Saturday, March 29, 2014

Something Every Teacher Should Do...

I don’t often talk about teaching on my blog; which is weird because offline I talk about teaching all the time.  Just ask my poor hubby who is starting to get the glazed over look now when I begin!  I love everything about it.  The planning, the instruction, the time I take to know my students, the weekends spent grading.  Even the classes I had to take to become a teacher!  (However I do remain steadfast in my belief that the Praxis is not only evil but the English content Praxis was harder than childbirth!)  So today, I have something to say about teaching.  Consider yourself forewarned if this topic bores you.  (Which it shouldn’t because I as I just said education is AMAZING!!!)

Every teacher should be asked to work in the Special Education department at the beginning of their career.  (And for that matter so should parents.)  People do not understand what goes on during the day of a teacher in the Special Ed department.  And let me tell you, it’s not easy.  For the past month I have been fortunate enough to sub as a Resource teacher.  Now I say fortunate for two reasons.  Reason one of course is “YAY!  I’m employed!”  However, the second reason is that I can already see how my instruction will change when I do land a coveted permanent position.  When I would see the word “modifications” on an IEP before I would get really nervous.  I wouldn’t know what to do beyond calling someone from the Special Ed department.  Now of course, I will still continue to look to the professionals to ensure I am doing all I can for my students.  However as time goes on something one of the amazing professors at Providence College said keeps coming back to remind me…”if it works for a kid with an IEP, it works for everyone.”  People have this misconception that a modification is somehow handing an answer to a student.  It isn’t.  It can be something as simple as listing out vocabulary words in an answer key instead of grouping them.  It makes it easier to read for anyone, IEP or no IEP.  Sure, your test may be a page longer, if you feel guilt about “wasting paper” plant a tree to give back!  I would rather use more paper to ensure success for all of my students than cram things on a page.  And yes, some students really do require extra time on a writing assignment.  Try as they might, the words do not come.  How many times have we as adults faced the same challenge?  How many memos at work do you write, and then have a second or third set of eyes look at it?  

When I was attending classes for my certification, I remember a classmate complaining that “every kid has an IEP now” and lamenting that they’re unnecessary.  Although this isn’t a train of thought I believed in, if more teachers saw the genuine struggle these students go through, maybe that thought would die off.

Sometimes we forget we’re talking about children here, not a product.  Learning is a journey that is different for everyone.  Some of us need to take a different route, just as some of us require a GPS and some do not.

I have frequently thought that in any workplace, people should spend some time in different departments to see what their colleagues deal with day in and day out.  The saying is you don't criticize a man until you've walked a mile in their shoes.  (And if you're Jack Handey, you can take it a step further; "Before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you will be a mile away and have their shoes.")   Another reason why every teacher should spend some time in the Special Education department…they really have to move!*    By the end of the day of battling a constant stream of students in the halls, I am ready for a Red Bull and a foot massage!

*Disclaimer: Most of the teachers I have seen move a lot in their classrooms!  I haven’t seen a teacher sit behind a desk since I was a student back in the good ol’ nineties!  I just really need more Red Bull and foot massages in my life!

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