Monday, February 28, 2011

Sometimes we spend too much time focusing on the rain, forgetting that there really is always a silver-lining to the cloud above. At this point in the school year, I'd like to pause, reflect and think about the good things of my new position.
One of the best parts of taking on this new position has been the challenge of doing things differently, looking at school from a different perspective, and stopping to really reflect on the true purpose of education and the implications standards and accountability have on the lowest students of the pecking order. It is easy to get into a rut of doing the same thing, year after year, teaching to the 'norm', cruising along expecting them 'all' to get it, pushing forward regardless. But working with special education students has caused me to stop and think critically about what I teach, how I teach it, and the consequences of them not getting it. I've been forced to rethink how I do things, and change my standard go-to methods. Regardless of where next year, or the next, may find me, I have a new lease on teaching, one that will carry me into where ever the next part of my journey may lead.
The kids on my caseload remind me daily to not take for granted the things which come easy to me. To watch a student struggle daily with the simplest of tasks is painful at best. I have one girl who works very hard, but simply cognitively, cannot understand basic math. When asked what half of ten is, she struggles to answer. When shown her 10 fingers, shown her two hands, she still does not grasp that 5 is half of 10. But, next year, she will go to high school algebra. Anotehr young man could not log onto the computer, even when reminded his password was a certain number followed by his first name. He goes by a nickname, and even at 15, does not know how to spell his first name - a simple one. Others try hard, but without constant reminders of the steps of mathematical processes, they get lost, forget, simply cannot follow along. But, they will all go to algebra in high school next year. I am amazed at the determination and the willingness to continue to try that many of these students exhibit day after day, failure after failure. They want so badly to please, to be successful, but because of the luck of the draw and the narrow-mindedness of the state implemented curriculum, they are constantly failing. From them, I learn humbleness, daily.
I've come to realize, this year, how much student relationships mean to me, and to teachers in general. Until you find ways to connect on a real level with your kids in your classroom, you will never reach them academically. The old saying goes, "Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care, about them." is true.. so true... I wish I could somehow impart that into teachers everywhere, that want to know students on a real and personal level. If we could ever achieve that, I truly believe education would soar.
Through the bad times, it is easy to forget to focus on the good. This year HAS had many high points, many kids who've touched me deeply, and for that I am grateful.

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