Saturday, May 14, 2016

Confirmation of a job well done

This year has really been a struggle for me with the new Special Ed Science class I've been teaching.  I've flown by the seat of my pants and been ready to throw in the towel about 57 times so far.  I've let my quilting fall by the wayside and given up blogging almost entirely because I was just so drained both physically and emotionally.  I haven't felt supported by the administration and when you aren't sure if what you are doing is helping or hurting the situation and when doing your best is important to how you view yourself, depression can set in easily.

This week, I finally got some confirmation that I've been doing things right the whole time!  The guesses I've been making on how to best help these students from the highest gifted kids to the lowest struggling students all in the same classroom so that nobody is held back and nobody is left behind as we all march towards the end goal of learning the same material were actual teaching strategies that had real acronyms.

On Thursday, I had the final BTSA meeting of the year.  I've been a support provider for 7 or 8 beginning teachers over my career and this was the final meeting for this term's newbie.  She is doing a great job and really doesn't need that much mentoring.  I make sure she has the supplies she needs and help her with the curriculum and what the lesson is supposed to look like, but she has done all of the paperwork on her own and has the classroom discipline down really well for a beginning teacher.  This year I wanted to join the Special Ed group's meetings because of my class and she agreed that it couldn't hurt to learn more about special education and the needs of this diverse group of students.  At this week's meeting I got there about five minutes before she did and picked a table where another new teacher was already sitting.  I hadn't sat with this lady before and she looked nice enough.  She had curly hair like me and you all know that people with curly hair are known to be nice people.

We started talking and it turns out she was struggling with her co-teaching classes as well.  I explained all of the things I had tried this year and she kept naming off the 'real' names for what I was doing!  I was excited that my strategies were 'real' and were known in the teaching profession to work for students.  She was impressed that I, as a teacher far removed from the college learning environment (in other words-OLD) was so willing to try new things.  Hey, I will dance to my own singing if it keeps the students' attention!  I bet there are some youtube videos of me doing just that.

Then we watched a TED talk from a chemistry teacher who said he had three things about teaching that were his mantra.  He said most teachers bore students and stop them from questioning and inquiring.  He thinks learning should make kids wonder, be messy and something else I can't remember.  I had just gotten in trouble in the morning for having a messy room.  Here was my proof that I was doing a good job of teaching because my room was a mess!

I've always said learning should be messy, noisy and fun.  If the kids aren't talking and laughing, they probably aren't learning.  Silently sitting and reading out of a science textbook is the most boring thing in the world to me.  Give me a hands on experiment any day.  My department chair said learning can be messy, but then you are supposed to clean up when you are done.  I guess I just never finish learning :)

Then, on Friday, my co-teacher was out.  The sub she got was needed to cover the PE teacher who was also out so the front office just figured I could cover 2 positions.  I told them they needed to find someone to cover for her.  They got another special ed teacher to fill in during his prep.  He walked in and took one look at the students in my 6th period class and said, "Wow, you have your hands full with this group!"  Finally someone to validate what I've been saying all year.  He also acknowledged that the class should not be held 6th period when the kids are all wound up.  Hopefully he goes back and talks to his department about it.  He is very respected in his department and for him to make those observations really made me feel validated in my own feelings

With only 14 days left this year, I can see the end and also look back and say that I've learned at least as much from the students as they have learned about science.  I'm proud to say that I've survived some rough days and really grown as a teacher and person, but oh, so ready for vacation!

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