Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tuesday was auction day. I was a little disappointed because one of my characters was suspended and could not participate. He's had a pretty good year overall, but did something dumb at the last minute. He was the one with the MOST tickets to spend! Darn...

But the auction itself was fun. I had bagged small sandwich bags of assorted candies, had canned pop, Gatorade, full size candy bars, small bars, gum, etc... and of course, the infamous MYSTERY bags. One of them had $5 in it, another $1, one a race car, another a pair of socks, one a can of beets, one a can of green beans, others had a pop and candy. It was HILARIOUS. I think they loved getting the dumb stuff just as much as the good stuff.

Of course, some students, despite seeing the HUGE pile of goodies, bid high to begin with, spent all their tickets foolishly, and had to sit and watch/pout as others enjoyed the rest of the auction. 

At the end, one little guy was the only one with tickets left, and he had a HUGE pile. I offered him whatever he wanted from the pile. Those who had run out of tickets immediately whined, but alas, an economics lesson learned.

They did ask if we would be able to do it again next year :D

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm excited about next year. After hammering out my schedule for fall, I am relieved to know I will be pulling out my same group of this year's 7th graders, not only for math again, but also for language arts. They've struggled this year, especially the group I am not 'inclusion' with for the hour. 

The upcoming 7th graders, from all accounts, are a difficult, large group with many issues. I will also pull them out for math and language arts.

The best part, for me and the kids, though... the other special ed teacher and I are going to collaborate for math, with her taking the very low ones, and doing some more basic life skills math type things with them. YAY!! These are kids who work hard, but are never, ever, ever, ever, going to make it through algebra. We need to give them some life skills stuff instead. 

**sigh of relief**

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Today, on Teacher Appreciation Day, I got a wonderful gift, a reminder that I do make a difference, even when I don't think I am even making a dent...

In my mailbox was a letter, with the top note attached, telling me this was a class assignment. Still, I was excited to get and read this particular note. The young lady who had written it had been removed from her home to a residential care facility earlier this year. I have had her for 3 years as a student, but never felt as if I was making any difference to her at all. The emotional baggage she brought to school distracted her from learning and caused her much turmoil. To read her letter, to have her tell me I helped her, to have HER say I am the best teacher in the world, meant more than words can express. I am humbled and honored.

Monday, May 06, 2013

When I first started teaching, I was a special education inclusion teacher.  I liked my job. I like working with struggling students. On the flip side, I often felt as if my talents were wasted. not utilized to their maximum potential. Most of the day, I felt more like an aid than a teacher. I was the secondary person in the classroom, not the sage on the stage.

After a few years, I was offered the opportunity to teacher 8th grade history, then moved to 7th grade math, where I spent a majority of my teaching career. Three years ago, a special education position opened again, and I took it.

Giving up my classroom, my curriculum, my students, was tough. I knew it would be but I was motivated by many factors.

The new job has come with its challenges and its joys. By definition, the students I work with are struggling, at-risk students who present me with a constant need for innovation, patience, and determination. Never a dull moment does not begin to describe my classroom on a daily basis. From students with ADHD who cannot sit still for more than 2 consecutive seconds, to those with emotional, often violent,  outbursts, to the low functioning ones who simply cannot grasp the content, regardless of what I do for them, it is like a 3 ring, well, maybe 12 ring, circus most hours.

But with the turmoil comes small successes. A parent shared with me that I was the FIRST teacher to EVER compliment her son. The first teacher, in his first 8 years of school, to EVER tell her he was a joy to have in class. The first teacher who had ever believed in him. The first teacher who was able to reach him, teach him, help him learn.  And to myself, I thought, “How sad… how very tragically sad.”

And realistically, had I been teaching regular education, and this young man had been one of 25 in my class, would I have seen that side of him? Would I have been able to coax his compliance and attention as adeptly as I am able to in the small setting of special education?
Education has  become an assembly line of ‘production’, with no time for coddling, no time for finding the inner child, no time for making personal connections with students. As regular education teachers, we are driven by the content, forced to herd the cattle every quicker and quicker, towards the slaughter of the standardized tests. In special ed, the herding becomes even more pointless. We are forced to push harder and harder to make these students fit the mold, meet the standards, get through the content, when in reality, what they really need are life skills, coping skills, and a way to become meaningfully productive members of society. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Those who criticize teachers for their lack of compassion, their short work hours, summers off.... do not understand the heavy heartedness that accompanies this profession. 

Over the years, I have filled out more Child Protective Services reports than I care to count. It haunts me to think of the lives too many of my students experience - the abuse, the neglect, the poor choices made by parents the children must bear the consequences of. 

...and I wonder, how many of them have hidden scars I miss.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

One of my favorite end of the year activities is an auction. I give out tickets for on-task behaviors. Students need to keep track of their own tickets. Then, we have a HUGE auction -  cans of pop, candy, gift certificates, mystery bags, etc... 

I haven't done this in a few years, but considering how tough this year has gone, I thought maybe it would be a fun way to end the year, for students, as well as me. 

I cannot believe how EXCITED they already are! I've been generous with the tickets this first week, no doubt. But they are so INTO the process. I was a bit doubtful because they are   NOT into getting the PBIS tickets we pass out.  They would rather have a small treat from my box than an "Indian ticket" to enter into a drawing for prizes. 

But their enthusiasm has been overwhelming. The positive impact it is having on their behaviors and attitudes is impressive. 

Best of all, it is reviving my own faith in their abilities to BE STUDENTS. 

They have come up with their own little "rules" for when I should hand out tickets. For example, when a student has to go to their locker or bathroom during class, everyone ELSE gets a ticket, since Student A wasn't prepared for class. Never mind that in 5 minutes, another student will ask to go somewhere. It is about the camaraderie as much as the reward I think. 

Now to start collecting treats...