we could catch her and fortunately we did.
All in all, the evening was a success. It was an incredibly long day for us and even though it took me a few days to get the story of Justin's Middle School Orientation blogged, I'm glad I did because it certainly was an adventure. Justin's behavior during the evening was fantastic! His first impressions of all his teachers are positive and it seemed reciprocal as well. I will be sending an apology note to his first period teacher regarding Ryan's outbursts. I am relieved that we met him in advance and he knew that Ryan was on the autism spectrum as well.
5:19 p.m. Saturday, August 28th -- Remember above where I hinted about having a test? I was serious! So get out your thinking caps because here is my pop quiz.
Please answer in the comments section for extra credit.
1) What was the name of the tour guide who led our family around the school in the afternoon?
2) What was Ryan's favorite hotel chain of the day?
3) What would you have done in our situation to make the orientation less embarrassing? (Assuming that we had no access to respite care for Ryan in advance.)
4) What was your favorite part of our journey?
If you are a real teacher's pet and want extra EXTRA credit (that lasts an extra EXTRA long time), be sure to read John's blog post, One Week Until We Have A Middle Schooler. He has a very funny anecdote in there about his time with Ryan outside the math classroom that I did not find out about until reading his blog.
Look forward to blogging it up with you soon!
Feel free to drop me a line in the comments section if you'd like and let me know your favorite Back To School and school year tips!