Back in March I apparently became very disillusioned with my job and the people I work with. I quickly wrote the following note. It isn’t pretty or full of rich language, it is my raw emotion about how I feel about my job, and what I believe needs to happen to make me feel better about it.
March 26, 2013…11:00 PM
I want to be excited about teaching again. I want to be part of a group of teachers/leaders who respond to the problems of teaching now, and not later. I want to collaborate with others; design lessons that make the kids want to learn more. I want to use technology the way it is meant to be used. I want to learn new things, especially how to use social media to benefit my students. I want to teach so that students really what to learn. I want to be interested in the lesson I am presenting, because if I’m not, the kids aren’t. I want to teach kids to love being challenged. I want my own son to enjoy school, BTW, he doesn’t I want to be an instructional leader who is excited about her job and wants every other teacher out there to be excited as well. I want my kids to see me try something in the classroom, and it fail. I want those same kids to figure out how to try that same thing, but make it succeed. I want the kids to teach me…I want to be happy with my job.
Let me put this into context, it may clear up some questions. I am a special education teacher. I have taught special education for 14 years. I have taught English and math, but mostly English. I recently added the ELAR 8-12 certification to my list of other certifications: special ed., generalist 4-8, and principal EC-12, and I even have a Master’s Degree in Education. Even with all of these certifications, I firmly believe that most of the regular education teachers I come in contact with, do not believe that I am a, for lack of a better word, “real teacher” because I teach special education.
When I tell people I teach special education, they look at me differently, almost with, I want to say pity, but I don’t even know if that is the right word. What I do understand from this interaction is that they feel I am teaching kids with severe cognitive disorders or some other special, special education defining label. I then feel compelled to explain that I teach kids with learning disabilities. I honestly don’t think I could ever be the teacher of kids with more severe disabilities. It isn’t in me. But, after I explain that I teach kids with learning disabilities, I quickly move to explain that they are just kids that learn differently. I have started to use that phrase more and more. I truly believe that kids with “learning disabilities” learn differently, and it is the teacher’s job to figure out what makes the kid tick.
This is where I really get, I don’t even know the word for it. I hear teachers talking in the hallway about how this student isn’t doing this or how that student doesn’t care, or how “those” students shouldn’t be in their class. I get ticked off because these teachers talking about these students haven’t found out what makes that kid tick! Unfortunately, many of the teachers that I work with are stuck in their same routine. They don’t try anything different. They look at kids who learn differently from how they teach as slackers, problem causers, kids who don’t care…on and on and on about how the kids are the problem and the reason for their high failure rate.
I am assigned to an English teacher who teaches one class that we call “Target” classes. These are our inclusion classes. The teacher I am working with was a new-to-district teacher last year and is starting her second year this fall. She only has a couple of years of teaching experience behind her. I am going to be sarcastic here, so get ready: Of course it makes sense assigning an almost new teacher to a “Target” class. Surely her newness to the profession will not have clouded her judgment about these kids. Surely her recent graduation from college and subsequent teaching certificate had provided her with all kinds of innovative and wonderful practices that she could use to reach all kids in her classes! Right???
The answer to that is a BIG NO!!!!! This teacher used no technology, not even her SmartBoard! She had no innovative teaching strategies. She didn’t even teach. She gave assignments, kids did the work, she graded the assignments, and then she complained about the kids who didn’t do their work (usually those under the special education umbrella). The assignments she gave were given to her by the English department. Let me tell you, some of these assignments looked as if they were typed on a type writer and then ran off on the ditto machine (remember those)?
The biggest concern about this is that my district is going 1:1 with iPads this school year. I know that I have spent the summer on my computer, burning through my satellite data allowance, learning everything I can about Web 2.0 and social media (see my previous posts). I did this because I ran across, in one of my many readings on using technology in the classroom, a statement from someone important who basically said that if we use technology the wrong way, then it isn’t technology ( or something like that, sorry for the misquote important person!) This left me with the big question of how will I use the iPads given to my students and me. I didn’t want them to become a very expensive dictionary/thesaurus, calculator, or game console (which, if done correctly, games can be used for good…another thing I have to learn about).
So I read, I participated in online FREE professional development, Twitter chats (I have 32 followers!), and I did anything and everything else I could to learn how to use this technology. My school has an Edmodo group set up and I posted ideas there, along with links to articles I have read and other things I thought were important to share. I kept checking in on our school group, and not one person had posted anything on their behalf or made any comments on my posts. This tells me something very important, and you probably know what it is…I am alone in my learning this summer, as far as my school community goes. The building principals didn’t even make comments about my posts, nor did they post anything on their own!
I am alone. I already feel alone because as I stated earlier in this post that I am a special education teacher and I believe that other teachers really don’t see me as a “real” teacher. I really feel alone and it makes me sad.
So, my goal for this school year is to take this sadness and alone feeling and channel it into my passion for learning. If I am going to teach my kids to find their passion, then I have to know mine: I have a passion to learn and I will take this passion and keep sharing it with the world. I am going to tell everyone about Genius Hour and Global Read Aloud. I am going to become the expert and show how I can give up control over my students and stand on the “side and guide.” I am going to be “loud and proud” when my students are directing their own learning.
Most of all, I am going to let the world know that my students…kids who learn differently matter. They are as important as any other student. I will tell them “I believe in you!”