Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I've come to the conclusion that I am a wasted paycheck this year. Because I have a special education degree, I fill a quota instead of really teaching kids.
We call it inclusion, co-teaching, servicing students in the least restrictive environment; in reality, it means my days are mundane, the needs of many of my students remain unmet, and I feel like a cow, wandering the field, chewing on grass, never really doing anything worthwhile or exciting, just waiting until slaughter day.
Today is an ordinary day, much like the past 20 weeks of school has been filled with. I started the day in a high school history classroom where students were watching a movie on the Great Depression. I sat with the handful who were not allowed to watch the movie because they either didn't bring a permission slip or couldn't behave.
Second hour, I am in a 6th grade social studies classroom. Today, we had a middle school assembly in the auditorium that lasted nearly the entire hour. Together, the co-teacher and I walked the 20 students in our class down to listen the presentation. Afterwards, we herded them back to the classroom, where we spent the last 15 minutes playing a quick vocabulary BINGO.
Third hour, I actually have my own class. WOOHOO. 8th grade prealgebra with 10 labeled students I am entrusted with to prepare for high school Algebra next year. Some days, things go well. Other days, it is a waste of effort for me and my students. We are learning to find GCF's of pairs of numbers and monomials, as well as algebraic expressions. For this group of students, who have such low numerical skills they don't understand that dividing by 2 is the same as taking half of something, or that half of 10 is 5, or the difference in even and odd numbers, this is liken to torture. They don't know their multiplication facts, but are allowed to use calculators. But a calculator can't lead their way from 80 + 5x to 5(16 + x). We draw factor trees, we talk about strategies, we work problems through together, but the bottom line? They simply cannot do the work. It is too difficult for them.. and that is the ones who actually care and try to do it. Many simply look at it, watch me explaining the process, and tune it all out, choosing to simply breathe instead of try.
Fourth hour, I am in an Earth Science 8th grade class. We finished watching a video on the history of the earth we started earlier. Then, the remainder of the hour, we watched clips from the Weather Channel, including a horse making a snow angel.
Now, it is lunch time, and I sit at my desk, pondering my worth, wondering if I accomplished anything worthwhile today.
Co-teaching can sometimes be worthwhile, when I know what the grand plan is, and can work to help my students master what is being taught. Unfortunately, that is rare. I usually walk in the door with students, wondering what is going on that hour. Things that would help my students be more successful in regular ed classes - organizers for their notes, study guides for tests, rewriting tests - those things happen only when I am in the planning loop for the classes and have time to create those aids. Reality? That doesn't happen. I see the test when they see it.
My own prealgebra class is like trying to teach Greek to a donkey. The divide between where these students came to me, and where they need to be at the end of the year is too huge a gap to bridge.
I am disappointed in my own lack of ability to overcome, my sinking into an abysmal hopelessness like many of my students. I took this position thinking I could make a difference, thinking somehow, I could help these students achieve. In reality, I am just a bean to be counted, a degree that keeps the school in compliance, saying these kids are being serviced, when in reality, they are being left behind.


takefive said...

Don't lose heart Cossondra. Maybe it's times like these where you have to believe that there is a bigger plan at work....(I mean the BIG plan as in God's plan). Somehow you are supposed to be there...for a reason you clearly aren't able to see right now because of the crazy circumstances.

If you lose heart, your kids will have no glimmer of hope because maybe you are the glimmer?????

When times seem like this to me and I'm blocked at every angle, I just have to sit back and believe that I'm not in charge. And being who am I is enough and probably why I'm in that situation anyway.

So bring you to your gifts....your smile, hope, a willingness to believe they can do it if just given a shred of effective help....I don't know. But it's enough and probably all you're really suppose to be doing now.

Hang in there.

Masquerading Mom said...

So, Cossondra, when I'm a full-fledged teacher in a general ed classroom, what is it that I can do to make the special ed teacher's role meaningful? What would you have the general ed teacher do for you that would make you feel as though you are truly collaborating with the teacher and truly helping these kids?

-Di Di

Nicole said...

Wow, this is an eye opener. I am currently in college working towards getting my teacher certificate, I did a clinical in a special ed classroom and heard a lot of the same things from the special ed teacher. It is very discouraging to know that the plans for kids in need aren't getting what they need at all.

Tony said...

Cossondra, I now how you feel. I'm going through the same thing myself and the state CMTs are coming up soon. But, on Monday after school, a former student came by to greet his former teachers. I asked how he was doing. He is happy in H.S.. I also asked if the material he learned in Math in M.S. helped him. He responded enthusiastically, "YES". It made my day. It was confirmation that what I did mattered although it may not have felt like it when he was in M.S.

Your students are trying hard and I guess it will sink in during H.S. Keep on smiling and best to Green Bay

cossondra said...

Thanks for the positive comments everyone. It was just a downer day. Hopefully, things will look brighter today.

DiDi - Take a look at this article: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2010/11/02/tln_georgecoteaching.html

It's been an interesting year, but frustrating in many ways. I just need to find ways to be positive and work through the tough times with a better attitude.