Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's a life thing. And I can make you understand. Or at least tolerate the truth...

I never have talked a lot about work on this blog. I had a "teacher blog" for a while but it was incredibly impersonal and boring. So like most things, I got bored and deleted it. Don't want to read about a Special Education teacher's view of public education, then you might want to move along. Quickly.

This school year has been a great one, even with lots of changes for our family and especially at my school. The Boss Lady started a new job this year, moving out of district administration and back on to a campus. She is working at a middle school now. Lucky for me, her, and 1900 school kids, we are not on the same campus. In fact, our schools are as far across the school district as they could possible be. (The two schools are in totally different economic environments, too, but that is boring teacher talk). 

I have taught Special Education for 5 years. But every job I have had since Jr. College was centered around working for individuals who are living with developmental, emotional, or physical challenges. The classroom seemed to be the next logical evolution (WAIT! My goodness, this is Texas. A teacher writing about evolution? And logic? Heresy!) of my career.

After a year in the classroom (and a lay-off, and getting rehired a few months later) I realized that I was actually pretty good at this teaching thing. Another year went by, my skills further developed, and at one point I had to really stand up to several administrators. I dropped a now campus-famous couple lines of truth on them. "I know you've never seen me do my job. I've never really seen you do yours either. But let me tell you something. I am REALLY good at what I do. So good luck replacing me on this project."

And in a move fraught with absolutely NO surprise, they never replaced me on that project. And the crew from the administration office have generally left me alone since then. Well, unless they had a big problem on my campus. Then they seem to remember my phone number pretty quickly.

Back then, several of my fellow Special Education teachers and I jokingly coined the term SPEDLIFE. This was a quick, but gritty reminder that everything we do impacts our students for their lifetime. Yeah, it really is that important. But it's also an easy reminder to have some fun while we are solving the problems of our part of the educational universe.

My SPEDLIFE knuckle tats make an occasional appearance 
at staff meetings and going away parties.

This school year I started off working with our most complex students. Several of them have lots of needs related to Autism or Sensory issues. Others have multiple physical and/or developmental disabilities. All are dealing with issues that impact every aspect of learning and home life. This is my crew. I love working with this class but it is tough.

This is the type of class you don't see on the news. Teachers and Instructional Assistants working hands-on with students all day long. Usually with no lunch break or planning time and exactly the same pay as the teachers down the hall who get two planning periods and a lunch away from students (134 minutes total) in an 8 class day. There is supposed to be solace in the smaller class sizes (I shared 10 students with another teacher), but I usually shared a cold hamburger and soda with her hours after lunchtime, too.

Standing up for my own teaching skills and fighting for my students on an empty stomach and full bladder got the best of me. I jumped ship 8 weeks into the school year.

I still rep the SPEDLIFE but my new job is much different. I now work with students who have Autism or some other Sensory Processing challenges. These are kids who rarely stop by to see me. A few of them come in once a day, but for the most part I chase them around campus, meeting them in their grade-level classes, working on appropriate class-taking skills, organization, conversation (my specialty. right Mom?), and all of the things a middle school student needs to succeed. A fact that would be of interest to my own middle school teachers, I help them keep assignments turned in. ON TIME. And... don't faint... keep their lockers (or backpacks) organized. Pretty sure that my old middle school assistant principal, who used to make me clean my locker one a week, by force, just died a second death.

This transition came with a couple of huge caveats. I said 'bye' to 5 and took on 25 students. Biggest of all though, because of a perfectly timed maternity leave (not mine!), I filled in for another team member and took on a large part of her job as the liaison between our team, the campus administration and the district level administrators who I had only told off a few years ago.

Turns out that lots of these people have taken some interest in my ability to juggle lots of different tasks at the same time. And they seem to share my opinion of my teacher-self. Pretty soon some of them may be living the SPEDLIFE, too. I just hope they leave me in my crazy, exciting classroom for a long time.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Hello AtHomeDaddy,

I'm a good friend of the Father of Five... a friendship developed through blogging, as I believe you can relate to. I just wanted to thank you for what you do for kids with special needs. I am a father to four kids. My youngest, my son, is one of those kids. He was born with a genetic disorder know as IDIC 15 (Isodicentric Chromosome 15 Duplication Syndrome). You may never have heard of it... I hadn't. As you can imagine, having chromosomes duplicated causes all kinds of havoc. He is not considered Autistic, per se, but he is considered to be on the spectrum. He is mildly intellectually disabled (I can't keep up with all the political correct terminology... it's a moving target). He has sensory issues, language delays, physical delays. He does not always understand (or care about) social norms. But, he's my son and he is a gift. He keeps life interesting and makes me smile EVERY DAY. I can't imagine my life without this little guy.

Our district does not have a strong integration mentality... and I am not sure how he would do in that environment, anyway. He is currently in kindergarten at our county school for developmental disabilities (and has been in preschool there since he was two).

His life has been touched by some wonderful, dedicated, and caring professionals, and for that we are grateful. His Mom and I can't do it alone. Thanks for what you do for kids like my son and thanks for your tireless dedication to "spedlife".