Saturday, October 23, 2010

TGIS- Thank God it's Saturday.

Today is Saturday and Thank God it is.

I will preface what I am about to write by saying this- I really love my job.  I feel like it is not a job, it is actually a calling.  I know that many people would argue that "good teachers" can be made and I believe that as well.  But I actually believe that I was born and meant to be doing this job...

...right now.

But after a week like this week, I wonder... is there more for me?

How long will I be able to continue to do this job? 

I've heard the warnings and the stories- "special ed. teachers burn out quickly."  I've heard 5 years, 10 years, 15 years... And I always believed that those people were a little weak. I mean, this is the best job in the world.  These kids... these kids are amazing.  They make me smile and they say funny things, and every success is worth celebrating!  And I mean cheering, clapping, and yelling horraaaaaay type celebrating...

But what about all the other stuff?

I keep hearing business people (and other "non-teachers") say that it must be nice to work 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, with summers off.

Riiiiiight.  You'd think it would be nice.

But I've already written a big blog about what I do, how hard I work, how much I work, how I don't take days off... So, I won't do that again.

But, I will say... THIS JOB IS HARD.

Staff meetings are hard.  PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) are worthwhile, but hard.  They're hard when you feel like no one in the room can possibly understand what you do.  Sure, they all do grades, they all grade papers (though maybe they would have less grading to do if they stopped giving so many papers), they all deal with behaviors and challenges and lots of kids and parents.  But can they really understand? 

Can they really understand that in 39 days of school, one parent has written me 33 emails, 25+ handwritten notes, and called 5+ times?  And our district has a policy of responding within 24 hours. 

There's communication. With parents.  With service providers like OT, PT, SLP, Therapeutic horseback riding instructors, and Music Therapists.  With special education coordinators.  With specialists.  With outside/private therapists.  With home program coordinators.  With SST3 staff.   With homeroom teachers and principals and special education aides.

And that's just the beginning.

There's paperwork.  Not grading the papers you hand out, but actual legal documents that must be completed within a time frame. IEPs. IEP progress reports. Report Cards. Doctors' forms about ADHD. ETRs. MFE reports. Alternate Assessments.

You get the point.

So how long can you go on like this?

I turned down a date last week because I didn't have the time to go...

How do I separate my calling from my life?

How do I refresh and recharge?  And will I need to refresh and recharge every 39 days this year???

And I just need to know... do you get tired... exhausted...

And do you feel guilty for feeling this way?

Because I do.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

REBELS Day!?!??!! Ideas for Positive Educational Reform

Today, Sunday, October 17th, has been named "REBELS" day by blogger Tom Whitby.

REBELS stands for Reforms from Educational Bloggers Links of Educational Suggestions... A day for teachers/ bloggers to share ideas for positive educational reform.

A great idea. And I'm jumping on board.

Here are some of my ideas for Positive Educational Reform (although slightly uncreative in list format):

1. Pay teachers based on merit. What? NO!  Pay teachers based on a different kind of scale.  How many trainings did you receive that year?  How many educational books did you read?  How often did you participate in a collaborative group?  How often did you volunteer to lead a committee or facilitate a group discussion?  Were you willing to participate in PSO (Parent-School Organization) or PTA activities?  Did you make yourself available to parents via phone, email, text message, twitter, blogging, a website?  Did you integrate technology this year?  How? For what purpose?  WHAT IF WE WERE PAID BASED ON OUR DESIRE TO LEARN? OUR DESIRE TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR SCHOOL COMMUNITY?  HELPING OURSELVES LEARN WHILE HELPING OUR STUDENTS LEARN?

2. Inclusion. Real inclusion. Not the theory or the "idea" but actual INCLUSION.  INCLUDE every student because ALL students can learn.  Real Inclusion should include at least TWO teachers in the classroom!!!  Co-teaching, co-planning, co-workers!  Two heads are better than one when it comes to finding the best ways for students to learn.

3.  Teach EVERY teacher to DIFFERENTIATE. Again, because ALL students can learn and it shouldn't be the job of JUST the special ed. teacher to figure out how to teach ALL students.

4. Initiatives starting from the GROUND UP.  Teachers and aides are the ones in the classrooms yet mandates come from those people who spend the day in offices on the hill.  Why not ask a teacher?

5. Formative Assessments.  USE your assessment to DRIVE your instruction.

Those are my ideas for positive educational reform.  Simple list but incredibly complicated to complete.

But as a teacher, I just have hope.

Yes, there's teacher bashing. Yes, there's union bashing.  Yes, I get emails from parents who don't trust me or who question my teaching methods or who question everything that is done in my classroom.

But I have hope.  For my students.

Last 2 ideas for Positive Educational Reform:

* Have hope, for every student.

* Get your passion back.  Be passionate about learning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nature Sculptures!

This week was pretty exhausting, but very worthwhile.

For my class this week, we borrowed an activity from the website Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning.

After reading the book Fall Leaves Fall, we had a discussion of what falls to the ground during the Fall months.

We provided the students with nuts, acorns, sticks, and pine cones.  We threw in some sea shells for fun and for sensory input.

We were nervous about the glue gun, but used one that said "low temp."  Only one student was afraid ("No glue! No glue!) and no one even came close to getting burned!

Here are some pictures that will hopefully inspire others as well!