Sunday, February 16, 2014

Autism, Art and Type A Flu

The flu hit our house this week. Doug went from fine to sick in a heartbeat. Wednesday he saw the doctor. (Maddie and Lexi both stayed home sick that day too. Just not flu... Yet.)

In case you don't know what the test card looks like, here is Doug's.

I felt like I was lingering on the cliff of getting sick all week, but I just refused. No choice. Between the girls being sick, Doug having the flu and deadlines at work, I didn't have time to blink, much less sneeze!

Friday was Valentine's day. Hmmm. Kylie and Lexi enjoyed the day. Doug was sick. Maddie tried school and was sent home with a fever. BIG BUMMER. She had to miss the dance at school, and she had the cutest new outfit. I worked. Here are Lexi and Kylie enjoying treats while I work. Thankfully Lexi got to go to school for her parties.

Doug got me Wiseman House peanut butter and chocolate meltaways for V-day. I super heart them! (And him..)

Saturday was a big art day for my students. We went to our regional Visual Art Scholastic Event (VASE) contest. I took 15 kids with a total of 27 pieces. It was a long day. It's really a pretty long process to prepare for the contest as the competition is STIFF and a "nice" piece doesn't even get a second glance. Almost 2300 pieces are judged in less than 8 hours, each with a personal interview. The pieces that receive a 4 rating advance to the area round and then from those pieces, they select around 225 pieces to advance to the state competition. All of this happens in the course of one day. It's amazing! 12 hours from start to finish. Except for the state round.. That will happen in a little over a month at another location!

Here are a few pictures of my student's work... I took these during the week. 

At the end of the night, I had 13 out of the 15 advance to area, earning 16 medals. 3 students received PERFECT scores. And one students advanced to state! And she's a sophomore!!! :) for a total of 17 medals to give out on Monday!

But I have to tell you, while having a student make it to state is uber cool, the best part of the day was watching my student with Autism conquer his fears and struggles and earn TWO medals. Oh how I wish I could share the picture of him sitting next to his pieces that advanced to area! My heart melts. What is so poignant for me is that in those moments before he left for the INTERVIEW (oh yes he did!) he was sitting at the cafeteria table obviously nervous. I told him that it would be okay and that he would do fine. He said, but what if he didn't understand the question the judge asked him. I explained that he needed to advocate for himself, to tell the judge that he struggled understanding things sometimes and that the juror was there in support of him! No one was going to try to trick him, that he could ask for help, and that everyone here was FOR him. So then he asked if he could tell the judge that he was autistic. I said YES!  He smiled and off he went.

As he walked away, I have to say, I worried if I made the right call. I could have asked that I be there with him. I could have asked that the officials tell the judge before he entered that he was a kid with disabilities. But I didn't. I wanted him to be able to own this moment. He did the work. He created the pieces, he needed the opportunity for a victory. And so I watched him walk away, just like the "regular" kids!

Over the next couple of hours, I worried about him, hoping that he would get to the right room to not get frustrated with the very long lines and wait time, and that he would be able to answer the questions asked. I even sent a student to check in on him. But I didn't go check on him myself. I sat at the table and waited. 

And then he returned. Sweaty and smiling! No, grinning really. I asked him how it went and he said good. That he sweated a lot, but he was able to answer questions and explained his artwork to the judges. (Cause, he had two pieces...that's two different rooms to find, two lines to wait in, two judges to have to talk too!)

Then when all 15 kids had returned we went to check out the work that had received 4's and had advanced. Both of his pieces were there, and the grin.. Yeah.

I share this story, not to make you think I am a great teacher, I'm not especially. But I love my students. I had 2 girls not medal yesterday, and Monday is going to be hard. But they are both freshman having to learn to listen to me and my way of doing things. Neither of them really wanted constructive feedback and only brought in their finished pieces at the very end, when it was too late. I had one student, fresh off a big award a couple of weeks ago, just do so/so. But man, for the this "special" student, yesterday was a turning point for him. I had four students receive double medals, and he was one of them... And one of those others, advanced to state! You can just imagine his dreams now! :)

And so with all of that, I leave you with the state piece. Yep, couldn't be prouder of MY kids!

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