Thursday, June 07, 2012

I'm at the point in packing my classroom where everything is just a mess. I've gotten over the hurdle of getting started, and the easy stuff is in boxes, stolen milkcrates (shhh... don't tell...), and just in piles. The cupboards are empty. A gazillion loads of stuff I will want  back have been hauled to the dumpsters. All that is left to pack are the weird odds and ends that won't fit into a box, I still need, or I simply can't decide whether to toss or keep.

My room is sad. The walls echo every little noise. Every year, the last days are sad, knowing the kids are leaving for the summer. But this year, it is even sadder, knowing this is the last time, THE LAST TIME, I will ever, EVER, EVER, teach in this classroom. THIS CLASSROOM. THE classroom I always wanted. The classsroom I waited for years to get a chance at. It isn't bigger than the others, just a normal size classroom. It does have a sink, and yes, a window, but it is just a basic classroom.

Why then was it special to me?? It is in the middle of the middle school. Pure and simple. My room is on the front of the building, with the middle window. The middle school was always THE best place to be, and I was in the middle of the middle. It just didn't get any better than that.

Last year, I gave it up for a year, moving into an interior room, giving a new teacher a shot at the perfect room. He didn't feel the magic in those walls though. And as I moved back in... I swore I'd never leave it again. And now... I am not only leaving it, I am abandoning it, letting it go, never to see kids again.

How sad will these walls feel when everything is removed, and fall comes, and no kids come back. I picture the sadness in the walls, their loneliness sagging them, dragging them down.... as they hear the laughter and the voices from below, realizing no kids are coming back here, ever again.

I know it is just a place. I know that the middle school can live on if WE make it work. I know that.

But the letting go is hard. The moving and leaving behind this place is hard. We spend so many hours here, year round, because this is our home in many ways. Our classrooms become an extension of who we are, what we value, what we want to share with students. Moving to different rooms, in a different building, where things smell differently, where things fit differently, where things sound differently..... It will be a long time before there becomes home.

and I am sad....

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

One of my duties as special ed teacher is to read tests to students. In theory, these are students who are labeled and have that as an accomodation in their IEP. In reality, most teachers encourage any struggling students to have their tests read to them, hoping that little perk will give them a boost to make success more likely or possible.

Some students use the bonus of having the test read, even asking me to repeat, slow down, clarify questions. Others, they just take up a chair, maybe filling in bubbles, maybe not. Nodding off halfway through the exam. Not bothering to even attempt the essay questions.

I struggle with the motivation, and lack thereof, of students. At high school level, just the motivation of passing the class, earning credit, and eventually, the diploma, should be a motivator to at least give the exam an honest attempt.

The faces of some students show the defeat as they walk in the door though. They've done so little for so long, not developed study skills to allow them to be successful, given up on themselves and the school, and know failure is in their future.

I like to think deep down they DO care, they do want to succeed. I like to think we've failed them more than they've failed themselves. I like to think there is hope on their horizon.

Of the nine students I read a world history test to this morning, maybe 3 of them gave it an honest shot. One was sure he did well because he studied for an entire HOUR this morning right before the test. Another wrote and wrote and wrote, on every essay question, pouring her knowledge onto the paper fervently. The last of the 3 who looked like they really gave it a shot, at least attempted every question.

The other six.... one slept through most of the test, not even bothering to write his name on the paper. Another finished quickly and insisted she had to go somewhere, and became beligerent when I wouldn't let her leave to wander halls. Another finished quickly, attempting none of the essay questions and sat gazing into outerspace the remainder of the time. Two girls were more interested in writing notes than the test. I took a cell phone away from a student texting during the exam.

Where have we failed them? Where can we un-fail them? How can we make them care?

Friday, June 01, 2012

We've spent a lot of time this year organizing a plan to implement PBIS in the middle and high school next year. In theory, I love the idea of positive rewards for students who are doing what they need to do. I love catching kids being good. I don't think we do that nearly often enough.

On the other hand, I think we need strong, consistent consquences in place for behaviors which are inappropriate. I feel right now as if it's a shot in the dark as to the consequences which will be enforced. For a given action, some students get hammered with a suspension or a lunch detention. For the exact same infraction, another students walks away with nothing more than a scolding of 'don't do that again'. Adolencents crave consistency, insist on fairness, and expect swift and equitable punishment for classmates. They don't understand when their world exhibits inconsistencies. They want to push the limits then, trying to figure out the system. They want to test the boundaries, or lack thereof.

Teaching special ed, I do see some exceptions to the hard and fast rules. However, those exceptions need to be consistent as well. We are not doing anyone any favors by exempting them completely from the norms of our society. When they grow up and become members of the REAL WORLD, no one will care what their label it, what their disability is, or be willing to give them a free pass because of those.

I'm disheartened to see the path we've taken as a society, and as a local district, allowing the students to run rampant, wandering the halls, using profanity, disregarding the dress code, spouting disrespect towards each other and adults, not as exceptions, but as the norm. Back in the good old days, kids were kids, adults were adults, respect was respect, not just expected but enforced. Now we've gone so far the other way on the pendulum, kids think they can say and do anything, with no consequences, except to try to get an adult who does try to enforce the rules in trouble for doing their job.

We have to find a middle ground. I don't want to go back to the 'children should be seen and not heard' days, but I sure would like to see us transition back to where there is a clear distinction of authority and hierarchy in schools. Empowering students is one thing, disempowering teachers is another. Surely we can give students the rights they deserve, while still, preserving the integrity of a school that maintains a certain standard of behavior.