Sunday, November 12, 2017

A New Perspective

It has been said that I have a very good memory. The problem is, I typically remember things that seemingly have no significance whatsoever. One of these memories is when I was in the fourth grade and my dad was helping me with my math homework. I can remember sitting in the living room in this old blue chair that was my homework spot when I didn't want to sit at the kitchen table. I was frustrated with division! That is when I turned around in the chair, put my feet up into the air, and let my head fall upside down. As my dad is Charlie Brown teacher-ing me division, I think to myself "The living room looks so different like this!" Everything is the same and yet it is not the same at all. Everything looks familiar- there's the couch, the coffee table, the lamps and yet it was like I was looking into a different world. This memory is very vivid in my mind.

This summer I had the opportunity to teach ESY (Extended School Year) services. I was placed as the High School Severe Disabilities teacher. I was excited for this new opportunity and looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone. It's true- I got out of my comfort zone and honestly it was so different than my year round teaching gig it didn't even really feel like work. I was at a different school, had different ages of students, new paraprofessionals, and experienced working with a new population (Moderate vs. Severe).  There were a few similarities: I was teaching around the same content, doing crafts, cooking activities, and songs I had sung before but overall it was like another planet.

When we came back to school in September and I got to get back to work with my doodles (for some this will be the third year in a row with good ole Miss. Rose), I had a brand new perspective about it. They are the same students, same classroom, same content, but it all looked different. Just like how my living room looked from upside down. Everything in my classroom was still there but yet it was rearranged some way in my mind. I saw how much my students have grown in the past two years, and not so much on what I still needed to teach them. My students are following two step directions, walking in the hallway with their peers, hanging up their coats, sitting in a group, finishing tasks without hand over hand assistance, washing their hands independently, some are READING- I could go on and on bragging about the abilities of my doodles.

Progress in my classroom is slow and steady. My new perspective this summer helped me to see my class in a whole new light. To keep raising expectations, to continue teaching skills they will need for the rest of their lives, and to keep believing they can accomplish so much more than any label puts on them!

May sunbeams find you!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Why

Wow! It has been exactly two years since I last got on here. Since my last blog post two years ago I have gotten a job with a public school system in rural Virginia as an elementary ID (Intellectual Disabilities)-Moderate teacher, and I have officially earned my Master of Education in Special Education Adapted Curriculum K-12. So short story short- I have achieved what I started in September 2013. Hooray! I have arrived!

 At a faculty meeting at school two weeks ago we were talking about our "why". For me, there are about a million reasons why but one stands out bigger than the rest- THE SPARK. The thought crossed my mind last night, as I walked into my house and thought, 'I cannot sit down or I will not get up. And if I don't get up I won't get a shower, or brush my teeth, or take my makeup off, or eat'. So I kept going. This happens to me many nights. As a special education teacher I feel like I give everything I have to my students almost every single day (except that one where we watched Trolls- but it was a half day and we were eating breakfast then lunch and it has such a good message. . .anyway). Every single day I leave my classroom I am more often than not exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. And if I'm not exhausted I am jumping off the walls from either caffeine or sugar. I can't say which is worse. Why do I do this?

Then, I think back to student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom in 2011. I left exhausted, but I also left defeated. I was crying tears of frustration, hopelessness, and selfishness. Towards the end of my student teaching experience I didn't care. I hated even the idea of teaching and if I ever stepped foot into another classroom it would have been too soon. Flash forward to 2017 and I have been teaching for 2.5 years. I try to give my all every day because I LOVE what I do. I have a spark. A spark that tells me this is exactly where I am suppose to be. That I am making a difference.

I want to give my students the best education I possibly can. I want to make school a happy place. I want to raise my expectations so high they have no choice but to reach them. I'm not going to limit them but what an IEP says. Or some online info about various disabilities.  I'm not going to accept mediocrity. Most importantly I am not going to let them down. I am their teacher. They have a right to learn. A right to be exposed to all of the math, reading, science, and social studies in addition to the functional, adaptive, social, basic and general life skills. I'm here to do all of those things.

So why am I a special education teacher? It may be exhausting but it's a good exhausting. One that tells me, "You did it! You did all you could today! Doesn't that feel good?" And it does. It really does.